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Tough Grace: Clear and Consistent on Sexual Standards
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In December, Congress and President Obama ended the era of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) in the United States military. Today, American political culture is far more open to gay members of the armed forces than it was in 1993, when President Clinton created his famous compromise.

In civilian life, Don't Ask, Don't Tell attitudes are also fading. Once, this quiet accommodation to the presence of gays in our midst afforded the luxury of ambiguity, allowing heterosexuals to be friendly and supportive of gay coworkers, friends, and family without having to deal head-on with their sexuality. In order to be good neighbors, evangelical Christians have often chosen not to deal with the subject, making mental distinctions between their personal beliefs and their family and community relationships.

But Christian institutions—colleges, campus ministries, publishers, and aid organizations among them—can no longer enjoy the ambiguity that DADT attitudes traditionally afforded. This was highlighted this past December, when Nashville's Belmont University became embroiled in a controversy over the resignation (or dismissal, as some claimed) of a lesbian soccer coach with a winning record after students learned that her partner was expecting a baby.

Until 2007, Belmont was affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Publicly, the school trumpets its identity as a Christian university and its commitment to "learning in a context of Christian community and service." But it has chosen a broad interpretation of its Christian mission, which has been accompanied by strong numerical growth.

Former soccer coach Lisa Howe and the university are saying that her departure was not linked with ...

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Tough Grace: Clear and Consistent on Sexual Standards
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February 2011

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