Anti-mask crowd protests outside BYU president’s house

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Individuals stand outside of BYU President Kevin J Worthen’s house on Nov. 20 to protest BYU’s measures against COVID-19. (Suzanne Montague)

About 30 individuals protesting BYU’s COVID-19 safety measures gathered in front of Brigham Young University President Kevin J Worthen’s house Friday evening.

The demonstration lasted about two hours and participants ranged from BYU and UVU students and alumni to members of the community.

Provo Police Sgt. Nisha King said the department received a call to report the protest, “but our officers went by and saw that it was peaceful, so it was all clear.”

BYU currently requires students, employees and campus visitors to wear face masks as in all classroom settings and inside all university buildings. The university, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is following the Church’s directive to “Follow public health agency recommendations for using a face mask.”

BYU Chinese major Bella Isom drove from St. George to attend the event. She said although she decided to take online classes this semester, she’s still concerned about how BYU’s decisions on COVID are affecting her fellow students.

“Our goal is to ask for our liberties back,” Isom said. “We feel like BYU has made it really hard on the students to decide how they’re going to respond to the state of the situation.”

Isom started a petition earlier this year calling on BYU to make the use of the Healthy Together App voluntary and to end the required COVID-19 testing of BYU students and employees. She believes BYU’s decision to implement those measures have undermined the university’s attempts over the past few years to promote the idea that consent is important.

She said her repeated efforts to contact President Worthen about her concerns have been met with radio silence.

“We feel unheard and ignored,” she said. “Quite honestly, it’s really disheartening.”

BYU and UVU students protest safety measures against COVID-19, which they see as a violation of their agency. (Suzanne Montague)

A woman who identified herself as Teri but declined to give her last name said she and others present at Friday’s demonstration also participated in other protests across the state, including those at the houses of Gov. Gary Herbert, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn and Gov.-elect Spencer Cox.

“We’re gonna keep fighting because our rights are being taken away,” she said, adding that she’s concerned about those who have lost their jobs or suffered domestic violence or substance abuse during the pandemic.

BYU alumna Chrisann Justice, a Spanish teacher from Alaska whose daughter attends BYU, said she was excited her trip to Utah coincided with the protest so she could express her concerns.

“BYU is taking a completely ignorant attack, and they are destroying students’ education — education that they are paying for. And it really makes me sick,” Justice said. “I am concerned because people are not educating them about what is really happening.”

She added that she wishes there were BYU professors who were “really questioning the science and doing the research and figuring things out so they could be better counseling our church leaders.”

In July, the university published an article saying BYU professor Ben Abbott and three students conducted research concluding that “masks could be one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools to stop COVID-19 and accelerate the economic recovery.”

“This new meta-analysis found that masks are highly safe, with only minor and uncommon side effects. The report states that ‘In addition to many medical studies, public masking has been proven safe among children, adults, and the elderly in cultures where this practice has long been common.’ “

“This new meta-analysis found that masks are highly safe, with only minor and uncommon side effects. The report states that ‘In addition to many medical studies, public masking has been proven safe among children, adults, and the elderly in cultures where this practice has long been common.’ “

The university has not responded to The Daily Universe’s request for comment about the protest at the university president’s home.

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