BYU Student Newspaper Cuts “Offensive” Prop. 8 Letter

A strange self-censorship case is brewing at Brigham Young University. Editors at The Daily Universe, BYU’s campus newspaper, recently removed a letter to the editor from its website seemingly for no other reason than its espousal of views at odds with leaders of the school’s affiliated church.

As Cynthia Lee writes for By Common Consent, and a separate Religious Dispatches post confirms, BYU pre-med student Cary Crall penned a letter published last week in the Universe explaining the apparent weaknesses of arguments in favor of California’s Proposition 8.  Prop. 8, also called the “Marriage Protection Act,” is strongly supported by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), which owns and operates BYU.

Crall noted that most of the arguments put forward by the LDS church and other Prop. 8 proponents in the related political campaign were either absent during the recent judicial proceedings or struck down by the ruling judge as irrelevant. In closing, Crall noted:

It is time for LDS supporters of Prop. 8 to be honest about their reasons for supporting the amendment. It’s not about adoption rights, or the first amendment or tradition. These arguments were not found worthy of the standards for finding facts set up by our judicial system. The real reason is that a man who most of us believe is a prophet of God told us to support the amendment. We must accept this explanation, along with all its consequences for good or ill on our own relationship with God and his children here on earth. Maybe then we will stop thoughtlessly spouting reasons that are offensive to gays and lesbians and indefensible to those not of our faith.

The Crall letter appeared on the Universe site first thing Tuesday morning.  Hours later it was gone.  The next day, the following statement appeared in its place: “The Daily Universe made an independent decision to remove the student viewpoint titled ‘Defending Proposition 8’ after being alerted by various readers that the content of the editorial was offensive. The publication of this viewpoint was not intended to offend, but after further review we recognized that it contained offensive content. This is consistent with policy that the Daily Universe has, on rare occasions, exercised in the past.”

My take: Huh?  On the face of it, Crall appears to be the victim of the common censorship practice of post-publication confiscation.  Typically, readers carry out this act by trashing newspapers containing content they do not like.  In this case, it is the papers’ own editors removing content they initially approved- and without a solid explanation for their extremely sudden about-face.

The especially vague portion of the statement: “[T]he editorial was offensive.”  My follow-up questions: Offensive to who?  Why?  And so what? Commentaries and letters to the editor are meant to provoke reactions, rub people the right or wrong way, initiate action, a larger conversation, a small bit of change in our crazy world.  This letter puts forth a rational argument and displays a solid understanding of the target issue. Daily Universe editors obviously felt it was worthy of public perusal and comment. That’s why they published it.  Then, apparently a flood of criticism poured in and the paper’s editorial independence levees broke.

The Universe statement called the letter’s removal an “independent decision.” Hmmm.  An one trusted source tells me, “We have every reason to believe that the letter was removed not because of student claims that it was ‘offensive,’ but because of administration pressure.” Of course, that may or may not be the case.  But with such a rash reversal and weak explanation, it is hard not to see darker forces at work here.

Ultimately, while the Crall letter may be offensive to some Mormons, censoring it is offensive to all journalists. Its removal is also offensive to everyone in the BYU universe who saw the student paper as a safe place to share their views and occasionally even, gasp, disagree.

4 Responses to “BYU Student Newspaper Cuts “Offensive” Prop. 8 Letter”
  1. I was very pleased to read a truly honest opinion by a BYU medical student. I am a mother of a gay child. There is no doubt in my mind that he was born that way. Who in their right mind would choose to be gay? My husband and I have become inactive because of all the hate and homophobia coming from the LDS church and certainly most of the other churches as well. Most GOOD MORMONS dont have any idea when they are spewing their hate, who is listening to them and the pain that it causes others. I just want to stand up and scream. My child is a good , honest, kind, caring, compasionate, child of God, not a demented pedifile. Stop driving church members away from the church!

  2. Cody says:

    I’m a graduate of Brigham Young University, and I found Cary Crall’s comments very offensive. I’m not offended because she disagrees with my beliefs, and stated it; I’m offended because she genuinely insulted me and many others with insinuations that we blindly follow our Prophet, and research nothing for ourselves. I’ve researched the Prop 8 issues, and am well informed. I supported the proposition because I believed it to be right, not because I was told to.

  3. ExMoHoMoDon says:

    Re: Cody
    If you had actually read Crall’s comments, you might know that he is a guy, not a girl. Other than your ‘Prophet’s’ instructions, what evidence do you have that informs your decision to support Prop 8. Would love to hear what you have to say.

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