OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska assistant football coach Ron Brown has been called, among other things, a homophobe and a hater.
He turns the other cheek.
The 55-year-old Brown knows he walks a fine line as a high-profile employee of a taxpayer-funded university. His detractors say he crossed it last month when he attended an Omaha City Council hearing and testified against an anti-discrimination ordinance that extended protections to gay and transgender people.
In Brown's three-minute appearance, he challenged ordinance sponsor Ben Gray and other members to remember that the Bible does not condone homosexuality. He told council members they would be held to "great accountability for the decision you are making."
"The question I have for you all is, like Pontius Pilate, what are you going to do with Jesus?" Brown asked. "Ultimately, if you don't have a relationship with him, and you don't really have a Bible-believing mentality, really, anything goes... At the end of the day it matters what God thinks most."
Barbara Baier, a member of the Lincoln Board of Education, wrote to university administrators to request Brown's firing in the wake of his testimony. She noted the university-wide policy not to discriminate based on, among other things, sexual orientation.
Brown — in a decision he said he now regrets — gave Memorial Stadium in Lincoln as his address of record. Baier said some people could have inferred he was representing the university, not just himself, when he appeared before the council. She said Brown's continued employment creates an atmosphere hostile to gay student-athletes.
"He says terrible things about members of my community — citizens of this country, people who have not committed any crimes," Baier said. "He compares gays and lesbians to people who have committed crimes, people who are desiring to go and cause the destruction of the American family, and nothing could be further from the truth."
Chancellor Harvey Perlman admonished Brown for giving the stadium address, but said Brown's personal views do not reflect those of the university.
It was not the first time Brown has spoken out against homosexuality, and not the first time people have called for his dismissal for doing so.
"To be fired for my faith would be a greater honor than to be fired because we didn't win enough games," Brown said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I haven't lost any sleep over it. I realize at some point, we live in a politically correct enough culture where that very well could happen."
It was just six months ago that Brown earned national acclaim for leading a prayer for healing at midfield before the Cornhuskers' game at scandal-torn Penn State.
"Hero to goat," Brown said.
Brown is adamant he won't change his Bible-inspired message or quit delivering it. As a Christian, he said, he's called to evangelize.
At a time when Tim Tebow's faith has been the subject of admiration and ridicule, there are those who like the fearlessness Brown shows going against the grain of what they say is a culture out to marginalize religion and unwilling to define right and wrong.
A Lincoln city councilman has said he plans to propose a similar anti-discrimination ordinance next week and that a public hearing could be held May 7. Brown said he is "praying about" speaking in opposition if his schedule allows.
In a state where the Cornhuskers are assigned celebrity status, separating Brown from the program would be a stretch.
Brown acknowledges that he uses his position as a platform for his ministry. He sprinkles in football metaphors during his many speaking engagements and sometimes references the players he's coached.
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