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Students protest after BYU makes clear ‘same sex romantic behavior’ still banned

Brigham Young University tweeted a letter by a Mormon Elder clarifying changes to its honor code, triggering a protest by LGBTQ students and allies.

BYU students protest honor code clarification letter on the Brigham Young University campus, Wednesday, March 4, 2020.
Twitter

Brigham Young University has confirmed it is still homophobic, two weeks after removing a “homosexual behavior” clause from its campus honor code that caused widespread confusion among LGBTQ students, athletes and allies.

BYU’s official Twitter account tweeted a letter from a Mormon elder that the university’s director of the honor code office said was a “clarifying statement” about what the change to the honor code really means.

“Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles in the honor code,” wrote Elder Paul V. Johnson, commissioner of the Church Educational System of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Lasting joy,” Johnson added, “comes when we live the spirit as well as the letter of God’s laws.”

We’ve provided the full text of the Elder’s letter to the end of this story, and want to hear from you. Add your comments, below.

This time, there was no mistaking the Elder’s message to LGBTQ students: displays of public affection, dating and same-sex relations are strictly off-limits on campus.

But for those still unsure, Kevin Utt, the honor code office director, posted a Q&A on the university website about the letter, the change and what it all means. KSL.com reported Utt specifically noted it does not mean BYU wants students to turn in their classmates for violating the honor code. He said “any same-sex romantic behavior” is still a violation of the honor code, but the code’s principle to “encourage others in their commitment to comply with the honor code” does not necessarily mean to “turn someone in.”

One student called out Utt on Twitter for previously misleading students about the change in policy.

While even straight students are prohibited from premarital sex, out as well as closeted LGBTQ students saw the removal of the “homosexual behavior” clause last month to mean they could now openly kiss, hold hands and date one another.

LGBTQ students and allies responded to the news with a rally on campus rally Wednesday in Brigham Square, reported the Deseret News. More than 160 people marched in a large circle while about 75 students held signs, singing and chanting “No more fear” and “Rise and shout, the gays are out.”

On social media, many referred to the “whiplash” of mixed messaging, suggested the NCAA should strip BYU of its accreditation and one even suggested that the university’s actions had served to out closeted students who could now face discipline.

BYU remains on the Campus Pride “Shame List,” for its “established and well-documented history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination that endangers victims of sexual assault.” In 2016, Outsports joined Campus Pride, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Organization for Women, GLAAD, the National LGBTQ Task Force and Athlete Ally in calling for the NCAA to remove BYU as a Big 12 school.

Alumni, too, expressed disgust.

In the university’s Q&A, Utt addressed the feelings of LGBTQ students and explained the language of the honor code was updated to create a single standard for all church-owned colleges and universities.

“We realize that emotions over the last two weeks cover the spectrum and that some have and will continue to feel isolation and pain,” Utt said. “We encourage all members of our campus community to reach out to those who are personally affected with sensitivity, love and respect.”

“Encourage is an action that means to give support, confidence or hope to someone,” Utt said. “We are all members of the BYU community — thousands of people coming together to develop faith, intellect and character, and we should always reach out in love and support to those around us.”

Here is the full text of the letter from Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:

“Recently the language of the principle-based Church Educational System Honor Code was updated. Those adjustments included significant doctrinal and behavioral matters that have led to much discussion and some misinterpretation. Out of respect for all concerned, we are providing the following clarifying statement.

“One change to the honor code language that has raised questions was the removal of a section on ‘homosexual behavior.’ The moral standards of the church did not change with the recent release of the General Handbook or the updated honor code. There is and always has been more to living the Lord’s standard of a chaste and virtuous life than refraining from sexual relations outside of marriage. Lasting joy comes when we live the spirit as well as the letter of God’s laws.

“A foundational doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that ‘marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of his children’ (‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’). Church leaders have long taught these principles.

“Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles in the honor code.

“We are grateful for the commitment that all students and employees in the Church Educational System make to live the principles and spirit of the honor code.”