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The Biden administration has closed an investigation against Brigham Young University in defeat and admitted that the private religious school was perfectly justified in disciplining students who’d violated or protested its ban on same-sex relationships.
The investigation began on Oct. 21st, 2021, an Education Department spokesperson recently told the Washington Examiner, though word of it didn’t appear in the media until late last month, when The Sale Lake Tribune announced that the Utah university “is under federal investigation for how it disciplines LGBTQ students.”
“Federal investigators were first alerted to a possible issue at BYU, which is operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [LDS Church], after a complaint was filed in response to changes made to the school’s strict Honor Code in spring 2020,” the Tribune reported on Jan. 20th.
“At the time, the university had removed a controversial section from the rules that banned ‘homosexual behavior.’ Some students celebrated, openly coming out as queer after, they said, school officials told them it was OK. But a few weeks later, the school clarified that same-sex partnerships would still be prohibited, even if the ban was no longer expressly written.”
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
In response, the school’s homosexual students protested “by lighting the iconic ‘Y’ on the mountain above BYU in rainbow colors.”
— Courtney Tanner (@CourtneyLTanner) March 5, 2021
This prompted the school into banning “protests on that property.”
The school has also been accused of refusing to “take any public action after a professor called a gay student a term associated with an anti-Christ” and allowing a top LDS Church member official to lecture students and faculty about same-sex marriage.
“He said they should instead take up their intellectual ‘muskets’ to defend ‘the doctrine of the family and … marriage as the union of a man and a woman’ — even if that costs the school some ‘professional associations and certifications,'” according to the Tribune.
Headed by the Biden Office of Civil Rights, the goal of the Biden administration’s investigation was to determine “whether such actions by BYU are allowable because it is a private school or if they violate LGBTQ students’ rights, by disciplining them more harshly than heterosexual peers who don’t face the same consequences for similar romantic behaviors.”
At the time that word of the investigation emerged in late January, school officials expressed confidence that BYU would come out on top.
“BYU is exempt from application of Title IX rules that conflict with the religious tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU does not anticipate any further action by OCR on this complaint,” school spokesperson Carri Jenkins said.
It turns out Jenkins was 100 percent correct.
In a letter submitted to BYU President Kevin J. Worthen on Tuesday, Biden DOE civil rights attorney Sandy Roesti admitted that thanks to BYU’s status as a religious school, “OCR lacks jurisdiction” to do anything about the school’s ban.
Roesti specifically listed 15 Title IX regulations and noted that applying the regulations to the school “would conflict with the religious tenets of the University’s controlling religious organization that pertain to sexual orientation and gender identity.”
“Because the University is exempt from the above-referenced regulatory provisions of Title IX to the extent that application of those provisions conflict with the religious tenets of its controlling religious organization, OCR lacks jurisdiction to address the complaint’s allegation,” the letter reads.
The school’s LGBTQ students were devastated.
“The disappointment spread over the community of LGBTQ students on Thursday. Many saw the decision as the latest in a string of recent events they have viewed as targeting those who are queer at the school, operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some said on Twitter that they didn’t know how to move forward now. A few said the decision made them cry,” according to the Tribune.
“We’ve known the church, and thus our school, was OK discriminating against us. But now the government has OK’d it. We are not OK,” one openly bisexual student, Madi Hawes, told the paper.
But it’s not clear to critics why LGBTQ students like Hawes were at BYU to begin with given that their lifestyles clearly conflict with the religious tenets of the LDS Church.
This is like going to Taco Bell and being surprised they don’t serve happy meals. Not saying it’s right, but it’s obvious the school and church aren’t the most friendly when it comes to anything outside of male and female relationships.
— Julio (@Jewelizmm) February 10, 2022
Don’t go to a BBQ joint if you’re vegan. Ain’t nothing there for you.
— Douglas Kinney (@KinneyMayo) February 11, 2022
Why do memebers of the LGBTQ go to BYU? Do they want to start a controversy? You know what you’re getting into
— Brandon (@BrandonKalos) February 10, 2022
I’m Mormon and not a fan of BYU. But this is their choice and they have the right to do it. If you don’t like it then go somewhere else. There’s no need to scream and shout and try to cancel anything. Make your own damn choice and pic.twitter.com/s4odmuxLeS
— Fra18 (@CJRaidUte) February 11, 2022
Both the school and its supporters have meanwhile been celebrating the end of the investigations. Including among the supporters is Utah Sen. Mike Lee:
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) February 10, 2022
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