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BYU may expel protester after his arrest in Salt Lake

PROVO — Brigham Young University's high-profile war protester might not belong to BYU much longer.

Caleb Proulx, 21, knowingly endangered his status as a photography major at the university when he broke a federal law and was arrested Monday for blocking the entrance to the federal building in Salt Lake City as part of a protest against the war in Iraq.

Proulx's arrest violated BYU's honor code, which requires students to obey laws.

The university determines punishment for violations on a case-by-case basis, spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said.

But Proulx knows the premeditated nature of his actions and his unrepentant attitude could lead a review board to choose a harsher penalty, even expulsion.

"The whole point, our intention, was to get arrested," Proulx said of Monday's protest, in which about a half-dozen other members of Utah Citizens for Peace were detained by U.S. marshals, arraigned in federal court and released.

"Getting arrested is not a decision I took lightly," Proulx said. "I understood the repercussions, that it would make it more difficult to get a job in the future and that it would jeopardize my standing at BYU. But I did it out of a deep conviction that I needed to do something and it was the right thing to do."

Proulx — pronounced "Pru" — is scheduled to appear in federal court April 10 on a single charge of creating a disturbance on federal property, a class B misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

On the university side, a seven-member review board was scheduled to meet Thursday to consider Proulx's honor code case. The board includes a student, Jenkins said.

Jenkins said BYU has no qualms about Proulx's objections to the war.

"A review is taking place because of the arrest, not because of Caleb's thoughts on the war," Jenkins said. "It is our desire at the university to have the students participate in civil discourse. Caleb's been a part of that."

It's also possible Proulx, a junior, has harmed his plans to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after graduation. Church officials have recently asked local officials to raise the standard of worthiness a prospective missionary must meet before being called to serve.

"Worthiness to serve a mission is determined on an individual basis by a church member's bishop and stake president," church spokesman Dale Bills said.

Proulx first earned publicity for the silk-screened armbands he created and wore to BYU classes. The "No War in Iraq" accessories are worn by dozens of students on campus.

Then, earlier this month, Proulx complained bitterly during a BYU forum about the Iraq situation. He believed his push for a campuswide debate was co-opted by administrators who organized the forum and outlawed discussion of two topics — Bush administration foreign policy and the advisability of waging war.

The native of Marietta, Pa., felt sidelined, but said he was offered opportunities for unrestricted debates and turned them down.

"I do believe BYU's administration wants to have discussions on the war," he said. "There's no restriction on free speech."

Instead, Proulx decided join the Salt Lake City-based Utah Citizens for Peace to become part of a larger organization.

He promised earlier this month that war protests would intensify with the start of fighting.

"I fundamentally disagree with the way the Bush administration is approaching the problem," he said. "I don't think Saddam Hussein was an immediate threat. There were other options for dealing with him, including tougher inspections and allowing more time for sanctions to weaken his regime. It might take longer and be a harder road, but it wouldn't kill as many people."


E-MAIL: twalch@desnews.com