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Provo may ease law on dances

Students still protesting security requirements

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PROVO — Some burned books, others marched through the streets of Provo carrying black flags and one taped speakers to his head and danced like a chicken.

None of the protests seemed to matter last February when the Provo City Council passed an ordinance requiring anyone hosting a public dance to hire security guards and use video surveillance and metal detectors.

A year has passed, college students haven't stopped complaining, and now some city officials say changes in the ordinance are possible.

"Anything that makes it easier to host a party in Provo I'm in favor of," said Council Chairman Stan Lockhart, who voted against the law. "The ordinance uses a sledgehammer to swat a fly."

Others who oppose the law agree it is too broad. John Hash, a student at Brigham Young University who wants the ordinance abolished, recently gave council members a bumper sticker that read: "Provo, 2nd lowest crime rate in the U.S., unless you count dancing."

Hash hopes to sell enough bumper stickers to pay a $100 fine imposed for a misdemeanor citation he received in November for a large dance party he hosted in a barn that did not comply with the ordinance.

Because churches are exempt from the ordinance, Hash and several of his friends used the Internet to become ordained ministers. City officials said the dance wasn't part of the church's core function, and police issued Hash a citation.

A few weeks later, BYU officials suspended Hash and two others for violating the school's Honor Code, which prohibits members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which owns BYU — from joining another church while attending the school.

Hash calls his ordination "a statement" and says his devotion to the LDS Church has never wavered.

He said he has received e-mails praising him — one from a University of Utah professor who called him a "free thinker" — and others criticizing him.

"I don't really regret what I did because it wasn't about dancing, it was about the Constitution," he said.

Councilman Paul Warner, who works at BYU, says many college students don't understand the ordinance and most don't care about it.

"Students think police shut down their parties because of the ordinance, when in reality they are shut down because they are too loud," Warner said. "We are talking about a very small group of the 30,000 (students) who go here that are upset about this."

There have been no formal discussions on changing the law, said city spokesman Mike Mower, and the issue will not be discussed until after the Olympics. Hash thinks that may be too late.

"What if a bunch of rowdy (fans) celebrating a gold medal start dancing on more than 10 percent of the floor space in their hotel room," Hash said.

"Are they going to be cited with a misdemeanor?"

E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com