Brigham Young University's outgoing President Rex E. Lee said a professor who has publicly acknowledged his homosexuality is leaving the university.
Thomas J. Matthews confirmed Monday that he plans to leave but after he finds another job.Lee told a First Friday Forum Chamber of Commerce audience last week that "it is simply not comfortable for the university or the professor to continue" and "he is looking for employment else-where."
Lee said a distinction has always been drawn at BYU between a person's sexual orientation and his or her conduct. "On the other hand," he said, "we have had a lot of comment on this matter."
Matthews, an associate professor of Spanish, publicly acknowledged his homosexuality in a story released by the Associated Press in early summer. At that time he said his intentions were to continue teaching at BYU.
Matthews, contacted about the comments made by Lee, said he had been open about his sexual orientation for almost a year before the media interview, "whenever it was appropriate to discuss it."
He said his intention is to seek employment at another university, but he will stay at BYU until he has a solid job offer. He said it's too soon to know where his next job will be, because college and university job announcements are not even out yet nationally.
"Yeah, I think that (Pres. Lee's comments) could be called accurate," said Matthews. "I need to have more choices in my life than are available to me at BYU."
Matthews said it is not just the homosexuality that makes his station at the university "uncomfortable, but other things as well."
He would prefer to stay in Utah because he has family in Salt Lake City, but he will not rule out anything until he sees the job postings.
"There is no pressure on me at all to leave," he said. "Associate Vice President Todd A. Britsch talked to me in June, and it was a very pleasant discussion."
Matthews said his "coming out of the closet" was brought on by someone turning in his name to a general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns BYU.
"It got to the point where it couldn't hurt any more to have it publicly addressed," he said.
"Frankly, I feel it forces BYU (officials) to make policy where they haven't before."
Matthews says the faculty at the university have been very supportive of his honesty and the only real negative responses have come from radio talk shows, the Ditto-head Fan Club on campus and news-paper editorials such as one printed in the Utah County Journal recently.