March Madness loves a Cinderella story, and this year it’s Oral Roberts University.
Oral Roberts, a mere 15 seed, destroyed brackets by toppling No. 2 Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA tournament and now enters the Sweet Sixteen after defeating No. 7 seed Florida 81-78 on Sunday.
Part of the joy of March Madness has always been watching smaller schools upset powerhouse programs, as kids from regional, unknown colleges and universities get their moment in the sun. Because everyone loves an underdog, Oral Roberts has become a fan favorite as people take their improbable run to heart and celebrate the tiny, evangelical university in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
And yet, as the spotlight grows on Oral Roberts and it reaps the good will, publicity and revenue of a national title run, the university’s deeply bigoted anti-LGBTQ+ polices can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.
Founded by televangelist Oral Roberts in 1963, the Christian school upholds the values and beliefs of its fundamentalist namesake, making it not just a relic of the past, but wholly incompatible with the NCAA’s own stated values of equality and inclusion.
While the school has been soundly mocked on social media for its archaic standards of behavior and code of conduct that bans profanity, “social dancing,” and shorts in classrooms, it is the school’s discriminatory and hateful anti-LGBTQ+ policy that fans should protest as the Golden Eagles advance in the tournament.
Twice in their student handbook, Oral Roberts specifically prohibits homosexuality. In their student conduct section, under the heading of Personal Behavior, the school expressly condemns homosexuality, mentioning it in the same breath as “occult practices.”
Students are expected to maintain the highest standards of integrity, honesty, modesty and morality…Certain behaviors are expressly prohibited in Scripture and therefore should be avoided by members of the University community. They include theft, lying, dishonesty, gossip, slander, backbiting, profanity, vulgarity (including crude language), sexual promiscuity (including adultery, any homosexual behavior, premarital sex), drunkenness, immodesty of dress and occult practices.
Also, as part of their honor code, the university requires students to abide by a pledge saying that they will not engage in “homosexual activity,” and that they will not be united in marriage other “than the marriage between one man and one woman.”
As a private university and under the banner of fundamentalist Christian beliefs, the school is free to impose whatever standards of behavior they see fit, even if those standards are wildly out of line with modern society and the basic values of human decency. Now, as Oral Roberts gains national attention, the focus shouldn’t just be on their very good men’s basketball team, but on their prejudiced teachings and moral regressiveness.
That Oral Roberts wants to keep its students tied to toxic notions of fundamentalism that fetishize chastity, abstinence and absurd hemlines is a larger cultural issue that can be debated. What is not up for debate however is their anti-LGBTQ+ stance, which is nothing short of discriminatory and should expressly be condemned by the NCAA.