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HappyJackWagon

BYU-I Sexual Assault: Ecclesiastical Endorsement Loophole

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Posted (edited)

As I'm sure everyone remembers BYU & BYU-I have adopted changes to policy with regards to victims of sxual assault. In an attempt to encourage victims to report assault as well as keep the victims in school, the BYU schools granted amnesty to victims so that even if they were breaking the honor code at the time of an assault, they could still report it without fear of being kicked out of school. Apparently there's a loophole in that plan. Even though the honor code office no longer investigates and reports misconduct which could terminate a students acceptance at the university, a bishop can still pull the student's ecclesiastical endorsement for honor code violations.

In this case the woman called police and pressed charges. The accused man went to the bishop and confessed misconduct and also told the bishop that the woman had been drinking alcohol. Because she had been drinking, he pulled her endorsement and effectively expelled her from school. I'm not sure that we can know the motive of the man for telling the bishop about the woman's drinking, but an argument can at least be made that it was a retaliatory action. IOW- he was getting back at the woman who turned him in, knowing that she would also get in trouble.

While there is a difference between an honor code office investigation which results in expulsion and an accusation made to a bishop who then pulls an ecclesiastical endorsement, the effect is the same. The victim is expelled from school. This will continue the chilling effect and discourage victims from reporting assault. If an abuser knows he can tell a bishop about other honor code violations which could result in the ecclesiastical endorsement being pulled, the abuser has tremendous power to intimidate the victim to keep her from reporting.

So what can be done? Should a bishop ignore reports of honor code violations? Should the ecclesiastical endorsement be revamped or removed as a requirement for attending?

Quote

Bishops can revoke students’ endorsement at any time, effectively kicking them out of school — a power that critics say pokes holes in amnesty and can be easily exploited by abusers who have compromising information about their victims.

“It sounds to me like the system has a built-in loophole that would facilitate retaliation,” said Steven Healy, co-founder of the campus safety consulting firm Margolis Healy, which often advises schools on sex assault response.

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2018/08/05/her-mormon-college-upheld/

 

Edited by HappyJackWagon
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15 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

So what can be done? Should a bishop ignore reports of honor code violations? Should the ecclesiastical endorsement be revamped or removed as a requirement for attending?

Well, I don't think a universal "ignore" rule is the right answer. I believe there are times when so much misconduct has occurred that a bishop is justified in pulling an ecclesiastical endorsement. 

 

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How big of a deal is drinking alcohol? Under situations where nothing is alleged or occurred, is merely drinking alcohol enough to get an eclesiastical endorsement pulled? Certainly pointing out that the victim was drinking or drunk isn't a valid defense to a sexual assault charge and the alleged perpetrator either was mistaken on this or wanted to retaliate. In the end, if this is a wide-spread practice, obviously victims' worries about eclesiastical endorsements will have a chilling effect on sexual assault reports. Even without drinking, it seems "no" may happen after some commandments are broken and so bishops may be tempted to view assault victims as being guilty of something lesser prior to the assault. The more I think about this, the loophole seems to be getting wider.

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6 minutes ago, Amulek said:

Well, I don't think a universal "ignore" rule is the right answer. I believe there are times when so much misconduct has occurred that a bishop is justified in pulling an ecclesiastical endorsement. 

 

But doesn't this create a loophole by which abusers could threaten and intimidate the abused to keep them from talking? The bishop didn't seem to think the assault was relevant but it's hard for me to see why it wouldn't be, precisely because of the chilling impact and possibility of retaliation.

From the article...

Quote

Maria was called to the bishop’s office next.

“He said I needed to come in, or my ecclesiastical endorsement would be at risk,” Maria said. She said she told the bishop she didn’t want to discuss the matter because a police investigation was underway.

"I asked him point blank, 'Did you know I was assaulted?'" she said. "And he said yes, and that it was irrelevant."

