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12/15/2009

Is this The Sing-Off or a Soulforce Equality Ride?

by Jeremy Hooper

Out of the six groups that are left in NBC's "The Sing-Off" competition, two of them represent historically gay-hostile universities (Lee and Brigham Young). So we couldn't help but notice the annoying irony behind the selection that the group from Lee has chosen to sing tonight. Here's a preview:

Yes, that's right: Freedom '90, an LGBT anthem that was written and made famous by an openly gay man. It's a song that was motivated, at least in part, by George Michael's then-closeted sexual orientation. A song that is, at its core, all about breaking free from constraints. Constraints like those that kick a senior student out of a university simply because he is gay (accompanied by a suggestion that he could return if he went to "ex-gay" therapy).

If this particular university wants to be represented on national television with a song that is queer at is core, perhaps its time they reconsider their core beliefs. After all, if we gay folk are good enough to create prize-winning tunes, then maybe, just maybe, we are also worthy of a non-confrontational education!!!!

**According to Lee University's '06-'07 handbook (the last one they've posted online), "Personal, intimate behavior between members of the same sex is forbidden." Not just sex -- any displayed behavior.

***

***UPDATE: It turns out that Voices of Lee did not select the song. The producers chose the song (and the wardrobe, etc.).

So that being the case: We no longer see any controversy here. Or perhaps we should instead be asking why NBC would present this as the groups "guilty pleasure songs," if the groups had absolutely nothing to do with selection!

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Your thoughts

The best part? While the "Voices of Lee" sang the opening bars, an advertisement for Plan B, the "morning after pill" popped up on the screen. Shame shame. :-)

Posted by: adrianofnyc | Dec 15, 2009 11:22:53 AM

These people should be booed off the stage.

Posted by: Mykelb | Dec 15, 2009 11:57:33 AM

From Lee University's Community Covenant: "Scripture condemns such attitudes as greed, jealousy, pride, lust, needless anger, an unforgiving spirit, harmful discrimination and prejudice." Apparently being anti-LGBT doesn't constitute "harmful discrimination and prejudice" in their minds.

Posted by: jtyroler | Dec 15, 2009 12:05:41 PM

The 06-07 handbook was written 3+ years ago. I'd be interested to know if this policy exists in the 09-10 handbook? These have been a progressive three years for LGBT rights and acceptance, and I can only HOPE that perhaps this no longer appears in their handbook.

While I agree with the overall idea presented in this article, there is no evidence that the Voices of Lee possess discriminatory beliefs. Consider this: A cappella, as a musical craft, has been historically the absolute opposite of gay-hostile! In fact, many a cappella groups have provided a place of acceptance, friendship and music for straight and LGBT students alike, especially in less-accepting campus environments. Voices of Lee are on the Sing Off representing THE MUSICAL GROUP... not the insititution of Lee U.

Besides all this, however, they are by far the weakest singers and I believe they will be next to go.

Posted by: Carrie | Dec 15, 2009 12:30:43 PM

Carrie: A few points. The '06-'07 handbook is the latest one we can find. It's the latest one they have posted. Still digging though.

But if there had been a change in policy, we would most certainly know. Not only would groups like Soulforce celebrate it: Anti-gay outlets would surely bemoan it. It would make news.

Plus, their online "standard of conduct" still says the following: "Scripture condemns such attitudes as greed, jealousy, pride, lust, needless anger, an unforgiving spirit, harmful discrimination, and prejudice. Furthermore, certain behaviors are expressly prohibited by Scripture. These include theft, lying, cheating, plagiarism, gossip, slander, profanity, vulgarity, homosexual behavior, premarital or extramarital sex, sexual promiscuity, pornography, drunkenness, gluttony, immodesty, and occult practices. (Galatians 5: 19-21, I Corinthians 6: 9-10)"
http://www.leeuniversity.edu/studentlife/standard-of-conduct.aspx

And finally: They most certainly ARE representing Lee. Not only in name, but in every last way. Check out their intro video:http://www.nbc.com/sing-off/video/clips/meet-the-voices-of-lee/1183991/

I sincerely hope that the individual members are pro-acceptance, pro-equality. But the school they are representing is decidedly not.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Dec 15, 2009 12:37:54 PM

I am a student of Lee University. I personally know members of the performing group, many who are uplifting individuals. It is important to consider that the members do represent our school, but more importantly represent Christ. Much of what you read in the posted "standard of conduct" is published at the discretion of a Board of Directors. The University is an institution; therefore necessarily providing what others conclude to be guidance for many students attending the University.

