Two-time gold medal winner Peter Vidmar was selected to be the chef de mission of the 2012 Olympics in London but eight days later, he chose to resign in response to the backlash against his religious beliefs.
Peter Vidmar is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Official Latter-day Saint policy states that acting on homosexual feelings is a sin. While it was not obligatory, Church leadership did ask Latter-day Saints to make their voice for traditional marriage heard. Vidmar responded accordingly by participating in a demonstration for traditional marriage and donating money to the campaign for Proposition 8 in California.
Because of this involvement, years later, when Vidmar was given the position of chef de mission for the 2012 games, some people believed his personal beliefs would interfere with this appointment. For example, two-time Olympic figure skater and homosexual Johnny Weir told The Chicago Tribune, “Most people would have an issue if the chef [de mission] publicly was against Asian-Americans or African-Americans, so it should be dealt with if the chef is anti-gay.” Weir’s feelings represent many Olympians and non-Olympians alike who were upset that the chef did not support gay marriage.
While in the face of the negative outcry against their personal beliefs, many people would have chosen to apologize for their beliefs and retract previous statements about the issue in question. But rather than retract his religious beliefs, Vidmar chose to step down from the position of chef de mission. In his resignation statement, Vidmar said,
“I have dedicated my life to the Olympic Movement and the ideals of excellence, friendship and respect. I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction from the amazing things that are happening in the Olympic Movement in the United States. I simply cannot have my presence become a detriment to the U.S. Olympic family. I hope that by stepping aside, the athletes and their stories will rightly take center stage.”
In other words, Vidmar chose to step down because he felt the discussion of his personal beliefs would take away from the United States Olympic team.
While many people were glad that Vidmar chose not represent the United States athletes in the London Olympics, others feel that it was unnecessary for him to decline the position just because his beliefs don’t represent every individual on the team. It would be impossible for one person to agree with each athlete’s stance on abortion, God, gun control, politics, etc. Therefore, if Vidmar opposes some of the athletes’ views on gay marriage, is that reason for resignation?
Furthermore, those who know Vidmar believe him to be loving to heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. For example, Steve Penny, USA Gymnastics President said,
“[Vidmar is] a man of principle and integrity who treats everyone equally and has the best interests of the athletes and the Olympic movement at heart. Peter is known for bringing people together in friendship, regardless of their creed, ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation or culture.”
If, as Penny advocates, Vidmar’s opposition towards legalizing gay marriage would not interfere with his support of the athletes — no matter their sexual orientation — on the U.S. Olympic team nor with his position of chef de mission, is tolerance really being served by his choice to step down from the position? As Jim Campbell, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, told The Daily Herald,
“[Gay rights activists are] advocating for a lot of changes in the name of tolerance. Yet ironically, the tolerance is not returned for people of faith who don’t agree with their agenda.”