 

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3 minutes ago, Exiled said:

How big of a deal is drinking alcohol? Under situations where nothing is alleged or occurred, is merely drinking alcohol enough to get an eclesiastical endorsement pulled? Certainly pointing out that the victim was drinking or drunk isn't a valid defense to a sexual assault charge and the alleged perpetrator either was mistaken on this or wanted to retaliate. In the end, if this is a wide-spread practice, obviously victims' worries about eclesiastical endorsements will have a chilling effect on sexual assault reports. Even without drinking, it seems "no" may happen after some commandments are broken and so bishops may be tempted to view assault victims as being guilty of something lesser prior to the assault. The more I think about this, the loophole seems to be getting wider.

I don't know that bishops have a hierarchy for how they would apply the breaking of commandments to an ecclesiastical endorsement. At least I've never seen anything like that. So a bishop could really remove an endorsement for any reason he deemed necessary. A bishop, has extraordinary power to impact a student's education and future. Maybe bishops in university wards receive specific training on these kinds of things but I know it's not standard training for all bishops.

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3 minutes ago, Exiled said:

Perhaps a solution to this is to have a system of three strikes and you are out as far as endorsements go?  This should be private so perpetrators cannot take advantage of someone.  It obviously won't stop rapists entirely but it will lessen the incentives if a rapist knows that he cannot use guilt as a weapon to silence victims.

If I'm not mistaken, the honor code office actually functions more like this. I don't know that people usually get kicked out after 1 reported violation to the HC office. But the endorsement is required so seems to hold even more weight. The HC office employees are trained to work with students to help them get back on track and stay in school. I don't think bishops receive any training like that. I'd love to hear from anyone who may have been a university bishop to see if they receive any specialized training.

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2 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

If I'm not mistaken, the honor code office actually functions more like this. I don't know that people usually get kicked out after 1 reported violation to the HC office. But the endorsement is required so seems to hold even more weight. The HC office employees are trained to work with students to help them get back on track and stay in school. I don't think bishops receive any training like that. I'd love to hear from anyone who may have been a university bishop to see if they receive any specialized training.

I remember a story from a year ago about a ward or stake at BYU-I that had an extreme church attendance policy. I can't recall the particulars but it seems like 4 absences would result in loss of an endorsement. I'll try to find the story but I think the stake even went so far as to say that they can only miss 4 times from their home ward so students would need to be mindful about visiting home or friends on weekends. If a bishop can rescind an endorsement for something like that I would suspect there isn't any training going on for ecclesiastical leaders and how they treat the ecclesiastical endorsement.

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Posted (edited)

From the BYU-Idaho website.

Quote

What if my bishop does not endorse me?

You will not be able to register. However, you may appeal the bishop's decision to your stake president.

There is at least one layer of appeals. Hopefully an assault victim (or any student) can appeal beyond the stake president, if necessary.

Edited by Thinking

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4 minutes ago, Thinking said:

From the BYU-Idaho website.

There is at least one layer of appeals. Hopefully an assault victim (or any student) can appeal beyond the stake president, if necessary.

I think the story said that the girl was suspended for 2 semesters so either she didn't know she could appeal or the stake president agreed with the bishop.

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7 minutes ago, bluebell said:

This is a tough situation.  Assault victims need to be supported in telling people they were hurt.  At the same time, being assaulted doesn't remove personal responsibility for other (not related to the assault) choices.  I think that mercy (for the victim) needs to outweigh justice but I don't know that a bishop ignoring sinful choices by the victim is in their best interest either.

 

I get that. It's pretty sticky. But if a perpetrator knows he could threaten to expose other misdeeds if the person he assaults reports it, then that is by far a worse issue. It seems to me like extreme deference needs to be given to the victim, even to the point of ignoring other misdeeds. IMO- It is far worse for a victim to be afraid to report than it would be for someone who drinks to remain in school.

In this case the Title IX office promised the woman she wouldn't face any discipline for reporting. But the perpetrator went around that system and straight to the bishop to impact her ecclesiastical endorsement. If BYU is going to claim amnesty for assault victims it seems like they need to address this

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35 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

But doesn't this create a loophole by which abusers could threaten and intimidate the abused to keep them from talking? The bishop didn't seem to think the assault was relevant but it's hard for me to see why it wouldn't be, precisely because of the chilling impact and possibility of retaliation.

I think whatever loophole is created by leaving the ecclesiastical endorsement within the purview of the bishop would be better than the loophole created by an 'ignore always' rule.

