Anti-Gay Letter Published in Major Engineering Journal Stirs Outrage

Inside Higher Ed reports that an anti-gay letter published in Prism, the magazine of the American Society for Engineering Education, is stirring controversy:

Mag_prism"We would do well to teach the truth about the homosexual /lesbian/ bisexual/ transgender lifestyle. These dear people caught up in this destructive way of life need true help and true hope and not encouragement or approval of a detrimental, negative lifestyle. They deserve better than that. This is not God’s plan for their lives," says the letter, from Wayne A. Helmer, professor of mechanical engineering at Arkansas Tech University. He continued: "Beyond the physical, their emotional and spiritual needs are just like ours: Their need for abundant life (emotional) and forgiveness of sins (spiritual) is only what Jesus Christ can give them [John 10:10, 13:16]. Only he can truly change lives and give people the healing and forgiveness and self-worth and significance that they [and we] all desire and need."

The letter prompted the association's president (Kenneth F. Galloway of Vanderbilt University), president-elect (Nicholas J. Altiero of Tulane University) and immediate past president (Walter J. Buchanan of Texas A&M University) to take the unusual step of issuing a joint letter denouncing their own publication for publishing Helmer's piece. "His specious mischaracterization of homosexuality is unsupported by any reputable literature," the letter said. "Professor Helmer is entitled to his religious beliefs. However, Prism is not an appropriate place for him to air his judgment of others based on those beliefs."

Norman L. Fortenberry, executive director of the American Society for Engineering Education, said he stands by the decision to publish the letter, though readers have been almost universally on the side of those who disagree.