Protests over a speech at Baylor University by a conservative blogger on record as opposing the “LGBT agenda” prompted more than 2,200 current and former students and other supporters to call on the historically Baptist school to formally recognize a gay-straight student alliance denied a charter since its founding in 2011.
Tonight’s speech by Daily Wire writer Matt Walsh on the topic “The War On Reality: Why The Left Has Set Out To Redefine Life, Gender And Marriage” is scheduled to go on, despite a petition calling for its cancellation and reports of students ripping down flyers promoting the event sponsored by Baylor’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a youth organization promoting conservative principles such as limited government, traditional social values and free enterprise started in 1960 by National Review founder William F. Buckley.
An open letter prepared for hand delivery this week to Baylor President Linda Livingstone does not ask that Walsh be disinvited or that the school revoke the charter of YAF but rather that “the university reconsider its exclusion of student organizations that are designed to provide a community for individuals in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) and allied community.”
An unofficial group of Baylor students called the Sexual Identity Forum was denied a charter in 2011 over concerns that its intent was contrary to a university sexual misconduct policy prohibiting “homosexual acts.” Baylor dropped that language in 2015, updating the policy to affirm “the biblical understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity.”
The SIF group reportedly operated under the radar for several years until January 2018, when members began writing invitations to weekly club meetings in colored chalk on campus sidewalks. Because they lack formal recognition, Sexual Identity Forum members cannot meet on campus or receive funding through the student government allocation fund.
The open letter says controversy over the Young Americans for Freedom event “illustrates the fundamental unfairness of the university’s treatment of other student groups, particularly those seeking to provide community to students who identify as LGBTQ or allies.”
“For a university that has stated its strategic mission is to ‘bring light to the world,’ privileging the viewpoints and values of organizations like Baylor YAF and Matt Walsh to the exclusion of LGBTQ and allied students is counterproductive,” the signers say.
“We see no basis for the university’s decision to allow the activities of groups such as Baylor YAF and speakers such as Matt Walsh and simultaneously withhold approval from groups that seek to provide community for our LGBTQ students,” the letter says. “If the university has historically feared that allowing such groups on campus would be seen as an endorsement of their views, it appears that is no longer a concern. The university is permitting a group and speaker on campus that is aligned with any number of views regarding women, academia and American culture that we have to assume the university does not endorse.”
“LGBTQ students have waited long enough to be afforded the opportunity to organize officially on campus,” the letter concludes. “Permitting them to do so does not mean that Baylor University condones all aspects of the organization, in the same way that the university surely does not condone all aspects of the views and attitudes that Baylor YAF is featuring in the Matt Walsh event. But to allow groups such as Baylor YAF to organize officially and advertise and hosts events in Baylor spaces, while depriving LGBTQ groups the opportunity to create community and officially enter Baylor’s marketplace of ideas is manifestly unfair.”
President Livingstone issued a statement last week describing the struggle of “demonstrating Christian hospitality while expressing different viewpoints.’
“Baylor has grown to become a diverse educational institution – with students from all 50 states and 90 countries – where students experience people from a wide range of backgrounds and with differing opinions,” she said. “Our campus should be an environment where we can learn how to respond to each other in a respectful, compassionate manner and to use challenging situations and discussions to share and reflect upon our own personal beliefs and core convictions.”
“While Baylor is a university that supports and encourages free speech, we have an additional – and very important – responsibility as a Christian university, and that is to appreciate differing opinions and backgrounds in a respectful, compassionate manner that extends grace as Christ did,” Livingstone said. “We may not always agree, but we are still the Baylor Family. And we all need to do better.”
A competing petition, meanwhile, calls on the university to “stand strong and refuse to abdicate the traditional Christian values for which it has historically stood.”
The “Save Baylor Traditions” petition says chartering the Sexual Identity Forum and similar groups would go against the official position of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which in 2016 approved a policy that “any church which affirms any sexual relationship outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman be considered out of harmonious cooperation” with the statewide affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“If the university charters groups whose views on gender and sexuality go against the official positions of the BGCT, the university would risk losing said affiliation, which would not only result in the loss of a plurality of the university’s donors, but in a fundamental redefinition of what the university is,” the petition claims.
“It most certainly could not continue to claim that it is ‘unapologetically Christian,’ as this action would clearly be tantamount to an apology for the university hosting a speech on traditional Christian morality,” the signers say.