A campus a capella group at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill kicked out one of its student members because his beliefs about homosexuality diverge from the organization’s official stance, a report earlier this semester in The Daily Tar Heel revealed.
Psalm 100 is a co-ed Christian a capella group receiving some university funding and boasting a mission of “seeking to spread the joy of the Lord through song.” The group voted to remove UNC senior Will Thomason near the start of the school year after he stated his newfound belief that homosexuality and Christianity could coexist. As Thomason, who is gay, told the Daily Tar Heel, “Now, while realizing God can do anything, I also think God can use me, a non-heterosexual individual, to glorify His name.”
The group declared his views as antithetical to the Psalm 100 constitution, which strictly adheres to “ideology laid out in the Bible.” While the ensuing vote to oust Thomason over this ideological conflict was unanimous, it was apparently not without some internal rumbles. Two other members quit on the night it was held.
The news is obviously explosive on a number of levels, leaving more questions than answers in its wake. Among them: How much freedom should campus groups have to dictate terms of membership? What is the difference between exclusivity and outright discrimination? What does this say about the current chasm between faith and homosexuality within higher education? And what is the university’s role in all this, in respect to its funding of the group and its general equality policies?
In respect to the latter, as Daily Tar Heel staff writer Andy Thomason (no relation to Will) confirms, “The decision . . . highlights a gray area in the university’s non-discrimination policy. The policy gives student groups the right to limit membership to those who share a certain set of ideas, as long as no student is excluded on the basis of personal characteristics– including sexual orientation.”
UNC administrators have confirmed they are looking into the incident specifically to determine if the group stepped over the policy’s boundaries. The most prominent subtext of their investigation and general campus debate is that Thomason is gay, begging questions about whether the removal was about his lifestyle choices as well as views. A Psalm 100 student spokesman denies Thomason’s sexual orientation had anything to do with the group’s decision.
Some UNC students and members of the Daily Tar Heel staff are skeptical of the denial. As a DTH editorial notes, “Despite years of progress, this event is a stark reminder that there is much more work to be done before UNC is truly worthy of the term ‘accepting.’ Whether homosexuality is acceptable in the Christian community is a topic best left to religious scholars. Whether a student of this university can be excluded because of their identity is a broader question answered daily by the actions allowed within the community. The community owes it to Thomason and the rest of campus to answer a resounding ‘No.’”
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