BYU-Idaho professor is fired after LGBT rights Facebook post

| Courtesy Ruthie Robertson

On June 5, Brigham Young University-Idaho adjunct professor Ruthie Robertson typed up an 854-word post on her private Facebook page.

"In honor of LGBT Pride Month, I thought I would reveal some things in the name of authenticity," the 22-year-old professor of political science began.

Robertson, who is Mormon, went on to articulate her support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender causes. She criticized LDS policies that include declaring same-sex couples apostates. A BYU-Idaho graduate, Robertson said she had been struggling with the church's stances on LGBT issues. She has many LGBT friends, and she wanted them to know where she stood.

Robertson said it didn't cross her mind that the post, visible only to her friends, might affect her gig teaching international relations at the LDS Church-owned university.

But a week later, Robertson had been fired, she said, told by administrators that she could finish the summer semester, but that her contract for the fall was terminated. A BYU-Idaho spokesman would say only that the university doesn't comment on personnel issues. He confirmed that Robertson would not be teaching there in the fall.

"It's a controversial position, of course, but I had no inclination that this [post] would affect my job," Robertson said in a telephone interview. "That completely blew me away — that my job was on the line because of this."

Robertson said that the same day she made the post, a colleague informed her that someone had reported the post to the university. The next day, she sat down with school administrators. The conversation "was pretty positive at first," Robertson recalled, with the officials hoping to learn more about her and why she felt so passionately about LGBT issues.

Then, Robertson said, it took a "negative turn." She said the officials pressured her to rethink her stances, pray about it for a few days and "hopefully make the right choice to take down the post." She said the administrators implied that if she took it down, she could keep her job.

She made several tweaks to her post, but she refused to delete it. In both versions, she wrote: "This is my official announcement and declaration that I believe heterosexuality and homosexuality are both natural and neither is sinful. I will never support the phrase 'love the sinner, hate the sin' because that 'sin' is part of who that person is."

In a second meeting a week later, Robertson said she was fired. As of Tuesday, she was listed on the BYU-Idaho website as the professor for Political Science 170 International Politics, in the upcoming fall and winter semesters.

"I was really bummed out because of how much I love my students, and how much of a change I could see in them," she said. "I was also really stressed out because it was my sole income. But at the same time, I was angry — I was upset they would fire me over something like this. I was kind of indignant. I wasn't going to back down."

Robertson told her students on their last day of summer classes that it would be her last semester teaching, which she said confused them. She explained the situation. Robertson said "they were very upset," despite the fact that many of her students likely did not agree with her opinions on LGBT issues.

In the end, Robertson said, "it was worth it," despite not knowing what she will do next. She compared the church's positions on LGBT issues to a long-held policy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — until 1978 — that black men and boys could not be ordained to the priesthood.

"We all have to choose what side of history we're going to be on," she said. "I made my decision, and I plan to stay on that side of history."


Twitter: @lramseth

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