Former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who want to attend Brigham Young University will no longer be able to do so, according to a policy approved last week by the university's Board of Trustees.
The policy says the removal of a student's name from church rec-ords, or a student formally joining another church will result in the withdrawal of ecclesiastical endorsement and in permanent discontinuance of enrollment."The policy was instigated because there were sufficient cases to instigate a policy," said BYU spokeswoman Margaret Smoot.
The Continuing Ecclesiastical Endorsement form - required annually for entrance or continuance at BYU - is signed by an ecclesiastical leader. In addition to questions about whether or not the student is adhering to the university's honor code, the endorsement policy now asks: "Have you ever been disfellowshipped or excommunicated or requested your name be removed from the records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or formally joined another church?"
If the answer to that question is yes, the student will not be allowed to attend BYU. Rebaptism into the LDS Church will be the condition for readmission to BYU for those students, Smoot said.
"What this policy does is create an additional category. We are no longer lumping former members of the church with nonmembers. Former members are now in their own category," Smoot said.
"The board's decision, which I agree with, is that members who have left the LDS Church belong in a different category than the members of good faith and the nonmembers who attend," said BYU President Rex Lee.
Smoot said the policy will only affect a small number of people.
The policy is in response to a recent case involving a holder of the prestigious Benson scholarship who was excommunicated because she asked to have her name removed from church records in January.
Michelle Warner, a freshman who now attends Montana State, was denied remittance to BYU in January after she asked that her name be removed from the records of the LDS Church.
"Warner's case prompted the policy, but her case does not fall under the parameters. Her excommunication was not for apostasy, but for transgression (according to Warner's church leaders)," Smoot said.
If no transgression is involved, a request to have one's name removed from the records of the church is handled strictly as an administrative procedure. No church excommunication is involved, said LDS Church spokesman Don Le-Fevre.
"When there is an excommunication, there is already a policy that states the student will not be able to continue at the university," Smoot said.
But there was no policy on students who asked to have their name removed from LDS Church records. Former cases were judged on an individual basis.
Former LDS missionary Tod Anderson asked to have his name removed from LDS Church records a year ago. Anderson now attends the Evangelical Free Church and plans to graduate in April.
"The honor code office never gave me a hard time. They didn't threaten me at all with having to leave the university. I just paid the higher tuition required for non-LDS students," Anderson said.
Anderson won't be affected by the policy because he is graduating in April.
But BYU sophomore Jeff Kerby will be affected by the policy. He was baptized Sunday into the Evangelical Free Church, where he has attended since February.
"I received a letter from the honor code office that said my ecclesiastical endorsement has not been accepted," said Kerby. "The policy is pretty cut and dried. As long as I remain a member officially, I have to get it signed by the bishop and he won't sign it. If I take my name off the roll, I will be kicked out of BYU. It's a no-win situation," he said.
Kirby said he plans to take his name off LDS Church records this week.