Sexuality versus Spirituality   1 comment

Universities today are expected to be equal in their entrance policies (with the obvious exception of academic results), but does this mean that they should admit those who do not treat others equally? Universities, like other organisations and institutions, have a duty to protect their students from discrimination by others. Should an individual’s right to belief supersede an organisation’s right to protect its members from discrimination?

There have recently been two cases in America about students on counselling courses being reprimanded by their universities due to their religion (both are practicing Christians) which includes a belief that homosexuality is a sin.  I think that it is more important for the universities to intervene in these situations because the courses they are on lead them into a compassionate career: i.e. it would probably become an issue when they try to gain employment as counsellors further down the line anyway.

However, Jennifer Keeton, who is suing Augusta State University after she was ordered to complete diversity sensitivity training when her professors discovered that she believes homosexuality to be sinful. Keeton is enrolled on a Counsellor Education programme and, through her attorney, has stated that the University’s decision to threaten her with expulsion because she refuses to renounce her religious beliefs is akin to “imposing thought reform”. Using this wording plays on people’s fears about government officials trying to control our thoughts, as is the central theme in futuristic dystopia novels such as Nineteen Eighty-Four.

We can have rules and laws that legislate against actions, but not ones that can legislate against thoughts and beliefs. This means that a person could believe that homosexuality is a sin, but as long as they don’t try to hurt a person who is homosexual, then they can stay on the right side of the law. This leads us on to a moral dilemma: is it possible to change your behaviour (e.g. to stop telling others that homosexuality is a sin) without compromising your own beliefs?

Earlier this week, an American federal court declared Eastern Michigan University was within their rights to dismiss student Julea Ward from their counselling programme for believing homosexuality is morally wrong. The ruling states that Ward’s dismissal “was entirely due to plaintiff’s refusal to change her behaviour, not her beliefs”. Whether you are able to change your behaviour but not your beliefs would very much depend upon whether you consider your faith to be something that needs to be acted upon in a literal sense. For example, some people are happy to believe that Christianity is the only true religion, but don’t feel the need to go out and actively convert others.

Who should ‘win’ in these cases? Unfortunately, it has to come down to the question of “who should get priority?” – the student with religious beliefs or the university who merely wants to protect other students from being discriminated against. The easiest way to end this argument is to say that we should always look to maintain equality in the treatment of others; although those who have beliefs which do not permit them to treat all others equally are themselves going to find, in these cases, that they won’t be treated equally.


Posted 29/07/2010 by thinkmindy in Morality, Religion

One response to “Sexuality versus Spirituality

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