When we heard that Brigham Young University, the pretend college Mormons attend where they can “discover themselves” under the safe and watchful eye of the Church of Latter Day Saints, had taken down a student’s gay-related art project without notice over the weekend, our shock meter barely registered. After all, you want students to “discover themselves”, but only so long as that discovery leads to the decision to spend two years as a missionary before settling down with a wife and fifteen kids in Ogden. Pictures of gays in the photo gallery seems like an obvious ‘no-no’.
But today, consider the shock meter set to ‘arched eyebrow’. Today the Deseret News reports that BYU spokesman Michael Smart says the whole thing was a big mix-up:
“When the action became apparent after the weekend, college administrators reviewed the decision,” Smart said. “Because the project does not violate BYU’s honor code, the project was rehung Tuesday afternoon.”
BYU admits gay students who sign the school’s honor code, which prohibits sex outside of marriage.
“One’s stated same-sex gender attraction is not an honor code issue,” Smart said. “Homosexual behavior is a violation of the honor code.”
The project, by student Michael Wiltbank, a senior from Eagar, Ariz. takes a self-identified gay student and pairs them with a supportive friend or family member, but doesn’t label who is who. That’s it. No Mapplethorpe nudity, no missionaries being sodomized, just portraits of two folks, side by side.
The only one who could possibly be offended by it is photographer Julie Moos, who did the same thing with house cleaners and the people who employ them in her series “Domestics” and also with high school students in the self-explanatory series “Friends and Enemies.”
Wiltbank responded to the fracas on his website yesterday, writing:
“I thank the leadership of BYU’s College of Fine Arts and Communications for their willingness to reconsider and then reverse the initial decision to remove the artwork. The whole point of my project and the exhibit was to promote dialogue and discussion and, I hoped, increased understanding among those who might otherwise feel their differences were too great to overcome. I think the administration’s action has been a good example of that increased understanding. I hope that all students, faculty, staff and guests who can now view the project again will follow that example and will also be prompted to the same kind of respectful consideration, tolerance and willingness to reconsider personal perspectives.”