The Mormon Brigham Young University (BYU) is “reviewing” a video of a man who defaced messages of support for queer students, insisting: “F****ts go to hell.”
Rainbows and messages of support were emblazoned on the pavement outside a BYU campus in Provo, Utah, this week, following an anti-LGBT+ speech by former BYU president and church elder Jeffrey R Holland.
Holland gave a speech at the university on Monday (23 August), in which he essentially told students and staff to never advocate for LGBT+ people to be authentically themselves.
He declared “unequivocally” his “love for those who live with this same-sex challenge”, before continuing: “We have to be careful that love and empathy do not get interpreted as condoning and advocacy, or that orthodoxy and loyalty to principle not be interpreted as unkindness or disloyalty to people.
“As near as I can tell, Christ never once withheld his love from anyone, but he also never once said to anyone, ‘Because I love you, you are exempt from keeping my commandments.’”
On Friday (26 August), an event to “decorate the sidewalks with chalk in a display of encouragement” for LGBT+ students was organised by BYU alumnus Lauren Rogers.
She told The Daily Universe that she had been “deeply hurt” by Holland’s words, especially as she knows what it’s like to be queer at the strict Mormon university.
But later the same evening, after those involved in the event had gone home, an unidentified man decided to deface the messages of solidarity.
Amber Sorensen, a Provo resident but not a BYU student, managed to catch the man on video, and posted it to social media where it has been widely circulated.
In the video, he is seen pouring water over the chalk art to erase it. When confronted by Sorensen, he shoots back: “Oh no, uh, f****ts go to hell.”
Sorensen told Fox13: “I still kind of can’t believe that I saw that with my real-life eyes, because that is something that you see on other people’s videos.”
Her friend, Anthony Guth, who was with her at the time of the incident, added: “Myself and Amber, we were just lingering around and reading all of the positive messages, and then this kid walks up with his water bottle.”
The Mormon university BYU condemned the homophobe
On Friday (26 August), BYU released a statement in response to the homophobic incident, although it did not identify the culprit or confirm if he was a student at the university.
It said: “We unequivocally condemn behaviour and language that is disrespectful and hurtful. There is no place for hateful speech, or prejudice of any kind, on our campus or in our community.
“The Honor Code explicitly states that each member of the BYU community has the obligation to respect others.
“The incident seen in a video circulating on social media is now under review… We are striving to create a community of belonging composed of students, faculty and staff whose hearts are knit together in love. Every student and individual on our campus deserves to feel that belonging.”
However, BYU has a long history of prejudice towards its queer students, and Amber Sorensen and Anthony Guth are reserving judgement until they see action from the Mormon university.
Sorensen said: “That is very clear… I like that. What’s next?”
Guth added: “Without actions, these are just words.”