Semantics should not propagate hate. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened when the University showed off the shortcomings within a non-discrimination policy in desperate need of a revision.
In finding that the student-funded Christian a cappella group Psalm 100 did not violate that policy in kicking out a member for his views on homosexuality, the University set a dangerous precedent for the inclusion of students of all genders, races, faiths or other protected statuses within the campus community.
Late last week, the University ruled there was insufficient evidence to find that Psalm 100 dismissed its former member Will Thomason for his sexuality rather than for his views on sexuality, as the group claimed. Given the leeway provided in the policy, the University’s interpretation of the policy does have grounding. But that should come as an offense to the policy and its clear flaws, not in defense of a ruling that gave one student-funded group’s discrimination a stamp of approval.
Under the current wording of the policy Psalm 100 exploited, group members who have even the slightest disagreement with one of an organization’s beliefs must choose between membership and morals. Rather than using disagreement as a vehicle for debate, there is now a precedent for groups to simply force members into self-loathing — or else.
Imagine the outcry that would ensue if the College Republicans or Young Democrats forced every member to agree with every platform plank on the state or national level. The example seems paternalistic and heavy-handed because it is. No society has ever advanced because it stifled discussion and encouraged hate.
That situation is no different than the Psalm 100 case, in which Thomason was forced to choose between the group and his identity. Sexual orientation is just as much a matter of choice as one’s race. You are what you are. And people can choose to act and think however they desire, but to force them into acting and thinking one way because it’s ‘wrong’ to do otherwise is discriminatory — no matter what the rules say.
It’s worrisome that a group can have such a vague constitution (in this case, The Bible According to Psalm 100) and still hold members accountable for specific incidences group members deem against the constitution. This could lead to a very tangible erosion of students’ rights if they ever become the ever-important dissenting voice.
Free speech is something that needs protection, and this ruling has had the opposite effect.
And by a mere matter of semantics, the University is allowing this to happen. It’s sad that such an important case was boiled down to a minor variation in the wording of a dismissal.