This story has been floating around this week, and I’m sorry I haven’t mentioned it until now. Up the road in Nashville, the private Christian school Belmont University, which has long attracted students pursuing careers in the music business, has fired a soccer coach, students say, because she revealed that she’s having a child with her same-sex partner:
A crowd that included some of Lisa Howe’s former players held a three-hour protest Wednesday afternoon pushing for a change allowing for freedom of sexual orientation. Mike Curb, a music industry executive and major donor to the private Christian school, wants Belmont to rehire Howe and “act like Christians.”
In a statement from her attorney, Howe told The Associated Press she misses her team and thanks Curb for his “powerful statement.” She had not talked with Belmont officials directly and said her head is spinning.
“Coaching is my passion and my life’s work,” Howe said. “I do know that policies and attitudes would have to change for me to come back to Belmont and feel safe and welcome and for me to feel like my family would be safe and welcome.”
“Belmont has to decide whether they want to be a national recognized university – particularly with their school of music business – or they want to be a church,” Curb said.
A trustee emeritus, Curb issued a new statement Wednesday saying he spoke out because another board member spoke out on Belmont’s behalf and that he had heard nothing from university officials for six days.
Oh, snap. And really, Belmont, you can’t be both. Schools that are more focused on religion than education tend to be an academic joke, unable to compete for students who want the best education on offer. And Belmont administration needs to wrap its widdle head around the fact that they’ve been educating gay students [their specialty is, again, COMMERCIAL MUSIC], for years. Indeed, they’ve handed degrees to quite a few gay people I know. For a school in a city that is a magnet for musicians to cling to bronze age policies such as openly discriminating against gay people is the equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot. It’s also out of step with the city of Nashville, which has one of the most vibrant, successful gay communities in the South. Hell, there are gay people all over the contemporary Christian music field. I know this because, hello, I know lots of ’em.
H.G. Stovall of the Tennessee Equality Project has issued the following statement:
As the law stands, Belmont has the right to take any of these actions. But having the legal right to do something doesn’t make it right or prudent. Belmont’s actions are embarrassing for Tennessee. They do not express a true commitment to diversity and they fall short of the marks of an institution of higher learning. Discrimination shows a reckless disregard for the lives of those it affects. It is particularly cruel and repugnant to terminate a talented, winning coach who has earned the loyalty of her players when she is about to start a family at a time when jobs are scarce.
Therefore, we call on the Belmont University board of trustees to reconsider these actions and to amend their policies to protect staff, faculty, and students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This incident is also a painful reminder that the Tennessee Human Rights Act lacks protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. The people of our state need to begin a serious dialogue about amending the Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Many leading employers in Tennessee have already added these protections to their policies including the following: the University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University, the Tennessee Board of Regents schools, Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Volkswagen, AT&T, Bank of America, SunTrust, Dell, OfficeMax, FedEx, Caterpillar, UPS, etc.
Tennessee can only move forward when we truly value the merit and talent of our workforce. That won’t happen until employees can work without fearing discrimination and that includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
I highlight Vanderbilt because it’s down the road from Belmont, and it’s, by every measure, a better school than Belmont. One would think that Belmont would be motivated to enter the 21st century with the Harvard of the South so nearby, but never underestimate the delusional priorities of the Fundamentalist mindset.