BYU student no longer enrolled after defacing chalk art drawn in support of LGBTQ students

The school won’t say whether he dropped out or was expelled.

(Trevor Christensen | Special to The Tribune) On Friday, August 27th, 2021 around 30-40 protesters gathered on the edge of Brigham Young University campus to demonstrate against recent remarks by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apostle Jeffery R. Holland. Holland criticized family members and students who do not support the faith's teachings on same-sex marriage and invoked the metaphor of using muskets to defend the church.

The man who shouted a homophobic slur and defaced chalk art messages near Brigham Young University drawn in support of LGBTQ students is no longer enrolled at the school, a spokesperson there confirmed Monday.

The private religious school said in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune that the man was a student previously this semester but, as of this week, is not taking classes there any more. BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins declined to say whether he dropped out or was expelled.

“Because of federal laws and university privacy guidelines, BYU cannot provide additional information,” she said.

The Provo school, which is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had said it would investigate the confrontation after it happened late last month and video of it spread online.

It noted then that if the man was a student, he could be punished under the school’s strict Honor Code, a set of standards for conduct, which “explicitly states that each member of the BYU community has the obligation to respect others.” The school also strongly condemned the man’s behavior, calling it “disrespectful and hurtful.”

The incident occurred on Aug. 26 — a few days after BYU had drawn national attention for a controversial speech centered on the LGBTQ community delivered by an apostle of the LDS Church.

(Screenshot) A man dumps water on sidewalk chalk art across from Brigham Young University that was meant to support LGBTQ students there on Thursday, August 26, 2021.

In that address, Jeffrey R. Holland sharply criticized faculty members and students at BYU who push back against the faith’s teachings on same-sex marriage. The apostle urged individuals at the school to take up their intellectual “muskets” to defend the church, especially “the doctrine of the family and ... marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”

Many have since spoken out against the speech, saying it was painful, disappointing and even threatening, with the reference to muskets.

The school and the faith accept LGBTQ members, but prohibit them from having relations of any kind with the same sex. Brigham Young University has long drawn criticism for the stance, which has included in the past disciplining gay students for holding hands and hugging others of the same sex.

In response to Holland’s speech, a group of Provo residents organized the chalk drawings of support for LGBTQ students.

They gathered Thursday night to draw rainbows and write messages of belonging like “you are loved” and “love is love” on sidewalks, mostly across from the private campus on 800 North. One person wrote: “Put down your muskets and pick up your flag.”

Amber Sorensen saw a note about the gathering on social media and went to join it at about 8:30 p.m. She’s not a student but wanted to show solidarity as someone who is a former member of the faith and identifies as bisexual.

When she got there, most of the people had already left, she previously told The Tribune. She lingered to talk to a few remaining folks and read the messages.

Then a man carrying a water bottle approached. Sorensen had her phone out as she was taking pictures of the art and started filming when she saw what he was doing, she said.

The video that she shot and shared on social media shows the man taking the large bottle and dumping it out on a rainbow next to the word “love.” The colors quickly fade and wash away.

One of Sorensen’s friends, shocked at what the man was doing, can be heard in the video saying: “I’m feeling a little less homophobic than that.”

The man responds, using a slur. “Oh no, f------ go to hell,” he spits.

Sorensen can be heard retorting, “Oh yeah, I’m sure the Bible actually says that.”

And then the man walks away. It’s over in less than 30 seconds.

Many on Facebook and Twitter lamented the man’s actions. Some said they weren’t surprised and have faced similar hate speech on campus. A few blamed Holland’s address for inciting the man. Sorensen had captioned the video herself, noting: “This is how Holland would have us love our neighbor.”

Some have noted discord between that address and how the school has acted.

Before Holland’s speech, for instance, BYU President Kevin Worthen had announced the creation of the Office of Belonging on campus to combat “prejudice of any kind, including that based on race ... and sexual orientation.” It comes after a report found some students, especially individuals of color, were feeling isolated and sometimes attacked on the campus.

But this is also not the first time the school has come under fire for how it has treated LGBTQ students.

Last year, the school removed the wording on “homosexual behavior” from its Honor Code. But after many students came out as LGBTQ — and said they were told it was OK to do so by the Honor Code Office — the university later clarified that the rules still applied and students could continue to be disciplined or even expelled for having intimate gay relationships.

Additionally, in April of this year, a BYU assistant professor publicly used a Book of Mormon term associated with an anti-Christ figure to attack a gay student. There has been no public action against the professor.

In pushback, a group of former students are now suing the institution for how they say they were discriminated against there. And another group recently lit up the “Y” on the mountain above BYU in rainbow colors in opposition to its anti-LGBTQ policies.

The chalk art was another form of protest. But any that was drawn on BYU’s sidewalks, which some was, has been washed off by the school.

Jenkins, the spokeswoman, said that “BYU has always removed chalk art on its private property.”

She added: “BYU does not remove chalk art on public sidewalks. What may be confusing to people is that the curved sidewalk by the Maeser stairs is BYU property — something we are explaining to those who are drawing in this area.”