Federal investigation against BYU dismissed

Students gather at BYU to protest statements made by school officials concerning the Honor Code in March 2020. (Photo by Ashley Nash)

Brigham Young University was placed under a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education, due to complaints about the treatment and discipline school administrators dealt to LGBTQIA+ students. The investigation has since been dismissed.

The investigation came to fruition due to a complaint concerning the school’s actions in March 2020. In the most recent version of the school’s  Honor Code, BYU removed the section on homosexual behavior. Days later, Paul V. Johnson, the commissioner of the Church Educational System released a letter, clarifying that this change did not mean the church’s stance on homosexual behavior was any different than before. “One change to the Honor Code language that has raised questions was the removal of a section on ‘Homosexual Behavior.’ The moral standards of the Church did not change with the recent release of the General Handbook or the updated Honor Code,” said Johnson.

Homosexual dating is still prohibited in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and on all BYU campuses. “Students can be punished for holding hands or kissing someone of the same sex, harsher discipline than that faced by heterosexual couples at the school,” according to AP News.

In response to the abrupt changes in code, many students expressed that they felt misled. Hundreds of students protested BYU’s actions at the LDS church headquarters in Salt Lake City, and on BYU’s campus, according to previous reporting by The Review on the event.

BYU president, Kevin J. Worthen, released a notice of religious exemption to Title IX addressed to the U.S. Department of Education in response to the investigation.

“We affirm the religious protections [of] the United States Constitution, and other laws provide to BYU,” said Worthen, “and we assert our religious exemption with respect to any application of Title IX relating to sexual orientation and gender identity that is not consistent with the religious tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”

Title IX is enforced by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education. Any school that receives federal assistance from the Department of Education must abide by Title IX, which includes BYU. Title IX requires schools to “operate its education program or activity in a non-discriminatory manner free of discrimination based on sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity,” stated on the OCR’s website on Title IX.

There are exemptions to Title IX for schools controlled by religious organizations, which was the factor that released BYU from any further federal investigation. “Title IX does not apply to an educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization to the extent that application of Title IX would be inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization,” according to the OCR website. “BYU had anticipated that OCR would dismiss the complaint because OCR has repeatedly recognized BYU’s religious exemption for Title IX requirements that are not consistent with the religious tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” according to a news release from BYU

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