Maranatha gets an intentional walk

The University should not participate in a thinly veiled attack on the GLBT community.

There has been debate recently regarding the University’s settlement with Maranatha Christian Fellowship, and deservedly so. This board is unfortunately tardy in entering it. The University is sanctioning and subsidizing discrimination, while Maranatha in effect attacks the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, among others. Neither is tolerable.

Maranatha sued the University, seeking to receive public funding and violate the University’s equal-opportunity statement, which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Maranatha is of the opinion, as published on its University Web site, that unrepentant homosexuals are sinners, as well as “unnatural,” “unrighteous,” “an abomination” and “detestable.”

For Maranatha, signing the anti-discrimination clause prevents the group from discriminating against homosexuals wishing to be full members of the club. Apparently fearing costly litigation and the threat of losing, the University caved in to Maranatha’s argument, allowing religious groups to hold voting members and officers to adhere to the organization’s statement of faith.

The legal issue is not necessarily a settled question. Per the Supreme Court’s separate decisions involving the Boy Scouts and the University of Wisconsin, the University must fund student groups in a “viewpoint-neutral” manner, and Maranatha has a right to associate as it sees fit. But free association might or might not include an entitlement to public funds. Either way, judicial agreement does not necessarily make an action right.

While we find the group’s views bigoted and hateful, Maranatha is free to believe and preach what it likes. But unless the group opens at least voting-member status to all comers, it should not receive public funding, which sanctions its violations of basic ideas of equality and tolerance.

Maranatha’s policy also affects those engaging in premarital sex, though the group’s focus seems to be barring homosexuals from fully participating. The University should not participate in such a thinly veiled attack on the GLBT community, and the student body should not be required to support such a group.