NCAA basketball tournament at the US Airways Center

The New Tolerance

The 2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament has brought about a discussion of the “new” tolerance. This one isn’t about how the Women’s Tournament should be given as much attention and advertising as the Men’s.  Its about how Oral Roberts University shouldn’t be allowed to play. Not due to any actions or statements from its players but because ORU doesn’t allow LGBTQ+ behavior on campus.

Photograph of the Praying Hands bronze sculpture and the Avenue of Flags at the main entrance to Oral Roberts University
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

USA Today columnist Hemal Jhaveri began the call with an article calling for the ban because ORU follows “an archaic religion” and that “the university’s deeply bigoted anti-LGBTQ+ policies can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.” Jhaveri then calls for any university with such language to be banned from all NCAA activities. Jhaveri didn’t call out #1 seeded Baylor for having similar language or Creighton, Gonzaga, or Loyola Chicago for being Catholic institutions which do not support LGBTQ+ policies either.  Just ORU so why? I’ll circle back to it.

ORU’s student handbooks specifically ban homosexual behavior in 2 locations. It also bans alcohol, drugs, gambling, dancing, skateboards, roller skates and water balloons. ORU never had a football team because Dr. Roberts found it to bring unsavory elements on campus.  As a former Tulsan and having known people who were in Oral Roberts’ inner circle, this may be shocking to you but it isn’t a surprise to any of us. Dr. Roberts’ brand of Christianity was very fundamentalist. His ministry carried over into much of Tulsa’s political and social life during the 1970’s and 1980’s. I can tell you it had an impact on economic development. Tulsa lost many oil and gas company headquarters to Houston and Dallas during this time and they cited a lack of ability to attract talent as one of the reasons to leave.  When the first ministry scandal occurred in the 1980’s, it broke the spell of the ministry’s hold on the city.  The city council was reformed, economic development wasn’t subject to a moral veto and Tulsan’s began to plan for a future without Dr. Roberts.  The Roberts family’s continued malfeasance with ORU funds in the subsequent years hasn’t been much of a surprise to many Tulsans.

NCAA logo
Image Source: Pixy.org

So, why pick on ORU and make them the example?  For one, their conservative philosophy and prior scandals make them an easy target.  Second, they are small.  The school’s enrollment has always been between 3,000 and 6,000 students at any particular time.  This means the institution carries outsized influence within the NCAA. The NCAA rules are promulgated with every member having equal weight.  The Ohio State with an enrollment of nearly 70,000 has just as much say on the rules of the tournament as ORU with 4,100.  While the larger members certainly decide what rules are voted on, the votes themselves require many of the smaller schools to agree with them since they can, and do, out vote them.  The third is likely more likely.  It’s the attention the school gets from upset wins in the tournament.  People learn the school exists and may see a university founded by a Native American and actively pursues students from impoverished communities as being diverse and tolerant.  The media wants to dispel that belief as quickly as possible and serve as a reminder to other people of color that the “new” tolerance is the only tolerance for them.

U.S. House of Representatives passes the Equality Act
Image Source: Out Leadership

What is a surprise is to what lengths the “new” tolerance is intolerant of any policy or institution that doesn’t kowtow to it.  For example, a recent bill passed the House called the Equality Act.  The Bill’s synopsis:

This bill prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.

The bill expands the definition of public accommodations to include places or establishments that provide (1) exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays; (2) goods, services, or programs; and (3) transportation services.

The bill allows the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in federal court on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.

While this all sounds well and good, there is no exclusion for religious facilities or institutions. By holding assemblies and gatherings, every church and religious facility will be determined to be a public accommodation and subject to the bill’s ban on discrimination.  Remember the LGBTQ+ event last year where Elizabeth Warren and a number of other Democratic presidential candidates promised to punish churches for not being on the LGBTQ+ bandwagon?  Well, here’s the effort to do so under the guise of making it so the trans community can use a bathroom.

PNNL flying the LGBTQ flag in support of diversity and inclusion.
Image Source: Flickr

This is a bona-fide case to eliminate the First Amendment prohibition on the establishment of a government religion. Religion being that all churches in the United States answer to the Government, not a higher power.  Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious buildings will be required to follow government rules and implement the government’s priorities.  It reminds me of Cromwell’s confiscation of churches in the 1649 or the dissolution of churches during the French Revolution. Cromwell may be more apt as religious activity was allowed as long as it was the Government’s version (Protestant) and ministers were government approved.   This was specifically what our Founders sought to avoid when they banned a government church.

If you have never called your senator or written them a letter, now is the time. The Equality Act is one of the bills being cited as a reason to remove the filibuster and make the Senate operate just like the House.  The Equality Act will actually take us to the brink rather than promote harmony.  What observant Catholic wants any President to dictate who can receive communion? Why should an Orthodox synagogue be forced to house those who are not Jewish?  Why should a conservative masque be forced to have co-ed services?  Religious bodies have always been held in separate regard in our society as being able to deem who is fit or unfit to use their facilities.  The closely held beliefs of deeply religious people should be allowed in church, where they are most dear to them.  It is wrong and cruel to force beliefs on others and call it “Equality.”  There is a competing bill called the Fairness For All Act and is supported by many church leaders of all different faiths.  I would encourage you all to contact your senator and have them support this legislation rather than an “Equality” bill that is creates more inequality than ever before.

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