Teacher fired for defending gay marriage
An adjunct philosophy instructor has been fired by Brigham Young University after writing an opinion piece in the Salt Lake Tribune opposing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. BYU is a religious university, founded in 1875 by members of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), and 95% of its faculty are members of the church. Faculty at BYU are aware that their academic freedom is limited in certain ways. BYU published a “Statement on Academic Freedom at BYU” in 1992 which makes the limitations clear. “BYU regards the following approach not as narrowing the scope of freedom but as enabling greater (or at least different) and much prized freedoms.” On May 28 a letter was read to all US congregations of the LDS Church: “We are informed that the United States Senate will on June 6, 2006,
vote on an amendment to the Federal constitution designed to protect the traditional institution of marriage. We, as the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, have repeatedly set forth our position that the marriage of a man and a woman is the only acceptable marriage relationship…We urge our members to express themselves on this urgent matter to their elected representatives in the Senate.” On June 4 The Salt Lake Tribune published Jeffrey Nielsen’s op-ed piece. “I believe opposing gay marriage and seeking a constitutional amendment against it is immoral,” Nielsen wrote. Four days later Nielsen received a letter from the chairman of the BYU philosophy department, Daniel Graham, informing him that he would not be re-hired for the following year. “In accordance with the order of the church, we do not con
The Philosophers' Magazine /4th quarter 2006
sider it our responsibility to correct, contradict or dismiss official pronouncements of the church,” the letter reads. “Since you have chosen to contradict and oppose the church in an area of great concern to church leaders, and to do so in a public forum, we will not rehire you after the current term is over.” In his reply to Graham’s letter Nielsen wrote, “In my experience, the students and faculty have always been engaged and lively participants in the academic pursuit of truth,” but went on to say that he feared for the church and the university “if the time comes when the members of the church, including faculty at BYU, are not allowed to disagree, either in public or private, with political positions taken by the church. If such conformity is required, then we deserve to be called neither a church nor a university.” Cont.