July 9, 2009

UC officials mum about turning choir away

By Adam Sulfridge, Staff Writer

After uninviting a Texas church's chapel choir from participating in University of the Cumberlands' Mountain Outreach program, UC officials are keeping mum on their reasoning.

Broadway Baptist Church's pastor, Brent Beasley, said UC officials told him that Broadway’s tolerant stance toward homosexuality was the reason its chapel choir could no longer stay in UC's dorms or help build and repair homes for local disadvantaged families this month.

Social groups which advocate equal rights are condemning UC's recent decision much the same way they condemned the school for forcing former student Jason Johnson to withdraw after Johnson admitted he was gay on his MySpace profile in 2006.

Jordan Palmer, President of the Kentucky Equality Federation, said, "I applaud the Broadway Baptist Church for realizing that you cannot discriminate against your fellow man or woman and disguise the hatred as 'indifference of religious views.'"

Palmer also noted, "I believe that people are free to choose and practice their own religious and spiritual beliefs in whatever way they choose so long as they do not receive government funding or benefits of any kind."

Earlier this year, U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers presented Cumberlands with a $1.2 million check to help build a wellness facility and finish construction of a science building at the university. Previously, UC was denied $10 million in state funding to build a pharmacy school. In 2008, a circuit judge sided with the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, ruling that a private institution which discriminates in its admission and expulsion procedures cannot receive public funding. An appeal is currently pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Jody Cofer, a KFA board member, sympathized with Broadway Baptist and said, "By withdrawing the Texas group's invitation, University of the Cumberlands has reiterated what many fair-minded Kentuckians already know about that institution."

KFA has yet to determine if it will also challenge the $1.2 million federal appropriation.

Rogers' office released a statement clarifying the Congressman's decision to secure funding for the university: "It has been my long-standing mission to promote projects that enhance the educational opportunities for everyone in the 5th Congressional District, regardless of where they choose to attend college. I have enthusiastically supported many initiatives over the years from both public and private institutions, and I see no reason to distinguish one university over another. They all play a vital role in the betterment of our region."

Roger's Communication Coordinator explained that whereas specific portions of Kentucky law may prevent UC from receiving state funds for its pharmacy school, the Congressman’s office was unaware of federal provisions which may prevent the private university from receiving federal funding.

TheTimesTribune.com

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