“Free BYU” campaign gains momentum as Mormon university’s accreditation nears

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2 FreeBYU-Web-LogoA campaign called Free BYU is underway to protect the rights of students who arrive at Brigham Young University as Mormons but then begin having serious doubts about their faith.

I’ve been following the campaign’s progress with some interest, and I’m not the only one: In the last week, approximately two dozen news stories have focused on Free BYU’s attempts to petition the university to change policies that discriminate against formerly LDS students who have left the Church.

According to Caleb Chamberlain, an engineer and 2011 BYU graduate who almost missed earning his master’s degree because he confided his religious questions to his bishop during his final semester, the BYU Honor Code states that LDS students who leave the faith suffer on several levels:

  • They can be expelled from the university.
  • They and their families can be evicted from student housing.
  • They can be fired from on-campus jobs.

Chamberlain told me in an interview that he “did everything the bishop asked [him] to do” after that initial conversation about his doubts. “I sat on the front row of sacrament meeting. I went to church regularly.” He was outwardly compliant and continued to meet with his bishop, but all that time, he was growing in his understanding that Mormonism was no longer true for him.

“I didn’t have the intellectual honesty to stand by my beliefs and risk losing two years of hard work,” Chamberlain wrote in a personal profile explaining why he supports the efforts of Free BYU. He wants to help other BYU students avoid the anxiety and dishonesty he experienced.

Chamberlain points out that these punitive policies have only been in place at BYU since 1993 (see here for that history), and says they can easily be updated.

However, the university has not yet agreed to a meeting to discuss the proposal; a BYU spokesperson also declined an invitation to appear on the Salt Lake Tribune’s Trib Talk yesterday, though she did give an earlier statement to the Tribune confirming the different standards for non-Mormon and formerly Mormon students.

Last fall, Free BYU submitted a formal request to the university’s Board of Trustees and to Thomas S. Monson to request a policy change. So far, the group has been notified that their request was forwarded to officials at BYU, but has received nothing directly from the university.

But the pressure is mounting. In addition to widespread media coverage, the university is about to undergo reaccreditation in April. As part of the process, members of the public are allowed to submit comments about any educational institution under review, so Free BYU collected over 240 comments from people who have been affected by the policy and then forwarded that document—over 300 pages long—to the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

“We’ll see what the NWCCU does,” Chamberlain says. “If they favor our complaint, they will require BYU to make changes in order to merit accreditation. To be clear, we don’t expect that BYU will be at risk in losing its accreditation. The changes that BYU would need to make are very minimal, and the implications of losing a school’s accreditation are extreme, so we expect BYU will be compliant.”

What Free BYU is recommending sounds perfectly reasonable. Its members are not asking for special treatment; they’re asking for the same treatment they would have received if they had entered BYU as non-LDS students. This means:

  • Students who change their religion while at BYU be charged the higher non-member tuition.
  • Such students will also be required to obtain an equivalent ecclesiastical endorsement from a BYU chaplain or a religious leader of their new faith, verifying their moral standing and their continued adherence to the Honor Code (specifically, that they are still living the school’s standards about sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.).

Chamberlain also points to something else he hopes will change. “Right now, bishops have 100% uncontested authority to decide on a student’s endorsement,” he says. The university has stated that merely having a faith crisis is not grounds for expulsion under the Honor Code, which is technically true, but it’s also true that a bishop can withdraw a student’s endorsement for any reason—including merely having a faith crisis. It’s up to the individual bishop.

I hope the university will respond favorably to Free BYU’s request. In a university that prides itself on its visible support for religious freedom, it’s ironic that its own students are not religiously free. It’s also unfortunate that something called an “Honor Code” implicitly encourages students who doubt their Mormon faith to lie about that fact in order to maintain their degree program, housing, and employment.

  • Todd

    This is the most common argument I hear from defenders of the existing BYU practice:

    Unlike non-Mormon students (who are welcome to remain at BYU as non-Mormons), those who began as Latter-day Saints but who subsequently lose their faith (and resign their church membership) have broken a promise.

    I have often wondered, then, what would become of a Muslim BYU student who converted to Mormonism. He, too, would have broken a promise.

    My suspicion is that conversion would be greeted warmly and would have no negative repercussions on his standing at BYU whatever.

  • A Happy Hubby

    I am truly baffled why this has not been changed. It only seems fair. Now if they were asking for continued “member” tuition after leaving the faith – that would be an issue. The crazy thing is that I have several kids at the Y right now. They are in more of a financial and stress crisis than any faith crisis. But they all say, “don’t go signing any petitions about beards or those that leave the faith” because they fear it could come back on them. Don’t you feel the Christ-like love in that?

