LGBT activists have weaponized two scientific societies to cut off a major Mormon university from their international community of scientists. The American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Washington, D.C., and the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Colorado pulled job ads from Brigham Young University (BYU) after facing complaints over BYU’s Honor Code, which prohibits homosexual conduct among students and staff. This is unlikely to stop with the AGU and GSA and is likely to lead to blacklisting far more schools than just BYU.
LGBT activists complained that the geological societies had listed a job posting from BYU on their job boards. While the societies originally stood up to pressure, they eventually caved as the activists went public. The job ads for a BYU tenure-track position were posed online in mid-September. The societies took them down two weeks later, on October 1, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. GSA, which has 27,000 members worldwide, refunded BYU the $800 it paid to post the job. AGU has 62,000 members in 144 countries.
“AGU has always encouraged and fostered a diverse geoscience community throughout its history because we believe—and repeatedly see—that diversity and inclusion are essential to advancing science,” Billy Williams, the union’s vice president of ethics, diversity, and inclusion, wrote in a statement. “Since the job posting from BYU referenced its Honor Code as a requirement of employment, which conflicts with our policy, we removed the job posting from our website.”
AGU’s own Code of Conduct prohibits members from “engaging in discrimination, harassment, bullying,” and more. “As a statement of principle, AGU rejects discrimination and harassment by any means, based on factors such as ethnic or national origin, race, religion, … gender identity, sexual orientation,” and more.
In other words, Williams effectively accused BYU of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But the BYU Honor Code does not so discriminate. The Honor Code merely forbids homosexual behavior — explicitly distinguished from homosexual feelings or attraction. “One’s stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue,” the code states. “However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity.” Prohibited conduct “includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”
This nuanced position would allow openly homosexual people to attend and work for BYU, but it would still prevent them from homosexual activity, which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considers a sin.
Ellen Alexander, a doctoral candidate in geology at UCLA who describes herself as an LGBTQ scientist, condemned the job postings as “inherently discriminatory.” A member of both AGU and GSA, she told the Tribune that she was using their job boards to find employment.
“It really hurts me as a member of those organizations and as a young scientist to see the BYU ads,” Alexander said, suggesting that the job posts victimized her. “Science is already unrepresentative of racial and ethnic minorities and gender and sexual minorities. It’s important that we not make it even harder for those folks to get jobs.”
Alexander and her partner, Peter Martin, complained about the job postings to the societies. “I don’t see why someone’s sexual preference should have any bearing on their employment,” Martin told the Tribune. After AGU and GSA refused to take down the posting, Alexander and Martin look to social media, mobilizing like-minded members to ramp up the pressure.
“If the Honor Code included the phrase ‘blacks need not apply,’ would the ad stay up? What about ‘Jews are not allowed on the BYU campus’? Is that acceptable?” Martin posted on Facebook. While he acknowledged that LGBTQ people are not excluded from the campus or from applying, he insisted that faculty members would not be able to act on their attractions and keep their jobs. He claimed that it effectively stops any same-sex married couples from applying.
Alexander and Martin suggested that such a policy is beyond the pale and that religious freedom and intellectual diversity do not justify working with an organization with such a policy. “That ideology does not deserve an equal seat at the table. It’s not a belief. It’s discrimination,” Alexander said.
Jennifer Glass, an associate professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, wrote that keeping the ads online equates to “endorsing homophobia.”
AGU caved to these attacks, but the union published a statement from three BYU professors pushing back on the removal of the job posting. Benjamin Abbott and Jamie Jensen, who work in the College of Life Sciences, and Jani Radebaugh in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, argued that pulling the job posting quashes intellectual diversity.
These BYU professors — who are also members of AGU — did not defend the Honor Code or hiring policies but they did warn that excluding institutions like BYU can do real damage to the scientific community.
“Liberals and conservatives alike have been shown to dismiss scientific evidence based on political allegiance, meaning that our public credibility depends on good science from diverse scientists,” they wrote. “However, diversity is more than just looking different or even being different. … Ideological diversity requires a willingness to be challenged and the intellectual humility to admit that the other side may have something to offer.”
