Sunday, December 5, 2010

Belmont University’s Christian Hypocrisy: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Get Pregnant

Women’s soccer coach, Lisa Howe, either resigned on her own or was pressured to resign depending on who you believe in this sordid story. She was a lesbian coach at a self-described “progressive Christian” school. Last year her team won the Atlantic Sun conference title and her overall win/loss record for her six seasons at Belmont was 52-48-16.

Apparently Belmont University is ok with lesbian coaches as long as they abide by a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. However, when Lisa’s partner got pregnant and rumors started circulating on the soccer team, Lisa decided she wanted to tell them directly about the happy coming event in her life. She wanted to be honest, in other words. She asked the athletic administrator more than once for “permission” to tell the team that her partner was pregnant, but he never responded to her. So, when it became apparent that women on the team were beginning to find out, Lisa told them without the “permission” of the athletic director.

According to accounts by players on her team, Lisa was pressured to resign because as soon as the baby was born, the AD told the team she would be fired anyway since beng a lesbian mother violated the school’s hypocritical policy asking lesbian and gay staff members to lie and hide in order to keep their jobs.

Belmont is a private Christian school and there are no laws in Tennessee protecting the employment rights of LGBT people so it might be that there is no legal recourse for what Belmont has done. Plus the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the federal law that could provide this kind of legal protection for LGBT people in every state, is stalled in the political wars in the U.S. Congress.

What Belmont is doing might be legal, but it sure is not moral. From all accounts, Lisa Howe has been an exemplary coach. She even abided by the don’t ask, don’t tell policy imposed on LGBT employees at Belmont, at least until becoming a mother prompted her to tell her team out a desire to be honest and open. She even asked permission first, but faced with administrative silence, she did want she thought was best for her relationship with her team.

Among the many disgusting aspects of this story is the complete hypocrisy of Belmont University and its administrators. I have no doubt that Belmont administrators knew Lisa Howe is a lesbian. It was apparently fine to have a lesbian coach as long as she lied about and hid her sexual orientation. They obviously weren’t concerned about Lisa’s character or moral fiber. They were comfortable with her in a leadership position with the young women on her team for six years…as long as she was dishonest. How Christian of Belmont University. It’s enough to make me wonder if “Thou Shalt Be A Hypocrite” is a new the 11th commandment or something?
This would be a great time for Christians who believe that this kind of hypocrisy is wrong to stand up publicly and reclaim some of the moral high ground that the folks at Belmont University apparently are not familiar with.

In the meantime, the women’s soccer team just wants their coach back. They don’t understand what the big deal is here. They knew she was a lesbian and apparently were finding out she was about to become a mother too and it doesn’t seem to have been a problem for them. Maybe this is the silver lining, if there is one in this story: Younger generations of Christians are beginning to broaden their acceptance of different sexual orientations and gender identities or at least learning to live more authentically with the “diversity” that is only a buzzword for the leaders of Belmont University.

Save us from this brand of Christianity.

You can contact President Fisher at and 615-460-6793. The Athletic Director, Mike Strickland can be reached at or 615-460-5547 if you feel compelled to express your thoughts on their hypocrisy.

Here and here are two follow up articles about this.


Anonymous said...

While your approach to this story is consistent with your worldview I believe that to be fair there are other important considerations. For the record I'm not associated with this school nor am I a particularly religious person.

Belmont is a private school. They have the right to implement and adhere to whatever lawful employment rules they feel are consistent with their religious beliefs and faith. Coach Howe was well aware of the rules when she took the position and either implicitly or explicitly accepted those rules as was evidenced by her ongoing employment.

My experience with most Christians is that they are not going to be confrontational about someone's sexuality. They generally don't agree with homosexuality or gay unions and that is their right. It is also consistent will all of the other major religions of the world. They generally believe that when people say that they will adhere to certain conditions and rules of employment that they will and they don't go on overt gay witch hunts to try to "catch" someone being gay so they can fire them. So it seems to me to be a stretch to say Belmont somehow had previously accepted that Howe was a lesbian. They accepted her as an employee and a coach and rightfully didn't focus on her sexuality.

As we all know unlike a heterosexual couple it is biologically impossible for a lesbian couple to just "get" pregnant. So if we are honest it should be acknowledged that this pregnancy was clearly an event that was planned by Howe and her partner with full knowledge of the conditions of her employment. It wasn't a surprise and evidently in spite of the known employment terms it appears Howe did not initiate a dialogue with the organization in the run up to this event. That is on her. Maybe she planned on resigning when the baby was born or more likely she just intended to explicitly announce to the community her sexuality by virtue of the birth, publicly violate the known conditions of her employment and then play the victim card with the assistance of people like you, which is of course exactly what is happening. Howe and her partner are solely responsible for bringing the focus on their sexuality in an environment in which it was specifically prohibited.

As long as we're talking about rights being violated I always find it curious when observing an obvious gay set up like this that it's all about the rights of the parties that broke the rules. No one wants to talk about the almost 6,000 students and their parents that made a conscious decision to attend this college most likely due in part their world view of which Belmont's policy on premarital sex and homosexuality is a component. You are entitled to feel however you like about their policies but they do not have to accept homosexuality in that environment and they would most certainly be entitled to be upset if they are paying $30K annually for a college education in an environment that is consistent with their religious faith and subsequently find out that those standards are not being enforced.

In closing it would be great if you folks dropped the sanctimonious judgment of their version of Christianity because they don't accept your gay centric view of the world. I'm sure these people are capable of loving the members of the gay community just as they love others. That doesn't mean they have to agree to the lifestyle or knowingly allow members of the gay community to teach their children. Your rights don't trump theirs. said...

people should respect her right to her sexuality and the philosophy makes it easier but it doesn't take out the problem.