  • It would be hard to disagree with these arguments and make a case that justifies the current policy. And I say this as one who graduated from BYU.

  • ron

    With greater knowledge comes greater accountability.

  • Porter

    This policy is just baffling to me. The Church and BYU have held press conferences, seminars, legal conferences and published articles promoting the cause of religious freedom for years now. And they don’t even permit religious freedom for the LDS students on their own campus? How do they explain that hypocrisy?

  • Wayne Dequer

    It seems to me that with over 30,000 students some are likely to be dissatisfied to various extents. BYU Provo with its over 98% LDS enrollment is a unique environment where academic issues can be explored from the perspective from a common faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who have faith-questions and even some significant doubts are welcome to continue their education in that atmosphere of common faith and engage in open and respectful discussion of their questions. Those who have become totally disaffected with that faith should probably have the integrity to pursue their academic studies elsewhere. I would have no problem with totally disaffected former members continuing to attend BYU if they were truly committed to being respectful of the common faith and be respectful in discussion of issues, but I suspect that would be atypical in those who are “totally disaffected.” However, given the uniqueness of individuals, a review of the blanked current policy may well be warranted.

    I am an active member of the LDS faith who joined the Church while attending UC Santa Barbara. I have a bachelors degree from UCSB and an masters degree from Pepperdine. I had no desire to attend BYU, but 3 of my children chose to attend BYU because they wanted a college education in that unique environment. I believe there should be room in higher education for such an environment, just as there are for colleges and universities that approach education from a variety of religious viewpoints.

    BYU’s “honor code” is the primary instrument for preserving that unique environment. A Yahoo best answer notes: “If you aren’t religious, there is a university chaplain that can do your ecclesiastical endorsement. You can also just meet with a local LDS leader in your city (even if you aren’t LDS). Basically, they function like a religious notary for your endorsement- they make sure you understand it and are serious about the honor code rules before you sign it.

    “Keep in mind, BYU is serious about the honor code– severe violations WILL get you kicked out. Still, it’s a good school academically and since LDS tithing pays about 75% of costs you will be effectively be on 50% scholarship even if you pay the non-LDS tuition rate. Hard to beat, price-wise” (see http://samuelwbennett.com/the-struggle/the-college-gap-no-one-is.html ).

    “Here’s an official video that describes the process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l52Xu8fTv2E .”

  • Danny S

    Ron, this comment seems like a non sequitur. Can you present a fuller explanation of your position?

  • Larry

    “Those who have faith-questions and even some significant doubts are welcome to continue their education in that atmosphere of common faith and engage in open and respectful discussion of their questions. ”

    How can you say that with a straight face when students who express such doubts are expelled for them?

    “I would have no problem with totally disaffected former members continuing to attend BYU if they were truly committed to being respectful of the common faith and be respectful in discussion of issues”

    But that is not what happens. They are kicked out of the school. BYU even holds off on sending transcripts to other schools.

  • BYU Grad

    Wayne Dequer: This Mormon belief that everyone who leaves the faith inevitably becomes a ravening hate monster is curious and I suspect promoted specifically to discredit the disillusioned and frighten people away from examining their beliefs and possibly coming to the “wrong” conclusion. I know many people who’ve moved on, and none of them fits this stereotype. In fact, many continue to get along well with family and friends in the church (at lease the friends and family who don’t shun them).
    Surely people who remain at BYU after leaving the church and become distractions could be dealt with individually.
    Meanwhile, I’m troubled by the general notion that leaving Mormonism is somehow “breaking a promise.” Most members are baptized as children. Do we really intend to hold adults to every promise they made as 8-year-olds? Or do we think a 17-year-old applying to BYU fully understands everything about the church and is emotionally prepared to make a lifetime commitment to it? Because that is also dumb.
    I hope BYU reconsiders this position. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see it double down on the position. Because that seems to be the fear-based reaction and so much coming from the church these days seems based on fear.

  • Wayne Dequer

    BYU does Not hold academic records hostage for students who choose to go elsewhere! A simple search at the certainly Not pro-Mormon site, exmormon.org in their subsection entitled Recovering from Mormonism provides strong evidence that such charges are false and largely dispel this myth. Try search over the last few years at http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2%2C856559%2C856840#msg-856840 . Here are a few examples from that site: Posted by: Alpiner ( )
    Date: December 23, 2014 09:40AM
    Re: Need Advice Concerning BYU Credits/Resigning

    As always, a ton of bad advice in the BYU credits thread.

