Honor Code wording on homosexual behavior and feelings changed

Hundreds of BYU students and alumni protested Honor Code Office procedures at the Cougar Quad on campus on April 12, 2019. Feb. 19 updates to the honor code provided clarity on disciplinary treatment of homosexual behavior. (Arianna Davidson)

BYU announced changes to the Church Educational System Honor Code in conjunction with the release of a new online handbook published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Wednesday morning.

The changes specifically removed a section of the former wording titled, “Homosexual Behavior,” and clarified how it will be addressed and disciplined by the Honor Code Office.

“God’s commandments forbid all unchaste behavior, either same-sex or heterosexual,” says the Church’s new handbook, entitled “General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

The new Honor Code, as posted on Wednesday morning, mandates the following:

  • Be honest.
  • Live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman.
  • Respect others, including the avoidance of profane and vulgar language.
  • Obey the law and follow campus policies.
  • Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, vaping and substance abuse.
  • Participate regularly in Church services (required only of Church members).
  • Observe Brigham Young University’s dress and grooming standards.
  • Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code.

The section below, which many in the LGBTQ community had felt was punitive toward some students, has been removed from the Honor Code.

Wording of the CES honor code regarding homosexual behavior before Feb. 19, 2020. This and other prescriptive language has been removed and replaced with a much shorter policy statement. (policy.byu.edu)

“If there’s an Honor Code infraction of any kind, now there’s no difference between a homosexual couple or heterosexual couple,” explained Riley Madrian, media representative for the Restore Honor movement. “It’s equal treatment for the same infraction regardless of orientation.”

Previously, the Honor Code banned any homosexual behavior and was unclear in its wording of how such issues would be addressed, Madrian said. She said that lack of clarity created fear for homosexual students who didn’t know what that meant for them.

“The Honor Code Office kept telling us, ‘We treat everyone the same,’ so we said, ‘You need to put that in writing,’” Madrian said. “Between our voices and everyone else’s, it looks like the administration really listened to us.”

The Honor Code update applies to all CES institutions of higher education, including BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii and LDS Business College.

News of the changes spread quickly once the announcement was made. Reporters seeking clarification of what the changes meant were initially met with silence, but as public reaction spread, the university’s web site addressed changes as shown below:

The wording of the updated Honor Code also includes the following:

“Sexual misconduct; obscene or indecent conduct or expressions; disorderly or disruptive conduct; participation in gambling activities; involvement with pornographic, erotic, indecent, or offensive material; and any other conduct or action inconsistent with the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Honor Code is not permitted.”

University Spokesperson Carri Jenkins responded late Wednesday to questions clarifying what the Honor Code adjustments mean for BYU and its students:

Q. “What exactly are the changes introduced in today’s honor code update? There seems to be some confusion.

A. “We have removed the more prescriptive language from the Honor Code and kept the focus on the principles of the Honor Code, which have not changed.”

Q. “What implications do these changes have for students at BYU?”

A. “The principles of the Honor Code remain the same. As we have said so often in the past, we will handle questions that arise on an individual, case-by-case basis.”

Q. “Was there any motivation behind these changes besides the release of the new church handbook?”

A. “To align the Honor Code with the doctrine and policies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Local media and the Associated Press were reporting Wednesday night that the Honor Code changes “ease the rules on homosexual behavior.” The Associated Press story was being carried by major news organizations including the New York Times and The Washington Post.

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