An openly gay member of the Lincoln Board of Education is calling on the University of Nebraska to fire assistant football coach Ron Brown for his public comments against an Omaha proposal to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
"When some people seek to camouflage their hatred under the cloak of their faith, their professed religious beliefs should not shield them from the consequences of their actions," Barbara Baier wrote in a letter to NU leaders.
Brown testified March 6 before the Omaha City Council against the anti-discrimination proposal. He was one of hundreds, including filmmaker Alexander Payne, who packed city hall during the meeting. The council approved the ordinance, which Payne supported.
Before testifying, Brown listed his address as 1 Memorial Stadium, drawing criticism from University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman, who later made it clear the university doesn't discriminate based on sexual orientation. Perlman said Brown should have made it clear his comments did not represent the university.
Brown said he plans to make it clear in the future that his religious views don't reflect those of the university. Well-known for his strong and vocal Christian beliefs, Brown has written several books and served as the leader of the state's Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Last fall, he received national attention for leading the pregame prayer before the NU-Penn State matchup after news broke of a sexual abuse there.
Baier said she decided to send the letter out of concern for gay NU athletes who may fear Brown's beliefs that homosexuality is a sin threaten their well-being. She said her own 12-year-old son is considering attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but that she isn't encouraging it right now. She said she was expressing her opinions as a private individual and not as a Lincoln school board member.
"I would like to see them go and seriously change the culture in their athletics program across the board and make sure that the university is a welcoming place for people of all backgrounds, including the gay and lesbian community," she said. "That's going to take some work."
Perlman said he also was disappointed with Brown's comments but that the assistant coach has the right to express his personal views and hadn't done anything to warrant his dismissal.
"I am personally offended by the comments of Coach Brown with regard to gays and lesbians," Perlman said Friday. "Whether intended to do so or not, they reflect poorly on the university, on our athletic programs, and I am certain they cause pain and discomfort among a valued and productive segment of our community."
Brown said Friday he never meant to disrespect anyone, including gay and lesbian students.
"I'm not meaning to harm anybody. I'm quoting the scriptures," he said. "I'll be praying for her, for her to see the reality of what the Lord is saying in the Bible."