    1) No school will issue you, an individual, an official transcript, that will then be accepted by another institution. The way every institution does this is to have the student request institution A send a transcript to institution B. Gathering up a bunch of ‘official’ transcripts will avail you nothing.

    2) BYU cannot withhold a transcript outside of narrow reasons (you have an outstanding debt, there is evidence of you cheating in one of your classes, etc.). The transcript system is *not* tied into the membership records system. If you resign, BYU will not know unless you decide to apply again.

    3) BYU cannot withhold credits or revoke them, again, outside of narrow reasons (for example, a professor is caught fraudulently passing students).

    4) The issues that *have* arisen generally pertain to people that need ecclesiastical endorsement to graduate. That’s a separate ball of wax than transcripts.

    So, go ahead, resign. BYU will still issue your transcripts to the new institution.

    Posted by: anon4thisone ( )
    Date: April 02, 2014 09:27PM
    Re: Wanting to Remove my Records

    I work for one of the church universites. Your transcript will not disappear if you resign from the Church. Nor will the university withhold your transcript if it is requested. Your Church membership or lack thereof has no bearing on the availability of your transcript to you, to any university that you are transferring to or to a potential employer that may request a transcript. You will have to pay a fee to get a copy of your transcript or if you request that a copy be sent to some university or potential employer. If you have an account with BYU that you have not paid, they can withhold your transcript until the account is paid.

    (Unofficial transcripts are issued to you. Official transcripts are sent to another university or employer, etc.)

    Posted by: Brother Of Jerry ( )
    Date: April 02, 2014 10:30PM
    Re: Wanting to Remove my Records

    ^^^^^THIS^^^^^. Reread this post often and commit it to memory. I too have worked in a university registrar office, and the above information is spot on.

    The amount of fear mongering nonsense I read here about how BYU won’t release your transcript if you resign is mind boggling. The FERPA Act puts a very tight leash on what they or any university can or cannot do to a student, and has rigorous due process requirements.

    These comments make sense to me. 😉

  • Danny S

    BYU Grad, this. An 8 year old is incompetent to contract in every state of the union. Yet we expect the 8 year old to make decisions for eternity. There are other doctrines that also act to nullify contracts. Misleading the other party as to the facts upon which he/she will base his/her decision to act is fraud in the inducement and acts to nullify the injured party’s responsibility to honor the bargain. The factual evidence available today, including that found on the church’s own website indicates the church engaged in willful and deliberate deceit regarding many historical issues by the institution , in my opinion. You are also spot on about the attitudes of those who leave the church. Inevitably there is at first anger at the institution when its mendacity becomes apparent. There is also a desire to expose the duplicity to others. After all, we’ve been schooled our whole lives to speak out. You can’t just expect a person to immediately shut off all that programming. But then as time passes, at least for me, a profound satisfaction and peace emerges as the deprogramming progresses and I see the world not as a dark dangerous place where I must rely on magical, supernatural, forces or underwear containing masonic symbols for protection. Rather I see the world for what it really is. I no longer have the insular apocalyptic world view that it’s all going to end in a loving god incinerating everybody who wasn’t paying 10% of their gross to an organization comprising 2 tenths of a percent of the world’s population. I don’t presume that you are where I am in your belief system. Mostly, I just wanted to say I agree with your comments.

  • Wayne Dequer

    I tend to substantially agree with you, BYU Grad. Note I already wrote: “Those who have become totally disaffected with that faith should probably have the integrity to pursue their academic studies elsewhere. I would have no problem with totally disaffected former members continuing to attend BYU if they were truly committed to being respectful of the common faith and be respectful in discussion of issues, but I suspect that would be atypical in those who are “totally disaffected.” However, given the uniqueness of individuals, a review of the blanked current policy may well be warranted.”

  • BYU Grad

    The system seems to have eaten my response. Apologies if this turns out to be a delay and this is duplicated.
    Wayne: I’m glad we can agree that people can leave the church and not ooze acid. But I disagree with your assertion that students who leave the church should have the “integrity” to transfer schools. Let’s assume we are talking about a BYU senior who has sunk thousands of dollars and many years into his or her degree program, including many hours of non-transferable religion courses. Do you really expect that student to write off all of that time, money and effort and invest even more money in moving costs, application fees, etc., etc., perhaps losing one, two, three semesters in the process? For what purpose? “Integrity”? That’s insane. All it really accomplishes is alleviating the other students the burden of having to associate with the dreaded ex-Mormon.
    Danny S: Thanks! I enjoyed your response, too. You wouldn’t happen to be a lawyer, would you?

