On Tuesday, BYU’s student newspaper, the Daily Universe, published a letter to the editor from pre-med student Cary Crall about Prop. 8 and the ensuing Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial. Crall noted that many of the arguments that were used during the campaign were never even presented at trial, and those that were presented did not stand up to Judge Walker’s scrutiny. Crall’s letter concludes that, “The real reason [for supporting Prop. 8] is that a man who most of us believe is a prophet of God told us to support the amendment.” His letter has since been removed from the Daily Universe website (the above link is to google cache), with this explanation:
The Daily Universe made an independent decision to remove the student viewpoint titled “Defending Proposition 8” after being alerted by various readers that the content of the editorial was offensive. The publication of this viewpoint was not intended to offend, but after further review we recognized that it contained offensive content.
This is consistent with policy that The Daily Universe has, on rare occasions, exercised in the past.
(post updated to include text of the explanation)
I was initially very impressed that BYU students would print Crall’s letter in the DU, because I thought it was a great display of BYU’s intellectual freedom, and BYU’s confidence that the actions of the church and its members can withstand thoughtful examination. The situation has changed, but I remain impressed that the letter was at least initially published, and may yet be re-published by DU. My understanding of his letter is that it doesn’t criticize the church for having gotten involved, rather it is just criticizing the merits of some arguments that were presented during the course of the campaign (as, for example, Morris Thurston’s analysis of the “6 Consequences” does).
I’m pleased that Cary Crall has agreed to talk with me about his experiences as a young person living in California and at BYU during Prop. 8, as well as the latest on the situation with his letter. Our interview is below.
CARY: Thanks for the interview. I hope it gets my letter greater readership.
CYNTHIA: What has the reaction been to your letter? Has anything surprised you?
CARY: The reaction to my letter has been overwhelmingly positive thus far. This in and of itself is the biggest surprise. It seemed to resonate with a lot of people outside of the immediate BYU community. These people were not my intended audience but they have given me an outpouring of support. For the moment, I feel like the attractive girl in the class on Valentine’s Day. Thursday, the Daily Universe has its next round of letters to the editor published. I expect to take some hits at that time.
It also surprised me that the Daily Universe faculty chose to take my letter down from the website. In my opinion, there is nothing in it that goes against the Honor Code or the teachings of the LDS church. If so, this was certainly not my intent. I had been receiving a lot of positive feedback from former church members who said that they were impressed with BYU and the Daily Universe for being willing to publish my letter. They took it as a positive sign as to the health of freedom of expression in the church. Obviously, taking the article down reversed this perception.
CYNTHIA: How was it living in California, then attending BYU, during Prop. 8?
CARY: I returned from my mission in early July of 2008. My first family home evening activity in my singles’ ward was a hybrid political rally/Sunday school lesson where my duty to support Prop 8 was compared to Captain Moroni’s duty to uphold the title of liberty in the Book of Mormon. This was hard for me to swallow along with most of the other things I heard about Prop 8 in a church setting and the ensuing months were some of the most difficult of my life.
Leaving California to BYU did not make things better. Prop 8, while certainly not the only thing discussed on campus at this time, was alluded to often, at church, in classes, and in casual conversation. I often was apprehensive about sharing my opinion, although I found many students and even some faculty on campus who either shared similar viewpoints or who were respectful of my perspective. BYU has many independent thinkers who apply high levels of scrutiny to their own opinions as well as those of their religious leaders. To me, they make that university very special. However, the dominant culture at the school is not one that fosters frank discussion of viewpoints that differ from those of orthodox Mormonism. One must tread carefully.
Simultaneously at this time, I was dealing with trying to defend the actions of my church to many of my friends back home who were not of my faith. I found myself half-heartedly repeating some of the anti-gay marriage arguments I had read in pamphlets given to me at church meetings. I felt myself losing integrity and self-respect. I wondered why God would ever want me to do things against my own rationality and conscience. This brought me to thoughts of Abraham standing over his bound son, Nephi over a drunken Laban. I struggled with my faith in the wisdom of the Abrahamic test. I still struggle with this today.
CYNTHIA: How did your feelings evolve after the Prop. 8 campaign was over?
CARY: When Prop 8 passed, I was shocked. I never really thought it had a chance. This was an important consolation to me as I dealt with my church’s involvement in the campaign. Now the reality of what my church had helped to do was undeniable. I tried to thank God in prayer for what had happened. I felt it was my duty. Instead, all I could do was cry.
In Sean Penn’s Oscar acceptance speech for his role portraying deceased gay activist Harvey Milk, he said, “I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support.” This comment pierced me to the core. It slapped me in the face. It changed my mind about how public I was going to be with my views.
Reading Judge Walker’s decision was the fuel I needed to finally finish one of the 7 letters I had begun on the issue of gay marriage, but had never completed. That decision has fire in it. I will be interested to see how the appeals go. If new information is presented that contradicts my viewpoint, I will gladly change my mind.
CYNTHIA: Why was your letter pulled from the Daily Universe website?
CARY: In an e-mail correspondence with an editor at the Daily Universe, I was informed that my letter had been pulled because there were some concerns about the letter and it was pulled from the web while being reviewed. The editor was not present at the meeting in which the concerns were expressed so she does not know what they are. She said the future of the letter on the web is in the hands of BYU faculty. I was also relieved to hear that she was not being disciplined for any of her involvement. I myself have not been contacted by BYU for any questions or discipline. I trust that if I am, they will have my best interest in mind and things will turn out just fine.
CYNTHIA: Other thoughts?
CARY: I respect BYU. It has been a wonderful place for me to study and grow. Some of this growth has come in the form of conscientiously evaluating the public actions of my church. I love the LDS church. It has helped mold me into a confident and loving person. It’s tenets make up the core of my belief system. I hope that one day, gays and lesbians will be able to feel the love and respect from LDS church members that our leaders have so often called for. Until then, I think I’m going to keep talking about it.
This is always a contentious topic on the blog. I hope BCC commenters can extend great courtesy to our guest, even when disagreeing with him. As someone who also lived in California during Prop. 8, I can testify to what an incredibly difficult time that frenzied campaign season was for individuals, families and wards.
On the flip side, please refrain from pointless trashing of BYU. We don’t have their final word on this yet. I think it would be great if we could have a positive outpouring of support for BYU to re-publish the letter, coming from LDS and BYU alums.
Bottom line: Keep it classy.
The following coverage of this elsewhere is also worth reading:
USU SHAFT: BYU censors letter to the editor critical of Prop 8
Joanna Brooks at Religious Dispatches: Everyone Should Know the Story of Cary Crall
Paul Rolly at the SL Tribune: At BYU, now you see it, now you don’t