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Letter encourages more discussion
Editor’s Note: The following letters serve as a sampling of those received in response to the letter by Karen Kozub Thompson ’81 in the Fall 2001 issue titled “Gay support stirs debate.” Due to space constraints and the number of letters, we could not publish them all here, but we have posted them online at www4.wittenberg.edu/administration/hollow/letters102.html. An e-mail address, email@example.com, has also been established so the discussion can continue.
I was disappointed in the letter to the editor in the Fall 2001 issue from an alumna saying she hoped that an article about campus support of gays and lesbians would not be published by our alma mater’s magazine.
I chose to attend Wittenberg because it fostered a climate of openness and acceptance of all humans. It helped me continue to uphold my values of seeing all people — of any race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation — as equals.
I found it interesting that the person who wrote the letter believed that just because a small percentage of the population is (openly) homosexual, that she would assume that there is only a small percentage of people who would be pleased to see such an article.
I think that an article discussing campus support of gays and lesbians would be welcomed by many members of the Wittenberg community — including many who are heterosexual — and it would show that Wittenberg is still committed to the values for which I selected it and that make me proud to be an alumna.
Shuly Cawood ’91
My reading of the Wittenberg Magazine, which arrived today, came to an abrupt halt on page 2 with the letter from an alumna distressed by the idea that an article expressing support for gays and lesbians might appear in this publication. I was shaken by the assumptions and narrow perspective expressed there.
Then I found, in the “President’s Viewpoint” on the facing page, the first item on Dr. Tipson’s list of what a Wittenberg graduate should be able to do: “Respond with understanding (and compassion) to the depth and complexity of human experience.”
The writer of the letter referred to Wittenberg’s roots in the Lutheran church; indeed it continues to be related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a church body currently encouraging members of its congregations to study how to talk together as Christians about homosexuality, in order to understand more adequately the “depth and complexity” of the Christian life “in the light of the Gospel and human experience.”
The latter phrase from the ELCA Guide for Congregations points to the spirit one hopes would pervade discussions on the campus also, as well as in the Wittenberg Magazine.
Lois Rugh Fries ’46
I read with interest a letter in the Fall 2001 issue of Wittenberg Magazine that stated that the writer did not believe that it was appropriate to have gay or lesbian-related stories or notes included in this magazine. The writer stated that the Bible makes clear that homosexuality is a sin and that no one would be interested because only 3 percent of the population is gay or lesbian, and “more than half” of us are evangelical Christians.
While one could easily argue that letter’s facts...there are two things that I believe the writer is missing: the Bible simply and unequivocally states that we should love one another, and that includes those whose beliefs you may not agree with.
And secondly, the Wittenberg education I received taught me that there is an incredible world out there that includes people who speak different languages, are different races, have different religious beliefs, love different people, and enjoy different art and literature — and that we all have much to learn from these differences.
I am sorry that the writer of that letter seems to have missed these parts of the Wittenberg experience. The solution is simple: print articles that honestly reflect the diversity of Wittenberg and its graduates, and if readers disagree with something they see, they can turn the page.
Scott D. Roller ’86
I would be remiss, both personally and as a proud Wittenberg alumnus embracing the motto of the great seal of the University, “Having Light, We Pass It On To Others,” to not address the letter to the editor in the Fall 2001 Wittenberg Magazine.
...Apart from the overt and remarkably antipathetic homophobia she displays in her letter, backed no less than by the Bible and some rather suspect statistics, [she] suggests that alumni support, assumedly monetary in nature, would be pulled from the university if “such an article [advocating support for lesbians and gays]” is included in an upcoming issue.
In one fell swoop, she accomplishes not only unabashed discriminatory homophobia, but suggests overt censorship as well. Is this the kind of ignorant, intimidating Light we wish to pass on to others?
In 1999, The National Center for Victims of Crime lists 3,410 violent crimes committed against gay men and lesbians. Homosexuals are harassed, taunted, discriminated against, beaten and assaulted every day in this country. I offer Billy Jack Gaither, whose throat was slashed, his skull fractured, and his body burned on a pile of kerosene-soaked tires because he was gay.
Army PFC Barry Winchell was beaten to death with a baseball bat by members of his own platoon because he was perceived to be gay. Matthew Sheppard was brutally beaten, tied to a fence post along a desolate country road and left to die because he was gay. Brandon Teena was raped and beaten to death because she was transgendered.
In “Light” of these facts, can [she] or any homophobic alumnus remain unmoved or resolute in an opinion that mere “support” for lesbians and gay men is ...”distressing?”
I am a gay man. I am an alumnus. I am the son of two alumni. My father served the Lutheran Church for 30 years as a minister. How dare [the author] attempt to speak for me, my parents, and all other alumni with a voice ringing of homophobia and hate?
Her letter is single justification for more public discussions of gay and lesbian issues at Wittenberg University. I wholly encourage this magazine and this university to do so.
Jeff Keenan, ’89
I write in response to the letter published in the Fall 2001 Wittenberg Magazine. ... Although I don’t question the sincerity of [her] feeling on this subject, her intolerance is disappointing and, in my view, contrary to an appropriate Lutheran and Christian perspective.
As a Lutheran college, Wittenberg should follow the lead of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which has publicly professed the need to welcome gay and lesbian people to participate fully in the life of its congregations and to reject discrimination, assault and the harassment of gays.
Although the ELCA continues to struggle with issues such as the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of gay and lesbian ministers, the Church Council of the ELCA adopted a statement on sexuality on Nov. 9, 1996, which declared that Christians are called to:
• respect the integrity and dignity of all persons, whatever their age, gender, sexual orientation, or marital status;
I don’t know William Demarest, the author of the letter that offended [her] sensibilities, but as a Lutheran Christian, I applaud his decision to live openly and honestly in a committed relationship, and it is wonderful that he has the support of his family and friends. ...
I would be the first to admit that I was not sensitive to this issue when I attended Wittenberg — it was not “my issue.” But personal growth sometimes requires that we look beyond ourselves and deal compassionately with those who may be different from us.
As a Lutheran university, Wittenberg should provide a supportive and nurturing environment for all of its students, including those who happen to be gay or lesbian. And those who profess to be people of faith should understand the need for tolerance and respect.
Mark J. Ehlers ’81
Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
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