Consider the following hypothetical: A married (sealed) couple are both attending BYU. Regretfully, the wife engages in an extramarital affair with a man who eventually becomes abusive. She reports the abuse to the police, and the man retaliates by telling her husband and her bishop about the affair. So now the bishop has a member who needs to face formal discipline - possibly even excommunication - but he can't revoke her ecclesiastical endorsement? 

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Exiled said:

How big of a deal is drinking alcohol? Under situations where nothing is alleged or occurred, is merely drinking alcohol enough to get an eclesiastical endorsement pulled?

Most definitely yes.

And there are loopholes for the loopholes. I don't know if it's still allowed but some people would get endorsements from other religions to stay if they weren't exactly living the Word of Wisdom or Law of Chastity.

55 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

So a bishop could really remove an endorsement for any reason he deemed necessary. 

I had a friend who had his pulled because he attended too many other's friends wards. (Admittedly just going by what he said - he may have been covering for something but he did tend to attend friends wards pretty regularly) But the reality is that you are at the mercy of a Bishop. Most Bishops are great. Some are too lenient. Some make ridiculous demands. The reality is that perceptions and biases 

13 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

I get that. It's pretty sticky. But if a perpetrator knows he could threaten to expose other misdeeds if the person he assaults reports it, then that is by far a worse issue. It seems to me like extreme deference needs to be given to the victim, even to the point of ignoring other misdeeds. IMO- It is far worse for a victim to be afraid to report than it would be for someone who drinks to remain in school.

In this case the Title IX office promised the woman she wouldn't face any discipline for reporting. But the perpetrator went around that system and straight to the bishop to impact her ecclesiastical endorsement. If BYU is going to claim amnesty for assault victims it seems like they need to address this

I don't think this even need be conscious plotting. Typically first in to the Bishop really shapes the perceptions of the Bishop. It's unfortunate but a reality of psychology. Often people end up trying to self-justify in those cases and can distort the actions of others. 

All that said, it sounds like there's a lot we don't know here. I'm loath to go by one person's word in stories like this. Further most of the people complaining have solutions that are much worse than the current situation.

Edited by clarkgoble
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5 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

I get that. It's pretty sticky. But if a perpetrator knows he could threaten to expose other misdeeds if the person he assaults reports it, then that is by far a worse issue. It seems to me like extreme deference needs to be given to the victim, even to the point of ignoring other misdeeds. IMO- It is far worse for a victim to be afraid to report than it would be for someone who drinks to remain in school.

In this case the Title IX office promised the woman she wouldn't face any discipline for reporting. But the perpetrator went around that system and straight to the bishop to impact her ecclesiastical endorsement. If BYU is going to claim amnesty for assault victims it seems like they need to address this

I couldn't read the article because the paywall keeps getting in the way.  So, assaulter obviously told the bishop out of retaliation?  Hopefully the sentencing judge got wind of this and added some extra penalties to this jerk's sentence.  Hopefully he is treated as a sexual offender from here forward, as well.  This reminds me of a case here in Las Vegas where a church member was convicted of some serious charges.  He mistakenly thought that the mormon judge would show mercy if he touted his membership and various callings.  However, the judge viewed this as cause to further punish  because in the judge's mind it seemed that a good member shouldn't have been in the situation in the first place and needed to have a lesson.

In any event, some system needs to be in place to foster better communication and understanding.  Victims shouldn't be afraid that a sip of beer or other minor offense will cause them to needlessly suffer if they report sexual assault.

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7 minutes ago, Amulek said:

I think whatever loophole is created by leaving the ecclesiastical endorsement within the purview of the bishop would be better than the loophole created by an 'ignore always' rule.

Consider the following hypothetical: A married (sealed) couple are both attending BYU. Regretfully, the wife engages in an extramarital affair with a man who eventually becomes abusive. She reports the abuse to the police, and the man retaliates by telling her husband and her bishop about the affair. So now the bishop has a member who needs to face formal discipline - possibly even excommunication - but he can't revoke her ecclesiastical endorsement?

There needs to be an appeals process so that each case can be judged individually.

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3 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Most definitely yes.

And there are loopholes for the loopholes. I don't know if it's still allowed but some people would get endorsements from other religions to stay if they weren't exactly living the Word of Wisdom or Law of Chastity.

