LINCOLN — An openly gay member of the Lincoln school board has called for the firing of Husker assistant football coach Ron Brown for his comments opposing an Omaha ordinance protecting gays and lesbians against discrimination.
Barbara Baier said she spoke out because she is worried about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
In her letter to UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman, Athletic Director Tom Osborne, football coach Bo Pelini and the Board of Regents, she said she was writing as a private citizen and not as a representative of the school board.
In Brown's comments before the Omaha City Council, he said the Bible condemns homosexuality as sin and likened the City Council to Pontius Pilate, the Roman official responsible for the execution of Jesus.
Perlman and Osborne both chided Brown for listing his address as "One Memorial Stadium," for identifying himself as a Husker coach and for not making it clear that he was speaking on behalf of himself, not UNL or its athletic programs.
Responding to Baier's letter, Perlman said he was offended by Brown's comments — but he wasn't going to fire the coach over them.
He said the First Amendment and academic freedom allow UNL employees to express their personal views.
"Unless and until I have evidence that coach Brown has engaged in conduct beyond speech that many of us find offensive, I do not intend to do more than seek to assure that he speaks only for himself and to disassociate myself and this university from his position," Perlman said.
An unflagging Brown said his message would not change.
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever," he said Friday. "I have no fear of any man or any thing."
Baier said she saw Brown speak at a Champions Club event last fall. She said he made clear his UNL connection and spoke in terms of faith as he attacked gay and transgender individuals and discussed a "mysterious but undefined 'homosexual agenda.'"
"At the conclusion of the speech, I was deeply troubled and, as a person of the attacked minority group, I felt psychologically and socially threatened, so I left the event," she said.
Perlman said he was sorry Baier felt intimidated, but he noted it was not a university event. He said Brown's views on gay rights do not reflect the views of most of the UNL community.
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