- Rick Reilly, Columnist, ESPN.com
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Homosexuals are an abomination in God's eyes, believes Nebraska assistant football coach Ron Brown. Recently, he threatened the Omaha city council with eternal damnation if it passed a bill that would keep businesses from firing workers because they're gay.
"You will be held to great accountability for the decision you make," Brown scolded. "The question I have for you all is, like Pontius Pilate, what are you going to do with Jesus?"
Like to meet one of the doomed sinners who has Ron Brown so inflamed?
His name is Brett Major. His family has been Nebraska season-ticket holders forever. He was a high school basketball player in Omaha, a 4.0-plus student, Man of the Year there and, at Texas Christian University, student body vice president and Phi Beta Kappa and a hanger of a big red Nebraska flag in his room. And he's gay.
Oh, and he's a devout Christian, thanks to Ron Brown himself.
"He came and spoke to a youth group I was in," says Major, now 24. "I think I was 11. He was such a dynamic speaker. And he was a Nebraska football coach. We idolized anybody that had anything to do with Nebraska football. I just sat there and went, 'Wow. He's cool and he's Nebraska football and he believes in God.' And that's all it took for me."
At the frenzied peak of his speech, peppered with Huskers football stories, Brown called any listeners who were ready to devote their lives to Christ to come stand with him and join his "team." Brett Major came forward. Ron Brown took him by the hand.
"That was a milestone for me," Major says. "I decided I wanted to live a Christian life from that moment on."
And now Coach Brown says he's going to hell.
"I couldn't care less," says Major, who is getting his master's in psychology at Wake Forest. "I know God doesn't make a mistake. He didn't put me on this earth to be banished to hell."
Since that day with Brown, Brett has been the most devout in his family. He's the one reminding his family members to say their prayers at night. He was a leader in his high school church group. In college, he rode his bike across America as a fundraiser to build free housing.
What company would want a man like that working for it?
"Ron Brown can think whatever he wants," Major says. "I just don't want him to put up barriers in my life. Just allow me to get a job I deserve. Just don't get me fired. I don't have to report to Ron Brown at the pearly gates."
Brown, 55, speaks out often about Christ and against homosexuality, which is his First Amendment right. But Ron Brown wouldn't get one-tenth of these offers to speak if he weren't a Huskers coach. He's an in-state celebrity. He admits he uses Huskers football as a platform to get his message out. His personal opinions can't be separated from his job. There are three paragraphs in the Nebraska media guide about his Christian work. At the Omaha public hearing, he gave his address as Nebraska's Memorial Stadium.
But should a man who campaigns for the right to discriminate against anybody -- gays, Asians or pregnant women -- be employed at a state-funded university that has a specific policy against such discrimination?
The people who run the University of Nebraska think so. Brown is still coaching there. He was not fired or suspended. Brown didn't return my calls or emails for comment, nor did Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne.
Some people wonder why the university is letting Brown skate -- people like Major's parents, Barry and Mindy.
"As much as Ron may think otherwise, gays do not choose to be gay," they wrote in a letter to Osborne and chancellor Harvey Perlman. "Gays can be raised in the 'perfect' family environment with parents active and nurturing, raised in the church to become lovers of the scripture. They are Christians -- Brett is such an example."
There are millions of Christians who think Brown is wrong on homosexuals. "The Bible gives no account of Jesus encountering homosexuals," says Pastor Craig Finnestad of the Water's Edge Methodist Church in Omaha. "Jesus loved everybody and his love for others didn't depend on their behavior or beliefs."
The Omaha anti-discrimination law passed, despite Brown's fiery warnings, and now Lincoln is considering a similar law. Public debate begins Monday. Brown has not said if he will be there to campaign against it, but he has the right. Apparently, he can spew whatever bigoted, hateful, un-Christian message he wants, without risk of losing his job.
"It reflects so poorly on the state and the team I love," Major says. "Nebraska is known for respect for everybody. Even if we get beat in Lincoln, we stand up and clap for the other team. I'm proud of that. Ron Brown is not only going against what his own university wants, he's going against our unwritten law of respect for all."
No, Ron Brown shouldn't be fired. He should quit. He works for a school that welcomes homosexuals as equals. Which means he's being paid by people who don't share his moral values. He's living a lie. He should retire from football and campaign full-time for our right to fire each other purely for being gay.
But the question I have for him is: What is he going to do with Jesus?
3hEthan Sherwood Strauss