The professors lamented that “some academic fields have lost most of their ideological diversity over the past 50 years because of a combination of self-selection, hostile atmosphere, and discrimination. … Though it is difficult to find unbiased data, there is strong evidence that conservatives are substantially underrepresented in the geosciences and academia generally compared with the overall population.”
“A lack of ideological diversity not only hurts those who are excluded; it decreases opportunity to improve arguments and examine blind spots in the majority,” the professors warned. “If our largely liberal community decides not to rub shoulders with conservatives, we will be poorly prepared to translate our science to the public, lobby legislators to increase research funding, and effectively inform the creation and application of policy.”
Ideological discrimination can also prop up other forms of discrimination, they warned. “Independent of party affiliation, ideology correlates with socioeconomic status and racial and ethnic identity. Working-class, rural, black, Hispanic, and Muslim populations are more religious or socially conservative on average than whites in the United States. Intentional or unintentional exclusion of conservatives will disproportionately disadvantage those groups.”
“If we require progressive policies of all participating institutions, we would exclude many religious schools that have restrictive honor codes, including Baylor and most Jewish and Islamic universities,” the professors explained.
One of the professors, Benjamin Abbott, told The Tribune that the decision to pull the job posting was made without any dialogue with BYU. Rather, it came after activists spoke out on Twitter, a platform that very poorly represents the American public. “This decision to cut off a group because of their beliefs on social issues is counterproductive to social and scientific progress,” he warned.
Indeed, the decision is bad for science, as it cuts off diverse perspectives that might lead to research in new directions following different paradigms. Yet this move from geological societies is terrifying for millions of socially conservative Americans — and the dozens of religious institutions with policies similar to that of BYU.
This is far from the first time LGBT activists have targeted BYU. In 2016, LGBT groups including Athlete Ally and the National Center for Lesbian Rights pushed for the Big 12 athletic conference to exclude BYU. In April 2018, a political science group apologized for holding its conference at BYU. That organization later claimed its decision to let BYU host the conference had a chilling effect on the LGBT scholars who participated.
The Salvation Army has also suffered from this kind of blacklisting. Just this week, singer Ellie Goulding threatened to pull out of the halftime show for a Dallas Cowboys game because the game supports the Salvation Army, which she condemned as “anti-LGBTQ.” Activists have also demonized Chick-fil-A for funding the Salvation Army. LGBT activists convinced a property manager to close the first Chick-fil-A in Britain, declaring the whole country off-limits to the fast-food chain because it supports the Salvation Army.
Why such animus against the Salvation Army? The famous charity is also a church, and it abides by Christian doctrine on sexuality, prohibiting sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. In other words, it holds its members to the same sexual ethics as the BYU Honor Code.
BYU and the Salvation Army do not advocate politically for marriage to be defined as between one man and one woman, they merely require their own members and employees to follow their religious teachings. They should be able to do this, and it should not be considered beyond the pale.
Yet thanks to LGBT activist groups and organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which accuses mainstream conservative and Christian organizations of being “hate groups” like the Ku Klux Klan, there is a growing movement to demonize anyone who dares uphold traditional sexual morality.
The removal of BYU’s job posting shows that this demonization has spread to scientific societies — a kind of organization that should be most open to affiliating with all types of colleges and universities pursuing scientific research.
If scientific societies exclude BYU over its Honor Code, they will have to exclude all other conservative religious colleges and universities. How long before any graduate from these schools is blacklisted, prevented from getting a job in the scientific community?
In fact, earlier this year, Yale University decided to yank all funding from Yale students and graduates who chose to work for organizations that “discriminate” against LGBT people.
Academia exists to promote free inquiry, and scientific societies exist to pursue scientific discovery. Yet it appears that some universities and scientific societies are putting identity politics ahead of the pursuit of truth. This is grotesque and tragic, but also terrifying to the millions of Americans who disagree. When did science become part of the Church of Inclusivity?
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.