  • Danny S

    BYU Grad, mmm yep. Mostly defending poor and working poor defendants whose backs support the entire criminal justice system. I used to be a “nothing to the right of me but the wall” conservative until I put faces on the “criminals” I had previously had so little empathy for and saw the reality of the most incarcerated nation on the face of the planet.But that’s fodder for a different discussion.

  • Old Guy

    Rem acu tetigisti

  • Larry

    Sounds like the usual organized online apologetic department. Except we had posters here who have claimed otherwise has happened to them.

    Hey you want to run BYU as a Mormon madrassa go ahead. Just don’t pretend that open academic discussion and honest appraisals of faith are part of it.

  • W

    “Hate monster” is a caricature of the bar here. Sure, it’s absolutely true that many disaffected members don’t end up hating their LDS friends and families, and I also know ex-mormons whose lives belie the old adage about being able to leave the church but not leave the church alone. Good for them.

    But it’s also trivial to find examples of disaffected members who aren’t merely disengaged/disbelieving but are actively hostile in discussion about the church’s claims and treatment of the church’s value system — and even easier to find those who are simply as politely condescending about their differences as any TBM.

  • W

    Can you source some of these arguments? I’m curious to know if you’ve represented them in their best form.

    “I have often wondered, then, what would become of a Muslim BYU student who converted to Mormonism. He, too, would have broken a promise.”

    Sure, and it’s likely that his status in the community he made the covenant with would change as a result.

    A reasonable person might well expect that BYU would be less interested in that, however, not being the community he’d broken covenant with. Or that BYU would be very interested when it is the community a student has broken covenant with, or has goals/values at odds with BYUs.

  • Muriel McGregeo

    A few comments: 1) BYU claims LDS students are special because of the promises they made, but for most, in terms of baptism, it would have been eight years old, when they had little idea and choice about the promises they were making, and which is clearly under the age of reason (eighteen) and therefore not legally binding. So on that front the whole BYU argument falls apart. 2) As a former BYU graduate student who transferred because I left the church, I lost a year and half worth of credits (most universities will only accept a maximum of 6-9 graduate credits anyway), not to mention that much in time and money invested into a degree I was unable to earn because of BYU’s policy and the years I was set back in my career. 3) If the LDS church wants me to respect their freedom to religion, then they also need to respect mine. Moreover, a university, even if it is religiously affiliated, is a place where research, dialogue, and intellectual honesty should be fostered in healthy forums in order to allow voice to different perspectives, especially if they disagree from the main stream.

  • Ken

    The LDS church only supports religious freedom to the extent it gives them the right to discriminate and act without consequence. If freedoms extend to others, well, that was not their intent.

  • Ken

    Why would it require “integrity” for a disaffected student to leave? Wouldn’t integrity be better displayed if the student could be honest with the university and the university not feel threatened by a student who changed their religion?

  • Wayne Dequer

    Thanks for your response, Larry. I find your reference to a madrassa in the last paragraph to be interesting. I’ve never been to any madrassa, let along enough to make an informed generalization. How about you?

    However, I certainly believe there are some inherent dangers in polarization. When we adopt an absolutist mindset we tend to categorize most things at their extremes. We are in danger of overlooking both the good, and/or the errors in everyone and everything. Thus we can demonize those with whom we disagree. “Mormons are evil, or at least if their beliefs are, then everything they do must all be evil. Exmormons are apostates, they must be anti-Mormons, and evil, and everything they do must be evil.” In my 67 years I’ve met a lot of people, and none that I met were totally evil or flawlessly perfect. There may be some at both extreme, but they are rare. It is wiser to realize that most things, including people, can be and usually are complex. It is best to be willing to look at most things from multiple perspectives and to be cautious in making final judgements. Accusations may, or may not, have significant basis in reality.

    I doubt if many other LDS apologists would cite exmormon.org in defending the faith. Yes, I admit to being a thoughtful “apologist” which means “a person who defends or supports something (such as a religion, cause, or organization) that is being criticized or attacked by other people” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apologist). One can defend (and/or attack) accurately and honestly, and/or inaccurately and dishonestly. I try to be accurate, candid and honest to the best of my ability. I’m willing to admit when I make mistakes. I’m certainly Not part of any department or organization. It is not a Church calling and no one pays me to do it. I’m simply a happily retired middle school teacher with some education, knowledge and experience!

