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FreeBYU

Students, Parents, and Alumni calling for religious freedom at BYU

Mr. Brad Levin, JD
1072 Tanland Dr. #202
Palo Alto, CA 94303
(801) 380-9372
bradleycarmack@gmail.com

May 28, 2015
Sent via Certified Mail and email
Professor RonNell Anderson Jones, JD
424 JRCB
BYU Law School
Provo, UT 84602
(801) 422-2032
jonesr@law.byu.edu
Dear Professor Jones,

written this complaint with the assistance of FreeBYU, an organization dedicated to promoting
violations by standard and provides a proposed solution to remediate the violations. It also
includes an appendix with supporting documentation.
As a professional courtesy, please send a letter via traditional mail or email to confirm your
receipt. As per the Law School Policies and Procedures, we expect a response in 30 days,
including any action the BYU Law is taking to address the problems detailed in this complaint.
Sincerely,

Þ®¿¼ Ô»ª·²
bradleycarmack@gmail.com

Brad Levin

BYU Law’s noncompliance with the ABA’s
religious and academic freedom standards
Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School (BYU Law) and its sponsor, The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church or Mormon), are not currently in compliance with the American
Bar Association’s 2014-2015 Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools.1 BYU Law
actively discriminates against non-LDS students, faculty, and staff who were formerly affiliated with the
LDS Church by, in the case of students, precluding their admission and retention, and in the case of
faculty and staff, refusing to hire them or terminating their employment. BYU Law also fails to clearly
and specifically articulate the requirements to enter, remain in good standing, and graduate. These
practices are in direct violation the following ABA standards: 205(a)(b)(c), 308(a)(b), 309(a), 405(b), and
509(a).
BYU Law’s noncompliance with the ABA’s standards burdens the academic, intellectual, and religious
freedom of its students, faculty, and staff. These burdens are a substantial detriment to the general
welfare of the student body that directly and negatively affect the quality of BYU Law's educational
programs.

The nature of BYU Law’s noncompliance
At BYU Law, all students and faculty are required to adhere to the BYU Honor Code.2 The Honor Code
specifies that students must get an endorsement from their ecclesiastical leader each school year in
order to stay enrolled at the school. For LDS students and faculty, the ecclesiastical endorsement must
be obtained from their assigned LDS bishop. For non-LDS students, it can be obtained from either the
student’s local ecclesiastical leader, the LDS bishop with responsibility for the area where the student
lives, or BYU’s nondenominational chaplain.2
If a student is unable to secure an ecclesiastical endorsement, he or she is “not in good Honor Code
standing and must discontinue enrollment.” Furthermore, students who aren’t in good standing with
the Honor Code are unable to graduate and receive a diploma, “even if they have otherwise completed
all necessary coursework.” Additionally, according to the Honor Code, a faith transition away from the
LDS Church, excommunication, or disfellowshipment automatically results in a loss of good standing.
LDS faculty and staff at BYU Law must be eligible for an LDS “temple recommend”3 in order to be
employed at the university. Just as with ecclesiastical endorsements, a faith transition, or even
1

Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools 2014-2015, American Bar Association. Retrieved May 27, 2015,
from http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/misc/legal_education/Standards/2014_2015_aba_
standards_and_rules_of_procedure_for_approval_of_law_schools_bookmarked.authcheckdam.pdf
2
Undergraduate Catalog, Brigham Young University. Retrieved May 27, 2015, from http://registrar.byu.edu/catalog/20142015ucat/GeneralInfo/HonorCode.php
3
Human Resource Services, Brigham Young University. Retrieved May 27, 2015, from http://www.byu.edu/hr/?q=jobseekers/ecclesiastical-questions. See “Do LDS employees need to hold a current temple recommend to work for BYU?”

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uncertainty and doubt about aspects of the LDS Church’s doctrine, policies, or history, will quickly result
in ineligibility.
Crucially, the decision about whether an LDS student deserves an ecclesiastical endorsement is entirely
in the hands of the student’s bishop, and that decision cannot be appealed through the university: “The
decision to withdraw an ecclesiastical endorsement may be appealed through appropriate ecclesiastical
leaders only.”4
For a student, the consequence of losing an ecclesiastical endorsement is immediate expulsion from
BYU Law. In addition to the loss of academic opportunities, expulsion means eviction for many students
and their families who live in BYU owned or BYU-approved housing5 and the loss of their campus job.6
Since only currently-enrolled students (and their spouses and children, for married students) are
allowed to live in BYU-approved housing, expulsion from BYU also means eviction from their homes.7
The current administrative process for a LDS BYU student who leaves the Church is outlined as follows:

Figure 1: How BYU Law’s current policy works
4

The Honor Code does provide a burdensome process for appealing the loss of an ecclesiastical endorsement to university
officials in “unusual circumstances.” Those circumstances are not defined in the Honor Code, but it is specified that the review
will not actually include an examination of the bishop’s rationale for not granting an endorsement and the “burden of
persuasion” lies entirely with the student. The author is unaware of any cases in which ex-LDS students were able to avail
themselves of this appeals process. And, given the personal experiences of many students and faculty members, including some
whose stories are featured in this complaint, it seems clear that the current appeals process is not adequate to protect
academic and religious freedom.
5
BYU-approved housing is private, non-university housing for which the housing’s owners have received BYU’s approval. The
process and requirements for granting this approval can be found in the BYU Off-Campus Housing HandBook:
http://och.byu.edu/PDF/Handbook.pdf.
6
See appendix for an example of an expulsion letter.
7
Please note, since BYU is instructing these landlords to evict people on the basis of their having changed religions, the school
may also be complicit in systematically violating the Utah and Federal Fair Housing Acts, which prohibit religious discrimination.
See sections 5.01 and 5.10 in the BYU Off-Campus Housing HandBook: http://och.byu.edu/PDF/Handbook.pdf.

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For a faculty or staff member, the consequence of losing ecclesiastical approval (in the form of eligibly
for a temple recommend) is immediate termination from employment at the university.
Given the fact that merely expressing doubt about LDS Church doctrine or practices, including the
administration of BYU8 and the Honor Code itself, is the exact type of behavior that could result in
violating the Honor Code and being denied ecclesiastical approval, neither students nor faculty can
safely object to these violating policies or advocate for their own religious and academic rights.
Considering the risks involved in bringing these problems to light, it is unsurprising that these violations
have persisted for so long.

A. BYU Law Violates ABA Standard 205 by adopting a policy of religious
discrimination against former members of the LDS Church.
Under the ABA Standards, no law student or faculty member at an ABA-accredited institution should
have to choose between following their religious conscience and finishing their education or keeping
their job. Standard 205(a)(b)(c) states (emphasis added):
(a) A law school shall not use admission policies or take other action to preclude admission of
applicants or retention of students on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender,
sexual orientation, age, or disability.
(b) A law school shall foster and maintain equality of opportunity for students, faculty, and staff,
without discrimination or segregation on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin,
gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.
(c) This Standard does not prevent a law school from having a religious affiliation or purpose and
adopting and applying policies of admission of students and employment of faculty and staff
that directly relate to this affiliation or purpose so long as (1) notice of these policies has been
given to applicants, students, faculty, and staff before their affiliation with the law school, and
(2) the religious affiliation, purpose, or policies do not contravene any other Standard, including
Standard 405(b) concerning academic freedom. These policies may provide a preference for
persons adhering to the religious affiliation or purpose of the law school, but may not be
applied to use admission policies or take other action to preclude admission of applicants or
retention of students on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual
orientation, age, or disability. This Standard permits religious affiliation or purpose policies as
to admission, retention, and employment only to the extent that these policies are protected
by the United States Constitution. It is administered as though the First Amendment of the
United States Constitution governs its application.

8

In a Question and Answer session about protesting at BYU on April 27, 2007, former BYU President Cecil Samuelson explained
to students that the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also the Chairman of the BYU Board of
Trustees. Samuelson stated that “It is a violation of the honor code to be critical of the First Presidency.” This address can be
found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OL-SyC2jvzw&feature=youtu.be&t=6m29s.

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Currently, BYU Law singles out former Mormons as a distinct religious group and precludes their
admission and retention. Students who enter BYU Law as something other than LDS can convert to the
LDS Church, and indeed, if they do so they gain access to the lower LDS tuition rates. Non-LDS students
can also, with ease, change to any other religion or none at all with no adverse reaction from the
university and without fear of violating the Honor Code.9 If an LDS student were to do anything similar
(leave the LDS Church for another church or for none at all, or even express a desire to do so) that LDS
student could lose their academic standing, be expelled from the school, and be evicted from their
home. If an LDS faculty member were to do anything similar, they would be quickly dismissed from their
job. Additionally, prospective students of different faiths that were formerly LDS are ineligible receive an
ecclesiastically endorsement. In this way, BYU Law and the university’s Honor Code clearly and
intentionally discriminate on the basis of religion in matters of hiring, firing, admissions, and retention.
The decision to target and discriminate against former-LDS students was made openly and intentionally.
When this policy was implemented in 1993, BYU spokesperson Margaret Smoot explained:
What this policy does is create an additional category. We are no longer lumping former
members of the church with nonmembers. Former members are now in their own category.10
Rex Lee, BYU’s President at the time, and before that the founding dean of BYU Law, explained that he
agreed with the decision:
The board's decision, which I agree with, is that members who have left the LDS Church belong
in a different category than the members of good faith and the non-members who attend.10
This discriminatory policy continues to be consciously pursued by the university today. Recently Carri
Jenkins, the current BYU spokesperson, reaffirmed the school’s commitment to discriminating against
former-LDS students:
Nonmembers have not made promises and commitments that a member of the church has. A
former Mormon who decides to leave the church, distances themselves from those promises
and commitments. The result is that they are not eligible to attend BYU.11
Jenkins’ reasoning is suspect. Even if it could be established that LDS students had made a religious
promise not to leave the LDS Church, an individual’s freedom to change religious affiliation is an
inalienable human right under international law, and it is similarly protected under US constitutional law
by the First Amendment, which BYU Law is specifically required to adhere to under ABA Standard 205.
Freedom of religion cannot be contracted away from BYU Law students and faculty no matter the
university’s religious affiliation. Nevertheless, BYU Law is intentionally and unabashedly enforcing a

9

Biographical Changes for Students at BYU, BYU Registrar’s Office. (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2015, from
https://registrar.byu.edu/registrar/records/biochanges.php
10
Callister, L. (1993, March 23). STUDENTS WHO RENOUNCE LDS CHURCH MEMBERSHIP NOT ALLOWED TO STAY AT Y. Deseret
News.
11
Stack, P. (2014, November 20). GROUP SEEKS CHANGE SO EX-MORMONS CAN STAY AT BYU. Salt Lake Tribune.

