We applaud the NCAA's recent initiatives to bring faith-based higher-education institutions into civil dialogue with LGBT students and student-athletes.
These kinds of discussions cannot help but bring about improved relations and conversations between parties that often hold different perspectives.
The NCAA's efforts, dubbed Common Ground, mark a positive shift in posture on how to handle sensitive issues related to faith and LGBT issues.
Last year, the NCAA found itself receiving pushback from Rev. John I. Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame, for having used its financial weight to punish North Carolina for a controversial piece of legislation that stated that transgender citizens had to use public bathrooms aligned with their birth gender.
The NCAA took action to pull its NCAA championships from North Carolina before consulting its member schools.
Jenkins, who was not necessarily supportive of North Carolina's law, nonetheless warned the NCAA against using its financial might to silence unpopular perspectives rather than engage them in constructive dialogue.
We agreed then and now with Jenkins' position, stating, "The use of brute intimidation in politics — no matter the nobility of the cause — contravenes America's democratic tradition and the university's ethos of intellectual debate and deliberation. ... Jenkins is correct to caution the NCAA against joining an emerging social culture that increasingly bullies and silences unpopular political opponents rather than engaging them intellectually."
The NCAA's Common Ground initiative takes a more enlightened approach. By bringing all sides to the table, the NCAA's effort mirrors the Beehive State's aim to promote "fairness for all" when it comes to issues related to religious liberty and LGBT rights.
In 2015, Utah lawmakers passed the so-called Utah Compromise. Despite its name, the beauty of the legislation was that parties did not compromise their values and principles. The legislation put in place both robust anti-discrimination ordinances for housing and employment while simultaneously establishing firm protections for religious liberty.
Today, Utah remains one of the few predominantly red states to have robust non-discrimination ordinances for its LGBT citizens.
Brigham Young University, meanwhile, recently sent its school's associate athletic director, Liz Darger, to participate in the Common Ground dialogue.
Some 40 LGBT representatives met with faith-based school officials and NCAA representatives in a collective effort to, in the words of Darger, develop "inclusive and respectful athletic environments for participants of all sexual orientations, gender identities and religious beliefs."
Darger also noted the "room" during the discussions to better "understand each other before criticizing one another." She described being able to not only listen but also share her own beliefs and thoughts.
"I was able to get to know the other participants and hear their stories," Darger said. "I was able to share about our faith with them. As we got to know one another, it became very apparent that we all care deeply about student-athletes and young people in general."
Neither party is asked to compromise deeply held beliefs and, still, more often such discussions lead to areas of, fittingly, common ground on which to build a future that provides space for LGBT citizens and students as well as sincere religious believers.