    Thanks again for your comment that has encouraged me to respond.

  • Hi Muriel,

    Please consider submitting a profile detailing your story (at http://www.freebyu.org/profiles/). We often try to explain the consequences of transferring, and documenting your story would help that effort immensely.

  • Wayne Dequer

    BYU Grad, I said: “Those who have become Totally Disaffected with that faith should probably have the Integrity to pursue their academic studies elsewhere.” Of course it might well be very inconvenient. “Integrity” is Not about being honest and forthright just when it is convenient to do so. Yes, although I understand the practicality, I question the integrity of those who keep their mouths shut so the can graduate before publicly making the break they long before made privately. Of course I could potentially be wrong. If one were “Totally Disaffected” would it be fully honest to the Church and yourself to continue to have that Church pay for part of your education? Remember, “LDS tithing pays about 75% of costs you will be effectively be on 50% scholarship even if you pay the non-LDS tuition rate.” Perhaps it depends on how we each define Totally Disaffected” and define “Integrity.”

  • Wayne Dequer

    BYU Grad, I am Not a lawyer, but rather a retired middle school teacher where I taught history, special education, and math in my 39 year career. I do enjoy considering moral dilemmas which is similar to some parts of the legal system. I associate with a couple of Ex Mormons at least on the internet. One is quite positive and the other is usually negative. However, they are friends and I care about both of them. I have no problem honestly qualifying for a Temple Recommend because I do Not support anti-Mormon activities. I appreciate your kind remarks even though we probably disagree about some important topics. The world would be boring if we agreed on everything.

  • Nobody Important

    While both are certainly important, which is most important in the eyes of God:
    A degree or a covenant?

    This petition is claiming that BYU should continue its policy of no drinking, no premarital sex, etc., but make an allowance for apostasy. To me this seems completely backwards.

  • Steve

    What ever happened to letting “all men… worship how, where, or what they may?” I don’t remember that Article of Faith having a caveat specifically aimed against Mormons who go to BYU…

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  • Joel

    Nobody Important,

    “This petition is claiming that BYU should continue its policy of no drinking, no premarital sex, etc., but make an allowance for apostasy”

    Now, discretely not believing is apostasy, a sin, breaking a covenant, akin to fornication?

    Come on, man. We’re not talking about John Dehlin or Kate Kelly. These are kids who say: “Unfortunately, I just don’t believe anymore.”

    Maybe I don’t understand what you mean, or don’t get what the petition asks.

  • Garson Abuita

    Considering LDS’s history, Latin might not be the way to go here..

  • Hobbes

    Honest question- why formally leave the LDS church? Likely thousands of students have doubts or disbelief, but remain members. From an academic perspective the truthfulness of the LDS church cannot be emperically disproven, so wouldn’t that make formal severance from the Church a fundamentally anti-Mormon action (strictly theological, not people-wise). Would greatly and respectfully value your thoughts.

  • SanAntonioRob

    “… it is the community a student has broken covenant with…”

    And here I thought the covenant we made at baptism was to God.

    Bottom line is it’s fundamentally wrong to threaten very real financial loss because someone chooses to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. We are not talking about someone no longer following the Honor Code. If it was someone converting to the Church from another community, we would hear it in testimony meeting as persecution for being LDS. It’s pathetic we would do the same.

  • SanAntonioRob

    Bingo ^ ^ ^.

    Also, what about the integrity of BYU as an institution or the Church as its owner? The current policy shows no integrity on their part.

  • Joel

    Nobody Important,

    I should’ve looked before I leaped.

    It appears the issue is more than losing the testimony necessary to qualify for a recommend or to be admitted in the first place. We’re talking about leaving the Church, formally resigning. Yes, that is different from merely expressing nonbelief, especially because BYU is heavily subsided by the Church and turns away so many others to give you a spot.

    I think we overuse the term “apostasy,” which connotes becoming an enemy. But I acknowledge that formally leaving the Church to joining another fits our definition.

    Nevertheless, I still think it’s absurd to suggest that leaving one’s religion as an act of conscience is a sin. Nor should it be considered a broken covenant. As others have said, our covenant is to God, not the Church. When we’re members, we may believe those are synonymous. But, if you resign, you’ve probably come to believe in good faith that they’re not.

  • Larry

    So they should keep their mouths shut and go through the motions of being in the church until they graduate.

    I guess open and honest discussion on subjects of faith is not really in the cards for BYU. No shame in it. Just it would be far more honest to declare such intentions up front. Forgo any pretension of academic and personal freedoms at the school and just come out and say that its purpose is to reinforce LDS faith at all costs, even through selective banishment.