I had a friend who had his pulled because he attended too many other's friends wards. (Admittedly just going by what he said - he may have been covering for something but he did tend to attend friends wards pretty regularly)

Yeah, this was one of the reasons I didn't want to attend BYU.  Maybe this is the solution?  Walk away and if enough do so, the church seems to soften always.  Authority only exists if the member acknowledges such.

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, Thinking said:

There needs to be an appeals process so that each case can be judged individually.

In addition to a well-defined appeals process, perhaps notice of the removal of an endorsement should simply be sent to the HC office for them to review and handle instead of giving a bishop or SP unilateral control over a student's education. Of course there are problems with that as well as I feel the mere notice of "unworthiness" would violate confidentiality. Of course, that's happening now anyways, so...maybe it would be an improvement, even if an imperfect one.

 

Edited by HappyJackWagon
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Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, Exiled said:

Yeah, this was one of the reasons I didn't want to attend BYU.  Maybe this is the solution?  Walk away and if enough do so, the church seems to soften always.  Authority only exists if the member acknowledges such.

To be clear I am a big proponent of endorsements. There are so many people who want to attend BYU that it seems fair to privilege those who want to abide the rules. A big problem in the 90's (again no idea the current situation) were parents forcing kids to go who didn't have testimonies, didn't want to follow the rules, and didn't want to be there. Lots of crazy stories of that sort of thing. I think everyone involved would have been happier had they gone elsewhere.

The reality is that how good your BYU experience is tends to be *very* tied to what your roommates are like. Reality is that if you're trying to be spiritual and someone else in your home is doing the opposite it causes tensions. 

Ideally people just transfer. But the reality of the US college system is that frequently credits won't transfer. There were rumors in this story we're discussing that BYUI wouldn't transfer credits if you were kicked out for honor code issues. If so, that has to stop. But realistically going to an other college just isn't the huge issue some make it out to be. GE credits are the main issue since BYU tends to require more than most universities do.

Anyway to your point, I think BYU and people who want to go there would love it if more people walked away from BYU. It's just too hard to get in as things are now.

7 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

In addition to a well-defined appeals process, perhaps notice of the removal of an endorsement should simply be sent to the HC office for them to review and handle instead of giving a bishop or SP unilateral control over a student's education. Of course there are problems with that as well as I feel the mere notice of "unworthiness" would violate confidentiality. Of course, that's happening now anyways, so...maybe it would be an improvement, even if an imperfect one.

The honor code office is a joke and a mess. I love the idea of the honor code. However the implementation has been horrific for years. I've reported people with no action taken. I've known people who were reported as "revenge" and often tied to lies. Their investigations are a joke. Anyone who thinks having the honor code office do this instead of Bishops doesn't realize just how bad that would make it.

 

Edited by clarkgoble
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36 minutes ago, Steve-o said:

I remember a story from a year ago about a ward or stake at BYU-I that had an extreme church attendance policy. I can't recall the particulars but it seems like 4 absences would result in loss of an endorsement.

I had a bishop at BYU who would revoke your ecclesiastical endorsement if you didn't have 100% home teaching.

I thought that was pretty extreme until I found myself in the EQ presidency and realized how significant the needs were in our very transient ward. 

 

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2 minutes ago, Amulek said:

I had a bishop at BYU who would revoke your ecclesiastical endorsement if you didn't have 100% home teaching.

I thought that was pretty extreme until I found myself in the EQ presidency and realized how significant the needs were in our very transient ward. 

 

So you changed your mind about how extreme that was?

Sounds like an abuse of power to me. I'm reminded of D&C 121

Quote

36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

Controlling others through threat and fear was Satan's plan.

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14 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

The honor code office is a joke and a mess. I love the idea of the honor code. However the implementation has been horrific for years. I've reported people with no action taken. I've known people who were reported as "revenge" and often tied to lies. Their investigations are a joke. Anyone who thinks having the honor code office do this instead of Bishops doesn't realize just how bad that would make it.

