Two UNC alumni and a current UNC student with different personal and professional views took on Psalm 100′s decision to remove one of its gay members in a panel on Tuesday.
The two alumni who participated were Joshua Groll, a self-identified gay libertarian who graduated in May and wrote for The Carolina Review, and Andrew Brown, a UNC law student married to a former member of Psalm 100. Senior Billy Kluttz, a political science and women’s studies double major, was the third panel member.
The panelists focused their discussion on whether a student organization can enforce a code of conduct and remove members. They talked about the role of student organizations on campus and how religious organizations fit into that framework.
Kluttz said student groups fulfill needs outside of the classroom, but that religious organizations in particular “fulfill a second need a lot of students have and a lot of students don’t have.”
Groll and Brown expressed disagreement, arguing that religious organizations function the same as any other group and deserve the same level of freedom.
This contention continued throughout most of the discussion. Kluttz said he did not believe religious organizations should be funded through student fees, while Groll and Brown both said they deserve as much of an opportunity to receive funding as any other ideological group.
Groll cited Rosenberger v. University of Virginia and the need for viewpoint neutrality on the part of the university.
“If you fund one ideological group, you need to fund them all,” said Brown in agreement.
Brown argued that the university’s non-discrimination policy should only regard the formation of groups. If a student is discriminately removed from an organization, that student has every right to create an organization of his own, a right the university should protect, he argued.
Brown said that if a student organization’s ideals are abrasive, submitting them to the public will take care of the problem.
“The best way to get rid of those groups is to let them put their ideas out there.”
The Psalm 100 controversy
The controversy started when Psalm 100 unanimously voted to remove UNC senior Will Thomason from the a capella group because of his views on sexuality in late August.
Thomason’s booting provoked strong reactions from the student body in August.
Blake Templeton, general director of the group, said Thomason was not removed for his sexual orientation, but for his opinions about homosexuality that didn’t match the Bible. However, the University decided to investigate whether or not the group violated UNC’s non-discrimination policy in dismissing their gay member.
After the investigation, UNC revised school policy to make it easier to report discrimination and harassment.
The panel is a part of the third annual First Amendment Day hosted by the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy. James Heilpern, a senior religious studies major who plans to continue studying First Amendment issues in law school, will moderate the event. For a full list of the day’s events, go to the UNC Media Law’s First Amendment Day page.