Oral Roberts University is the Cinderella team of this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, but a columnist for USA Today says the school should never have been allowed in the tournament due to its biblical position on sexuality.
Hemal Jhaveri, a writer for USA Today’s "For the Win" sports section, argued in a Tuesday column that the “university’s deeply bigoted anti-LGBTQ+ policies can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.”
Oral Roberts is a Christian university in Tulsa, Okla., that was founded by the late preacher Oral Roberts, with a mission to “develop Holy Spirit-empowered leaders through whole person education to impact the world.”
Its handbook says students should avoid “sexual promiscuity,” including “adultery, any homosexual behavior, premarital sex.”
“Certain behaviors are expressly prohibited in Scripture and therefore should be avoided by members of the University community,” the handbook says.
The school, seeded 15th, plays Arkansas in the Sweet 16 Saturday.
Jhaveri’s column – which received plenty of pushback on social media – says the school’s position on homosexuality should be a disqualifier for the tournament.
“That Oral Roberts wants to keep its students tied to toxic notions of fundamentalism that fetishize chastity, abstinence and absurd hemlines is a larger cultural issue that can be debated,” Jhaveri wrote. “What is not up for debate however is their anti-LGBTQ+ stance, which is nothing short of discriminatory and should expressly be condemned by the NCAA.”
Further, Jhaveri believes any school that affirms biblical sexuality should be prohibited from participating in the tournament and in the NCAA.
“Oral Roberts, with its decrees banning homosexual conduct, stating that marriage is only between a man and a woman, and specifically banning male students from wearing makeup, earned a ticket to the Big Dance even though the university’s foundations expressly go against the very things the NCAA say they value,” Jhaveri wrote. “The fact is, any and all anti-LGBTQ+ language in any school’s policies should ban them from NCAA competition.”
ORU, she claimed, is a “hotbed of institutional transphobia, homophobia with regressive, sexist policies.”
“There is no way to separate their men’s basketball team from the dangers of their religious dogma, no matter how many top seeds they defeat,” Jhaveri wrote.
The article received mostly negative comments on social media.
One person on For the Win’s Facebook page called Jhaveri’s position “absolute discrimination” against those who “believe what the Word of God” says.
“And are you so naive to think that there are not other young men and young women playing on the other teams in these tournaments that believe the very same way because they too identify with Christ and were raised in a Godly home?” the person wrote.
“Author has first amendment protection to write whatever they want, but it sounds like Christophobic hate speech in this article,” another person wrote.
“If this was an Islamic fundamentalist University I doubt there would be an issue with this author, even though their views on homosexuality and women’s rights are far from ‘progressive,’” another person wrote.
Still another person wrote, “As someone who graduated from ORU, I find your article without merit. You have chosen to take small bits of information to discount what is happening in a basketball arena? Hate much? They are doing amazing and they are the Cinderella story we need! Go Golden Eagles!”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Ronald Martinez/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.