Apr 14, 2016

American Bar Association advances religious discrimination investigation on BYU

April 13, 2016


A high-profile investigation into Brigham Young University advances, Wednesday, amid claims that the private institution violates students' religious liberties.

If the American Bar Association finds BYU to be out-of-compliance with non-discrimination standards, the law school could lose its accreditation. Meanwhile, some students say the results of the investigation can not come soon enough.

Good 4 Utah's Ali Monsen interviewed a BYU student the investigation impacts. She asked to remain anonymous for fear of expulsion but says she and her husband have basically lived a lie for the last year.

"I do what the honor code requires, I go to church every week, and I fulfill my callings... A lot of times it just means being quiet about what I think and feel and not speaking up," she said.

The anonymous student says she fell away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after serving a Mormon mission but that she can not officially leave the LDS church without violating BYU's honor code.

"I would be kicked out of school, and lose my job, and lose my housing," she explained.

While Mormon students who change religions face serious penalties, non-Mormon students converting faiths do not.

A BYU spokesperson explained the policy differences, stating that "because of covenants and commitments members of the LDS church have made," for Mormon students the honor code "includes following the values and standards of their religion."

But a group called FreeBYU calls the so called 'disaffiliation policies' religious discrimination.

"Most of us [FreeBYU members] are BYU alumni. We have a lot of affection for the school. What we're advocating is an improvement and a reform... We do want the honor code to be reformed so that people that go through faith transitions aren't so impacted," said Brad Levin, Director of FreeBYU.

The group filed a complaint with the American Bar Association months ago, which started an investigation. This week, the ABA confirmed its decision to advance the case on to its accreditation committee, which will ultimately decide whether or not BYU is in compliance with ABA non-discrimination standards and potentially impose sanctions.

Accreditation officials have a meeting scheduled this week, where they could take up the issue. Typically, though, complaints take months -- sometimes more than a year -- to fully investigate.

Wednesday, a BYU spokesperson responded to the situation saying FreeBYU previously made the same complaint to the university's regional accreditor and was unsuccessful. The statement also states, "We remain confident that the law school is in compliance with accreditation standards and look forward to the ABA's resolution of this matter."


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