Ruthie Robertson, 22, knew her private Facebook post would be controversial among her Mormon friends. After all, as a “huge leftist living in a completely red state,” Robertson was used to criticism about her outspoken views on feminism and politics.
She knew the post contradicted the views of her employer, Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg, a private college affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But Robertson, an adjunct professor of international politics, never expected to be fired because of it, she said in an interview with The Washington Post.
“This is my official announcement and declaration that I believe heterosexuality and homosexuality are both natural and neither is sinful,” Robertson wrote in her lengthy post on June 5, in honor of Pride month. “I will never support the phrase ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ because that ‘sin’ is part of who that person is. Homosexuality and transgenderism are not sins; if God made us, and those are part of who we are . . . then God created that as well.”
Robertson was not friends with any of her students on Facebook, and made sure to keep the post private. But she said one of her Facebook friends reported the post to her department head and another sent an email to the school’s president.
Never miss a local story.
The following day she met with administrators, who she said implied that if she did not take down the Facebook post, she would lose her job. She refused, standing by her beliefs and maintaining that she never expressed her political or social opinions in the classroom. The school officials told her to pray about her decision.
A week later, after Robertson still had not taken down the post, one of the administrators called her to inform her she would not be returning to teach classes in the fall. The university would allow her to finish classes through the rest of the semester, which ended Tuesday. But beyond that, her contract was terminated.
Robertson, one of the youngest instructors on the Rexburg campus, had been scheduled to teach one class during the fall semester. She has been teaching for the university both online and on campus since she graduated from the same school in April of 2016.
A spokesman for BYU-Idaho confirmed to The Post that Robertson will not be teaching next semester. Her page on the university’s online directory shows she taught two classes during the most recent semester.
The spokesman also said the university “has a long standing policy of not commenting on personnel matters,” and declined to provide any further details.
But Robertson said the school’s administrators argued her views would undermine students’ spirituality.
“Nothing in the contract says you can’t privately disagree with something with the church,” Robertson told The Post. “There is nothing in the contract that says I can’t express my personal opinions on my Facebook.”
In her post, Robertson acknowledged that her views ran counter to the current policies of the LDS church, but said she hopes that “over time the Church will come to see the harm these policies have.”
“I will always and forever stand up for the equality of the LGBT community,” Robertson wrote. “Sexuality and gender are not binary, they are on a spectrum and that’s how we were made.”
Robertson told The Post that throughout her life, she has struggled to figure out where her personal beliefs fit into her religion. She was particularly dismayed in November 2015, when a new Mormon policy was leaked from the church clarifying that those in a same-sex marriage are considered apostates, and children living in a same-sex household may not be baptized until they are 18. Once they reach that age, children must choose to disavow their parent’s lifestyle in order to request to join the church.
Though she disagreed with the church’s views on homosexuality, she felt “comfortable” as a faithful, practicing LDS member. She was endowed in the temple and planned on getting married in the temple.
“I fought for so long trying to find my place in this church,” Robertson said. “And then I kind of felt like the rug was pulled out from under me.”
Though she is still a practicing Mormon, Robertson said that since her firing, she has contemplated leaving the church. She worries the church will ex-communicate her following the publicizing of her Facebook post and firing. But she does not regret the Facebook post.
“I think it was something that needed to be said, especially in the community I’m in,” said Robertson.
Many of her friends are members of the LGBT community. One of her male friends, who she said led an LGBT group on campus, was suspended from BYU-Idaho for holding hands on campus with another man, Robertson said.
According to the honor code on BYU’s website, the university “will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or attraction and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards.
“However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity,” the statement reads. “Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”
Robertson said she wrote the Facebook post in large part to let her LGBT friends know that despite the views of her church and employer, she supports the LGBT community.
The apparent repercussions of this decision have halted her career plans. Robertson had been planning on pursuing a master’s degree while teaching next fall and hoped to continue teaching at the school in the years ahead.
“Everything kind of just turned upside down,” Robertson said. For now, she is working as a bartender to pay the bills while looking for a new job.
Her conservative parents, who live in the Richmond, Va., area, have been “very unsupportive” of her statement on Facebook and don’t believe she was actually fired, she said.
Others on Facebook have expressed similar views, calling the post an “open, all-out attack on the Church.”
“It’s perfectly ok to fire someone who you don’t believe represents the mission of your company, university, or organization,” another person commented.
But many of her colleagues, students, friends and strangers - even some who disagreed with her views - have commended her for boldly expressing her opinion and standing by it, she said
“I’m a 50 year old gay man raised LDS in very small Utah town,” one man commented on Facebook. “My deepest thanks to you for speaking your heart. Your strength is admirable.”