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Beard ban at Mormon schools getting stricter, students say

First Published      Last Updated Nov 25 2014 11:50 am

Facial-hair permits » Apparent crackdown might be in response to recent national news media attention.

Paolo Quezada didn't mind applying for the right to wear a beard on campus at LDS Business College. But having to wear the school's approval on his chest last week proved too much.

"It was like a beard badge of shame," he said, referring to the school-issued permit he was required to wear on a lanyard.

Brigham Young University also has toughened its no-scruff policy, some students say, refusing to renew beard passes for some students who had them in years past.

Students who had been pushing schools owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to loosen their beard bans worry the recent crackdown is in response to national news media attention after a September protest on BYU's campus.

"If it isn't a reaction, then it's quite a coincidence," said Shane Pittson, the 23-year-old international-relations major who led a BYU "Bike for Beards" rally in September.

But BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins counters that the school has not changed its policy.

"It's the same process that's always been in place," she said. "It's just how we've chosen to represent ourselves."

Jenkins said she doesn't know why a student who had a pass one year might come up short the next.

At LDS Business College, school officials last week briefly required anyone with school-approved facial hair to don beard badges.

Quezada, a 23-year-old student from California, stopped shaving in recent weeks to be an extra in an upcoming LDS Church film about the Bible — an allowable exception to the school's beard ban.

Last week, however, he learned would have to wear the new identification on a lanyard, an honor code officer told him, along with a shirt and tie "to compensate" for the beard.

Quezada thought the new requirement was overkill, but agreed, knowing he could shave after the film in a few weeks. Then other students starting snickering.

"They literally stopped, they pointed and they laughed," he said. He went home and shaved that day. "I couldn't take it anymore."

Goodbye, film appearance.

Quezada said the requirement to wear a beard permit has since been lifted. An LDS Business College spokeswoman did not return calls for comment Monday.

At the faith's flagship university, some BYU students who previously had permission to wear beards have been rejected for renewal in the past few months.

Garrin Schlink, a 25-year-old history major, went to the school's honor code office to renew his exemption, which is good for one year. He was told he no longer qualified and that only more serious skin conditions would now make the cut.

"I was pretty surprised," said Schlink, who has a job overseeing shipments to a campus dining center.

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In their own words:

“Unlike a lot of other things in the honor code, a beard has nothing to do with church doctrine or morality or anything like that.” — Garrin Schlink, BYU student

“The policy has not changed and the process has not changed.” — Carri Jenkins, BYU spokeswoman

“It speaks to a bigger problem that exists, and that’s if someone has a beard, some people will look at them and judge them.” — Shane Pittson, BYU student and Bike for Beards founder

“I was never a fan of having a beard. It’s kind of implanted into me that if you have a beard, you have problems — you’re inactive or you want to be rebellious. But after having it, I decided that I liked it.” — Paolo Quezada, LDS Business College student