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policy of discrimination against former-LDS students and faculty by denying them admission, expelling
them, evicting them, and firing them.
Consider the experience of Blake Quackenbush, who was admitted to BYU Law as a Roman Catholic in
2008 and had his admission withdrawn upon discovery that he is a former Mormon.12
Mr. Quackenbush’s experience
I attended BYU as an undergraduate in the English program from 2003 to 2008 as a member of
the LDS Church; I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a 3.92 GPA in April 2008; I converted to
Catholicism on July 7, 2008; and I planned to attend law school Fall 2008. I applied to numerous
schools across the country (approximately 40), and an estimated 50% accepted me for
admission, including BYU Law.
On June 4, 2008 Carl Hernandez, BYU’s Chair of the Faculty Committee on Admissions,
contacted me to congratulate me on my admission to BYU. He then instructed me to contact
the other schools that had accepted me to let them know “about [my] firm commitment to
attend elsewhere.” According to his directions, I submitted my formal notice to withdraw my
application to the other schools that had accepted me.
In August 2008, one week before orientation, Carl Hernandez invited me to his office and told
me that he had been informed that I was not LDS and that, as a disaffiliated student, I could not
attend BYU. I was surprised because my application to BYU clearly stated my religious affiliation
as “Roman Catholic.” After all, I was officially baptized on July 7, 2008. Prior to my baptism, I
applied to BYU as a Catholic because I knew that at the time I entered BYU’s law school, I would
be Catholic and I did not want to misrepresent that I would be LDS. The application asked
nothing about whether I had ever been LDS or whether I was then currently LDS. I believed I was
being forthcoming and honest because I had been spiritually converted but had not participated
in the sacrament of baptism. Thus, my religious affiliation was Roman Catholic, even though I
would not be baptized until later that year when I had undergone more catechism. Regardless,
Carl Hernandez instructed me that I had no choice but to withdraw my application or be
formally dismissed from the program. He told me that in the event I was dismissed, I would have
a much more difficult time getting accepted into a law program at another school. The fear of
not attending law school because of my religious convictions was emotionally distressing.
I reached out to several good professors who could not help me. I was ultimately directed to a
representative at the Honor Code Office, who, in the presence of my mother and my wife,
stated that the only shot I had at attending BYU’s program was to renounce my Catholic
baptism. I still remember the look on my poor mother’s face when I said I would do no such
thing (she, of course, wanting me to be LDS and attend BYU).

12

See Appendix for supporting documentation, including selections from Mr. Quackenbush’s law school application, his
acceptance letter from BYU Law, an email from BYU Dean Hernandez confirming his commitment to attend, and a withdrawal
letter from Dean Hernandez, verifying the content of the phone call.

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I am still a practicing Catholic who attends mass every Sunday, and I don’t regret my decision
that day.
The weeks following my encounters with Carl Hernandez and the Honor Code Office involved a
lot of pandering on my part for any sort of mercy BYU would offer me. I made every attempt to
reaffirm my seat at other law schools from which I had withdrawn, but none accepted me.
Needless to say, since I had given up my spot based on Carl Hernandez’s advice, I had nowhere
to go. My only option was to retake the LSAT and apply to the same schools again.
I engaged a lawyer to sue BYU for discrimination, but prior to filing a complaint, I determined
that such a decision was not in my best interest. I reasoned that other schools may never accept
me if I were perceived as a liability/sue-happy student. Out of fear of the unknown, I bit my
bottom lip and took every handout I was offered. It was humiliating.
On the second round of applications, I was accepted to substantially fewer law schools (mostly
4th Tier). Thankfully, I was accepted to the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law where I
ultimately attended.
As Mr. Quackenbush’s experience shows, BYU Law actively classifies disaffiliated members of the LDS
church who have affiliated themselves with other faiths as a distinct group and actively discriminate
against that group, and the damaging effects of this discrimination on these applicants and students can
be severe.

B. BYU Law violates ABA Standard 308 and 309 by outsourcing issues of
standing, dismissal, and graduation eligibility to untrained and
unaccountable church leaders, whose decisions are unpublished,
unstandardized, and unreviewable.
BYU Law violates ABA Standards 308(a)(b) and 309(a) because of the unfettered discretion it cedes to
non-university employees (ecclesiastical leaders) to impose academic consequences on students who
express doubt about the LDS faith, who leave or desire to leave the LDS Church, or who hold other
controversial views.
Standard 308(a)(b) states:
(a) A law school shall adopt, publish, and adhere to sound academic standards, including those
for good standing, academic integrity, graduation, and dismissal.
(b) A law school shall adopt, publish, and adhere to written due process policies with regard to
taking any action that adversely affects the good standing or graduation of a student.

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Standard 309(a) states:
(a) A law school shall provide academic advising for students that communicates effectively the
school’s academic standards and graduation requirements, and that provides guidance on
course selection.
Local ecclesiastical leaders, who are not answerable to the university, have unfettered discretion to
impose consequences on students who doubt LDS doctrine, desire to leave the LDS faith, or express
controversial political or social views. The Honor Code makes this clear, stating:
A student's endorsement may be withdrawn at any time if the ecclesiastical leader determines
that the student is no longer eligible for the endorsement. ... Students who are not in good
Honor Code standing are not eligible for graduation, even if they have otherwise completed all
necessary coursework.13
Additionally, there is no official university-sanctioned document to describe which actions will or will not
result in expulsion for students who are struggling with their LDS faith, nor is there transparency about
how, when, and why expulsion decisions are made. And, if an ecclesiastical endorsement is withdrawn
or withheld, BYU Law provides little guidance to students about their ability to appeal to the school for
an exception to the ecclesiastical endorsement rule.
The BYU Honor Code states (emphasis added):
The decision to withdraw an ecclesiastical endorsement may be appealed through appropriate
ecclesiastical leaders only… BYU does not intervene in ecclesiastical matters or endorsements.
In unusual circumstances, however, a student may petition the Dean of Students Office to allow
an exception to the ecclesiastical endorsement requirement.
...
When considering the petition, the Dean of Students will focus not on the merits of the
ecclesiastical leader's decision to withdraw the endorsement but instead on whether the
student has demonstrated sufficiently compelling grounds to warrant an exception to the
university's ecclesiastical endorsement requirement.

The student bears the burden of persuasion that he or she should be considered to be in good
Honor Code standing, notwithstanding the lack of an ecclesiastical endorsement.13
Because there are no eligibility criteria stated, students do not know how to qualify for an endorsement,
remain a student, or even graduate. Because an ambiguous appeals process does not question the
ecclesiastical leader’s decision and instead places the entire burden of persuasion on the student’s
shoulders, this violates the student’s due process expectation as under 308(b).
13

Undergraduate Catalog, Brigham Young University. Retrieved May 27, 2015, from http://registrar.byu.edu/catalog/20142015ucat/GeneralInfo/HonorCode.php

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This lack of institutional guidance has led to inconsistent and unpredictable enforcement actions, as well
as a culture of fear and self-censorship amongst students. For example, one BYU Law student who is
featured in this complaint was told by his bishop that he would be subject to church discipline, resulting
in the loss of his ecclesiastical endorsement and expulsion from BYU Law, if he publicly stated support
for legalizing same-sex marriage. Students who learned of this threat then feared to express their own
views about homosexuality, same-sex marriage, gender disparity, and other issues that could be
considered controversial by conservative members of the Mormon community.
Indeed, LDS students frequently report censoring themselves in and out of the classroom out of fear
that their comments will be reported to their bishop and endanger their ability to remain enrolled at the
university. This hostile environment forces students to play what amounts to a game of “leadership
roulette.” Some bishops have less conservative views on controversial topics, or may be more
empathetic with the students under their jurisdiction, and thus refrain from taking action against
students who express doubt or dissent, even in comparatively public or forceful ways. But other bishops
might threaten or expel students for perceived infractions as minor as a doubtful comment left on a
personal blog or social media profile. There is incredible variation from bishop to bishop and
congregation to congregation.
Stories of students’ experiences with bishops include inconsistent expulsion and threats of expulsion for:



A student’s expression of religious conversion or suspicion that a student has converted.
A student’s expression of religious doubts or suspicion that a student has doubts.
A student’s research or writing about controversial social or academic issues like same-sex
marriage, the history of the LDS Church, sexism in church governance, the LDS Church’s
doctrine, etc.
Accusations from a student’s roommates about the student’s position on controversial social or
academic issues.
Accusations from a student’s roommates about the student’s non-religiously-compliant
behavior.

Bishops can remove a student’s graduation eligibility or cause expulsion by making a single phone call to
the Honor Code Office or by refusing to sign the mandatory, annual ecclesiastical endorsement renewal.
Because they are outside the university hierarchy, these bishops have no enforceable obligation to
protect academic, religious, or intellectual freedom. Students’ academic eligibility is thus determined
outside the university structure without clear or published criteria, a fact which is not made clear in the
Honor Code or BYU Law’s published policies. At no point does BYU Law have the power to override the
decisions of the student’s bishop, leaving both the students and the school itself at the mercy of people
completely outside the bounds of the school’s policies and procedures. This means it is currently
impossible for BYU Law to comply with the ABA Standards’ requirement to adopt, publish, and adhere to
standards about student standing.
Anecdotally, even what semblance of a policy does exist is not adequately published to students or
understood by them. Because of the ambiguity and complexity of the Honor Code’s existing language —
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the “eligible for the endorsement” section is buried within “continuing student ecclesiastical
endorsement” which is buried within “good honor code standing” — it is understandably difficult for
many students to fully grasp what the implications of the Honor Code actually are for students who
come to doubt the LDS Church or its doctrine.
In fact, a full understanding of the current requirements is effectively impossible because the ultimate
discretion about what actions can result in the loss of an ecclesiastical endorsement lie with the
student’s bishop, who is outside of BYU Law’s control, and who is not even required by the Honor Code
to disclose his reasons for not granting an endorsement. On this most crucial of student questions —
“How do I remain a student at BYU Law?” — the school and the Honor Code fail to provide a useful or
complete answer. In fact, because bishops and other ecclesiastic leaders lack clear guidance, they
themselves may struggle to clearly state the standards they are expected to apply.
The experience of Eric Roundy, a United States Army veteran who was only able to receive his diploma
because he got lucky about who his bishop was, is illustrative:
Mr. Roundy’s experience
In 2005, while I was a student at BYU, I joined the Army. Because of my military obligations I left
BYU with some course work incomplete. Over the years, I whittled away at this coursework
until, in 2011, after a deployment in Iraq, I had just one course left. I finished that final course
remotely through BYU’s independent study program, and I was excited to finally receive my
degree. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple.
Since we’d left BYU’s campus in 2005, my wife and I had grown increasingly uncomfortable with
the LDS Church. We were both raised Mormon, but we found ourselves disagreeing with many
of the church’s teachings. During my deployment to Iraq, I decided not to attend any LDS
services, and I felt at peace because I no longer had to constantly pretend to believe something I
didn’t. When I returned from Iraq, my wife and I moved to Orem, Utah. We decided to get a
fresh start in our new neighborhood by making a clean break from the LDS Church. We went
completely “inactive,” which in LDS parlance means we stopped attending church altogether.
When I applied for graduation at BYU I was surprised to discover that I needed a new
ecclesiastical endorsement just to receive my diploma. I’d been associated with BYU for years,
so I knew about the Academic Honesty policy and the policies concerning students with
disabilities. These were on every syllabus. I also knew the Honor Code because I’d reviewed it
every year when I signed it. But, I was not aware that I needed a new ecclesiastical endorsement
just to get my diploma, and I was not aware that my religious inactivity would endanger my
ability to get my degree. I had no idea that a Mormon cannot change his religion and still hope
to finish his degree at BYU.
This was a gut-wrenching discovery. I had completed all my coursework, all I lacked was my
diploma. But, whether I’d get this important piece of paper I’d earned was entirely dependent

