Openly gay BYU producer, filmmaker fired
LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University has fired Kendall Wilcox, an executive producer in the school's broadcasting department who, on his own time, is making an independent documentary about being gay and Mormon.
Wilcox announced the move Friday morning on his Facebook page, saying he was terminated the previous week by his BYU supervisors who "cited certain tasks and communications that I had not performed to their liking."
The Emmy-winning filmmaker, who in an email Friday declined to be interviewed, defended himself in his Facebook post. He said he faced "an increasingly hostile work environment over the last several months with which I refused to continue to engage."
BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said emphatically that Wilcox wasn't let go for being gay or for his work on the documentary.
She mentioned Wilcox's August interview about his life and work with Radio West's Doug Fabrizio, in which he told the radio host that his BYU supervisors "were very respectful and loving" when he told them about his homosexuality and documentary project.
"They kept reminding me over and over about our friendship," Wilcox told Fabrizio, "and since then all of our interactions have been full of love and respect and open-heartedness."
According to Jenkins, however, Wilcox has not stepped into BYU Broadcasting offices for two months.
"Kendall was terminated for two basic reasons," Jenkins said Friday. "He refused to come to work, and he refused to communicate with his supervisor."
Jenkins said the school was surprised by Wilcox's claim of "a hostile work environment."
That was something "he had said in a text message to his supervisor after he was terminated," she said, "but this claim did not go through human resources or through [BYU's] equal opportunity office."
Wilcox cautioned Facebook readers not to see his firing "as one more example of institutionalized homophobia on the part of BYU or the Church."
He is still optimistic that the Mormon community "is at a time in our history when we are proactively putting the destructive polemics behind us and treating each other with genuine love, respect and empathy."
To that end, Wilcox is continuing to work on "Far Between," a film that will document his journey to find a place in a faith that gives him no option but a life of celibacy and in a culture that pushes him to reject his religion.
He is interviewing current and former Mormons, activists and defenders, those in mixed-orientation marriages, gays with longtime partners, writers, scholars, therapists, mothers, spouses and children to see how they manage that tension.
He also created a nonprofit organization, Empathy First Initiative, to help improve conversations about homosexuality and other issues.
"No one is perfect at this, least of all me," Wilcox wrote on Facebook. "But I do believe we've reached a tipping point at which while keeping an eye to the sad events of the past regarding the [LDS] Church and homosexuality we can all support one another in seeking truth, forgiveness and reconciliation."
Together, he said, "we are making it better."