Texas university rebukes student paper for supporting gay marriage

The editorial board of Baylor University’sstudent newspaper is facing criticism by the university president and theStudent Publication Board after printing an editorial supporting gaymarriage.

In the Feb. 27 edition of The Lariat, the editorialboard published a column that stated, “it isn’t fair to discriminate againstsomeone for their sexual orientation.” The editorial board voted 5-2 to write insupport of San Francisco’s lawsuit against the state of California regarding theright of a city to perform gay marriages.

The private Baptistuniversity’s president, Robert B. Sloan Jr., released a statement condemning thenewspaper, saying that students, alumni and parents are “justifiably outragedover this editorial.”

“Espousing in a Baylor publication a view that isso out of touch with traditional Christian teachings is not only unwelcome,”Sloan said, “it comes dangerously close to violating university policy, aspublished in the Student Handbook, prohibiting the advocacy of anyunderstandings of sexuality that are contradictory to biblicalteaching.”

The editorial board released a statement standing by itsdecision to publish the column, because the issue of sexual orientation and gaymarriage is “at the forefront of national public debate.”

TheLariat editorial board has said their column focused on the legal issue ofsame-sex messages, not their morality.

“The editorial board’s opinionsreflect the views of the majority of its members, not necessarily those of theBaylor community, as stated in a disclaimer on the editorial page,” theeditorial board said.

Ricky George, a university staff member whosupervises The Lariat staff, said he “made an error in judgment” byallowing the newspaper staff to publish the editorial.

“It is myresponsibility to ensure the students have a strong editorial voice within theparameters of Baylor’s mission,” George said.

The Student PublicationsBoard also determined that the editorial violated a university policy, whichstates “since Baylor University was established and is still supported by TexasBaptists to conduct a program of higher education in a Christian context, noeditorial stance of student publications should attack the basic tenets ofChristian theology or of Christian morality.”

“Clearly, the editorialpublished on Feb. 27 is inconsistent with this policy,” the publication boardsaid. “The guidelines have been reviewed with The Lariat staff, so thatthey will be able to avoid this error in the future.”

The AssociatedPress reported that Larry Brumley, Student Publications Board member, said nostudents on the newspaper would be fired or face disciplinaryactions.

Because Baylor University is a private school, it does not haveto grant its students full First Amendment rights.

SPLC View: BaylorUniversity may have no legal obligation to protect student press freedom, but ifit chooses to allow student editors only to express views that agree with thoseof the administration, it has no business pretending that its students arepracticing journalism. Students interested in an education based on the valuesof intellectual honesty and American democracy would be well-served by lookingelsewhere.