The following editorial appeared in the Ames Tribune, 10 FEB 98.

FIRING SABIN IS DEFINITELY WRONG AND MAYBE ILLEGAL

If Steve Sabin were a fireman in this town, the city couldn't fire him 
just because he is gay. If Steve Sabin were a newspaper reporter in this 
town, The Tribune couldn't fire him just because he is gay. If Steve 
Sabin were a teacher in this town, the school system couldn't fire him 
just because he is gay.
	But Steve Sabin is a minister in this town, and the Lutheran 
church has defrocked him just because he is gay.
	Can it do that?
	We hope not. And we think not.
	There are no nationwide laws to protect homosexuals against 
discrimination, and Iowa is not one of the 12 states that have statutes 
that protect gays. But Ames is one of two Iowa towns -- the other, of 
course, is Iowa City -- with municipal codes that protect homosexuals.
	The Ames code is clear: "It shall be unfair or discriminatory 
practice for any person to refuse to hire, accept, register, classify or 
refer for employment, to discharge any employee, or to otherwise 
discriminate in employment against any applicant for employment or any 
employee because of the age, race, creed, color, sex, national origin, 
religion, disability or sexual orientation of such applicant or employee, 
unless based upon the nature of the occupation."
	There is an exception for religious ocupations. But the exception 
is only when the qualification is "for a bona fide religious purpose."
	Is it a "bona fide religious purpose" that a minister of the 
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America not be a practicing homosexual?
	"The reality is that the church needs to be able to have 
standards for pastors," Philip Hougen, the bishop for the Southeastern 
Iowa Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran church, told Alice Lukens of the 
Tribune last week. But standards that break the law?
	The church itself does not condemn homosexuality, just practicing 
homosexuality among its ministers, so it's hard to see where defrocking a 
homosexual minister is a bona fide religious purpose of the Lutheran 
church. The committee that voted to remove Sabin from the church's roster 
of clergy wrote that it "acknowledges and admires the gifts for ministry 
that Pastor Sabin has brought to the Lord of Life congregation" in Ames. 
It added, though, that that doesn't "outweigh or excuse" the fact that 
Sabin is in violation of the policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
	It might not outweigh or excuse it in the minds of the church, 
but it could outweigh or excuse it in the eyes of the law.
	If a panel that takes a minister off a religion's rolls concedes 
the minister has done a good job, does it have a bona fide religious 
purpose in discriminating against him for his homosexuality? That would 
be tough to prove under the Ames statute. The law makes it clear that the 
Lutheran church wouldn't have to ordain a Methodist -- gay or straight, 
man or woman, black or white. The law makes it clear that a Catholic 
school can insist that its teachers be Catholics (but not necessarily 
straight Catholics), that a Presbyterian church can insist that its choir 
director be Presbyterian (but not necessarilyi a straight Presbyterian).
	But it isn't at all clear that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 
America can take Steve Sabin off its rolls just because he is gay.
	And why should it be able to? Are homosexuals somehow a threat to 
Lutherans? (Actually, the real minority Sabin belongs to is the 
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. With 5,250,000 members, it is by 
far the largest of the 10 to 15 branches of Lutheranism in America -- but 
its members are tiny compared to the number of homosexuals in America, a 
number conservatively put at 15 million by researchers.) Why should 
homosexual teachers be protected against discrimination but not 
homosexual ministers? Why should homosexual police be protected but not 
homosexual ministers? Why should homosexual reporters be protected but 
not homosexual ministers?
	There is no reason.
	Steve Sabin loves his work, loves his God, loves his church, 
loves his parish -- and loves another man.
	We should praise him, or we should ignore him.
	But we shouldn't fire him.