Several people have written, asking me what I think about this:
One even wanted to know whether, as an employee of BYU-Provo, I dared to speak publicly on the subject.
The answer to his question is that, yes, of course I dare to speak publicly on it. Obviously, though, since the Church and the University and I see eye to eye on these matters, it takes no great daring on my part, and will create no rift with my employer, to do so. (At least one of my readers — a complete stranger to me — will probably suggest that my opinions on the matter are generated by my own mercenary self-interest. As I’ve told him, I regard such casual and baseless claims as beneath contempt. In any case, they’re false.)
First, it needs to be understood that 22-year-old Ruthie Robertson was an adjunct member of the BYU-I faculty. That means that she wasn’t actually a professor. (At her age, it’s a virtual certainty that she doesn’t hold a doctorate, and very likely that she holds no graduate degree at all.) She didn’t have tenure or (in BYU-Provo’s parlance, anyway) “continuing faculty status.” I presume that it means that her employment was by contract for short periods, very likely from semester to semester, and perhaps only for one class at a time. Adjunct faculty (who abound across American academia) are very easily fired. Or, more accurately in most cases, they’re very easily not renewed. There is no obligation on a school’s part, and certainly no reasonable legal expectation on such a part-time employee’s part, that adjunct faculty status will be permanent or even continued from one term to the next.
Permit me, now, to briefly discuss two of the other points at which I might be asked my stance:
— She describes her 5 June 2017 Facebook post as an “official announcement and declaration” of her position on homosexuality. That seems to make it a public statement, not merely a private expression. Which, in turn, makes it something that might legitimately concern her part-time employer.
— Her “official” Facebook “announcement and declaration” publishes her view that homosexuality is natural and not sinful.
She is quite correct with regard to the former proposition. Homosexuality — like heterosexuality and malformed feet, blue and brown eyes, shortness and tallness, blondness and baldness, broad shoulders and congenital heart disease, shyness and gregariousness, cancer and athletic potential, brown skin and “white” skin and albinism, autism and genius — is entirely natural. It will occur, from year to year and from generation to generation, at fairly predictable rates in large enough populations. That fact, alone and in and of itself, possesses no moral significance.
She seems to assume that homosexuality’s “naturalness” entails that it’s not sinful. But that doesn’t follow. As I’ve pointed out, the sheer fact that something occurs naturally possesses no intrinsic moral significance. The natural occurrence of heart disease doesn’t render it morally “good.” Brunette hair is neither good nor evil. Moral values come from elsewhere, from outside the brute fact of what is.
She stakes a different kind of claim when she says that homosexuality isn’t “sinful.”
On one level, what she says is scarcely controversial. No thoughtful person in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said that homosexuality, in and of itself, is a sin. It’s no more a sin than is heterosexuality. Or male pattern baldness. Or red hair. Or long legs, or colon cancer, or a well-formed chin.
Behavior is where questions of moral good and evil — or, if you will, of “virtue” and “sin” — come into play.
And if, as I expect, she’s really wanting to say that homosexual behavior is no sin, she is placing herself in open opposition to the fundamental moral teaching of the Church to which (as she significantly expressed it in one published statement) she “currently” belongs, which is the Church that sponsors BYU-Idaho as a large and expensive part of its effort to influence the moral and spiritual formation of its youth.
Her open and direct public contradiction of the moral doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaves BYU-I, in my view, little alternative to terminating its connection with her.
Some have said that this is bad PR for the Church and the University. I have no doubt that that is true. Mormon moral teachings on chastity and heterosexual marriage are very much out of fashion, and will likely grow more so. I can’t imagine that anybody in Salt Lake City or Rexburg is delighted with this story. But people and institutions need to act according to their moral principles. Ruthie Robertson claims to have done that, and so, too, has BYU-Idaho.
Posted from Kaanapali, Maui, Hawaii
P.S. — I’ve just been told that this part-time BYU-I instructor has been posting for some time on a virulently apostate ex-Mormon message board as “exmofeminista,” using occasionally quite ripe language to describe her efforts to create a space for herself outside of the Church. That puts this unfortunate little episode in a rather significantly different light, I think.