To the Editor:
Re: “Outcry Erupts from Alleged Homophobia: Gay student asked to step down from leadership post by Christian group,” News, April 23.
The controversy surrounding Chris Donohoe’s ’09 relationship with Chi Alpha is justifiably sending waves of concern through both religious and LGBT groups within the Cornell community. Hopefully, the events ignite a deeper dialogue about members of the LGBT community who are also people of faith. As an alumnus who identifies as an evangelical Christian and as gay, the issue resonates very strongly with me. I understand and empathize with Chris’s struggle because it was my own struggle. I firmly believe I can be a practicing Christian and an openly gay man in a committed, monogamous relationship — consistent with Christian Biblical morality. I understand that my view puts me at odds with the doctrine of Chi Alpha and many other traditional Christian organizations and denominations.
In spite of my disagreement with Chi Alpha over doctrine, I do not believe the group or its advisors erred in asking Chris to resign his leadership post. It is extremely important that religious organizations on campus have the freedom and the right to select leaders consistent with their faith and doctrine. This includes student groups that are recognized and funded through the Dean of Students Office, Cornell United Religious Work and/or the SAFC. Of course, these groups should not be allowed to turn members away or bar them from attendance, and in this case, Chi Alpha continues to welcome Chris with open arms. Chi Alpha simply cannot allow someone who disagrees with a fundamental doctrine of their faith to maintain a leadership role.
Cornell long ago recognized the importance of providing support for the spiritual needs of students, fighting the image of the “heathens on the hill” by building Sage Chapel in 1873 and starting the Cornell United Religious Work in 1929. Today, developmental psychologists agree and devote much time to studying spiritual identity development, particularly in college students. Providing support for spiritual development means allowing people of all faiths to have a place they can feel supported, regardless of whether the administration agrees with their doctrines.
If the administration or the Student Assembly strips funding or official university recognition from Chi Alpha and other religious groups for upholding their doctrinal convictions, they send a chilling message to people of faith at Cornell. Cornell’s administration is rightfully concerned with discrimination in student groups, but that concern should not cross into approving or rejecting the doctrine of organizations of faith or their choice of leaders.
Jordan Peterson ’07