The Baylor Same-Sex Marriage
Controversy: What's Going On?
by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.
March 10, 2004
University has had its share of troubles over the last year as faculty
have attempted to topple the administration of Robert B. Sloan,
Jr., even as the university was reeling from a scandal involving
its basketball program. That sports scandal made headlines all over
the world and was precisely the kind of publicity any university
would dread. Added to all this, Baylor now faces controversy over
the issue of same-sex marriage--a controversy precipitated by an
editorial published in the university's student newspaper, The Baylor
In an editorial published February 27, the paper's
editorial board served notice of its support for the actions of
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in performing illegal same-sex
marriages and for the city in filing a lawsuit against the state
and its legal prohibition of same-sex marriages. According to the
editorial, "taking into account equal protection under the
law, gay couples should be granted the same equal rights to legal
marriage as heterosexual couples. Without such recognition, gay
couples, even those who have co-habitated long enough to qualify
as common law spouses under many state laws, often aren't granted
the same protection when it comes to shared finances, health insurance
and other employee benefits, and property or power of attorney rights."
The editorial board went on to issue what amounts
to a blanket endorsement of same-sex marriage and, by extension,
of homosexuality itself. "Like many heterosexual couples, many
gay couples share deep bonds of love, some so strong they've persevered
years of discrimination for their choice to co-habitate with and
date one another," the students commented. The editorial board
went on to argue: "Just as it isn't fair to discriminate against
someone for their skin color, heritage or religious beliefs, it
isn't fair to discriminate against for their sexual orientation.
Shouldn't gay couples be allowed to enjoy the benefits and happiness
of marriage, too?"
According to a note attached to the editorial, the
editorial board had voted 5-2 in favor of this statement. If the
students were looking for attention, they got it--and fast. President
Sloan released a written statement denouncing the editorial and
characterizing the editorial board's decision as irresponsible and
"It is important for Baylor constituents to
know that this position held by five students does not reflect the
views of the administration, faculty, staff, Board of Regents or
Student Publications Board, which oversees the Lariat," Sloan
stated. He went on to claim that the paper's stance on same-sex
marriage is out of step with "the vast majority of Baylor's
14,000 students and 100,000 alumni."
Interestingly, this is not the first time the paper's
editorial board has offered a pro-homosexual slant. Just two weeks
before the editorial on same-sex marriage, the paper ran an editorial
criticizing the administration for denying an openly-gay student
a ministerial scholarship. The editorial board also flirted with
controversy in a recent editorial calling for minors to have information
about access to abortion. Nevertheless, it was the same-sex marriage
editorial that sparked the real controversy.
In his statement, Sloan indicated that the university
was inundated with complaints from its constituents. "We've
already heard from a number of students, alumni and parents, who
are, as am I, justifiably outraged over this editorial." According
to Sloan, "Espousing in a Baylor publication a view that is
so out of touch with traditional Christian teachings is not only
unwelcome, it comes dangerously close to violating University policy
as described in the Student Handbook, prohibiting the advocacy of
any understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching."
The president went on to promise that the Student Publications Board
would be addressing the matter with the newspaper's staff as soon
Speaking to the broader university constituency,
Sloan sought to assure the Baylor family that, "while we respect
the right of students to hold and express divergent view points,
we do not support the use of publications such as the Lariat, which
is published by the University, to advocate positions that undermine
foundational principles upon which this institution was founded
and currently operates."
Of course, by the time President Sloan issued his
statement, the controversy had already spilled into the national
media and was fodder for news articles, editorial opinion, and political
debate. Some homosexual advocacy groups quickly championed the editorial
as a signal of support from an unexpected quarter.
If the paper's published letters to the editor are
any indication, student opinion was decidedly mixed. Darrin Adams,
complained that President Sloan was turning Baylor University into
a Ministry of Information with an Orwellian agenda. He particularly
objected to President Sloan's linking of homosexuality and Baylor's
Christian roots. "I, and many others as seen from letters to
the editor, am not represented by our school president nor am I
totally represented by the editorial board. I do, however, think
an intelligent group of my peers can better represent the Baylor
population than a Baptist preacher." Denise Hamblin, a social
work major, argued, "Students should be tired of being put
under the umbrella of Baylor's conservatism. Social justice and
equality have somehow gotten sacrificed as priorities--sacrificed
to the close-minded [sic.] few who would have you believe they are
'holier than thou'."
Other students voice support for the editorial,
and registered opposition to same-sex marriage and homosexuality.
"Marriage implies a consummation in sex," argued Violet
Williams, "and traditionalists believe sex is designed not
only to display love but to create children. A gay relationship
is sterile, thus not fulfilling the design of God." Alex J.
Bell argued for editorial freedom, but against the board's editorial.
"While I respect your journalistic freedom to express your
opinions on a given topic, I believe the views the editorial board
expressed regarding the city of San Francisco and gay marriages
are incorrect and misguided."
Controversies over student publications are routine
in higher education, and few university presidents are spared the
embarrassing responsibility of responding to a flagrantly outrageous
student editorial. Nevertheless, the situation at Baylor rises to
the level of national importance when the controversy on that campus
is more closely examined.
Many included within Baylor's large constituency
must have been reassured to know that President Sloan found the
editorial deeply offensive and described himself as "justifiably
outraged" over the editorial board's misjudgment. Furthermore,
reassurance was given in the form of Sloan's clear affirmation that
any endorsement of homosexuality undermines the "foundational
Christian principles upon which this institution was founded and
currently operates." In his statement, President Sloan had
described an endorsement of same-sex marriage as "out of touch
with traditional Christian teachings" and, "contrary to
biblical teaching." So far, so good.
In reality, Baylor University has been embroiled
in a lengthy and overheated controversy over the university's leadership
and direction. President Sloan has advocated a new direction for
Baylor, pointing the university toward top-tier academic status
and redirecting the institution into a deeper and more substantial
identification with the Christian worldview. Under his leadership,
Baylor has added a number of scholars with international reputations
for a serious embrace of the Christian worldview and its application
to all areas of thought and research. These new professors--and
the "Baylor 2012" plan promoted by President Sloan--have
run into direct confrontation with many of Baylor's older faculty
The bottom line in this controversy is a debate
over whether Christian conviction should be brought into the classroom
by application of a Christian worldview to all academic disciplines.
The resistance of Baylor's older faculty indicates that, for many
at least, Christianity is devoid of specific intellectual content.
That would certainly go far in explaining some of the confusion
on the issue of homosexuality present on the Baylor campus.
Furthermore, even under the agenda of "Baylor
2012," the University steadfastly insists that it is not a
confessional institution and faculty members are not required to
sign any confession of faith. University leaders, including Provost
David Lyle Jeffrey, have criticized confessional boundaries as illegitimate
for an academic institution. But without a confessional statement,
what is to prevent a faculty member from advocating same-sex marriage?
All this adds up to a bundle of confusion. President
Sloan clearly--if briefly--articulated a traditional and biblical
understanding of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. But where
is the army of faculty behind him? Where are the faculty members
willing to put themselves on the line to stand with their president
in support of the biblical concept of marriage and opposed to the
normalization of homosexuality? Until that question is answered,
we cannot assume that this issue is settled--not by a long shot.
Is Baylor's faculty willing to take a strong and unified stand on
this vital issue of moral importance and political controversy?
If not, why castigate the students as irresponsible?
Tomorrow: What does this controversy say about the
current generation of college students? Is this a sign of things