Brigham Young University (BYU) has been no stranger to controversy in the past month. The university, a private institution affiliated with the Church Educational System (a system adopted by any University associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), has operated with a notoriously strict honor code by which students are expected to live, dress, behave, and learn since the 1940s. Until February of this year, the Honor Code infamously contained the guideline that students of the university are banned from engaging in “all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings,” which has understandably outraged students of all sexualities across campus. In response, BYU changed its Honor Code’s wording on the official Policies webpage on February 12 to outline that students are expected to “Live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman.” While this new change came as a welcome surprise to many students, the Commissioner of the CES released an official clarifying statement shortly after the change was made, claiming that “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to the eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code.”

As a practicing libertarian, I believe in the university’s right as a private institution to create and enforce the Honor Code on campus; however, the principles of libertarianism remain even more loyal to the rights of individual students. Students, just as citizens in the world they are being educated to join and lead one day, have a fundamental right to freedom of sexual orientation. BYU, in creating an Honor Code that breaches personal freedom and stifles individuality is violating that basic human right. In addition, the decision to provide a statement clarifying that, even with the change in Honor Code wording, some students’ sexualities are not inline with the University’s standards added a level of cruelty and discrimination to the situation that could have been avoided. It is my belief that all institutes of learning, including BYU, should consider what kind of learning environment they provide students when they openly criticize the sexuality of a substantial number of students. After all, students may begin to feel that it’s inappropriate to continue paying tuition to a university that does not respect students of all sexual orientations. 

One Comment on “BYU Honor Code on Same-Sex Relationships”

  1. The Libertarian position really clarifies US common law and hinges entirely on whether this is a private institution of personal (club) that can discriminate and set fairl;y stringent admission rules or one for public offer that can’t but neutrally serve all comers.

    I don’t know enough about BYU but if they ONLY seek out and admit devout Mormons, then the code applies. BUT if they admit or have ever admitted a non-Mormon student, then they’re for public offer and there is grounds for a class action lawsuit on discrimination and breach of implied contract. Marriage in the US now included persons of any gender/sex orientation.

    One wrinkle is that Mormons have been led by eminent libertarian fans (that guy, for instance, in the Eisenhower administration whose name escapes me) who have called the revelations on the subject mis-understood.

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