Calendar creator's appeal for BYU diploma denied

By Jennifer Dobner

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 2, 2009

Brigham Young University has denied an appeal to award a diploma that the creator of a Mormon beefcake calendar says he earned.

Chad Hardy's diploma was withheld by BYU last fall after he was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns and runs the school. Hardy was excommunicated during the month between completing his courses and graduation ceremonies.

Hardy appealed and met with Dean of Students Vernon L. Heperi on Feb. 13. In the meeting, Heperi sought to determine whether Hardy's life is guided by the school's honor code, which reflects the values of the Mormon church.

BYU requires students to be in academic and ecclesiastical good standing in order to obtain a diploma. That includes keeping the tenets of a school honor code that reflects the values of the church. Excommunication would leave a student at odds with the honor code.

Hardy received a letter from Heperi on Monday, saying his appeal was denied.

"I conclude that you have not demonstrated conduct and personal behavior in harmony with the principles and values reflected in the honor code, including the principles of living a chaste and virtuous life, respect for others and participating regularly in church services," Heperi wrote.

Hardy, who said he was not surprised by the decision, had hoped BYU would end the dispute and give him his diploma.

"They obviously are choosing to dig their heels in even deeper," he said.

The ruling ends Hardy's avenues of appeal with the school. However, he could reapply for graduation if he regained his membership in the church.

That's unlikely to happen. Hardy said he voluntarily became an inactive member of the church in 2002.

Heperi cited in the letter Hardy's failure to both attend regular church services and to actively seek re-entry into the faith as other reasons for his decision.

The dean also took exception with Hardy's "Men on a Mission" calendar, which features photographs of 12 bare-chested returned Mormon missionaries. Heperi called the calendar offensive and disrespectful because it depicts missionaries in an "inappropriate light."

"Your continued involvement with these calendars as well as apparent plans for future calendars of similar content only demonstrate to me your ongoing disregard for those principles of the honor code," he said.

A lifetime member of the Mormon church, Hardy was excommunicated in July 2008 by a council of Las Vegas-based church leaders.

Officially, the loss of membership was for conduct unbecoming a church member. The charges were rooted in his failure to pay tithing, a lapse in other religious obligations and, according to a senior church elder, his involvement with the 2008 "Men on a Mission" calendar.

"I think it's interesting that now the calendar appears to be the reason BYU is not giving my diploma," Hardy said.


Student dissenter calls for repeal of BYU honor code


By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune


   Brigham Young University's honor code should be repealed and then rewritten with input from people of varying opinions, one participant said Thursday at the annual Sunstone Symposium, an independent forum for Mormon thought.

    By spelling out strict grooming codes, limiting social interactions between the sexes and reducing avenues for dissent, the LDS Church-owned school is "producing a Mormonism that is smaller than Mormonism itself," said Ashley Sanders, a former BYU student. "It puts two unlike things together - spirituality and hair length, for example - and then re-enforces it to create a relationship that people think is natural and necessary."

    Her English professor, she said, could enter a temple with his longish hair, but was denied service at the CougarEat, a cafeteria on campus.

    Sanders, who last year organized an alternative graduation to protest the school's invitation to Vice President Dick Cheney to speak at commencement, described being ordered off the school's quad for protesting the Iraq war, while ROTC recruiters were passing out fliers and carrying guns nearby.

    "BYU will always approve something that is part of the majority culture and silence minority voices," she said. "By doing this, the school is creating a religion that values insularity and provincialism, rather than expansiveness."

    BYU spokeswoman Carrie Jenkins said all demonstrations have to be approved by the administration but that the school did allow many anti-Cheney demonstrations.

    "The university does not dictate political opinion for students or faculty," Jenkins said.

    However, the school's academic freedom policy strictly forbids any public speaking that "contradicts or opposes, rather than analyzes or discusses, fundamental [LDS] Church doctrine or policy; deliberately attacks or derides the Church or its general leaders."

    Civil disobedience, for example, would violate the honor code because it is against the law.

    "That would be handled on a case-by-case basis," Jenkins said.

    Caleb Proulx, who joined Sanders on the Sunstone panel "Does the BYU Honor Code Honor Mormon Values," presented just such a case. He dropped out of BYU after he was arrested for peacefully protesting the Iraq war in 2003.

    "I had already had several run-ins with the honor code office," said Proulx, who now attends the University of Utah. "After I got arrested for civil disobedience, I went to the office to tell them."

    The man in the office asked lots of questions, Proulx recalled, and then said, "We'd appreciate it if you wouldn't talk to the press."