  • Larry

    Aside from secularist sects/faiths (which the LDS clearly is not), support for religious freedom by churches is always self-serving.

    Always be skeptical about religious groups discussing religious freedom. It usually comes out to “freedom for me, but not for thee”

  • Larry

    “I’ve never been to any madrassa, let along enough to make an informed generalization. How about you?”

    Pleading ignorance. OK. Mendacity and apologia seems to be your shtick here when it comes to dealings of the LDS church. It appears more than likely that exmormon.org is probably overrun with people posting there to defend the church and “troll” the people there criticizing the church. Your “excerpts” lack all credibility as are your excuses following them.

    Fact of the matter is, the behavior of the school is chilling to any notion of academic freedom or honest discussions on the subject of faith and religion. It is done to coerce cooperation with a religious organization. The kind of actions one expects from religious schools in fundamentalist dictatorships, not from American higher education. But of course you avoided discussing such things.

  • W

    Larry: “I guess open and honest discussion on subjects of faith is not really in the cards for BYU.”

    That’s a statement that could only be seen as a reasonable one in the context of this particular discussion if you assume “open and honest” or even “doubt” is equivalent to “rejects most of the church’s claims.”

    BYU itself could do better in making these distinctions consistently and compassionately if some of the stories I’ve heard are true.

    Free BYU and allies would also have a better and more honest case if they were careful about those distinctions as well.

  • Old Guy

    I flunked Reformed Egyptian

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  • SanAntonioRob

    Wayne: Tithing-subsidized tuition *might* be a plausible argument if only faithful members of the Church could attend. But that is not the case. LDS tithing subsidizes non-LDS tuition as well as LDS-tuition. Free BYU wants to pay the non-LDS tuition and still obey the Honor Code – I can’t see any lack of integrity. No one is looking for special favors. They are looking not to be singled out.

  • SanAntonioRob

    “But I acknowledge that formally leaving the Church to joining another fits our definition[ of apostasy].”

    As self-evident as that may sound, I actually disagree. The lds.org definition of apostasy is: “When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, they are in a state of apostasy.”

    We believe resigning one’s membership negates the ordinances performed in the Church. But principles are different. Principles are faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, forgiveness, Christ-like love, etc. It doesn’t follow that resigning one’s membership necessarily equals abandonment of these principles.

    Once again, the petition is only looking to put former members on the same footing as every other non-LDS attending BYU. No one is looking for freebies. Even though I don’t understand how an honest search for truth from God leads others down a difference path than my honest search for truth from God, I don’t want our Church putting financial loss on top of the other burdens that people already bear when they feel like God is leading them another way.

  • Jeff

    BYU’s namesake encouraged others to test Mormonism. But BYU will kick you out if it fails the test. Hypocrisy.

    I say to the whole world, receive the truth, no matter who presents it to you. Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if… it will stand the test.~ Brigham Young May 18, 1864 Journal of Discourses Vol. 16, pg. 46

  • Hobbes

    Hi Larry. I don’t think any student should be compelled to feign belief in order to remain a student at BYU, and to my knowledge, one may confide even a flat disbelief to his or her bishop without having his or her ecclesiastical endorsement withdrawn, so long as the student keeps the door open to the Church as follows:

    1) Do not sever Church membership – as I asked the original poster above, why go to the length of voluntary termination of membership? I can understand a faith-based reasoning if a student joins another religion, but honestly, that discussion is a theoretical exercise. It just doesn’t happen in real life, at least not enough to influence policy. This is an issue of students losing faith, which in itself is not reason enough to take the extra step of dismembership. Secularly speaking, FreeBYU will need to demonstrate objectively how continued membership harms a student in a state of disbelief.

    2) attend church meetings – this is simply part of going to a faith-based school under current precedent. Required mass attendance is actually pretty common at Catholic schools, and it’s not as though you have to go to every meeting or the bishop will yank your EE. I believe minimum attendance under active membership is generally set between 25%-50%.

    I don’t think the above equates to students having to shut their mouths and pretend to be active mormon, but I’m also not so naive to think that individual instances of poor judgment by bishops or school administrators do not occur. It does happen, and avenues to appeal need to exist, and to my knowledge they do.

    FreeBYU makes a lot of good points, but if they want this movement to effect change, more substantiation of claims is needed.
    – Are EEs being withdrawn prematurely, and to what scale?
    – What demonstrable harm/injury/disadvantage comes of maintaining formal Church membership in a state of disbelief?
    – What restrictions on academic freedom are imposed by current policy?

