Blog: December 13, 2010

Out, and Out of a Job

By Patrick Bohn

Normally, a women's soccer team coming off a 5-11 season wouldn't be the subject of much national attention. But for Belmont University, the largest Christian University in Tennessee, the controversy surrounding former coach Lisa Howe has made the school the topic of much discussion across the country.

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The controversy surrounding Howe's situation involves her decision to have a child with her same-sex partner. And initially, it appeared that choice led to her leaving the school. According to reports by The Tennessean "several members of the soccer team say Howe told them she was pressured into resigning after telling school administrators and the team she and her same-sex partner were having a baby."

However, later reports sent out conflicting information. The Belmont Vision, the school's student newspaper, received an e-mail from the school's communication director regarding the situation, which stated, in part: "Women's soccer coach Lisa Howe has informed the university of her intent to conclude her employment with Belmont. This was a decision Coach Howe made."

A subsequent statement posted on the Vision's Web site arrived at what could best be termed the middle ground between a firing and resignation: The university and Howe agree that she "did not 'resign' from her employment. Neither was she dismissed."

According to the Tennessean, faculty and staff at Belmont are banned from sex outside of marriage. Same-sex marriage is illegal in Tennessee. And in the school's student handbook section on sexual conduct, the first act listed under the definition of sexual misconduct is "Sexual behavior outside of marriage."

The policy of banning sex outside of marriage is not specific to Belmont. Karin Maag, professor of history and vice president of the faculty senate at Calvin College, told the Tenneseean that Christan schools often ban faculty and staff from sex outside of marriage. And Marty Dickens, chair of the University's board of trustees, was quoted as saying: "We expect people to commit themselves to high moral and ethical standards within a Christian context. That includes members of the board, faculty and administration."

In response to the incident, nearly 100 Belmont students and community members gathered for a protest march across campus, and the faculty senate has passed a pair of resolutions. The first states that "the sexual identity of individuals should not impact that person's standing on campus," while the second asks the school to define its policy on gay employees.

Patrick Bohn is an Assistant Editor at Athletic Management.

FEEDBACK

Why was she even hired in the first place? Did she falsify her application? Did she enter into a lesbian relationship after she was hired?
After she announced/outed herself, she should have resigned, given she must have known the school's moral standards.
As for the students (assuming most are Christians and in support of the school's standards), why are they protesting in support of a deviant lifestyle? This whole scenario reeks of hypocrisy.

- Geoff Wheeler