You may be right. I never had any dealings with the HC office so I don't have that first hand experience. But the power of a bishop to unilaterally expel a student seems inappropriate

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4 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

To be clear I am a big proponent of endorsements. There are so many people who want to attend BYU that it seems fair to privilege those who want to abide the rules. A big problem in the 90's (again no idea the current situation) were parents forcing kids to go who didn't have testimonies, didn't want to follow the rules, and didn't want to be there. Lots of crazy stories of that sort of thing. I think everyone involved would have been happier had they gone elsewhere.

The reality is that how good your BYU experience is tends to be *very* tied to what your roommates are like. Reality is that if you're trying to be spiritual and someone else in your home is doing the opposite it causes tensions. 

Ideally people just transfer. But the reality of the US college system is that frequently credits won't transfer. There were rumors in this story we're discussing that BYUI wouldn't transfer credits if you were kicked out for honor code issues. If so, that has to stop. But realistically going to an other college just isn't the huge issue some make it out to be. GE credits are the main issue since BYU tends to require more than most universities do.

Anyway to your point, I think BYU and people who want to go there would love it if more people walked away from BYU. It's just too hard to get in as things are now.

I had a troubled friend whose parents thought he would get off drugs if only he were surrounded by a BYU atmosphere.  It didn't work.  He was kicked out within a few months.  It certainly isn't for everyone and I think parents and bishops still might have this attitude of wanting to send people there in hopes of a change occurring.  I am sure there are success stories.  However, the experience didn't work for my troubled friend as his dismissal was a little too public and frankly he needed to hit rock bottom prior to making any changes.  I can't really fault his parents knowing the situation but still, adding spiritual guilt and publicity to a troubled person's situation doesn't always solve the problem.

Quote

The honor code office is a joke and a mess. I love the idea of the honor code. However the implementation has been horrific for years. I've reported people with no action taken. I've known people who were reported as "revenge" and often tied to lies. Their investigations are a joke. Anyone who thinks having the honor code office do this instead of Bishops doesn't realize just how bad that would make it.

In this situation, you admit that there are problems with the honor code office but wouldn't there be the same problems with having bishops take over the investigation?  Investigations are only as good as those conducting them and having bishops do so remotely seems to be problematic as well.  It seems to me that reform of the honor code office would be a better course.  Give the accused the right to confront the witnesses against them if that isn't part of it already.  That might lessen the revenge.  Also, is there some sort of appeal mechanism with the honor code office?  Perhaps the mere fact of an ecclesiastical endorsement requirement lessens the power or will of the office?

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8 minutes ago, Exiled said:

In this situation, you admit that there are problems with the honor code office but wouldn't there be the same problems with having bishops take over the investigation?  Investigations are only as good as those conducting them and having bishops do so remotely seems to be problematic as well.

The reality is that Bishops will regularly be lied to. However given the problems of the honors code department I think the Bishop would do a better job. Yes there will be some small number who will screw up. However that's going to be a problem no matter what you do. So I'm under no illusions Bishops will be perfect. I just think it better than the alternatives.

10 minutes ago, Exiled said:

Give the accused the right to confront the witnesses against them if that isn't part of it already.  That might lessen the revenge.  Also, is there some sort of appeal mechanism with the honor code office?  Perhaps the mere fact of an ecclesiastical endorsement requirement lessens the power or will of the office?

That's not remotely part of it as is. Further, I believe in Title IX cases, no confronting witnesses is an intrinsic part of it. (I think Title IX has just as many problems intrinsic to the system I should note)

I'd love more due process in the system. However I'd note that those attacking Bishop endorsements usually don't want more due process either.

I might have more faith in the honor code office were it significantly reformed. But as is I have very little faith for such reforms. And I won't comment about some hypothetical ideal honor code office because I doubt we'd get such a system. Given the realistic options I simply think Bishops are more apt to do a better job than the honor code office or no endorsements at all.

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22 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

So you changed your mind about how extreme that was?

Sounds like an abuse of power to me. I'm reminded of D&C 121

Controlling others through threat and fear was Satan's plan.

If you believe that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love your brother, then it probably makes more sense that a lack of home teaching (without good cause)  could get someone's endorsement revoked more so than taking a drink of alcohol.  

Beyond that, i'm not a fan of equating consequences for our choices with being controlling/acting like satan.  That doesn't make sense to me.

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