Students protest choice for ethics award

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Photos by Renee Lindsay

Three UVU students and an alumnus held signs and stood in protest as Sen. Orrin Hatch accepted UVU’s 2016 Excellence in Ethics Award Sept. 26.

Anthropology major and protest organizer, Julie Parma, respects UVU’s process in selecting recipients for its Excellence in Ethics award, but could not understand why Hatch was chosen.

“I haven’t heard from anyone the reason why he was nominated and given this award. Not one person has given me a reason,” Parma said. “By highlighting him as an ethical person you’re completely shutting out all the inclusivity dialogues that UVU has about being a diverse campus. I’m trying to figure it out.”

During his acceptance speech, the senator said he hadn’t planned on bringing up religion but felt compelled to speak about the vital role of faith in personal and public ethics.

According to Hatch, God played an intellectual role in the development of his own ethics. Calling upon America’s own history, Hatch attributed the Founding Fathers’ vision and Constitution to an “amalgam of both reason and revelation,” all the while warning his audience against secularism.

Hatch used examples of countries such as the Soviet Union, communist China under Mao and North Korea as “governments established on atheistic political philosophies [that] have brought nothing to humanity but death and suffering on a massive scale.”

Hatch, who is a member of the LDS church, noted his imperative to stay true to the faith when it came to public policy.

“Don’t judge people just because they have religious beliefs to live up to,” Hatch said. “It’s not easy being a United States senator.”

According to Parma, Hatch’s political history makes him unqualified to receive UVU’s Excellence in Ethics award, and the decision to nominate him runs counter to the Center for the Study of Ethics’ own mission to “bring diverse voices together in thoughtful and productive dialogue.”

The senator chose to address the student protestors towards the end of his speech, despite being told by event organizers that he was out of time.  Hatch called for a traditional interpretation of the Constitution, warning of a disastrous future if changes to the constitution are allowed at will.

Daniela Rosbach, protestor and recent alumni, found Sen. Hatch’s speech condescending.

“He called us ‘the kids in the back,’ you know, ‘You must be atheist, you must be the ones who are falling away from God,’” Rosbach said.  “I’m a devout member of the LDS faith and I’m serving a mission in February.”

Oakley Hill, student protestor and peace and justice studies major, asked Sen. Hatch about the morality of religious individuals who misunderstand their own religions. Hill cited the foot soldiers of ISIS as an example.

The senator did not comment on ISIS. Instead, Hatch spoke to Hill about gay rights.

“I’m one of the few attorneys that represented gay people,” Hatch said.

“Religion has a time and a place,” Rosbach said, “and this is not it.”

Elaine Engelhardt, distinguished professor of ethics, said the protestors were not disruptive. She hopes the protestors and the senator learned something from one another.