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on the whims of a man I had never met and who had no association with my university — the
LDS Bishop with responsibility over my neighborhood in Orem, Utah.
I met with this Bishop and explained my situation to him. It seemed obvious to me that he was a
good person stuck in a tough situation — he was obligated to follow the LDS Church's teachings,
but he recognized that I was a unique case. After several meetings with him and his immediate
supervisor, the Stake President, as well as several calls to the Honor Code office, we came to an
agreement that I would attend church services until I received my diploma — fake it, essentially
— in order to get an ecclesiastical endorsement. The Bishop expressed that the only reason he
felt he could do this was because I was no longer needed to attend classes at the school, and I
am certain that previous Bishops I’ve had would not have been as willing to bend the rules, even
so slightly.
Mr. Roundy was subjected to an undocumented, arbitrary, and capricious process that left even his
bishop uncertain about the expectations of BYU. It is currently impossible to clearly communicate the
standards for admission, retention, and graduation, since the arbitrary and capricious discretion of LDS
bishops determines what behaviors and beliefs are required to maintain good standing and graduate.

C. BYU Law violates ABA Standard 405(b) by providing insufficient
guidance about BYU Law’s boundaries on academic freedom. BYU Law
undermines any existing policy by outsourcing arbitration and
enforcement to untrained church leaders.
BYU Law operates under broad, unestablished, and unannounced restrictions on academic freedom, in
direct violation of Standard 405(b), which states:
(b) A law school shall have an established and announced policy with respect to academic
freedom and tenure of which Appendix 1 herein is an example but is not obligatory.
The establishment and announcement of clear academic boundaries for faculty and students at BYU Law
is crucial. These boundaries affect the decision of students to attend the school and of faculty members
to accept employment there. Without clearly announced boundaries, prospective faculty members
cannot be reasonably informed about what they are agreeing to when they enter into employment
contracts with the school, and students cannot fully evaluate whether their academic and professional
goals will be served by attending the school. There are real and permanent costs to both faculty and
students if they choose to affiliate with an institution whose mission is incompatible with their scholarly
ambitions. Moreover, when the school fails to clearly establish a policy with respect to academic
freedom, it results in a situation in which academic endeavors are stifled by fear and uncertainty about
whether students or faculty are safe to explore potentially controversial areas of law and society.
Currently, the “Reasonable Limitations” section of the BYU Academic Freedom Policy14 states:
14

BYU Academic Freedom Policy. (1993, April 1). Retrieved May 28, 2015, from https://policy.byu.edu/view/index.php?p=9

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It follows that the exercise of individual and institutional academic freedom must be a matter of
reasonable limitations. In general, at BYU a limitation is reasonable when the faculty behavior or
expression SERIOUSLY AND ADVERSELY affects the University mission or the Church. (This
document does not address policies, common to all universities, that govern the orderly
maintenance of the institution, the disruption of classes, or the university endorsement of
personal actions. This document speaks only to limitations arising from BYU's mission.) Examples
would include expression with students or in public that:


contradicts or opposes, rather than analyzes or discusses, fundamental Church doctrine or
policy;
deliberately attacks or derides the Church or its general leaders; or
violates the Honor Code because the expression is dishonest, illegal, unchaste, profane, or
unduly disrespectful of others.

Reasonable limits are based on careful consideration of what lies at the heart of the interests of
the Church and the mission of the University. A faculty member shall not be found in violation of
the academic freedom standards unless the faculty member can fairly be considered aware that
the expression violates the standards.
Unfortunately, despite its lack of specificity and clarity, this section of BYU’s policy is actually the
clearest guidance available to students and faculty. The policy does not define particular actions that
would be protected by the university’s Academic Freedom Standards, nor does it clearly lay out what
actions, thoughts, or behaviors violate the “interest of the Church” or the “mission of the University.”
Further compounding the uncertainty is the fact that, because Honor Code enforcement relies on
ecclesiastical leaders who don’t have clear guidance or supervision from the university, students and
faculty must play a guessing game to determine what academic pursuits their LDS bishop may or may
not perceive as religiously inappropriate. This lack of clarity is impermissible under Standard 405(b).
An example of the negative effects of BYU Law's noncompliance with Standard 405(b) can be seen in the
experience of Brad Levin15, who graduated from BYU Law in 2011:
In 2010, while a student at BYU, I felt driven to research the issue of same-sex marriage. Samesex marriage was (and still is) a controversial issue in the LDS community, and messages on the
topic from LDS leaders have evolved over time.16 As a result, different local leaders take
15

Brad’s surname when he was enrolled at BYU Law was Carmack. He took his wife’s surname, Levin, when they were married
in 2014.
16
In 1965, for example, Ernest Wilkinson, president of BYU, delivered an address to BYU students in which he said: “We do not
intend to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I
suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly … We do not want others on this campus to be
contaminated by your presence.” (Ernest L. Wilkinson, “Make Honor Your Standard”. September 23, 1965. Audio record
available at http://findingaid.lib.byu.edu/viewItem/UA%201300/Series%201/carton%2034/reel%2017.) More recently, the LDS
Church created a “Mormons and Gays” website, which includes this somewhat conciliatory statement: “The experience of
same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though
individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the
Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.” (http://mormonsandgays.org)

11

somewhat different stances on homosexuality and same-sex marriage, ranging from virulently
homophobic to attempts at empathy.
My intellectual curiosity about the conflicting messages compelled me to undertake an intense
and challenging academic examination of homosexuality. I wrote and published an exhaustively
researched book on the topic: Homosexuality: A Straight BYU Student’s Perspective.17
During the process of drafting the book, my bishop became aware of what I was working on. He
disapproved and threatened me in no uncertain terms: “If you come out publicly in favor of
same-sex marriage, I will hold a disciplinary council on you.” In addition to the religious concern
this caused me, I realized that according to the Honor Code, a disciplinary council would result in
my automatic expulsion from BYU Law.
I wrote this in my journal after one of my encounters with my Bishop: “In response to my point
that I'm very explicit in my book that I don't oppose any official church doctrines or policies, he
reminded me that he and the Stake President's perception are what matter, irrespective of what
I say in the book. He also emphasized his hard line against homosexual conduct and reminded
me of the temple recommend question about sympathizing with those who oppose church
policies, including same-sex couples.”
This attempt to suppress my academic freedom was not just limited to my Bishop. I was
approached by BYU Law’s Dean and the Dean of Students who both confirmed that I would be in
violation of the Honor Code and at risk of expulsion if I continued to write or publish my book.
It was not a threat to take lightly. I was a joint degree student, simultaneously pursuing a Master
of Public Administration, and graduation was a mere six months away. I called the admissions
departments at numerous other schools to investigate the feasibility of transferring. I learned,
frustratingly, that expulsion would set my graduation back a minimum of two years for law
school, and that only six of my nearly sixty MPA credits would transfer. In addition to these
adverse effects on my education, there were financial costs, opportunity costs, loss of
employability, and a host of other possible personal, social, and career-related problems to
consider.
Ultimately, although I believed my book to be compatible with my status as a faithful Mormon,
and I had no intent to attack or deride the LDS Church, I felt like I had no choice but to “play it
safe” and censor my academic work. In my writing I feigned being undecided about the issue,
and I went to great lengths to frame my analysis as a hypothetical. I had to cloak and misdirect
the conclusion of my research on the legal question of same-sex marriage in order to graduate
from my law school.18

17

Available at http://www.amazon.com/Homosexuality-Straight-BYU-Students-Perspective-ebook/dp/B00DP7O3R6/
See appendix for the introduction to Mr. Levin’s book, Homosexuality: A Straight BYU Student’s Prospective. It is an excellent
example of the contortion of academic research required of BYU students and faculty.
18

12

Under 405(b), students at an ABA-accredited law school are entitled to an “established and
announced policy with respect to academic freedom” that does not violate religious freedom.
What I got at BYU Law was an undisclosed, arbitrary standard implemented by unaccountable
and untrained lay clergy and enforced, seemingly without question, by BYU Law’s
administrators.
The problem of academic freedom at BYU Law, as it relates to religious freedom, is not limited to
students like Mr. Levin. BYU Law faculty can be terminated based on unpublished private standards of
their local Bishops who, upon finding fault with some aspect of their research or writing, could refuse to
give them the ecclesiastical approval required to remain employed at the university regardless of
tenure.
Because of the uncertainty of what reaction a particular local Bishop might have to a particular research
question or conclusion, BYU Law’s academic freedom policy does not clearly define the academic
freedom afforded students, faculty, and staff.