    Because Proulx had been interviewed by a newspaper reporter, the school put him on an eight-month probation. He then left and shortly thereafter served an LDS mission to Las Vegas.

    "I was really bitter about how I was treated by the culture that was spawned by the honor code and the honor code office," he said. "Here I was at BYU. This was my community of fellow Mormons who should have been acting more Christian toward me, I wasn't shrill about [my views]. I thought people would welcome a dissenting opinion. I felt rather shabbily treated by the administration and the student body."

    Tristan Call, who graduates next week with a degree in anthropology and Latin American studies, organized a BYU event called "Seven Straight Nights for Gay Rights."

    The honor code section about homosexuality forbids "advocacy," which it describes as "seeking to influence others to engage in homosexual behavior or promoting homosexual relations as being morally acceptable."

    Because of that "homosexuality cannot be discussed on campus," Call said. "The code says we should be honest but what if we honestly believe same-sex unions are a good thing?"

    The Sunstone Symposium continues at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Salt Lake City through Saturday.

BYU honor code (Go to Starbucks and get expelled)

    Some conditions of BYU's honor code:

    - In addition to normal college rules about honesty and academic integrity, BYU's honor code lays out dress and grooming standards that forbid male students from wearing sleeveless shirts and above-the-knee shorts or having beards, earrings or body-piercing or hair below the collar. Females students cannot wear anything sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing, that has slits above the knee or that is form fitting. Dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extremes in styles and colors. They also cannot sport more than one piercing per ear and all other body piercings are unacceptable.

    - It also dictates when those of the opposite sex can visit the others' dormitory rooms; even in off-campus apartments, they are permitted in living rooms and kitchens but not in bedrooms.

    - It forbids the use of tobacco and the consumption of coffee, tea and alcohol, having the latter in one's apartment or furnishing it to others. It also prohibits the use of illegal drugs.

    - Students must attend their weekly LDS Church services and get an ecclesiastical endorsement every year from their bishops.


BYU refuses to give a degree that was earned unless you are a LDS church member in good standing.


Calendar-maker, BYU meet about withheld diploma

The Associated Press

February 13, 2009

The designer of a Mormon beefcake calendar met with Brigham Young University officials on Friday in an attempt to secure his diploma, which was withheld last fall.

Chad Hardy was denied his bachelor's degree in communication studies from BYU in September, a month after walking through graduation ceremonies.

In a letter to Hardy, a school official said a nonacademic-hold on the diploma was the result of Hardy's excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU is a private university owned by the Mormon church.

Hardy met with the BYU Dean of Students Vernon L. Hepri for a review Friday.

In an audio recording of the meeting provided to The Associated Press, Hepri is heard saying the review would help him determine whether he could "make an exception to university policy and grant the diploma," regardless of Hardy's excommunication.

A written decision from Hepri is not expected for several weeks, Hardy said after the meeting.

Hardy was only offered the review after a volley of letters were exchanged by his Salt Lake City-based attorney, Stephen C. Clark, and BYU's general counsel, Michael R. Orme.

Hardy invited an Associated Press reporter to attend the meeting as one of two allowed guests.

Hepri denied the AP access to the meeting and afterward ignored questions from a reporter. An audio recording of the meeting was given to the AP by Hardy.

University officials cited confidentiality reasons in refusing to publicly discuss the specifics of Hardy's case.

They have explained, however, that BYU students must be in both academic and ecclesiastical good standing to qualify for graduation. That includes following honor code standards that reflect the values of the Mormon church. Excommunication would leave a student at odds with the honor code and therefore ineligible for graduation.

Hardy was excommunicated from the church in July after a disciplinary hearing with local church officials in Las Vegas, where he lives.

Officially, church leaders have said Hardy was excommunicated for "conduct unbecoming" a church member.

Hardy says the punishment was for his role in producing "Men on Mission," a 2008 calendar that featured photos of shirtless returned church missionaries.

The Mormon church takes disciplinary action when leaders believe a person's behavior or actions are openly incompatible with church teachings and could potentially damage the faith.

Excommunicated church members can still attend church services, although they are prevented from receiving the sacrament and holding church callings, such as teaching or speaking during services.

Hardy has acknowledged he stopped attending church in 2002, the same year he left BYU a few credits short of completing a degree.

In 2008, he resumed his education through an online, independent study program, which was completed in June.

Clark, his attorney, contends BYU cannot withhold Hardy's diploma because school policies do not require online students to be in compliance with honor code standards.


Mormon excommunicated over calendar appeals for BYU diploma

Entrepreneur He got into trouble by publishing photos of shirtless returned LDS missionaries.

