So a bunch of LGBTQ activist groups have asked the Big 12 to reconsider their interest in BYU because of discriminatory practices at BYU against LGBTQ students. Needless to say, many BYU fans are upset and protesting back, claiming that these activist groups don’t understand that BYU is open to gay students who live the BYU Honor Code; this is just another example of religious persecution, they say. Well, no. No, it isn’t. Its a natural consequence. Its accountability in action. For all the attention we Mormons like to pay to the idea of consequences, we sure don’t want to accept the unpleasant consequences when they crash down on us.
Does BYU discriminate against LGBTQ students? Does it lack a policy that protects them from discrimination? Yes. Of course. BYU enmeshes both its policies on academic integrity and student conduct into one Honor Code, something the vast majority of schools separate, and this leads to university discipline in the academic arena for infractions that are not related to academic integrity. A person can wind up on academic suspension for wearing the wrong clothes or holding the hand of a person of the same gender. At other universities, like the two religious schools already in the Big 12, the bar is much higher for harsh university discipline of students in violation of the student code of conduct. At Baylor, as I understand it, a student’s breach in the code of conduct must be an illegal act for academic expulsion to occur. At BYU, a homosexual caught flirting can be sent packing for unworthiness. No heterosexual is expelled for flirting at BYU.
At BYU, homosexual students who hug someone of the gender to which they are attracted risk discipline in the academic realm. (If you don’t believe this, read here to discover the direct response of the Honor Code office to a gay man’s specific inquiry about whether hugging a male, even without sexual intent, violates BYU’s Honor Code.) Obviously, this isn’t the same standard faced by heterosexual students. That is the fruit that identifies the tree. When the identical behavior is accepted in one group but not in the other, discrimination exists. BYU cannot possibly, with integrity, claim to protect homosexual students at the same time it exercises a double standard against them.
Actions—indeed, policies—have consequences. Discrimination may be a right under religious freedom, but that doesn’t make discrimination ethical or acceptable—not to God nor to those of his children who endure or observe the discrimination.
BYU wreaks consequences for student behaviors in an unnatural way. Academic indiscretion should be punished academically. Spiritual indiscretion should be handled at the intimate level of the congregation. The two should never meet. And, BYU, you sure as shooting shouldn’t punish one behavior in a homosexual unless you are going to punish the precise behavior in a heterosexual. At a minimum, separate your policies. Establish an Honor Code related to academic integrity that is distant from the Student Code of Conduct. Unless behavior is illegal, leave violations of student conduct to students and, if necessary, their ecclesiastical leaders. Instead, BYU organizes its bishops as informants and creates a sense of fear among at-risk students. This isn’t spiritual nurturing. Its spiritual and academic tyranny.
This is America. BYU is free to set its policies. LGBTQ activists are free to speak publicly against them. The Big 12 is free to decide whether or not inviting BYU into its conference is in its best interest. BYU fans are free to complain when they don’t like the inherent consequences of BYU’s policies. But in BYU’s America, LGBTQ students do not have equivalent freedoms or protections.
I understand BYU has colored its world in black and white, not in rainbow. But if BYU and its fan base don’t like the idea of the Big 12 instituting an exclusion policy against them, it’d be wise to drop the vestiges of their own. Turn about is fair play and the clock is running. Its time BYU evens its playing field. There’s not going to be a Hail Mary pass this time.
And there was a strict command throughout all the churches that there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men. Mosiah 27:3
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Photo cred: Trent Nelson, Salt Lake Tribune