D. BYU Law violates ABA Standard 509(a) by providing incomplete,
inaccurate, and misleading information about its policies to students
and applicants.
BYU Law violates ABA Standard 509(a) by providing incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading information
about its policies to students and applicants. Standard 509(a) states (emphasis added):
(a) All information that a law school reports, publicizes, or distributes shall be complete,
accurate and not misleading to a reasonable law school student or applicant. A law school shall
use due diligence in obtaining and verifying such information. Violations of these obligations
may result in sanctions under Rule 16 of the Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools.
BYU Law does not accurately publish its admission requirements, failing to inform potential students in
its admissions brochure19, acceptance criteria20, and application form that the school actively
discriminates against those whom it categorizes as former Mormons, and that former Mormons need
not bother to apply.
As discussed in 405(b), the published Academic Freedom policy does not clearly define the academic
freedom afforded students, faculty, and staff. There is no guidance about what behaviors or opinions
may be expressed and protected in the name of academic freedom. Instead, the document spends
pages defining the institutional freedom sought by BYU Law. Additionally, any good intent of the
Academic Freedom policy is undermined by the unchecked ecclesiastical endorsement process required
by the Honor Code.
19

BYU Law Prospective Student Brochure: Law in the Light. Brigham Young University. Retrieved May 28, 2015, from
http://www.law2.byu.edu/page/banner/prospective/law_in_light_book.pdf
20
BYU Law Prospective Student Acceptance Criteria. Brigham Young University. Retrieved May 28, 2015, from
http://www.law2.byu.edu/site/admissions/acceptance-criteria

13

Moreover, the requirements to retain good student standing and to graduate are incomplete because
each requires good Honor Code standing, and good Honor Code standing depends on the arbitrary and
capricious decisions of untrained, conflicted, and unaccountable ecclesiastical leaders with no BYU Law
oversight.
If a student has their ecclesiastical endorsement revoked, there is virtually no documentation available
to the student about the non-ecclesiastical appeals process. BYU Law officials are not the decision
makers; BYU officials are. BYU provides no counselor to advocate on the student’s behalf. There are no
records of petition success or failure. The student is left alone and powerless.
Additionally, BYU Law does not clearly convey, as required by 509(a), the consequences of religious faith
transitions: Students who transition away from the LDS faith are ineligible for an ecclesiastical
endorsement, and are thus expelled from BYU Law, evicted from their housing, and terminated from
their on-campus job. The BYU Law also fails to make it clear that a faculty and student’s bishop, rather
than a university official, can unilaterally cause a student’s expulsion and eviction. While the Honor Code
does touch on these issues, it obfuscates the severe consequences of a faith transition from its Mormon
students.
Given the devastating consequences the university imposes on students who have a faith transition
away from the LDS Church, BYU Law has a responsibility to ensure that current and potential students
are given a complete and comprehensive understanding of the school’s policies and procedures. As
evidenced by the student stories shared in this document and in the appendix21, this is clearly not the
case.

Suggestions for bringing BYU into compliance
BYU Law could bring itself into compliance with the ABA Standards by implementing simple changes.

21

The school’s admission and retention policies should be modified to stop classifying former-LDS
students differently from other non-LDS students in relation to admission, retention, good
standing, and graduation. In particular, the Honor Code may need to be modified to clearly and
specifically state that former-LDS students are to be treated the same as non-LDS students for
purposes of securing an ecclesiastical endorsement.
The Honor Code should be amended to clearly and specifically state that the ecclesiastical
endorsement appeals process will grant exemptions to LDS students and faculty who cannot
receive an ecclesiastical endorsement from their Bishop owing to a religious or academic
freedom issue. For example, students who desire to leave the LDS Church, hold non-traditional
doctrinal beliefs, research or write about matters that the LDS Church considers to be
controversial, or engage in “apostasy” as the LDS Church sometimes defines it, need a process
that will protect their religious and academic rights.

See appendix for a selection of student profiles.

14

LDS students who leave the LDS Church should be allowed to change their religious preference
in their student records in the same convenient way that non-LDS students are able to change
theirs. The Honor Code office should have no automatic involvement in the process except to be
notified that future ecclesiastical endorsements will not be coming from an LDS Bishop. The
modification of religious preference should not result in any different treatment for the student
aside from the change from the LDS tuition rate to the non-LDS rate.

After implementing the above suggestions, the university’s administrative process resulting from a
student’s decision to leave the LDS Church could be similar to the following diagram:

Figure 2: How BYU Law’s policy could work to be compliant with ABA standards

These reforms are simple, logical, and realistic, and they would mean the end of punitive measures
intended to prevent freedom of religious expression at BYU. They should be implemented as quickly as
possible to bring BYU Law into compliance with its duties under the ABA Standards and the wider
principles of academic and religious freedom that the standards are intended to protect. Religious
freedom is zealously advocated in almost every other circumstance by the LDS Church generally, and by
BYU Law specifically. Therefore, the school should be well equipped to understand the need for urgent
action on this matter.

15

Appendix
Contents
Mr. Quackenbush’s Supporting Documentation ........................................................................................ 17
Selections from Application (applied as Roman Catholic with no Honor Code violations) ................ 17
Acceptance Letter (accepted as Roman Catholic) .............................................................................. 18
Email Confirming Commitment to Attend (confirmed attendance as a Roman Catholic) ................. 19
Withdrawal Letter (pressured to withdraw after BYU Law categorized him as former LDS) ............. 21
Example of an Honor Code Office expulsion letter..................................................................................... 22
The Introduction to Homosexuality: A Straight BYU Student’s Perspective by Brad Carmack ................... 23
Selection of Personal Profiles ..................................................................................................................... 24
John Barlow ......................................................................................................................................... 24
Dr. Lynn K. Wilder ............................................................................................................................... 25
Isaac Trumbo ....................................................................................................................................... 25
Bryce Johnson ..................................................................................................................................... 26
B.C. ...................................................................................................................................................... 27
Anonymous ......................................................................................................................................... 28
Brett Williams...................................................................................................................................... 29
Rich Bond ............................................................................................................................................ 30
Gentry Beckmann................................................................................................................................ 31
Adam Wilde......................................................................................................................................... 32
Jonathan Adamson.............................................................................................................................. 33
*name removed to prevent retaliation* ............................................................................................ 35
Nephi Johnson..................................................................................................................................... 36
James Nagel ........................................................................................................................................ 38
Emily Young ......................................................................................................................................... 39
Gregory Astill....................................................................................................................................... 40
Braden Paxson .................................................................................................................................... 41
*name removed to prevent retaliation* ............................................................................................ 42
*name removed to prevent retaliation* ............................................................................................ 43

16

Mr. Quackenbush’s Supporting Documentation
Selections from Application (applied as a Roman Catholic with no Honor Code violations)

17

Acceptance Letter (accepted as a Roman Catholic)

18

Email Confirming Commitment to Attend (confirmed attendance as a Roman Catholic)

(continued on next page)

19

20

Withdrawal Letter (pressured to withdraw after BYU Law categorized him as former LDS)

21

Example of an Honor Code Office expulsion letter
Within days of his resignation from the LDS church, the student who received this letter was expelled
from BYU, lost his on-campus job, and was evicted by his private landlord. The only way back into school
for this student is through Mormon leaders. The school will not acknowledge any current declared faith.
To become eligible to attend BYU, this student would have to be re-baptized into the LDS church (a
lengthy process that, even if desired by the student, can take a year or more).
Dear --------,
Bishop -------- has informed the Honor Code Office that your ecclesiastical endorsement has
been withdrawn. Since university policy requires all students to have a current endorsement, we
have placed a hold on your registration, graduation, and diploma until you are able to qualify for
a new one. Effective immediately, you are no longer eligible to attend daytime or evening
classes, to register for other courses, to graduate from BYU, to work for the university, or to
reside in BYU contract housing. You cannot enroll in or be enrolled in any BYU course that could
apply to graduation, including but not limited to Independent Study courses, until you are
returned to good standing. Please note that you may not represent the university or participate
in any university programs such as Study Abroad, academic internships, performing groups, etc.
A hold has been placed on your record which will prevent you from being considered for
admission to any Church Educational System school until you are returned to good Honor Code
standing. Good Honor Code standing includes a valid, current ecclesiastical endorsement.
The Honor Code Office will work with Discontinuance to remove your classes. If you have any
questions please call the Honor Code Office. If you are currently working on past incomplete
grade contracts please notify the Honor Code Office immediately. When you are ready to return
to the university, you must work closely with the Admissions Office, A-153 ASB, (801) 422-2507,
regarding readmission requirements.
During at least the next twelve months, Bishop --------’s clearance must be obtained before any
other bishop can endorse you. Your bishop must verbally notify the Honor Code Office as soon
as your endorsement has been reinstated. Also be aware that you must stay in contact with the
Admissions Office in A-153 ASB (422-2507) regarding readmission requirements if you are away
for a full semester. Because the ecclesiastical interview is confidential, any questions regarding
your church standing must be resolved with your ecclesiastical leaders. The withdrawal of your
endorsement is independent of any investigation or action that may be taken by the Honor
Code Office.
If you have any questions about the withdrawal of your endorsement, please contact your
bishop and/or your stake president. Your classes will be discontinued immediately.
Signed,
Larry Neal, Honor Code Office Director

22

Homosexuality: A Straight BYU Student’s Perspective by Brad Carmack
This introduction illustrates the how Mr. Brad Carmack Levin felt he needed to contort his academic
achievement to protect himself from expulsion.
I love and support the LDS church and its leaders - and encourage you to do so as well, whether
a member of the church or not. I have a firm testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of the
LDS church. This testimony is strengthened by my regular temple attendance (for a year I was
also a temple worker), consistent service in the church, faithful church attendance, fasting, and
daily prayers and scripture study. I have always had a special appreciation for the Book of
Mormon, whose inspired passages guide my life and decisions. Though I will make a strong
moral case for LDS SSM (same-sex marriage), please remember:
1. Neither this book nor this chapter is to be interpreted as promoting homosexual relations
or seeking to influence others to engage in homosexual behavior. I do not oppose any
doctrines or policies of the church. I do not believe in advising the Lord’s representatives or
forcing them into my way of thinking.
2. Though I am still seeking the Lord’s will regarding SSM and evaluating the arguments for
and against it, I have been publicly active in opposing same-sex marriage. In the fall of 2009
I volunteered with Protect Marriage Maine to help call voters in Maine to oppose same-sex
marriage legislation there (which opposition prevailed).
3. That a strong moral case for LDS SSM exists does not necessarily imply that the moral case
against SSM is weaker. A key outcome of a successful education is the ability to make a
persuasive argument advancing a proposition with which one personally disagrees. If
successful, my rigorous presentation of the pro-SSM position will help traditional marriage
defenders sharpen their advocacy as a consequence of understanding their opposition
better.
Now back to the task at hand. To make this moral case, I ask you to embark on a thought
experiment with me into a world independent of the one you know - specifically, a world exactly
like this one, with two exceptions: 1) that homosexual conduct is sinful is not a necessary moral
conclusion; and 2) that SSM is wrong is not a necessary moral conclusion. The purpose for these
exceptions is to engender a forward, (i.e. take a look at evidence, then conclude) rather than a
retrospective, (make the conclusion first, then interpret evidence through that lens) evaluation.
I believe what I’ve asked of you is a truly awkward mental task- but please take a minute to
really complete it.
Once you're inside the world, read on. Remember, this is a thought experiment, a safe zone
which cannot be construed as the author’s view on the morality of SSM in the actual world.
Again, because of how often this chapter has been misinterpreted as my real-world views
toward SSM, I underline- a thought experiment is a departure from the real world into the realm
of imagination.