By Jennifer Dobner

Associated Press Writer

Updated: 11/22/2008

Salt Lake City The Las Vegas entrepreneur excommunicated by the Mormon church after publishing a calendar featuring shirtless returned missionaries on Friday appealed a decision by Brigham Young University to withhold his diploma.

Chad Hardy was told that his July excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made him ineligible for graduation. He had participated in the school's August commencement ceremonies.

In a letter sent Friday to the office of Norman Finlinson, executive director of BYU's Student, Academic and Advisement Services, Salt Lake City attorney Stephen C. Clark demanded the school award the diploma or hold a formal appeals process, which Hardy never had.

Failing to give Hardy a fair hearing could prompt legal action, Clark's letter said.

Clark said BYU violated its own policies in its handling of Hardy's case, which includes failing to warn Hardy in advance that his eligibility was in jeopardy before taking disciplinary action, he said.

BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins confirmed receipt of the letter Friday, but said she could offer no further comment.

Hardy, 31, is the creator of the "Men on a Mission" calendar featuring returned missionaries posing shirtless in black suit slacks.

He was excommunicated July 13 by a council of Las Vegas-based church leaders. Officially, the loss of membership was for conduct unbecoming a church member. In addition to the 2008 calendar, the charges were rooted in his failure to pay tithing and a lapse in other religious obligations, a senior church elder involved in the proceedings told The Associated Press in July.

School officials have said in the past that to be in good standing, students are required to be in compliance with a school honor code that dictates conduct and behavior standards that mirror the religious principles of the church.

Hardy attended BYU full-time between 1999 and 2002, but left before completing all graduation requirements. He finished his last four units -- a religion course in church history -- through an independent study program online in June.

Clark also said Hardy should have been awarded a diploma because the school doesn't require independent study students to be in compliance with the honor code.

Copies of the letter to BYU and a letter sent Friday to church headquarters were obtained by AP.

Clark's second letter asked the church to publicly state the reasons for Hardy's excommunication, so that he can "clear his good name."

Hardy has said the disciplinary hearing that led to his expulsion centered on the calendar. In Clark's letter, he said the church has disputed that assertion, which he said creates the impression that Hardy engaged in other "serious immoral or illegal conduct" that led to his expulsion. Hardy denies any such conduct.

A church spokeswoman said she couldn't comment on the letter Friday because it had not yet been received.

Ex-Mormon calendar-maker has BYU diploma yanked

October 17, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The Las Vegas man behind a calendar featuring shirtless returned Mormon missionaries has had his diploma yanked by the Mormon-owned Brigham Young University.

Chad Hardy says he finished his last four units for graduation in June. On Aug. 15, he crossed the stage with other graduates during ceremonies at the Provo school.

In between, he was excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Hardy lost his membership for conduct unbecoming a member, charges rooted in his failure to pay tithing, a lapse of other obligations and the production of the 2008 "Men on a Mission" calendar.

A letter from BYU's director of student academic and advisement services says Hardy's graduation application is on "hold" and that he can reapply if he is "reinstated as a member of the church in good standing."


Ex-Mormon calendar-maker has BYU diploma yanked


October 20, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Brigham Young University has yanked the diploma of a man who created a calendar featuring shirtless Mormon missionaries and was later excommunicated from the church.

Chad Hardy of Las Vegas attended graduation ceremonies Aug. 15 after finishing up his last four units of study online in June. But on July 13, in between completing his studies and the graduation ceremony, he was excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A Sept. 30 letter from Norman B. Finlinson, the school's executive director of student academic and advisement services, said a nonacademic hold was placed on Hardy's record after the church-owned university learned of the excommunication.

"If in the future you are reinstated as a member of the church in good standing, you are invited to contact my office regarding your possible eligibility for the awarding of a degree," Finlinson wrote.

Hardy, 31, plans to challenge the school's decision.

"I intend to fight this tooth-and-nail," he said.

Hardy's excommunication for conduct unbecoming a church member was rooted in his failure to pay tithing, a lapse in other religious obligations and, according to Las Vegas regional church elder Frank E. Davie, his involvement with the 2008 "Men on a Mission" calendar.

Hardy's calendar sold nearly 11,000 copies and features 12 returned church missionaries in mostly modest poses, minus their trademark white shirts, ties and black plastic name badges.

The calendar was intended to shake up the stuffy, cookie-cutter stereotype often associated with Mormons, Hardy said.

News reports of his excommunication helped sales of the 2008 calendar and have landed Hardy larger U.S. and international distribution contracts for the just-released 2009 edition, which carries a disclaimer that it is not directly affiliated with or endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.