Once again, the Lord’s University, BYU, is embroiled in a controversy regarding censorship and the essential values being taught there. A student entered into a photographic exhibition head shots of gay and straight students at BYU. They were paired — one gay and one straight — without identifying which was which. There was no nudity, no bare chests, no nothing, just head shots. BYU decided the display had to come down.
Several thoughts occur to me.
First, in light of the public relations nightmare engendered by the recent Prop. 8 dust-up, it would seem that the Church, and thus BYU, would want to blunt some of the criticism and put their words of understanding and tolerance into action. Allowing this display would have put some meat on the claim that they don’t hate gays, they just disapprove of homosexual behavior. Instead, this precipitous action seems to put their whole argument to the side, saying in actions what they’re not saying in words. How exactly do you feel about gays? Aren’t there gays at BYU? Don’t they deserve the same respect and dignity as straight students? It’s hard to fathom.
But there’s a second line of thought here, and I welcome your thoughts on this. Parents send their students to BYU and other Mormon-owned schools, in part, because they want to provide a “safe” environment for them. Secular universities are seen as hotbeds of anti-religious sentiment, and are to be avoided, if possible. BYU is “safe” precisely because it is governed by men who share their values. It seems to me that, when BYU is faced by situations such as the current one, they should stop, take a breath, and ask the question, “Does this action, this display, make our students less safe? Are they put in some kind of danger if we allow this to happen?”
This is exactly what they would think if their priorities were centered in the needs of the students. Instead, it seems that BYU follows a Church-driven agenda — a desire to please the higher authorities and cater to their agendas — rather than a plan to serve the student body in the best way possible.
Just a moment’s thought will convince most that the photographic display threatened nobody. No student would be less “safe” by the display of these head shots. No straight student would be tempted to become gay. It would, instead, reflect a kind of tolerance that the Church, and BYU, should be teaching.
Sigh. I guess the powers-that-be think that the Lord’s University is made safer by teaching INtolerance. I’m not sure the Lord would agree.