23

Selection of Personal Profiles
These profiles were submitted to FreeBYU, an organization dedicated to fighting for religious freedom at
BYU. This is just a sampling of the hundreds of submissions.
Name: John Barlow
Email Address: zppyjohn@yahoo.com
City, State: Orem, Utah
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
No. Freedom of research, belief, and attitude is limited to only those things that will still allow you to
remain a member of the LDS church. Even scientific topics like evolution, plate tectonics, and genetics
are kind of a gray area. If a student/faculty member, distances themselves enough from the church in
their academic studies or personal life to fail to qualify for a temple recommend - or join another church
- they will be expelled, evicted, and in many ways ruined.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
Yes, after many years of being a member of the church, I became somewhat disillusioned and had been
participating with the local Catholic congregation. I wished to be baptized, but even before this was
completed, my LDS bishop was informed, my ecclesiastical endorsement was revoked and I was not able
to register for the next semester, obtain a transcript, or remain in my apartment.
Do you believe that there is another reason why BYU should not be granted continuing
accreditation? Please name the Section that you are referring to in your comment.
I think BYU is a good school in many respects. I wish I had been allow to continue my studies there (or at
least had been given my last semester's transcript before transferring) however, they can be much
better. The LDS people are talented, compassionate, and creative, but these things are somewhat
squashed at BYU. I think it breeds a culture of conformity, where innovation is more rare than it would
be otherwise.
Do you have a personal experience where you felt that you couldn't speak honestly at BYU
about your opinions, scholarship, or academic experience?
It is a weird balancing act. I had several life-sciences classes as a pre-med student, where genetics,
evolution, and human-racial differences were pretty standard with the rest of the Western world.
However, there were several occasions when I was censured publicly by two religion professors and my
LDS bishop for discussing those scientific topics because they conflicted with official church doctrine. It
was difficult to figure out who you could talk to about normal scientific topics and who you couldn't.
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
Unfortunately, because there is an encouraged practice of "tattling" on your room-mates (included in
several public student addresses available on YouTube) it was almost impossible to feel safe in my
private life.

24

Name: Dr. Lynn K. Wilder
Email Address: metotgma@gmail.com
City, State: Fort Myers, FL
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
The final section of the honor code that kicks students and professors out if they leave the Mormon
church appears to violate the policy as stated.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
A member of the LDS church for 30 years, I was tenured faculty at BYU in the McKay School of Education
from 1999-2007. When I professed Biblical Christianity toward the end of my time at BYU, a friend
reached out to ask a member of the 12 apostles of the LDS church if I could stay at BYU. He said no, even
if she is tenured. I found another job but lost salary, tenure, and began again at a state university in
another state. I'd be honored to talk with the accrediting body if necessary.
Do you have a personal experience or story where you felt that you couldn't speak honestly
at BYU about your opinions, scholarship, or academic experience?
I was paralyzed with fear to have any LDS friends or BYU colleagues find out I was seeking my way out of
the LDS church. I would have lost my temple recommend and then my job. Honestly, I did know this
when I was hired.
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
We were placed on probation once in the McKay School of Education, maybe 2002 or 2003, for not
attending to matters of diversity. I would encourage the accrediting agency to pay close attention to the
commitment or lack thereof of diversity. When I taught diversity at BYU, I was asked not to use the term
"social justice."
Name: Isaac Trumbo
Email Address: itbcn8.gmail.com
City, State: Barcelona
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
No. I was a student at BYU and had an excellent GPA. In my last semester I left the Mormon faith as well
as came out as a gay man. At that time, with a couple of required classes left, they proceeded to
excommunicate me and I had to drop out. This is something that MUST change.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
Yes, as I stated I was a student and robbed from my degree because of religion and sexual orientation.
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
I did not break the honor code, just came out as gay. This was enough for them to accuse me of breaking
the code.
25

Name: Bryce Johnson
Email Address: brycepj@gmail.com
City, State: Charlottesville, VA
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
Absolutely not.
1) Students organizations which discuss or publish views divergent from those of Church leaders are
intimidated, constrained, or shut down. (I know by personal experience)
2) It's well-known that faculty consensus can be overridden at any time by word from the leadership.
This occurred recently when the religious studies department was asked for its opinion about
restructuring the religious studies curriculum that must be completed by all students. Faculty voted
nearly unanimously against it, but the Board of Trustees moved ahead with it anyway. I had a close
friend whose father was a well-known tenured professor in the social sciences. He often complained
that BYU was the only university in the world where the faculty can be overridden so quickly and quietly
as they can be at BYU.
3) Because church membership is tied to school standing, students must be careful about what they say,
particularly if they no longer believe the Church's teachings. This was true for me during my final year at
BYU, when I lost my faith.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
I was Editor in Chief (as well as other positions) of the BYU Political Review. We sought to promote open
dialogue about important political issues on campus. We had a publication that we distributed oncampus and a website.
Generic stories: I can't tell you how many times we were told by advisors that we'd have to remove an
article from our upcoming issue because it would raise the hackles of church leaders or "The
Administration". These were articles dealing with gender, race, homosexuality, religion, marriage, and
other issues church leaders have spoken out against. We had no trouble publishing articles that sided
with church teachings on these issues -- only articles that disagreed.
I was close friends with the people who started the BYU Student Review: BYU's first independent
student newspaper. The fact that a newspaper had to go off-campus and sell advertisements to support
themselves to write a lot of pretty tame articles for students once a month? Come on.
Finally, I remember one day when I mentioned to our advisor that our website was starting to get a lot
of traffic. He didn't say anything then, but within a day, I was sitting in a meeting with the Political
Science department chair debating whether or not we should be allowed to have a website, and if we
did, "Why did we have to have a comments enabled?" And "Could we delete comments or articles at a
moment's notice?". It was clear that these well-meaning professors did not want to stick their necks out
for us. They could get themselves into trouble if we wrote something that seemed out of line.

26

Name: B.C.
Email Address: *removed*
City, State: Provo
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
An emphatic no. The university has a large body of unwritten positions that are not allowed to be
expressed by students or faculty publicly. It claims you can believe what ever you want, so long as most
views are kept private. It is not just a culture. It is institutionalized as policy and executed by it's
employees.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
I was required to take Book of Mormon classes, as all students who enter the university as members of
the LDS faith are. I had a professor whose only assignments were to submit written testimonies of the
Book of Mormon as we were reading it. While I often disagreed with the statements the professor made
throughout the semester, the worst part was knowing that my grade depended on me writing papers
professing beliefs I did not have. I did not have the ability do this always and still live with myself. I did
not turn in many of my assignments. On paper I should have failed the class. However, the professor
believed I was a devout member; he told me so. Therefore he gave me a B. At least in this class, work
was not valued. Only specific beliefs.
Do you have a personal experience or story where you felt that you couldn't speak honestly
at BYU about your opinions, scholarship, or academic experience?
I feel the pressure to keep all of my views to myself all of the time. I know people who haven't and have
been punished. There is no one story. I fear daily that my opinions will be discovered by those I do not
trust.
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
Yes. Last summer I shared my positions on feminism, race relations, gender equality, and LBGT activism
with a small number of friends and acquaintances. I was reported to the BYU honor code for disrespect
of the university. The Honor Code office itself asked for a list of beliefs that I held concerning the
historicity and accuracy of the truth claims of the LDS church. I was told a list of beliefs that if I had and
shared with anyone would create problems for my continued enrollment in the university. I was
essentially warned in advance that my honest answer would lead to either expulsion or, most likely,
probation which strips me of my scholarship in the grad program I enrolled in. I gave them the official
story that they wanted to hear. I felt required to forfeit my personal academic integrity in exchange for
my degree. I would gladly see BYU lose their accreditation even though I am currently enrolled in the
university. I came to BYU because I was promised a top notch education that wasn't too costly. I deeply
regret coming here. I had to explore ideas by myself in private and have lived in fear of my university
due to the conclusions I have come to.

27

Name: Anonymous
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
BYU’s religious eligibility policies demonstrably violate the Accreditation code, as well as its own
standards of religious freedoms. This should be closely examined by the review board. While members
of any other faith can change their faith declaration, renew their ecclesiastical endorsement, and remain
in academic good standing, LDS students cannot.
Effectively, the current endorsement rules for LDS students:
1. Prevent LDS students from changing their faith declaration, but allow members of any other
faith to change their faith declaration
2. Require that as part of their endorsement interview, LDS students openly disclose any faith crisis
to their endorsing LDS Bishop
3. Prevent LDS Bishops from endorsing inactive LDS members, while allowing leaders of other
faiths to determine the parameters of their endorsements
4. Require expulsion of inactive LDS members
This double standard violates the precepts of acceptance and religious tolerance that BYU declares in its
own mission statement. It discriminates against students who have paid tuition and are academically in
good standing. It also further distresses students who are already experiencing a faith and identity crisis
by threatening the success of their education, and thereby any family support that attends their
education.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU? If so,
please elaborate here.
I am a female former student who left BYU as a junior due to a faith transition in 2005. I am no longer a
practicing LDS member, but my records remain in the Church. I harbor no ill will toward BYU or church
members and enjoyed my time at BYU. I have no problem abiding by the Honor Code.
I am restrained by economics and time from transferring to another school. I have only 20 credits
remaining at BYU, but some of my major credit is double-counted due to international study. I have also
completed most of BYU's extensive religion requirements. This graduation path exists only with BYU and
would be prohibitively longer and more expensive at another school.
I am in good academic standing (3.8 GPA) and am perfectly willing to pay nonmember tuition. According
to my transcript, I can finish my degree off campus, via Independent Study.
But because of the endorsement requirements unique to LDS students, this is not possible for me:
graduation and all university credit requires an LDS bishop's endorsement, because I was admitted as a
17-year-old LDS student in 2001.
If it were possible for me to declare another faith, I would reapply tomorrow.

