The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) is an international, non-profit, Christian sports ministry rooted in homophobia.
The FCA works with athletes and coaches at the middle school, high school, collegiate, and professional levels to “use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the word of Jesus Christ.”
The organization operates according to a written policy, including nine points collectively referred to as the “Statement of Faith.” The FCA requires its leaders to agree with its vision, mission and statement of faith, and applicants must also agree to its non-denominational statement and sexual purity statement.
One of the organizations points within its Statement of Faith reads:
God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.
After agreeing to the organizations Nine points within the “Statement of Faith” applicants and leaders must also agree to the sexual purity statement:
God desires His children to lead pure lives of holiness. The Bible is clear in teaching on sexual sin including sex outside of marriage and homosexual acts. Neither heterosexual sex outside of marriage nor any homosexual act constitute an alternative lifestyle acceptable to God.
These anti-gay statements effectively ban all LGBTQ student-athletes and coaches from all leadership positions, as well as highlight the notion that to be a member of the LGBTQ community is to also be a sinner.
Can someone oppose gay people and respect them?
I find it incredibly ironic that in the same breath, members of the FCA must also agree to this point, that “God created all human beings in His image and that every person should be treated with love, dignity and respect.” But if you’re LGBTQ, this commitment to treating you with “dignity and respect” doesn’t apply to you.
Perhaps one could argue that by the time student-athletes enroll in college, or enter professional sports, they are mature enough to make their own decisions, stay well-informed regarding what organizations or clubs they choose to become members of, and what moral compass they adhere to.
Of course, we know that countless college-age athletes struggle mightily with their sexual orientation. Plus, the FCA has descended into the middle and high school level, cementing their bigotry and intolerance at an early age.
Within the realm of collegiate athletic departments, one could debate that the existence of the FCA is no different than having a Pride-club or similar LGBTQ student-athlete group. However, a notable difference is the historical forcing and discriminatory nature of the FCA.
Fellowship of Christian Athletes tries to ‘save’ gay people
Oftentimes, the FCA sees their role within athletics to discourage homosexuality, and vows to “save” student-athletes from their “lifestyles.” The FCA views homosexuality, bisexuality and being transgender as sinful, and they have encouraged college athletes to resists homosexual feelings within themselves and their teammates.
As an out, queer, practicing college athletic trainer, I have provided healthcare services to many student-athletes, and worked side-by-side with coaches, who are members of the FCA. Their decision to become members of an organization that believes my very being is a “lifestyle choice” is only a small part of what doesn’t sit well with me. What I can’t get past is how uninformed some of these people are when it comes to the very belief system they are joining.
I recently asked a student-athlete, who has attended FCA meetings, if she was aware of the anti-gay statements and gross exclusivity of the LGBTQ community within the organization. She was astounded. Although this particular student-athlete is out and identifies as a lesbian, she was unaware of such policies.
This exchange led me to ask a former student-athlete the same question: Did she know the organization she represents believes I need saved from my sin, and I need a cure for my disease? Again, she had no idea. The student-athlete proclaimed she supports me, has no problem with my identity, and thanked me for always caring for everyone.
Know that Fellowship of Christian Athletes is anti-gay when joining
The point of my story is not to discourage student-athletes or coaches from joining an organization. But I would ask, before making a choice, whether it be about joining a club, attending a sporting event, donating to charity, or spending money at a local fast-food restaurant, are you on board with their values?
Of course there are student-athletes and coaches who are well-informed about FCA’s discriminatory belief system and choose to continue representing such an organization anyway. Gordon Thissen, Director of Training and Resources for the Nebraska FCA, wrote an article in response to Jason Collins’ coming out, deploring those who claim to support Jason’s identity as both a gay male and a Christian.
“Collins announcement that he is gay puts Christian athletes, coaches, and fans in a predicament,” Thissen wrote. “How do we love the sinner, but hate the sin?” He then gave suggestions on how to do just that, including “don’t approve of homosexuality” and my personal favorite, “have compassion for homosexuals because Satan is a hater.”
So, my question to the student-athletes I work tirelessly to care for, advocate for, and sympathize with, and the coaches I respect and who challenge me, how do you justify loving the sinner but hating the sin? Because for me, a person whose dedicated her life to caring for student-athletes, you can’t have it both ways.
Emma Nye works for Select Medical and is an athletic trainer at Drake University. You can follow her in Twitter @EANye15.
Story editor: Cyd Zeigler