A protest put on by LGBTQ supporters near the Brigham Young University-Idaho campus. | Brittni Johnson, EastIdahoNews.com
REXBURG — More than 50 LGBTQ protestors gathered near the Brigham Young University-Idaho campus Friday after they say they were given a “false hope” that Latter-day Saint church leaders cared about them.
About two weeks ago, the student honor code at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah was updated and a section, which banned “homosexual behavior” on campus was removed, according to CNN. Similar updates were made at other church schools.
The change left many LGBTQ students feeling like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was shifting its stance on homosexual relationships and that open dating between same-sex couples would be allowed.
But on Wednesday, the Church Educational System clarified the meaning behind the changes to the Honor Code in a letter sent to students and employees at all CES schools, including BYU-Idaho.
“Recently the language of the principle-based Church Educational System Honor Code was updated. Those adjustments included significant doctrinal and behavioral matters that have led to much discussion and some misinterpretation,” said Elder Paul V. Johnson, commissioner of the Church Educational System, in the letter. “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code.”
The LDS Church, which owns BYU and BYU-Idaho, encourages love and compassion toward the LGBTQ community, but considers acting on homosexual attraction to be a sin, which is reflected in the Honor Code.
The code, which all students sign when enrolling at a church school, deals with a wide variety of personal, social and religious conduct students must adhere to, which includes prohibiting sexual activity outside of traditional marriage, where students can live, and what type of clothes or hair styles they can have.
Today this letter from Elder Paul V. Johnson, Commissioner of the Church Educational System, regarding the updated Honor Code was sent to students and employees at all CES schools. pic.twitter.com/sADljd8lQT
— BYU (@BYU) March 4, 2020
Since the clarification was made Wednesday, there have been student protests at BYU in Provo and in Salt Lake City near the LDS Church headquarters. Similar protests have been held in Rexburg this week near the BYU-Idaho Center.
RELATED: ‘We’re not going away’: Hundreds protest in Salt Lake after BYU’s Honor Code clarification
Spencer Sanders is a sophomore at BYU-Idaho who chooses not to identify as male or female. Sanders spent time preaching the LDS faith to people as a missionary for the church, but Friday, Sanders was on the sidewalk protesting.
“So many students felt safe for the first time when they felt that they could date for the first time and that they could be open,” Sanders said. “But that came back to bite (people) when they reversed the changes.”
Sanders feels like LGBTQ students don’t have the same freedom that students who aren’t homosexual have.
Brittni Johnson, EastIdahoNews.com
“I want to be able to hug a guy without someone being mad at me for acting out,” Sanders said. “If a straight man hugs a straight girl, it’s beautiful. But if I hug a guy, suddenly it’s a crime, and I could get in trouble for it.”
Nate McLaughlin organized the protest. He said BYU-Idaho wouldn’t get back to LGBTQ students when they noticed the change and had questions. They contacted BYU Provo.
“At Provo, they said gay couples could date, kiss, hold hands, everything a straight couple could do — on campus and off campus,” McLaughlin said.
Then he read the CES letter.
“I was really mad about that. A lot of people were mad about that because a lot of really good things don’t lead to an eternal marriage,” McLaughlin said.
Students and nonstudents in eastern Idaho protested Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and they plan to protest next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, McLaughlin said.
“There are students on campuses that need to feel safe, love, they need to know they belong, and they don’t right now,” McLaughlin said. “The way (CES) is treating homosexual behavior and non-homosexual behavior is not the same, despite the fact the church has said several times the church will treat both the same.”
Brittni Johnson, EastIdahoNews.com