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NEW TODAY: BYU instructor let go for questioning LDS stand on gay marriage

Published June 13, 2006 1:31 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

PROVO - A Brigham Young University part-time instructor who recently called into question the LDS Church's opposition to gay marriage will not be rehired after spring term.

The decision to let Jeffrey Nielsen go was based on an op-ed piece he wrote for the June 4 edition of The Salt Lake Tribune.

"I believe opposing gay marriage and seeking a constitutional amendment against it is immoral," wrote the part-time philosophy professor at the LDS Church-owned school.

In a statement read over pulpits the previous week, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints urged members to support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and asked them to "express themselves on this urgent matter" to U.S. senators.

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles went to Washington to show the church's support for the measure. Despite that push and a flood of letters from Mormons, the Senate rejected the amendment June 7.

Jeffrey Nielsen, a practicing Latter-day Saint, learned of the school's decision regarding him in a letter dated June 8 from BYU Department of Philosophy Chairman Daniel Graham.

"In accordance with the order of the church, we do not consider 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." Nielsen conceded he has endured "sleepless nights" since the column appeared, but reaffirmed Tuesday he is sticking by his views and his religion.

"I have no desire to be anything but a member of the church," he said.