The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a Christian non-profit organization with a branch at the University pursuing a “world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.” This international religious sports institution is founded on explicitly homophobic policies and beliefs that prevent LGBTQ+ individuals from holding leadership roles while enjoying the same rights as their heterosexual peers. The FCA and their homophobia should not be welcome on Grounds as they conflict with the values and inclusivity we strive for at the University.
The FCA has many nationwide chapters and a presence in over 90 countries. As of 2019, at least 12 staff and student leaders led the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at U.Va. FCA members applying for student or staff leadership roles are required to sign a statement of faith, which comprises core beliefs alleging respect and love — as long as you are heterosexual, of course. The statement of faith states “God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society.” Not only does this reinforce negative connotations of different sexualities as abnormal or inherently wrong, it excludes them from both fully participating in FCA and from embracing their identity. The FCA has made their stance on homosexuality clear, and if we at the University want to promote a culture of wholehearted respect, we have to make our own stance clear — homophobia and prejudice will not be tolerated.
LGBTQ+ community members can join and are likely members of FCA at the University, but their anti-gay statement of faith bans them from leadership positions for all practical purposes. While it is illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, FCA evades this law by not explicitly banning LGBTQ+ individuals. They simply prohibit “homosexual acts,” which is not clarified, and could be anything from holding hands to raising children with someone of the same sex. Their rules are reminiscent of an American history of homophobic laws and religious hate directed at minority groups. Members should be educated on what exactly the organization they’re joining stands for. If there were organizations at the University that were staunchly racist, sexist or otherwise bigoted, they should be called out and not welcomed on Grounds.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community that want to join the FCA are not afforded the same rights as other members, as homosexual marriages and relationships are deemed wrong. Alternatively, their heteronormative peers can freely pursue leadership positions without consequence. We should expect the students, staff and faculty leaders of FCA to give everyone the respect they deserve.
Fighting discrimination and bigotry toward minority groups starts at the membership level, and students who believe everyone — regardless of who they love or how they identify — is deserving of equality should not join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. If the FCA at U.Va. wishes to present themselves as a welcoming place for people of all gender identities and sexualities, they should dissociate from the national organization. University athletes need to make conscious decisions to disconnect from the FCA national organization and take a firm stance to support and include all students.
The University’s Mission Statement declares that “we are defined by: Our unwavering support of a collaborative, diverse community bound together by distinctive foundational values of honor, integrity, trust, and respect”. If this statement is to hold true, then “integrity, trust, and respect” must apply to each and every student, unconditionally. If this statement is to hold true, then “we” who make up the University — staff, faculty and students — need to pledge unwavering support to defend Grounds from bigotry and homophobia.
No religious or secular institution, nor any belief system, should have the power, will or motivation to discriminate against or hate a certain group. The United States has a long way to go for LGBTQ+ rights, especially with the Trump administration’s moves to ban transgender military members and allowing health care providers to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. Too often, religious institutions and individuals are given a pass to discriminate and promote hate in the name of religious freedom. The University and its students need to start making choices. Progressive progress has already been made in Virginia — Gov. Northam signed sweeping discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ community members this year and a third gender option was added to state IDs. But we can do better. We must all take a stand against organizations like the FCA and strive to make our University community more inclusive and equitable for all, no matter someone’s gender or sexuality.
Nicole Chebili is a Viewpoint Writer for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.