In Measure for Measure, A Cappella Blog contributors take a look at both sides of a controversial issue in collegiate a cappella. Please note that the views expressed by columnists do not necessarily represent those of The ACB as an organization, nor do they necessarily represent the views of individual columnists. The purpose of this column is to explore issues and further civil, intellectual debate.
On Sunday, August 28, members of Psalm 100, a Christian collegiate a cappella out of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Psalm 100 voted to remove senior Will Thomasen. The rationale? Thomasen’s views on homosexuality (not, the group leadership emphasized, because Thomasen, himself, is gay).
In this special edition of Measure for Measure, ACB Production Manager Mike Scalise and ACB Content Manager Mike Chin go head to head to assess the validity of this statement:
It was OK for UNC Psalm 100 to kick out gay senior Will Thomasen.
Will Thomasen sings the solo on Psalm 100’s rendition of “The Cave” last spring.
Mike Chin: This statement is true. It’s easy to dumb down Psalm 100’s decision to remove Will Thomasen from its ranks. They’re a Christian group. He’s a gay kid. It’s easy to say that the decision was as simple and discriminatory as that, and, in turn, it’s easy to demonize the group and, by extension, the university that just might let them get away with it.
Let’s look at this a little more critically, though. UNC’s non-discrimination policy states that it’s OK for student groups to limit their membership to individuals who share common sets of ideas. True, the policy does also include a caveat that a student can’t be excluded on account of personal characteristics, but this is where there is an important distinction to be drawn between excluding Thomasen because he’s gay versus excluding him because of his beliefs regarding homosexuality.
Spin the issue on its head, and say that the group included an extroverted homophobe, who made other group members uncomfortable on account of his outspoken hatred for gay people. In this day and age, I would be surprised if others would be comfortable affiliating themselves with such an ignorant and intolerant colleague. Would it be OK for Psalm 100 to give this hypothetical group member the boot? If a part of the group’s constitution indicated that there’s no place members who are prejudiced and hateful (and, to be fair, the issue at hand is that the group claims to be guided by The Bible) then, yes, I would suggest it is OK for the group to vote out a homophobe.
There is more gray area in the case of a gay man, or a man who views being gay to be OK, as the case may be, given that most research and contemporary opinions will confirm it is not a choice, and also given that it’s controversial, at best, to say that The Bible condemns homosexuality. Nonetheless, if a UNC group truly has the right to remove a member whose ideas and philosophies are not consistent with the group’s constitution as the group interprets it then Psalm 100 did have every right to remove Thomasen. For Thomasen’s part, he has every right to shun the group that deemed him unfit to remain a member.
Mike Scalise: This statement is false. As a society, we are more diverse and accepting today than ever before. There’s a reason for that--differing viewpoints and beliefs breed new ideas and facilitate intelligent conversation. When I heard the news that UNC’s Christian a cappella group, Psalm 100, unanimously dismissed a member based on his view of homosexuality, I was stunned. Blake Templeton, general director of Psalm 100, claims Will Thomasen, a gay senior who had been a member of the group since freshman year, had been expelled not for his sexual orientation but because his views weren’t in accordance with the group’s constitution. This argument is weak at best. If we look at the history of the U.S. constitution, we see that it has been amended numerous times to meet the ever-changing needs of society. If the group members were truly indifferent to Thomasen’s orientation, they, too, would have revised the document to be more accepting, and in doing so, updated it to match the times. Furthermore, university policy states that no student can be excluded from a student organization on the basis of sexual orientation. While group members claim the dismissal was based on Thomasen’s views of sexual orientation and not his sexual orientation itself, the unforgiving attitudes reek of discrimination. Psalm 100 needs to re-evaluate its position on social matters to determine if ousting members based on archaic traditions is worth the group itself getting ousted by society at large.