28

Do you believe that there is another reason why BYU should not be granted continuing
accreditation?
BYU is a wonderful academic institution that should be held accountable for its discriminatory
administration of religious eligibility standards.
The impact of its discriminatory policies is small in numbers, but huge in effect on students' lives. It also
broadcasts BYU as an insular, backward institution that oppresses and disallows true intellectual
freedom and personal progression of its LDS students.
This conflict of institutional integrity should be aggressively examined by the accreditation review board.
Do you have a personal experience or story where you felt that you couldn't speak honestly
at BYU about your opinions, scholarship, or academic experience?
I can't graduate or even take Independent Study courses with BYU because I have been honest about my
beliefs.
I have approached four LDS bishops over ten years requesting that they work with me in renewing my
endorsement so that I can finish my BA off campus via Independent Study. I have offered to attend
Church, hold a calling, or participate in any study program they require while I am a student.
All four bishops have expressed support for my efforts, but are restricted by BYU's endorsement rules to
only endorse active LDS members. I constantly consider approaching another bishop and lying about my
intentions, because: Effectively, my education is being held hostage to unfair endorsement rules that
affect only LDS students.
Name: Brett Williams
Email Address: brett.l.williams@gmail.com
City, State: Doha, Qatar
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
No. I personally experienced this as a student at BYU in 2000/2001
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
I served on the editorial board of the Pi Sigma Alpha journal in the 2000 fall semester. A previous issue
had published an article on the rape epidemic in Africa. Our journal editor was verbally warned that
discussing such 'controversial ' topics in the new year could have the journal shut down.
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
I have friends who are gay who have been treated very poorly by BYU. In addition, BYU has no freedom
of religion for Latter-day Saint students. If a Mormon student changes their religion, they are no longer
allowed to attend BYU, even though members of other religions can attend BYU.

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Name: Rich Bond
Email Address: rwbond46@gmail.com
City, State: Sunnyvale, CA
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
I do not believe BYU gives full academic freedom to its students or faculty. Every year students must
submit to a church authority their belief in and support of the tenets of the Mormon faith. To not affirm
these beliefs the student risks losing their place in the university. Faculty must also submit to a similar
ecclesiastical endorsement. To step out of line too far the faculty member is at risk of losing their job. In
addition every single course I took finished with an evaluation. Students were to evaluate the professors
on how well the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Mormonism) was connected to the course taught. So if the class
was on Math, how well did the professor link that to the Gospel. There was the caveat that stated as the
material permitted, but having that hanging over a professor's head is inappropriate. It forces professors
to teach religion in a non-religious class.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
I attended BYU for both BA and MPA. I applied to BYU's MPA program in the winter of 2004; I was
accepted in the Spring. In the time between being accepted and starting school I experienced a loss of
faith in the Mormon religion. I was stuck, I had no other school options and so I had to keep my head
down and affirm the churches teaching for two years of schooling. To express a modicum of doubt
risked losing my place academically and put my career plans in jeopardy. I was forced by this institution
to obey a religious code in order to complete my degree and stay in my BYU student housing with my
wife and child. This was a real risk. My wife experienced a great deal of anxiety because of this situation.
She feared I could seriously lose my schooling and out housing, despite the fact that I had no intention
of expressing doubts to classmates or professors. While in my first year of study a professor in class
loosely implied that the Mormon leaders speaking in the church's General Conference were expressing
opinion rather than stating fact. A student in my study group seriously considered reporting that to the
University. The threat of being reported by over-zealous students or faculty was a real risk. Because of
the required ecclesiastical endorsement, I could not express any doubt or question. Students who make
a faith transition to another faith or no faith will lose their ecclesiastical endorsement and be kicked out
of school. Students of other faiths or no faith can attend freely without question and can of course
transition freely in their faiths.
Do you have a personal experience or story where you felt that you couldn't speak honestly
at BYU about your opinions, scholarship, or academic experience?
I do not have a single experience personally. My entire time as a Graduate student was spent as an
underground unbeliever. I like my classes and students, but I knew I could not freely express my
thoughts or questions openly because of the rules. Knowing I could be turned in at anytime by anybody.
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
The Ecclesiastical Endorsement hangs like the Sword of Damocles over every student and faculty
member; it is wielded as a weapon to force conformity of thought and opinion. While I cannot speak to
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how consistent BYU enforces the conformity, the fact that it is encoded into the rules of the university
academic freedom is restricted. In this environment there is only freedom as long as being mentally
enslaved is synonymous with being free.
Name: Gentry Beckmann
Email Address: gentry.beckmann@gmail.com
City, State: Salt Lake City, UT
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
I am a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the BYU business program, receiving special distinction as the top
student in the Marketing emphasis in my class. I am also an ex-mormon. My religious views changed
after I had already graduated from BYU, but upon realizing that I would have been expelled had I
changed my views while still a student I began vocally opposing the school's policies. I do this for the
sake of current and future students whose timing is not so fortunate.
BYU's policy of forbidding admission to and expelling anyone who was ever a member of the LDS church,
but whose personal convictions changed, is an affront to the concept of academic and intellectual
freedom.
BYU allows non-mormon students to attend the school; and faculty, students, and administration
actively proselyte them to join the religion once they arrive. Such students become celebrities if they
accept mormonism, receiving widespread attention on campus. However, if one of these students later
left the religion they would be expelled.
Non-mormon professors exist in small numbers and seem to be treated fairly, but a Mormon professor
who joined another religion would be fired immediately. The hypocrisy here is blatant. No mormon
student or employee can challenge their religious beliefs without facing expulsion and termination.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
While living in the Provo area after graduation, I had a roommate who was still attending the school as a
non-mormon on an athletic scholarship. He experienced constant frustration with the overt religious
requirements of attending the school - not the conduct standards, but the academic and intellectual
pressures. He sensed intuitively the absurdity of much of the content in his religion courses that are
required for graduation, but had no outlet for his concerns except to his non-mormon friends from
home. Voicing a challenge to any mormon tenet in a BYU religion class is simply something that is not
acceptable.
When he learned that I had disaffiliated myself from the LDS church, he eagerly posed questions to me
about my reasons for doing so and was very interested in getting the perspective on church history and
doctrine that is not presented in school courses.

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Do you believe that there is another reason why BYU should not be granted continuing
accreditation?
"Excommunication, disfellowshipment, or disaffiliation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints automatically results in the loss of good honor code standing. … Disaffiliation is defined for
purposes of this policy as removal of an individual's name from the official records of the church." - BYU
Honor Code
If the ABA is serious about the standards it advocates, it cannot grant BYU ongoing accreditation until
this policy is changed.
Do you have a personal experience or story where you felt that you couldn't speak honestly
at BYU about your opinions, scholarship, or academic experience?
At BYU every student is required to take many credits of religion courses. My experience was that these
courses weren't academic or intellectually rigorous. Rather, they were thinly veiled attempts to
indoctrinate students further into mormonism. I was a believer while attending, but even the mildly
unorthodox ideas I explored couldn't be spoken in class or course-work for fear of receiving poor grades.
Even courses in Judaism and World Religion were so steeped with mormon context that any real
exploration was impossible.
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
I now stand in strong opposition to BYU as an institution, and believe its accreditation should be revoked
until it allows student and professors the same freedom to leave the mormon church that it allows them
to join it.
Name: Adam Wilde
Email Address: Adam.s.wilde@gmail.com
City, State: Columbus, GA
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
No, any institution which punishes its students for acting in accordance with their beliefs inhibits both
personal freedom and the pursuit of knowledge.
Do you believe that there is another reason why BYU should not be granted continuing
accreditation?
Other than a systemic oppression of its LGBT students you mean?
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
I attended a service academy which places more emphasis on its honor code than any other institution I
know of. It brought our community together and motivated us to strive to be better than when we
arrived. This is what BYU's honor code should achieve, and sadly- it does not.

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Name: Jonathan Adamson
Email Address: jonathan.d.adamson@gmail.com
City, State: Washington D.C.
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
I don't believe BYU gives full academic freedom. University is supposed to be a place where there is a
free exchange of ideas. It should be a place where ideas and rhetoric can be openly challenged as young
minds come upon new information which expands the mind and reconstructs world views. BYU insists
that during the entire duration of students most formative years, that they must conform and abide by a
religion many of them have never had the opportunity to think critically about. The honor code creates
an atmosphere where fellow students become potential spies who threaten to report fellow students
for any step made outside the construct of the Mormon religion. It infuses fear into students, who
through their study and learning, no longer wish to subscribe to the religion of their youth. A bishop is
effectively given power to suspend a student for whatever reason he may see fit. If a student no longer
identifies with Mormonism, he or she is still subject to the judgement of their Mormon ecclesiastical
leader who has no professional training or connection to education and learning.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
I was raised Mormon. I did everything a Mormon boy is expected to do and I believed in my religion and
followed the counsel of my religious leaders. I am also gay. I entered BYU following my two-year LDS
mission. My beliefs informed me from a young age that being gay was sinful and perverted. Because of
my Mormon upbringing, I refused to accept that I was gay and was committed to doing all that I could,
as prescribed by my religion, to make it go away. I entered BYU with this in mind and believed it would
be the best place for me to study if I hoped to be successful in overcoming what I believed to be a
fundamentally wrong part of my identity. I never acted on my gay feelings.
This was extremely harmful to my psychological, emotional, spiritual, and even physical well-being. As i
continued in school, I became more and more depressed. I was a shell of a person. There was no
support for LGBT students and during my time there (2007-2010), it was against the honor code to even
advocate for LGBT rights. My senior year, my world came tumbling down when I finally realized that I
had to face the reality that I was gay. I had a year left to finish.
Proponents of BYU's stance would say I should have just left an gone to another school. This would have
costed me thousands of dollars in extra tuition fees as I would struggle to find a school that would
accept all my credits and apply them to an existing program. It would have set graduation back at least a
year. It would have been a huge burden and possibly prevented me from obtaining my degree. I chose
to stay, forfeit my minor, and graduate in one semester.
Though I wanted to tell family and friends about the fact that I was gay (I had no one to talk to), I
couldn't risk it. I didn't know how people might react and one person could easily report me to a bishop
or the honor code office and my status as a student could be challenged. During this time I was
extremely depressed and suicidal. I wrote goodbye letters to family and decided on a plan to take my
life.
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This is wrong. This is a time in our lives where we are still discovering ourselves and how we view the
world. No student should be expected to know and accept their sexual orientation as a freshman in
college. That is a very difficult process all on its own- without the fear of university-imposed
consequences added to it. Young LGBT people are already 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than
their heterosexual peers. To expect students at BYU to not explore their identities because of lds
doctrine is wrong. Gay students should be allowed the same opportunities as straight students. They
should be allowed to date, hold hands, kiss, get engaged- and even married, just as their heterosexual
counterparts. They should not be bound to a religion they were born into which rejects the dignity of
the love and relationships they are just barely beginning to discover. They should not need to fear being
kicked out of their college as a senior with one semester left. They should not have to feel compelled to
lie to their families and friends or to pretend that their boyfriend or girlfriend is only a friend. It is
absolutely wrong.
These students should be able to leave their religion. They should be able to date just like their
heterosexual peers. We aren't talking about sex here. Heterosexual students can be kicked out for
engaging in premarital sex as well. But they aren't threatened with expulsion if they date. BYU puts the
well being of LGBT students in jeopardy. It it refuses to change its policies, it should lose accreditation.
Do you have a personal experience or story where you felt that you couldn't speak honestly
at BYU about your opinions, scholarship, or academic experience?
See above. When I was at BYU, Prop 8 was happening in California where I am from. BYU gave my
personal information, including my phone number, email, and home-state information, to an
organization that was recruiting students from California to volunteer in phone banking and canvassing
for Prop 8. There were also many people on campus recruiting students for the cause. There were NONE
fighting Prop 8. It would have been grounds for suspension. Until January 2011, it was against the honor
code to advocate for LGBT rights. As a gay person, I could have been kicked out of BYU for standing up
for my rights. Meanwhile, BYU gave out my personal information to organizations fighting against them.
Speaking up and defending my rights could have meant expulsion. So I had to remain silent.
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
The honor code punishes those who are honest. An honest student can confess something to their
bishop who can then have them suspended. Meanwhile, dishonest students lie to their bishops and get
through school without punishment. It also makes it a hostile environment where other students are
given encouragement to look in on and report their fellow students for behavior they might not deem
"worthy." It is a bad system and puts much too much power into the hands of ecclesiastical leadership
which acts too inconsistently. One bishop might be more laid back, while another is more strict.
Therefore you can have two students who break the same rule in identical ways but who are treated
completely different. One bishop might kick his case out of school, the other might only give a warning.
There is no consistency.

