CES Letter addresses BYU Honor Code updates

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a letter on Wednesday clarifying recent changes in BYU’s Honor Code.

A divisive controversy on campus has continued to grow over the past couple of weeks because a detailed section of the Honor Code referring to homosexual behavior on campus was removed. Advocates have claimed the change has accomodated same-sex dating on campus.

“Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code,” reads a letter from Elder Paul V. Johnson, Commissioner of the Church Educational System (CES).

Reaction from the LGBT community was swift. More than a hundred students marched and protested with signs on the campus’s Brigham Square within several hours of the letter being released. 

In addition to the letter, BYU’s Honor Code Office Director Kevin Utt published a Q&A addressing recent Honor Code questions. According to Utt, the Honor Code was changed to, “create a single standard for all CES institutions that is consistent with the recently released General Handbook of the Church.”

Whether changes in the Honor Code language meant gay dating on campus now accepted has been a key point of controversy. Here is the entire Q&A:

Why was the prescriptive homosexual behavior language removed from the Honor Code?
The Honor Code was changed to create a single standard for all CES institutions that is consistent with the recently released General Handbook of the Church.

How do you expect members of the campus community to respond to the events of the last two weeks?
We realize that emotions over the last two weeks cover the spectrum and that some have and will continue to feel isolation and pain. We encourage all members of our campus community to reach out to those who are personally affected with sensitivity, love and respect.

Can members of our campus community who identify as LGBTQ or SSA be disciplined for going on a date, holding hands and kissing?
Elder Johnson in his letter counsels, “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code.” Therefore, any same-sex romantic behavior is a violation of the principles of the Honor Code.

Does the university expect students to report fellow LGBTQ or SSA students to the Honor Code Office for romantic behavior?
One of the Honor Code principles states: “Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code.” Encourage is not synonymous with “turn someone in.” Encourage is an action that means to give support, confidence or hope to someone. We are all members of the BYU community—thousands of people coming together to develop faith, intellect and character, and we should always reach out in love and support to those around us.

What happens when someone reports a student to the Honor Code Office?
For a complete description of the Honor Code Office investigation and review process, go to HonorCode.byu.edu. Please remember the office does not investigate anonymous reports and the reporting individual must agree to have their name be known, except where the reported behavior could impact the physical safety of members of our campus community.

How does the Honor Code Office work with ecclesiastical leaders on this matter?
The Honor Code Office does not work with students’ ecclesiastical leaders, nor does it weigh in on endorsement decisions made by ecclesiastical leaders.

All universities have a code of conduct that outlines the expectations of behavior for its students. BYU calls its code of conduct the Honor Code. All universities also have an office that is primarily responsible for addressing behaviors that violate its code of conduct, which is generally under the purview of the Dean of Students Office. At BYU, the Honor Code Office has the responsibility to address behaviors that violate its code of conduct.

Changes in the Honor Code language has generated national media coverage. Some students began participating in public displays of homosexual affection and posting photos on social media. A reading of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” took place last Wednesday on Rainbow Day, while some students dressed in pride gear sang hymns to drown out the reading.

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