BYU-Idaho Professor Fired After Defending LGBT Rights in Private Facebook Post

Last month, Ruthie Robertson posted a statement on Facebook in support of LGBT rights. She’s always been a Mormon, but she knew the LDS Church didn’t have a great track record on that issue and her statement noted that she didn’t think homosexuality was a sin.

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“I’m currently a member of the LDS Church. This organization has openly and forcefully opposed same-sex relationships and legalized same-sex marriage,” the post said in the post’s opening.

“This is my official announcement and declaration that I believe heterosexuality and homosexuality are both natural and neither is sinful. I will never support the phrase ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ because that “sin” is part of who that person is,” she wrote.

“Most Christian faiths label homosexuality as a sin based on archaic writings A few hateful verses in the Old Testament have led to hundreds of years of prejudice, hatred, violence, and pain. If we’re going to follow the Old Testament, and use it to justify a hateful stance, there are several other things we need to start condemning and punishing.

Robertson ended her LGBT Pride month post by saying “I will always and forever stand up for the equality of the LGBT community. Sexuality and gender are not binary, they are on a spectrum and that’s how we were made. Stand up for humanity, love people because of who they are… not despite who they are.”

It’s a powerful post coming from someone who’s still Mormon. She acknowledged the Church’s mistakes, admitted religious hypocrisy when it came to selecting which holy verses Mormons took seriously, and promised to defend equality. (If only she and Mormon leaders could switch places…)

In any case, that post got her into a lot of trouble… because Robertson happens to be an adjunct professor at BYU-Idaho.

Or at least she was a professor.

… she has taught her final class at BYU-Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho, after she declined to retract a Facebook statement supporting the LGBT community. She was told by the school to retract her statement and when she refused, she lost her job.

Ruthie Robertson, an adjunct professor of political science — one of the school’s youngest — taught that final class last week. She told 2News, she was allowed to finish out her summer course, but her contracted classes for fall and winter semesters have been cancelled.

How’s that for Mormon love? You were too tolerant of gay people and you criticized the Church, so you can’t work for us. BYU-Idaho may have the legal right to do that, but it doesn’t mean what they did was ethical.

To be sure, Robertson’s post was private and she never discussed any of this in the classroom. Which means one of her friends ratted her out. (She has an idea of who it might be.) She also thinks her job was toast no matter what, despite what BYU-I suggested about a retraction.

A follow-up post said her comments were made only in a private capacity and not as a representative of the school — but that didn’t matter. It was too late. The LDS Church tolerates dissent just as much as it supports LGBT people.

Robertson has been liberal for years now, but what really tipped her over the edge in support of LGBT rights was when the Church said, in 2015, that children of same-sex couples would have to renounce their parents to remain in good standing. She’s not alone. A lot of Mormons were disturbing by that profoundly cruel stance punishing believers whose parents were gay.

Incidentally, this is the top post on her Facebook page right now:

That post is public.

I reached out to Robertson for comment, but she was unavailable.

***Update***: I just spoke with Robertson and learned a few more details about this story.

About 10 days after she made her initial Facebook post, she had a meeting with the higher ups at BYU-I and they told her she would not be invited back next semester. After some heated discussion, she was allowed to finish teaching her summer class. That ended on Friday, which is why she was willing to go public with this story now.

During that final class, she said to everyone, “Thanks for being my last group of students at BYU-I.” One student later posted about what happened on the ex-Mormon subreddit, which is how this story began to spread.

Didn’t she know her post would create a stir? She thought it might be controversial, however she had no idea it would lead to the loss of her job. When she was a student at BYU-I, she recalled her professors making similar kinds of comments without a problem. Furthermore, she posted this privately and her friends already knew her concerns about the LDS Church. She frequently posted about feminism, too, and that never caused a problem with her church community, so why would a post in support of LGBTQ rights?

It was only after someone who isn’t her Facebook friend reported the post to BYU-I administrators (which could only have happened if a friend tipped him off) that everything hit the fan.

More than anything, the controversy has upset her “hard-core” LDS parents who feel this is an attack on the school and Church. When Robertson gave her parents advance notice that this would become a news story, she received a blunt response: They would “never support any actions that derail the work of Christ.”

Robertson is working another part-time job for now, but she’s considering going back to teaching at a (secular) school scheduled to open up in the near future — that is if they’ll hire her. Moving to another state is also an option. She was relying on the money she’d make from teaching at BYU-I next year, so with that off the table, she’ll have to make a decision about her future soon.

I also asked her if she was still a Mormon after all this. She believes in God, she told me, but she always hoped being a more liberal voice could help bring about change from within the LDS Church. Unfortunately, she added, “no one wants to change.” That’s a big reason why she didn’t mind her story going public.

(Thanks to Ryan for the link)

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