To Mikey Weinstein:
If you go to Baylor University’s home page, you’ll see on its banner that it’s a “Nationally Ranked Christian University.” Baylor prides itself on its Christian ideals, and incorporates them into the classroom. I was raised in a Christian home, and I attended a Jesuit University for my PhD; but, I was suspicious of the academic rigor of an openly Southern Baptist university. I approached Baylor’s Executive MBA program with caution. Still, I enrolled in their highly-regarded EMBA program using my Chapter 33 GI Bill benefits — along with at least 5 other veterans in my class.
I’ll attend classes in Austin, but we spent all last week on the campus of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. In the heart of the Baylor campus, in what must be one of the most conservative towns in the nation, I felt more at home, more valued, more at ease, and less threatened than I ever felt while on the faculty of the Air Force Academy. How ironic, I thought, that Baylor University – a private university that openly and proudly values its conservative Christian foundation — felt more academically secular and accepting than did the United States Air Force Academy, where the influence of Christian evangelicals inspires fear and censorship rather than inquiry and academic freedom. In past years, Baylor had a policy similar to the military’s: no gays allowed. But, Baylor is changing. And as I talked to my new classmates and mentioned my partner and our two children, never did I receive so much as a quizzical look from any of them.
While in Waco I was fortunate to have dinner with a long-time friend — himself a former active duty instructor at the Air Force Academy who has also served as a civilian visiting professor at USAFA. In the course of our discussion he opined that based upon his interactions with Baylor faculty members, most would likely support ending the “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy. He listened with great sympathy as I explained to him that one of my most heartbreaking experiences with the DADT policy came from the fact that I could not publicly baptize my children at the church I attended; not because the church wasn’t accepting — quite the contrary. Rather, my partner and I couldn’t have our children baptized in front of the congregation, for fear that cadets or faculty from the Air Force Academy would be present or visiting when we did so, and I’d be outed. Every time I witnessed a child being baptized my eyes welled with tears when the congregation sang the hymn particular to the event of a baptism.
Last Saturday night, however, I felt like a new chapter opened in my life. At a gathering of my Baylor classmates and their families — a group of 80 or so people — I was able, for the first time in my life, to proudly and publicly introduce my partner and our children, as a family, to a group of my peers. My classmates — particularly the other veterans it seems — went out of their way to come greet me and my partner and meet the children, expressing their acceptance and support in the simple act of a hug or a handshake. While in the military, others’ intimation that they knew of my partner terrified me and made me fear for my career and livelihood. And, obviously, while in the military a public introduction was absolutely out of the question. But at a gathering of students of Baylor University — a Christian University founded on the principles of Southern Baptists — I felt accepted and supported.
Mikey, I can’t begin to tell you the damage that the military’s open discrimination against gays inflicts. And I’m only now – as I recover from it — able to see much of the trauma it caused me personally. I’m so very grateful for the work you and MRFF are doing — standing beside those of us who have been excoriated by a system that deems us unfit for the military responsibilities of citizenship, and trampled by an institution infiltrated with unfounded, and un-Christ-like, judgmentalism.
Please continue to be the voice of so many who are too oppressed to speak up for themselves. You’re welcome to circulate this message to anyone who might benefit from it.
With warmest regards and great appreciation,
Edith A. Disler, PHD, Lt Col (Ret), United States Air Force
MRFF Advisory Board Member