Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Former LDS students are not eligible to receive an ecclesiastical endorsement"

I frequently observe a comment like this one in discussions about religious freedom at BYU:

Because this question comes up so often, I provide my answer to it here, so folks can link to it in subsequent discussions.

Hi Conner,
Yours is a sensible question: it would seem a student who leaves the LDS church would simply obtain an ecclesiastical endorsement from another source.

Unfortunately, however, the honor code plainly states: “Former LDS students are not eligible to receive an ecclesiastical endorsement.”

That policy is further underscored by the subsequent letter a BYU Student receives after tendering their resignation letter:

Dear student,
Bishop __ has informed the Honor Code Office that your ecclesiastical endorsement has been withdrawn. Since university policy requires all students to have a current endorsement, we have placed a hold on your registration, graduation, and diploma until you are able to qualify for a new one. Effective immediately, you are no longer eligible to attend daytime or evening classes, to register for other courses, to graduate from BYU, to work for the university, or to reside in BYU contract housing. You cannot enroll in or be enrolled in any BYU course that could apply to graduation, including but not limited to Independent Study courses, until you are returned to good standing. Please note that you may not represent the university or participate in any university programs such as Study Abroad, academic internships, performing groups, etc. A hold has been placed on your record which will prevent you from being considered for admission to any Church Educational System school until you are returned to good Honor Code standing. Good Honor Code standing includes a valid, current ecclesiastical endorsement.

The Honor Code Office will work with Discontinuance to remove your classes. If you have any questions please call the Honor Code Office. If you are currently working on past incomplete grade contracts please notify the honor Code Office immediately. When you are ready to return to the university, you must work closely with the Admissions Office, A-153 ASB, (801) 422-2507, regarding readmission requirements.

During at least the next twelve months, Bishop ___’s clearance must be obtained
before any other bishop can endorse you. Your Bishop must verbally notify the Honor Code Office as soon as your endorsement has been reinstated. Also be aware that you must stay in contact with the Admissions Office in A-153 ASB (422-2507) regarding readmission requirements if you are away for a full semester. Because the ecclesiastical interview is confidential, any questions regarding your church standing must be resolved with your ecclesiastical leaders. The withdrawal of your endorsement is independent of any investigation or action that may be taken by the Honor Code Office.

If you have any questions about the withdrawal of your endorsement, please contact your bishop and/or your stake president. Your classes will be discontinued immediately.

Larry Neal, Honor Code Office Director

As I argue elsewhere, this policy unnecessarily burdens the religious exercise of LDS BYU students, and is inconsistent with our own teachings about religious freedom, as well as our own tradition of religious tolerance (think for instance of Nauvoo: we granted more religious tolerance to ex-Mormons and non-Mormons than some would expect, given LDS dominance in civic decision making).

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Religious Freedom at BYU: How it Works v. How it Should Work

"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." - Joseph Smith, Article of Faith 11

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