What I am "over" is the morose judgment cast towards these students because they are Christians. They choose to waive the banner of Christ, not the University.

When we vote for an elected official, are you going to agree with everything that individual projects as their platform. Probably not. In order to participate and take an active role, you still vote for somebody. Is this not true? The same is true for many of the students at Lee. We do not agree with everything the University hurls in our direction. We do value attending a University that IS faith based, and gives us an opportunity to surround ourselves with others of similar beliefs. I personally to not agree with all of the Universities doctrines, but I am more than thankful for the opportunity to gain a quality education at the school. There are also students at Lee who are Gay and I do not hear them shouting injustices.

Simply typecasting any or every Christian based upon an "outdated" pamphlet egregious and unfortunate. Many of us our attempting to understand others, build meaningful relationships, and share whats on our hearts, please consider that we hope others will do the same. The University is completing a 20 million dollar Science building. Does this mean that Christians don't believe in Science and Medicine? It is time to move away from blanket statements of judgment and began to talk to eachother. My boss is openly gay. Him and I had a long conversation this past weekend about my Faith and homosexuality. I told him that though I might not agree with the lifestyle, I am thankful for our friendship. That didn't seem to keep him from inviting me to his house last night to watch Voices perform. He isn't even a Christian!

This isn't a one way street. There are Christians who take it overboard, and give the rest of us a bad name. This isn't the middle ages, and I am not on a Crusade. I am living in this same world you are, breathing the same air, living during the same recession, and maybe wearing the same flannel and skinny jeans you are wearing. Please continue to open your doors to me. If this is about acceptance, than be able to accept others, even if we disagree. When we bleed, we bleed the same.

Posted by: Nick | Dec 16, 2009 9:01:13 AM

"though I might not agree with the lifestyle"

Nick: You should have led with that statement. It's the most telling part of your comment.

The point of this post is not that the members of the Lee group should be labeled as anti-gay -- we do not know them. It's also not to question the quality of education or the makeup of the student body. Of course there are gay students -- we exist everywhere!

The point: This university is being represented on national television by a singing group that bears its name. They chose to sing a song that was written and performed by George Michael, a gay man. While the lyrics are largely about his disputes with Sony, they have been interpreted to also speak to his struggles with living as closeted man (perhaps because of record company pressure), and has become a sort of a coming out anthem over the years. This is not just some song -- it is a deeply personal biography of a gay man!

The fact remains that this gay man would not be allowed as a student at Lee. I would also assume that he would not be allowed to perform on campus, and if he was invited on, he certainly wouldn't be free to hold hands with his partner. THIS IS WHAT MATTERS HERE! LGBT people, who are deeply inwoven in the human fabric, are being barred from universities like Lee solely because of their in-born traits. So we can't help but raise questions when these same universities get national TV representation (and advance in the competition) while singing a song like this. We just can't.

Those who are gay or gay supportive are victims of these policies. But if they do not speak out, they are also enablers.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Dec 16, 2009 9:16:35 AM

To G-A-Y: I appreciate the point you are making.

I would like to say that there can be progressive discussion without an attempt to pigeon-hole a reflective comment by narrowly focusing on a sentence and taking it out of context. I will say that by not honestly sharing my personal views also disables the transparency between our dialogue, which is most important.

