By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer
Two petitions, one urging Baylor to allow LGBTQ groups on campus and the other opposing them, circulated online in recent weeks. Both of the dueling petitions surfaced in the lead-up to conservative commentator Matt Walsh’s controversial visit to Baylor last week.
The pro-representation petition, most recently titled “Join more than 2,700 members of the Baylor family standing up for all of Baylor’s students, including those in the LGBTQ community,” claimed Baylor’s approval of the Walsh event and its organizer, Baylor Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), represented a “fundamental unfairness” in Baylor’s treatment of student groups. The petition, which was drafted as a letter to President Linda Livingstone and Dr. Kevin Jackson, vice president for student life, says that Baylor should not worry allowing LGBTQ groups seeming like an endorsement if it’s already willing to allow YAF to invite a speaker with views as controversial as Walsh’s.
According to the petition, Baylor’s treatment of other student groups shows that groups don’t have to “maintain views, positions, or advocacy that are entirely consistent with what it perceives to be required by ‘Biblical teaching.’” The petition specifically mentions the Baylor Sexual Identity Forum (SIF), described on its own Facebook page as “Baylor’s unofficial gay club,” as a group that should be chartered by the university.
The “Save Baylor Traditions” petition began as a direct response to the pro-representation petition and urges Baylor to continue to forbid the chartering of LGBTQ groups. Supported by YAF, the petition argues that chartering LGBTQ groups like SIF would put Baylor at risk of losing its affiliation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which could result in a loss of donors and a “fundamental redefinition of what the University is.”
The petition clarifies that it is not an opposition of LGBTQ rights or free speech, but is about maintaining Baylor’s status as a “traditional Christian institution.” The petition does calls objections to the Matt Walsh event an “embarrassing uproar” and says students who do not support the positions held by Baylor and the BGCT are “free to enroll at a different school.”
Currently the pro-representation petition has more than 2,000 signatures, the “Save Baylor Traditions” petition received roughly 100. Both petitions include signatures from current students, alumni, parents of students and faculty and staff members.
Austin freshman Anna Tabet signed the pro-representation petition. Tabet said the petition is part of an ongoing conversation about LGBTQ rights at Baylor that is “long overdue.”
“Completely ignoring a group of people has never served anyone right,” Tabet said. “I felt like signing that petition was drawing attention to people who have been marginalized on this campus and hopefully giving them a space to be recognized.
Robinson junior Stefan Fitting signed the “Save Baylor Traditions” petition. Fitting said through text messages that preserving Baylor’s membership in the BGCT and status as a Christian university was why he signed the petition.
“Adopting a pro-LGBT club would certainly lose us our [BGCT] membership along with all the benefits that entails,” Fitting said. “Baylor being an unapologetically Christian school is one of my favorite things about Baylor, and I would hate to see Baylor go the way of TCU and lose their Christian environment.”
Fitting said he views the Bible as the “inerrant word of God” and that he must accept that “living a LGBT lifestyle constitutes a sin” because of this. Different interpretations of the Bible are what Fitting said he thinks leads people to different conclusions.
“I think we are both working out of what we think the loving course of action is,” Fitting said. “Affirming LGBT lifestyles to me is not only not loving but the opposite. They are preaching a false gospel, and telling others that their sin is not a sin.”
Tabet said people who signed the “Save Baylor Traditions” petition could benefit from hearing opposing views on the issue of LGBTQ rights.
“Just as they encouraged people to come out and listen to Matt Walsh, I think that they should come out and listen to people that believe differently than they do, and I think that that can’t happen unless we all advocate for free speech on this campus,” Tabet said. “Just as they wanted us to respect Matt Walsh’s beliefs, I think that’s a bit hypocritical if they don’t do the same.”