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Brown's Comments, While Disturbing, Do Not Constitute a Fireable Offense
While thinking about a good topic to write this morning, my first thought was to fire up a column about the how college football was finally deciding to join the 21st century and implement a playoff system to crown it’s national champion.
That was until I read an Associated Press article about Nebraska football assistant coach Ron Brown who recently testified against an anti-discrimination ordinance during an Omaha City Council meeting that extended protections to homosexual and transgender people.
During the meeting, Brown challenged council members to remember that the Bible does not condone homosexuality and warned that there would be “great accountability for the decision you are making.”
The coach continued: “The question I have for you all is, like Pontius Pilate, what are you going to do with Jesus? Ultimately, if you don’t have a relationship with him, and you don’t really have a Bible-believing mentality, really, anything goes... At the end of the day it matters what God thinks most.”
Not surprisingly, advocacy groups as well as Barbara Baier, a member of the Lincoln Board of Education, have called for Nebraska to fire Brown because of his stance against homosexuality – a consequence that the coach is more than willing to accept for his beliefs.
“To be fired for my faith would be a greater honor than to be fired because we didn't win enough games.
"I have simply said that based on the Bible, homosexuality, the lifestyle of homosexuality, is a sin. That has created a flame within itself. But I've decided I'm not going to be afraid of people calling me a bigot or a homophobic or narrow-minded out of a simple, gentle, compassionate expression of the truth of God's word. I'm not going to be bought off by that."
First thing is first, I believe that Brown, despite hiding behind the cloak of his religious beliefs, is a bigoted human being. Invoking the name of Jesus to further one’s cause, especially when it pertains to views on sexuality, is nothing new.
For evidence of this, one simply needs to look at Fred Phelps and the lunatics at Westboro Baptist Church.
Now Brown is certainly not this radical and by many accounts, the man has been a solid mentor and role model for the young men he has coached in Nebraska over the years – an opinion testified to by Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini.
"I hired him because he's a good football coach,” Pelini said. “He's trustworthy. He has a lot of integrity. I hired him because I believe in him as a football coach and a guy who has positive impact on kids."
My issue with Brown is two-fold. One, it truly bothers me when people evoke the name of Jesus to further or defend their own beliefs. What one does in his or her bedroom, as long as no laws are being broken and all involved are consenting, should not subject them to discrimination in any form.
Second, whether Brown likes it or not, not everyone prescribes to his religious beliefs. I am sure that not all of the citizens of Omaha are Christian, so to use Jesus as a reason to not pass this ordinance is not applicable. The notion of separation of church and state is a good idea because not everyone shares the same religious belief system. To claim that a public ordinance is bad because it flies in the face of a certain religion would simply alienate citizens who do not share that same religious belief.
In the end, it comes down to serving the greater good, and I fail to see how enacting an ordinance that protects citizens from discrimination for living a perfectly legal lifestyle can be construed as a bad thing.
That being said, I disagree with those calling for Brown’s firing. The First Amendment to the Constitution protects Brown’s right to express his opinion, and while I do not agree with him, I do believe that he should be allowed to speak his mind at a council meeting in a city that he resides in.
His views have nothing to do with his responsibilities as a football coach. If he starts spouting anti-gay remarks in the huddle, then termination should be put on the table. Until that time, however, Brown’s religious and political views should be kept separate from his job.
And finally, I will credit Brown with one thing. In a time where retractions in sports and politics are the order of the day, it is refreshing to see someone stick to their guns, no matter how off target they are aimed.