34

Name: *removed*
Email Address: *removed*
City, State: *removed*
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
I believe that BYU tries to, but does not truly allow students the freedom of individual thought. Students
(and faculty) are punished for daring to think twice about the LDS church and are entirely not allowed to
stop believing in the LDS church. They can't express or understand or communicate these serious
intellectual concepts.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
I wrote a paper for a BYU religious student symposium, said paper being written on Heavenly Mother
(an LDS concept with some controversy). Even though this topic was entirely within LDS doctrine and I
am a believing student, I had to constantly edit the paper with fellow BYU student peers to make sure
that, by the time my (scholarly, academic, research-based) paper reached the review board, it did not
include anything that could get me or my education in trouble. Simply the fact that I had to contain my
own research on a religious topic and stunt my own paper is chilling enough, let alone the dozens of
friends who have suffered.
Do you have a personal experience or story where you felt that you couldn't speak honestly
at BYU about your opinions, scholarship, or academic experience?
I am a bisexual girl who is uncertain of what I want to do in terms of relationship and love in the future.
This is not a sentence I could ever tie my name to if I had not already graduated (just last April), and it
isn't even contrary to BYU's honor code. Because of BYU's honor code, I have always felt like I could not
speak honestly about who I am, or about my opinions regarding religion, sexuality, and families. I had to
constantly watch my back and would not feel like I could speak openly, because anyone reporting
anything to the Honor Code Office would suddenly put my entire life under a microscope. This ruined
my chance at making friendships, severely hurt my mental health and spirituality, and ruined my dating
life.
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
Young adults go through a time where they understand who they are more than they ever have before.
This is when young adults understand sexuality and especially spirituality. To disallow students to
explore this, BYU encourages them to bottle it all up and explode in angry, anti-mormon, dangerous
lifestyles once they are graduated. Allowing students to explore their religious beliefs gives them the
chance to truly have their own non-parentally influenced testimony for the first time. Disallowing this is
DIRECTLY going against the religious freedom that the LDS church is fighting tooth and nail for in the
United States. (The same applies with letting students explore their sexual orientations, along with the
horrifying suicide statistics that come from a forced closet environment like BYU.)

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Name: Nephi Johnson
Email Address: nephi.johnson@gmail.com
City, State: Leander, TX
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
BYU does not give students or faculty full academic freedom. Students and faculty fear reprisals from
BYU management if they teach or express views that oppose teachings of the LDS Church.
Professors who no longer believe in the LDS Church may lose their job if their unbelief is exposed
(http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/10/20/a-brigham-young-university-professor-s-escapefrom-mormonism.html).
Students who are found to no longer be a believing mormon (member of the LDS church) are expelled
from the school, as a result of BYU's honor code policy: "Excommunication, disfellowshipment, or
disaffiliation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints automatically results in the loss of good
Honor Code standing". As BYU's honor code policy states, "Students must be in good Honor Code
standing to be admitted to, continue enrollment at, and graduate from BYU."
(http://registrar.byu.edu/catalog/2014-2015ucat/GeneralInfo/HonorCode.php).
Mormon students and faculty alike share the fear of reprisal from BYU management and the LDS church
if their views and beliefs change. The pervasive fear of changing one's views stands in opposition to the
goal of academic freedom, where truth is sought no matter where it may lead.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
While attending BYU I was a firm believer in the doctrine of the LDS church. I had seen classmates "fall
from the faith" of the LDS church. As a result, they lost their ecclesiastical endorsement and were forced
to leave BYU housing and attend another, more academically-free higher-education institution.
Years after I graduated from BYU, my views on the LDS church also changed. Although I was not directly
affected by BYU's academic-freedom-inhibiting "honor code" policy, if my views had changed while
attending BYU, I would have:

been expelled from the school
lost my job as a janitor for BYU (not believing in the LDS church means one would not be worthy,
and if one is not worthy, they cannot have a job at BYU - http://www.byu.edu/hr/?q=jobseekers/ecclesiastical-questions, question "Do LDS employees need to hold a current temple
recommend to work for BYU?")
been kicked out of BYU dorms (http://www.byu.edu/oncampushousing/files/sng_terms_
conditions_fall_winter_2014_2015.pdf - "4. ELIGIBILITY CONDITION").

Do you believe that there is another reason why BYU should not be granted continuing
accreditation?
BYU encourages internal harassment of those who apply critical thinking skills to LDS doctrines. What
greater degree of internal harassment and official harassment can there be beyond expelling students
36

based on their thoughts?
BYU students are only free to their own thoughts as long as they are in-line with the teachings and views
of the LDS church. It is encouraged to report to church leadership on others who have stopped believing
in the LDS church or express "anti-mormon" (i.e. critical thinking) sentiments. (In worthiness interviews
conducted by LDS bishops, one is asked if they "support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or
individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints").
According to BYU's mission and aims web page (http://aims.byu.edu/mission_statement), BYU is
"founded, supported, and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". The LDS church
maintains direct influence and control over policies at BYU. One of the leaders of the LDS church said the
following things to religious educators at an "Address to religious educators at a symposium on the
Doctrine and Covenants and Church history, Brigham Young University, 22 August 1981"
(https://www.lds.org/manual/teaching-seminary-preservice-readings-religion-370-471-and-475/themantle-is-far-far-greater-than-the-intellect?lang=eng)
"Accordingly, I repeat, there is no such thing as an accurate or objective history of the Church which
ignores the Spirit."
"Church history can be so very interesting and so inspiring as to be a very powerful tool indeed for
building faith. If not properly written or properly taught, it may be a faith destroyer."
"There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether
it is worthy or faith promoting or not."
"Some things that are true are not very useful."
"It matters very much not only what we are told but when we are told it. Be careful that you build faith
rather than destroy it."
"President Joseph Fielding Smith pointed out that it would be a foolish general who would give access to
all of his intelligence to his enemy. It is neither expected nor necessary for us to accommodate those
who seek to retrieve references from our sources, distort them, and use them against us."
As you can see from the above quotes, intellectuals, or "A person who engages in academic study or
critical evaluation of ideas and issues." are the enemy of the LDS church
(https://google.com/search?q=site:lds.org%20so-called%20intellectuals). Professors are not allowed to
be objective about their studies, especially when being objective might expose students to ideas that
might damage the students' faith in the LDS church.
Do you have a personal experience or story where you felt that you couldn't speak honestly
at BYU about your opinions, scholarship, or academic experience?
My name is Nephi Johnson. If you google "Nephi Johnson", results come up about something called the
"Mountain Meadows Massacre", an extremely controversial topic in LDS church history. Most of the
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articles are on web sites that tend to speak critically about the LDS church. It is part of the culture in the
LDS church (and at BYU) to view anything that even encourages an audience to think critically about the
LDS church and its leadership as "anti-mormon", i.e. "of the devil". Being at the time a firm believer in
the LDS church, when I realized the websites were speaking critically of the LDS church and its leaders, I
quickly stopped any further research. I had wanted to ask a history professor about it, but feared what
would happen if I brought to light that I was viewing "anti-mormon" material.
I was not aware at the time what effect changing my views on the LDS church would have had on my
academic career at BYU. However, this did not need to be explicitly brought to my attention as it was
already ingrained in me and the culture to disregard anything that opposes LDS church doctrine and
church leadership. This is not academic freedom, it is putting blinders on the eyes of students and
attempting to control the areas that they are allowed to question and seek the truth. The fact that it is
officially written into BYU's "honor code" drives home the point that this is intentionally the case.
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
BYU attempts to enforce the notion that there are authorities/corporations/answers that can not, under
any circumstance, be questioned. BYU's "honor code" policy is akin to putting blinders on the eyes of
students and attempting to control the areas that they are allowed to question and seek the truth. This
is not academic freedom.
I also find it discriminatory that former members of the LDS church are not allowed to attend, while
current members and those who have never been a member are allowed to attend. Behavioral conduct
in the "honor code" is fine, but I find discriminating based on prior religious views to be abhorrent.
Name: James Nagel
Email Address: nageljr@gmail.com
City, State: Salt Lake City, Utah
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
No. Attendance at BYU is strictly conditioned on ecclesiastical endorsement with regular church
attendance. Students of no faith or who lose their faith cannot publicly express those doubts without
running a real risk of losing their endorsement. This is equivalent to being expelled, since it means one
can no longer enroll into new classes for another semester and finish their degree.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
I earned my M.S. degree from BYU. When I applied for entry into a PhD program, my local ecclesiastical
authority specifically denied me an endorsement on the grounds that I was "unworthy." His justification
was simply because I openly expressed my disbelief in the faith claims of the LDS church. Otherwise, I
had met all other requirements of the honor code, such as abstinence from sex and alcohol.