It appears there is a discrepancy by assuming for yourself that there is a telling point to my argument from a quote and not choosing not to see my comment for what it is. Let's not over analyze the situation for what it is not, a time for the University to re-evaluate our core beliefs. When you say that you cannot label the group as anti-gay because you do not know them would also negate the premise that the group did not choose the song. The group, comprised of students from Lee University DID choose this song. That alone, can surmise that the University, and it's student body is nurturing an environment full of maturation. Instead of critiquing a "conduct book" found the internet that lacks the integrity and passion of our schools culture, EMBRACE the fact that the song was chosen to be used in a competition that puts a spotlight on our University. Isn't this most important? Shouldn't you EMBRACE the moment that a "Christian" ensemble championed a song by a Gay artist, a song that encourages revelation and an intimate understanding of who we and our neighbors are as individuals. Isn't a step in the right direction important. Movement is what you champion. It is what you desire. Right before your eyes, you witnessed it. Please do not detract by building walls between the LGBT community and the Christian community when we are attempting to tear them down. Do not claim that we are not appreciating the song, the artist, or the meaning. Do not claim for yourself those who are Gay at this school when I can claim for myself that they are my classmates, room-mates, and friends. Maybe you missed my point by just a bit. Maybe you should have quoted the last paragraph starting with "I am living in the same world you are," and ended with "...the same."

I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with this board.

Posted by: Nick | Dec 16, 2009 11:22:23 AM

Nick: "I might not agree with the lifestyle" is hostile terminology. We do not have "lifestyles" any more than heterosexual people.

I do sincerely hope that this performance is an indicator that Lee is moving in the right direction. That would be great. But at the same time: Do not be disingenuous and act as if I am only referring to an "obscure statement" on the Internet! You know as well as I do that Lee does not allow for openly gay students! They don't, Nick. My husband and I would not be allowed to enroll and live as any other married heterosexual, despite our legal marriage. The same goes for George Michael. In fact, merely holding hands is cited as grounds for discipline. So please, at the very least: Be honest about university policy!

You seem to be taking this personally as a Lee student. IMHO, that's the wrong way to take it. This is not about any individual or individuals -- it's about the school itself. Again, if you or anyone stand against anti-gay policies, then I'd encourage you to also stand on principle and speak out against them. On that note: I'd love to hear from some of the Voices of Lee, and find out why they chose this song.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Dec 16, 2009 11:43:39 AM

I actually had good friends who went to Lee, which is very close to where I grew up. One of my friends had a gay friend, who I also met once or twice. He lived in fear for years of being kicked out of school.

Nick: I think it's great if they want to do big gay songs by big gay people... I just think that without any kind of message to go along with this, it's bound to be taken the wrong way.

If the singers at Lee sung this song, and accompanied it with pro-gay action at their school, we would understand that that was why they had picked it.

If the singers at Lee sing this song with no further statement on the matter, we as gay people will probably assume that they either 1) didn't care enough to figure out that it was about a common gay experience, or 2) knew and didn't care or 3) did know that that is what the song is about but chose to use it to mean something else, all the while being part of an institution which excludes gay people.

This would be like going to a segregated Southern school in the '50s, and choosing to arrange "We Shall Overcome," but never raising a voice for integration. At the best, it's either cowardice or ignorance.

Posted by: twilley | Dec 16, 2009 2:24:07 PM

I should say that I was also born and raised in Tennessee. So my knowledge of Lee is not limited to just this one matter.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Dec 16, 2009 2:31:35 PM

G-A-Y
WOW!!! Your insane!...Voices of Lee is the BEST GROUP ON THE SHOW!!!! And why are you discriminating!!! they attend Lee they didnt write the code of the school they go to!!!! Everthing your saying is totally irrelevant! Not liking them because the school they go to is ridiculous! Thats like you hating all Americans because you don't agree with some of the laws they have in America! So yeah if thats your aim than HATE YOURSELF!!! lol You make me laugh!!!

Posted by: AnthonyJ | Dec 16, 2009 6:01:19 PM

Clearly you have read and accurately processed everything that I and others have said, AnthonyJ. [eye roll, head shake]

Posted by: G-A-Y | Dec 16, 2009 6:03:34 PM

So than why dont you like Voices of Lee?!?!?!?

Posted by: AnthonyJ | Dec 16, 2009 6:06:30 PM

Oh geez, Anthony: Read the post. Read the comments. I'm not going to rehash.

This isn't about "liking" the group, its members, or its performances. And nobody is suggesting that anything should be done to them, so stop with the childish discrimination claims. This is a commentary site, and we have written commentary about the irony of a group from a University that bars openly gay students performing an LGBT "coming out" anthem that was written and performed by a gay man. Nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Dec 16, 2009 6:12:32 PM

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