    These are the questions I want answered before I throw in my support, or even consider this movement anything more than another fringe group trying to force BYU to be something they know (and knew going in) that it is not.

  • Hobbes

    I think a lot of that apprehension is a perception problem. As a BYU alum, I can personally attest to seeing a wide spectrum of ideas being expressed both in and out of the classroom without resulting in students getting tossed. But it would be healthy to see it more often. It’s the nature of religion for extreme prudence to be socially acceptable and at times admirable, while more liberal ideas (e.g., drinking caffinated beverages or engaging in certain Sabbath day activities) must be kept hush-hush, even if they fall within an individual’s genuine paradigm of acceptable behavior.

    I was once criticized by a girl for not going on a mission early enough (I had a call in hand, and had been delayed by my dentist). BYU needs students with more open minds, and most of the professors do a wonderful job fostering that. Unless one is formally propogating anti-mormon beliefts, the only real consequence for expressing liberal ideaology is social rejection by the prude and closed minded (who, are lower in proportion than most would think).

  • Hobbes

    Well said, thank you for that framing. Would you agree that BYU’s administration and policies may not be perfect? I, for one, think BYU’s PR department is abysmal. So I am open to proposals for improving certain BYU policies, especially as such changes are more in keeping with LDS principles. But as you said, the unique atmosphere was intentionally and justifiably created, and it’s up to the individual to find a fit in that atmosphere.

  • Hobbes

    I keep asking the following question of many others with no answer. Why formally leave the Church? There is a very resolute, marked,and difinitive difference between losing faith (or realizing that you never had it), and taking the formal steps to leave the Church, especially when one has a substantial investment in time and money in credit hours on the line. I’ve seen varying proportions of inactive members on my Ward/Branch rosters over the years, but never a significant turnover from members having their names removed. It’s very, very rare.

    I agree with Wayne in the notion that the onus is on the individual to find a fit in a defined system, inasmuch as such placement is voluntary. BYU is a unique place and goes out of its way to disclose expectations to prospective students. And there are thousands upon thousands of students clamoring for a spot in that atmosphere. So for one student to have a change of heart so far in the other direction…I just want to understand.

  • Hobbes

    I’m not sure I understand “it’s also trivial to find examples…” If you read any Salt Lake Tribune article that touches on a faith-related topic, the comments are rife with anti-mormon rhetoric, and much of it comes from ex-mormons.

  • Larry

    One person’s rejection of most of church’s claims is another’s open and honest discussions. The subjectivity of the description alone makes expulsion a draconian way to avoid discussion. Open and honest discussion is not talking about what everyone is comfortable talking about. Its about talking about what isn’t.

    “I don’t think any student should be compelled to feign belief in order to remain a student at BYU”

    But that is precisely what the policy asks for. That is the net effect sought by the behavior of the school.

    “1) Do not sever Church membership”
    Because one should give the appearance of going along with the church out of possibly being coerced with expulsion

    “2) attend church meetings ”
    See #1 No Catholic University in this country requires mass attendance. Nor do any offer discounts for members of the faith either. All that goes to show is the school is looking to reinforce faith. Catholic schools permit this irreligious behavior because they are more concerned with academic discussion and exchange of ideas than defending the faith at all costs.

    By making membership and the appearance of membership enforceable of the church under threat of expulsion, You sacrifice speech and integrity for the sake of protecting the church from potential dissent.

    “another fringe group trying to force BYU to be something they know (and knew going in) that it is not.”

    A place of honest academic discussion. BYU evidently wants to run itself as an indoctrination facility, not as the source of education on religious ideas.

  • Larry

    Is it the job of the school to defend the faith or provide an education?

    The two are mutually exclusive when you hang the threat of expulsion on how a student displays their faith (or lack thereof).

  • Hobbes

    I don’t know specifically about Catholic universities, but I know for a fact many high schools do at least. My point is not to compare, but to show that the precedent does exist. Look, BYU wants to pursue academics within the scope of its religion, and you speak as though that’s fundamentally wrong. Yet I have yet to see a real example of academic limitations. Unless one is studying something on the fringes like macro evolution or the origin of the universe, I don’t see any academic limits. To the contrary, BYU’s focus is undergrad, preparing students to make a meaningful contribution to the world. I’m open to any substantive claim about academics, but it’s hard to take seriously without support while BYU continues to receive institutional recognition for its academics, such as it’s Top 3 Accounting Program.

