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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Free to BYU and Me

The other day Brigham Young University, which is a private university operated by the Mormon church, announced that the third-leading scorer on its basketball team, Brandon Davies, would no longer be on the team due to a violation of the school’s Honor Code. Late last night the story broke that the violation consisted of having consensual sex with his girlfriend. This has caused something of an uproar, as some have said that it is none of the University’s business what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms, and that BYU is wrong to punish Davies since he did nothing wrong.

I disagree. I think BYU is well within their rights to punish Davies as they see fit.

I do not support BYU’s Honor Code. In addition to the prohibition of premarital sex, the code also forbids such pernicious social ills as tobacco, swearing, and drinking coffee. As of this writing it is unclear whether students are expelled for using the word “ain’t” or if they are merely issued warnings.

You are free to find this ridiculous, as I do. But I do not think that means you are free to take BYU’s money and then flaunt their rules. This is essentially what Davies did in accepting a basketball scholarship. Nothing about Davies punishment comes as a surprise to him. Like 98% of BYU students he is a Mormon, and in fact was raised in Provo, Utah, home of the university. BYU is very upfront about who they are and they are committed to their principles. Their athletic teams will not play on Sundays, for example.

What Davies did is certainly not illegal, and for most of us is not even unethical. His actions in no way mean that he is a bad person, it just means that he has chosen to live outside the code established by BYU and the Mormon church. The University has a right to establish guidelines and hold people to them, even if they go beyond the scope of law. There are other universities where this is true. Army, Navy, and Air Force routinely dismiss students, even student-athletes, for behavior that would not constitute an offense at any other school.

The interesting aspect of the outrage over Davies’ suspension is that so many people felt free to mock BYU for its supposedly outdated and unhealthy values. Many people can’t just disagree with the views of the Mormon faith but feel a need to try to prove them wrong. A lot of these people are the same sorts who claim to promote tolerance and “open-mindedness”. Somehow, being open-minded seems to mostly apply to people who’ve chose the same value systems that you have chosen.

I stated earlier that I do not agree with the provisions of the BYU Honor Code. My response was to not even consider going to school there. Davies freely chose to do so, for reasons we can’t know for certain, but whatever they were, his choice came with the caveat that he had to live by the rules. For many people, the rules at BYU are an enticement to enroll there. A truly open-minded person would respect their philosophy and allow them to practice it in peace.

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