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Name: Emily Young
Email Address: youngfamily801@gmail.com
City, State: Brigham City, UT
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
No. Students are not allowed to attend BYU unless they meet with Mormon clergy and make a legally
binding statement saying they agree with and meet particular religious beliefs.
The most troubling fact is the university, by its religious requirements and positions on issues is openly
sexist, homophobic, and racist (requiring students to take classes that reinforce the toxic doctrine).
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU?
I was openly ridiculed, several times, in class, for taking classes in male dominated fields. I saw
roommates and friends get kicked out of the university for getting pregnant outside of wedlock, openly
disagree with the political positions of the LDS church, and for being gay. They do this by revoking the
church's approval of the student on a moral basis.
Do you believe that there is another reason why BYU should not be granted continuing
accreditation?
It’s simply embarrassing to have attended a university that discourages free speech, free thought and
equal rights. The students who attend are not given the opportunity to really learn and my experience
has been that most organizations hiring, discount BYU graduates for the archaic, myopic education. Not
to mention the very large amount of credits students must take about the LDS religion. Lit is mandatory
for a student to take several classes a year on LDS books of scripture, the church's history, it's prophets
etc. That's not education, that's indoctrination. And it should be stopped.
Do you have a personal experience or story where you felt that you couldn't speak honestly
at BYU about your opinions, scholarship, or academic experience?
If you speak up about disagreeing with the church's on any point, you risk being kicked out of the
university. There are many examples, but most are related to supporting gay marriage or equal rights in
general or simply believing the LDS church doctrine is not based in fact. They then freeze your
transcripts so you can't transfer. The pressure is extreme. The friends I saw this happen to did not want
me to use their names as they didn't want to risk retaliation by the church.
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
when I attended, there was a part of the honor code that we were required to sign that said in addition
to keeping these "rules" ourselves, we promise to report anyone else who is violating the rules. This
creates an intimidating environment to live, let alone study. Teachers and students suggesting the LDS
church might not be literally true are promptly removed. My "dating/marriage prep" teacher was fired
for teaching us that masturbation is common and not a serious sin.

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Name: Gregory Astill
Email Address: gregory.astill@gmail.com
City, State: Pullman, WA
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
BYU does not allow freedom of thought for LDS students. Simply put, if an LDS student declares disbelief
about a single doctrine contained in the LDS Temple Recommend questions, they are immediately
placed on indefinite academic probation.
Explicitly stated in their Church Educational System Honor Code, "Students must be in good Honor Code
standing to be admitted to, continue enrollment at, and graduate from BYU. The term "good Honor
Code standing" means that a student's conduct is consistent with the Honor Code and the ideals and
principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Excommunication, disfellowshipment, or
disaffiliation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints automatically results in the loss of good
Honor Code standing."
Conduct "consistent with the ideals and principles of the LDS Church", is synonymous with LDS Temple
Recommend interview questions, as all LDS students must attain their Honor Code endorsement from
an LDS bishop who uses the Temple Recommend questions to determine the student's compliance with
LDS ideals and principles. Answering "no" to any of the belief-based Temple Recommend questions
disqualifies one from being "worthy" of holding the recommend. Those who do not have a temple
recommend do not qualify for an Honor Code endorsement.
Do you have a personal experience or story concerning academic freedom at BYU? If so,
please elaborate here.
My beliefs about God, Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith changed 3 months after I graduated from BYU. I
would not have been able to answer "yes" to the belief-based Temple Recommend questions that are a
requirement to receive an Honor Code endorsement to continue at BYU. Had my beliefs changed a year
or two earlier, I would have faced the decision of answering my LDS bishop honestly about my beliefs
and being kicked out of school or lying about what I believed to finish my degree or transfer to another
university.
BYU doesn't just kick you out for holding beliefs that disagree with Mormon theology--they also kick you
out of your housing and they prevent you from transferring any of the credits you have earned. Even if
the goal of the policy isn't to be intentionally vindictive towards doubters, it is unnecessarily harsh, very
obviously creating a culture that inhibits the free expression of ideas, thoughts and opinions.
Do you have a personal experience or story where you felt that you couldn't speak honestly
at BYU about your opinions, scholarship, or academic experience?
During my enrollment, no. But looking back at my position after graduation and after my belief change, I
realized how capricious my situation was. I did not expect, did not want, and did not believe that my
religious beliefs would change from those upheld in LDS theology, but when my beliefs did change, I
realized that BYU administrators could have caused me extreme duress had that changed occurred only
a year earlier and had I been open and honest with them about the change.
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Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
This issue affects a very small percentage of students in a very negative way. BYU clearly inhibits and
punishes, as stated directly in their policies and procedures through expulsion and transcript holds,
students who come to disbelieve any of the theological tenets expressed in the Temple Recommend
interview.
The solution is extremely simple and minimal for BYU--allow LDS BYU students who have come to
disbelieve one or more religious tenets included in the Temple Recommend interview to be interviewed
by the non-denominational chaplain to attain their Honor Code endorsement and allow them to stay
and pay non-subsidized tuition, or transfer with the credits they have earned.
BYU administrators often conflate Honor Code approved behaviors with Honor Code approved beliefs. I
advocate no changes to the behaviors, religious or otherwise, required by the Honor Code of Brigham
Young University. The policy that certain beliefs might be required to be in good standing with a
university's Honor Code directly contradicts section 2.A.28 of the NWCCU's Standards for Accreditation,
and is proof that changes are required for BYU to meet this standard.
Name: Braden Paxson
Email Address: bradenpaxson@broadweave.net
City, State: Orem, Utah
Do you believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to its students and faculty?
I do not believe that BYU gives full academic freedom to students and faculty. The church should not be
able to take action against faculty and students who voice opinions that might conflict with church
teachings.
To do so, seriously limits the value of BYU as an academic institution of higher learning because it is
biased toward the teachings of the church and not toward full academic freedom.
Do you have any other thoughts regarding the accreditation of BYU or your experiences
regarding BYU and its Honor Code?
For a church to claim to support freedom of religion yet sanction students for simply following their
personal belief shows that BYU really doesn't support freedom of religion. They must give former
members of the church the same rights as non members receive. The current church policy of forcing
members to remain in the church should be rescinded immediately. The aforementioned policy shows
the hypocritical side of the church. They profess to believe in religious freedom but the prohibit their
members from exercising that freedom.

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Name: *removed*
Email Address: *removed*
City, State: *removed*
I am currently a BYU student now and I really do love this university. The teachers, classes, and
environment are all one of a kind. I hope to graduate sometime next year. I support Free BYU because I,
being a former member of the LDS faith, have changed my religion, following the dictates of my
conscience.
I grew up a very good Mormon. I would go to seminary, never missed church, and had leadership
positions in youth quorums. I always felt a strong connection to the church when I was younger. I never
wanted to do anything to disappoint my mom. She made sure that the church played an important role
in my life. Because of my closeness to the church I decided to attend BYU. My freshman year was
probably the funnest time in my life. One by one, my friends went off on their missions, with everyone
being very excited about missionary work. I too, wanted to serve a mission. I knew that it was the ‘right’
thing to do. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone either. Besides, I believed this church to be true with all
my heart. So, like my friends, I filled out my mission papers. This mission would really change my life in
the best way possible, but not the way I would expect.
On my mission I realized that I hated being a missionary and the church left a lot of empty holes that I
felt needed to be filled. I felt exactly like a salesman on my mission. The church wasn’t satisfying me
both mentally and spiritually. While on my mission, my companion and I went to a mosque. It was the
first time in my life I had any encounters with Islam. I felt there the presence of God like I have never felt
in my entire history of being Mormon. It was such an amazing feeling. Words can not describe this
feeling. Well, such an experience would have it’s implications such as the possibility of the Church not
being the fullness of the truth. So I got back from my mission and did research on my own and I found
that this new religion was able to fill my soul with more light, and bring me closer to God. I found that
Islam explains our purpose more clear and powerful. Converting is definitely the best choice I have
made in my life. Unfortunately, BYU thinks otherwise.
So I got back to BYU with an enormous challenge of living living two lives. On the outside I am Mormon
to everyone, but inside I am a Muslim. It is so hard to live like this. I fear getting close to people for fear
of them finding out. I try to isolate myself from my ward for fear that they will see me practice my
religion. Islam requires that I do a ritual prayer five times a day. These prayers involve the whole body
and anyone seeing me pray could instantly spot me as a muslim. Every time I pray, I am afraid that
someone will see me or confront me. I have a hard time reading religious texts in my apartment and
praying is pretty much impossible. I can’t talk about this to anyone and the worst part, I am forced to lie
about this. On top of this all I have mental health problems that come up with stress. I have been having
panic attacks because of all of this stress. Despite all of this, I gain a great amount of strength from my
religion which helps me overcome all of this.
All I did was change my beliefs about God. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. I am not at all
trying to destroy the church. I don’t hate the church, I am not the church’s enemy. I just believe that
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there is more light out there than the church as to offer. This should be no grounds of kicking me out of
BYU. This is a very hypocritical policy. Putting a pause on studying and switching schools would be a very
hard thing for me, especially when I am so close to graduation.
Name: *removed*
Email Address: *removed*
City, State: *removed*
I think the Free BYU movement hits on an issue that is critical to the emotional and mental well-being of
students at BYU. I feel that oftentimes the culture within the Church is one of anxiety and fear of stating
one’s opinions freely, particularly when they are the minority and question doctrines of the Church or
opinions of Church (and university) leaders. This policy of expulsion from BYU, housing, and on-campus
jobs catalyzes that culture of suppressing opinions and free expression, which I think leads to bitterness
and anger. Changing the policy is unlikely to cause more people to leave the Church, but it is likely to
encourage a more (visible) diverse population at BYU, more free speech and expression, and to
demonstrate more love and compassion to those who decide to go inactive or that they no longer
subscribe to the beliefs of the LDS Church. When those who have doubts or disagree feel stifled, it
causes more animosity.
I transferred to BYU as a non-member and shortly thereafter was baptized in the Church. The decision to
get baptized was a difficult one for many reasons, but one of those reasons was the fear that if I got
baptized and later changed my mind, I wouldn’t be able to back out without having to leave the
university that I had just transferred to. Even though I did decide to get baptized because I felt that it
was the right thing to do and didn’t think I would change my mind later, it still felt like an extra pressure
from a Church that already provides so much pressure not to leave. It was more than just making a
religious change (which already is a huge decision), but it was committing myself to saying that I will
maintain this exact same mindset for the next four years unless I am willing to severely upset the course
of my life before those years are over. That kind of commitment is extremely difficult for anyone, not
just converts to the Church, when we are constantly changing beings with new perspectives and ideas.
Often this policy is seen as affecting primarily those who want the right to leave the Church, but also can
be a major negative impact on those who are considering joining.

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