East Carolina University (ECU) has launched a new campaign that attempts to pressure employees to affirm homosexuality despite their religious and moral objections to the lifestyle. Couched in the language of safety and inclusion, the program promises to brand as intolerant those who refuse to accept the university's official position on matters of private sexual morality. This is especially problematic, given that ECU is a public university.
The campaign was launched with a profoundly unwise email, sent by university employee Summer Wisdom under the subject line "Gay? Fine by me." She begins:
"This spring the LGBT Resource Office (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) is hosting a program called 'Gay? Fine By Me' and we would love for you and your department to share in this opportunity. The LGBTRO will be ordering shirts that say 'gay? fine by me' and distributing them to faculty, staff and students to promote an atmosphere of support on campus. This simple message helps to combat homophobia by publically (sic) affirming our LGBT community and creating an inclusive environment where all students can feel safe to express who they are. The shirts will be distributed free of charge, though the LGBTRO welcomes donations to the project."
Note that Wisdom, while not demonstrating wisdom, does demonstrate honesty in two ways. First, she admits that affirmation, rather than tolerance, is the goal of her movement. Second, she characterizes refusal to affirm homosexuality as evidence of a "phobia," which needs to be combatted. Her position is simple: Pro gay is fine by me. Anything else is not fine by me. She continues her assault on reason:
"Everyone will be encouraged to wear the shirts on campus and to participate in a campus wide ally project where we will create a Human Rainbow during the annual Barefoot on the Mall celebration. Photos of this massive showing of LGBT support will be publicized on the LGBTRO’s website and social media accounts."
Wow. Everyone will be encouraged to wear a t shirt saying "Gay? Fine by me." Why? Because they know there is opposition on the campus and they need to combat it. In other words, they are going to promote inclusion on campus by "encouraging" people to promote a message with which they disagree. Then they will take a picture to preserve a record of those who conformed. These are the same people who oppose prayer in schools because they think kids will be stigmatized for refusing to bow their heads. She continues:
"The LGBTRO would also like to create an internal marketing campaign by taking pictures of ECU faculty, staff, administrators, student leaders and student groups wearing the shirts. This is where you come in. If you, your department or office, or the student group you advise would like to participate, you can reserve the correct number of shirts on the org sync order form below. Shirts will be distributed March 18th - 20th on Wright Plaza, at the LGBTRO ... times and location for the photo shoot will be e–mailed to everyone who reserves shirts or picks one up at Wright Plaza."
In other words, just in case the photo at the Human Rainbow event fails to identify all dissenters, Ms. Wisdom will arrange for departmental photo shoots. So, for example, if there are ten professors in a department and only nine in a picture, we all know who needs an extra nudge in keeping up with "diversity" and "progress." One could say of the photos that if you're not included, then you're not inclusive. She continues:
"The picture will be yours for your own marketing materials but will also be part of a campus wide poster campaign of Pirate Allies. We are also willing to bring a photographer to you if you are part of a large group or department and would like the photo to take place in your own building or during a pre-arranged meeting instead of walking everyone over to our photo shoot. Please communicate with my (sic) directly if you would like to set up something like this. This is a wonderful opportunity to be a part of something great while showcasing support for positive change on ECU’s campus."
Why not offer to put rainbow stickers on the doors - and rainbow buttons on the lapels - of all staff and faculty members who support the cause? That way, when their "Gay? Fine by me" t shirts are dirty, they can have something to transfer from garment to garment. For those who disagree, just give them yellow stars (or come over and sew them on their outer garments). She continues:
"If you or your department would like to participate, the link below will take you to an order form on OrgSync where you are provided multiple options: 1. Reserve the correct number of shirts and sizes for your group, 2. Reserve your shirts AND make a donation to the project, 3. Make a donation to the project without ordering shirts. (Donations to the project of $500.00 or more will add your office or department’s logo to the event publicity flyers as a sponsor)."
Well, that was a real shocker, wasn't it? After all that preaching, she had to ask the congregation for money. Finally, Wisdom signs off:
"Summer Wisdom, LGBT Resource Office, Sociology Instructor."
So Ms. Wisdom teaches sociology. Another shocker! No wonder she is so fixated on ideological conformity. The question is whether ECU department heads will use these photo ops as an opportunity to pressure people of faith into promoting beliefs that conflict with their deeply held religious convictions.
The answer is in my next column.