BYU softens honor code, bar association complaint rejected

BYU softens part of honor code, bar association complaint rejected (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) A complaint filed against BYU has been rejected after changes were quietly made to soften parts of the school's honor code.

Brad Levin, a BYU law school graduate, filed a complaint with the school and then with the American Bar Association over the school's requirement that LDS students enrolled in the university, stay in the church. The ABA rejected the complaint after some room was created in the school's behavioral code for such students who lose their faith.

This change, made in November, may allow LDS students, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to leave the church but maintain their academic standing at BYU.

New changes state that "observing the standards of the honor code" may be enough to "warrant an exception to the university's ecclesiastical endorsement requirement."

The changes might provide students who leave the church a way to stay at the school, but provide no guarantee.

Levin graduated, but came close to losing everything he had worked for when his church leaders questioned if his public support of same-sex marriage violated the honor code.

Students are not required to be members of the LDS church to enroll in the church-owned school -- named after one of its prophets, Brigham Young -- but if they started as a member they had to stay that way. Levin believes that is out of line with other church teachings.

"It is important for ethical reasons. LDS people have very strong beliefs of religious freedom and LDS authorities from Joseph Smith to the present have been very clear an consistent what that means," Levin said. "It's important all students at BYU can express and have any religious and affiliation without risking expulsion or termination."

Levin said he doesn't consider his efforts with the ABA to be destructive to BYU but is his attempt to make the school better.

A BYU spokeswoman said Wednesday that each student will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis if they lose their faith at BYU. So while the door has been opened to maintain their status and maintain their academic record, there is still no hard and fast rule. Student's lifestyle standards will be expected to remain the same.

The softening of the honor code was only made at the Provo BYU campus, no changes have been made to BYU Hawaii, BYU Idaho, or the LDS business college.

Free BYU, the group of alumni who filed the complaint, want to see changes made to all the church-owned schools.

Its hope is that someday the school will treat students who have a faith transition the same way LGBT students are treated under the honor code, where you are only judged on your actions not your feelings or beliefs. They believe the church has an interest in the transition referencing the 11th Article of Faith.

"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."

BYU's law school website said:

The J. Reuben Clark Law School has been accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) since 1974. Last year the ABA received a complaint alleging that the Law School was not operating in compliance with certain ABA Standards. We recently received notice that the ABA has rejected the complaint and has closed the matter. The complainant had previously made a similar complaint to Brigham Young University’s regional accreditor—the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities—which was likewise rejected.
The Law School is grateful to the ABA for its role in ensuring the quality of American legal education. In the 43 years since its start, BYU Law has risen to a place among the top law schools in the United States. Next week, we are excited to welcome another extraordinary class of students who, according to their entering credentials, are expected to be in the top 10 percent in the country. We look forward to making continued progress as we pursue our mission of providing our students an outstanding legal education in an atmosphere of religious faith.

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