    I don’t have a problem with FreeBYU’s proposal, but I have a big problem with the notion of an institution being forced. But BYU could use being more open-minded, and that shouldn’t threaten its religious tenets. FreeBYU needs to make a more solid case, especially if it’s playing the accreditation card.

  • Larry

    ” Look, BYU wants to pursue academics within the scope of its religion, and you speak as though that’s fundamentally wrong. ”

    Because you are not pursuing academics within the scope of religion if you are deliberately screening out voices inconvenient to defense of the faith. You are not looking to educate and expand knowledge, you are indoctrinating and seeking to limit it.

    “Yet I have yet to see a real example of academic limitations.”

    Being expelled for not defending the faith is not a real enough example for you?

    “Unless one is studying something on the fringes like macro evolution or the origin of the universe, I don’t see any academic limits”

    “Fringes?!?” Try scientific knowledge and research. Fringe would be studying Creationism as anything besides religious dogma or a political movement.

    Again the goal of legitimate academic studies is not furthered by expelling students who are willing to voice dissent on a given position. What are you guys, Mormons or Scientologists? Even your own sect has teachings about open discussion on the subject of faith.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    BYU operates with large subsidies from the donations of faithful Latter-day Saints. My guess is that the Church has looked at the financial aspect of it and concluded that investing in the education of its members is a reasonable action because they are likely to have higher incomes and higher tithing levels in the future, in addition to those gifts made by the very successful graduates. But why exactly should the Church and the membership who pays tithing have a duty to subsidize the education of people who have affirmatively withdrawn from the Church and will never make a donation that supports the costs of the university? I can see a policy that allows a person to finish a semester or perhaps even a year, but why should they be able to continue being subsidized by the tithes of relatively poor members of the Church who have never attended any college?

    Additionally, if someone who has resigned from the Church, or been excommunicated, were to continue to attend classes, exactly what recourse would the school have if the student were critical of the Church in classes and on campus? Would they allow BYU to suspend them THEN? No doubt they would think it unjust.

    No one has a right to an education at a private school that is supported by the donations of people who believe they are aiding faithful members get an education. There are plenty of public schools and financial aid programs.

  • A Happy Hubby

    Raymond, you are correct that the church does substantially subsidize students at BYU and LDS students do receive a very good rate for a good education.

    But you are missing a few items. BYU also has attending non-LDS students and they (generally) pay a much higher rate. So even non-LDS students get some portion of their tuition covered by the church (that is my assumption) But LDS or not, ALL students must follow the honor code and I think tearing down the church would be fairly easy to put that as a violation of the honor code.

    So if someone left the church after starting BYU, the proposed change was that they still must follow the honor code, be respectful for the church, and pay the same as the non-LDS students.

    Also even if someone goes to church and looks Molly Mormon or Peter Priesthood – if they feel the church isn’t true at all – I could see that they might be doing all kinds of stuff offline “against” the church and BYU wouldn’t even be aware.

    I also think there is another angle. So if some one feels the church is not true and feels that they must spend a few years pretending things they no longer believe – are they going to be just a simple former Mormon or a bit more on the bitter side? Compare that to someone that is allow to switch to non-LDS and then able to live with integrity. I can’t believe that someone in the second situation would be much less resentful towards the church.

  • Attorney Mike

    Since the Magna Carta, and thereafter the Declaration of Independence, Natural Law holds that certain truths are “Self-Evident” meaning opponents carry a sizable burden of proof if it’s even possible to overcome. The procedure for Ecclesiastical Endorsements, for the LDS faculty and students, have the plain & practical purpose to coerce and censor the expressions of those who have beliefs that do not align with LDS dogma. Before 1970, had the Ecclesiastical Endorsement procedure existed, students & faculty who distanced themselves from the Racist “Jim Crow” policy the LDS Church officially held to deny “dark skinned” people leadership (priesthood) in the LDS Church. I believe the current use of the Ecclesiastical Endorsement policy oon the LDS or former LDS faculty and students, runs contrary to Natural Law, the ethic of freedom of thought and beliefs in the United States, and the requirements of the NWCCU to “protect” students and faculty with minority beliefs. Nowhere is a religious or faith decision considered immutable or dishonorable to change. Would what says BYU about dissenting views on race, few LDS will openly agree with LDS Dogma on the “dark skin” curse. Can diverse beliefs on Civil Rights be expressed that the LDS Church is and was simply Mistaken on Race? If not then the NWCCU and BYU should part ways.

  • A Happy Hubby
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