Counter-protesters join demonstrations near BYU-Idaho
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REXBURG — At the intersection of 4th South and 1st West, just off of the Brigham Young University-Idaho campus, it was difficult not to notice the stark contrast between two groups of demonstrators Monday afternoon.
On one corner stood a small handful of mostly men, conservatively dressed, holding signs with phrases such as “Honor the Code” and “Restore your Honor.”
On two other corners of the intersection, dozens of men and women held brightly colored signs, waved flags and danced and sang to music played over a loudspeaker, and cheered whenever passing cars honked. This group was protesting a recent change that took place to the Honor Code of BYU-Idaho and BYU in Provo, Utah, both schools owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These are a set of standards students agree to abide by as they attend the universities, such as abstaining from alcohol and sex outside of marriage.
Recently, a section in the Honor Code banning homosexual behavior was removed, which some students said prompted them to believe open dating between same-sex couples was acceptable. The Church Educational System later issued a “clarification.”
“Recently the language of the principle-based Church Educational System Honor Code was updated. Those adjustments included significant doctrinal and behavioral matters that have led to much discussion and some misinterpretation,” said Elder Paul V. Johnson, commissioner of the Church Educational System, in a letter. “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code.”
One protestor said the initial change to the Honor Code gave LGBTQ students “false hope.”
“A lot of LGBTQ people came out, and now they feel super unsafe,” Aubrey Pugmire said.
Protestor Peter Lopez said making marginalized groups feel safe is part of being a follower of Jesus Christ.
“If we truly take discipleship of Jesus Christ seriously, then anybody, no matter who you love or what your sexual orientation is or any sort of qualifier we put on it, they should feel the safest among us. The most loved among us,” Lopez said.
Protest organizer Nate McLaughlin said it was about fairness and principles.
“We just think that everyone should be treated equally. That’s what the church has said. And we think that if we’re at the church’s campus, then the principles of the church should live here,” McLaughlin said.
A counter-protester said his group was not participating in an anti-LGBT protest.
“This is a counter-protest to people condoning sin on campus and advocating for that,” said Andy, one of the organizers.
Andy did not want to provide his last name.
Another counter-protester said members of the LGBTQ community are being made to feel oppressed by the LGBTQ community itself.
“The truth of the matter is that most people do not care enough about your sexuality to want to hate you and oppress you. I think that the message that the Lord would have us put out there is that we’re sons and daughters of God and making being homosexual such a large part of your identity is not what he would want of you,” said Noah Blaylock.
Even with the strong disparity between the two groups of protesters, people on both sides had one thing in common to say about the other.
“I love them,” McLaughlin said.
“I want them to know that they’re loved just like anyone else,” Blaylock said.