David Rodeback's Blog

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Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

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Monday, June 19, 2006
Miscellaneous Notes, Mostly Local

A local blogger, gravel roads, possibly offensive movies, and a letter that got a guy fired.

Welcome Back, Blogger

American Fork City Councilman Shirl LeBaron has been blogging again after several weeks of being too busy with LBB. I recommend his January 14 post on AFCNet, the city's municipal broadband system. Now if we can only get State Representative John Dougall's life to slow down a little, so he can resume blogging . . .

"Smutty Books" . . . Er, Films

When an American Fork Library patron complains about the content of a movie, someone from the Library Board is assigned to watch the offending flick and report and recommend. My favorite city councilor is an ex officio member of the board (which means she's a member by virtue of her office, not that she's a nonvoting member). She drew A Room with a View this week and delegated watching it to me. It's one of the better cinematic adaptations of a novel, and I've seen it twice before, but there is one skinny-dipping scene where one can briefly but repeatedly glimpse the, ahem, essential attributes of three men, including the local vicar. (Does the vicar's involvement make it worse?) The MPAA never rated the movie; Roger Ebert gives it a reasonable PG-13. I'd sooner have the movie without that scene, but I don't think it was sexual or pornographic. I have these questions:

  • Would putting a warning on the film at the library, or even its electronic catalog entry, discourage viewing or encourage it?
  • If I borrowed some infamously and infectiously stupid film, and then complained that it glorified stupidity and bad grammar, and should therefore not be in the library's collection, would the Board take me seriously and review it? Or is the harm we see in some movies limited to violence, sexuality, and foul language?
  • Is it possible that a Mormon bishop is the wrong person to be reviewing films for decency? And would it be especially wrong of me to recommend that you watch the film, but use the fast-forward button appropriately? (The please-give-me-so-many-rules-I-don't-have-to-think crowd would note that it's not rated R, so it must be okay.)

Excellence in Gravel Roads, Etc.

I spent Friday and Saturday with a youth group, among other things learning to hurl a spear with an atlatl. On that junket I also experienced the five or six smoothest miles of gravel road I have ever encountered. This was just outside Delta, on the way from state road something-or-other to the Great Stone Face. There are miles of interstate in Utah County which are not nearly so smooth. What do they know in Millard County that we don't know? Also, campsite 23 at the Fremont Indian State Park's Castle Rock Campground is at the base of some pretty cool geology.

Check the Source Before Boiling

Back in Utah County, when my wife told me last week that she heard on the radio about an acquaintance of ours losing his job at BYU for disagreeing publicly with the LDS First Presidency about the proposed Marriage Protection Amendment, I thought, "Oh, no, there goes my alma mater being daft again!" This was first thing in the morning. By the time I was out of the shower, I had thought up a short but blistering list of things BYU might do next. (Purge non-LDS professors? Wait, they already sorta did that last decade, didn't they? Cross-check the faculty database with Democratic Party voter registrations, perhaps?)

But then I read Philosophy instructor Jeff Nielsen's actual letter and saw that he attacks fundamental LDS Church doctrines about the family, not just a political stance, and labels Church leaders "unethical," "immoral," and, just for good measure, dishonest about the Church's history and its doctrine. I decided that my ardor was misplaced. The termination of his employment was a completely predictable and appropriate consequence of the letter. The letter itself practically had "fire me" stamped all over it.

This is not intellectual tyranny. Why should any employer continue to employ someone who publicly and fundamentally opposes the employer's mission? Saturday's Tribune editorial conveniently misrepresents his letter as simply "criticizing a political stand taken by his church." If that were all he had done, he'd probably still be making lesson plans for next semester in Provo, instead of entertaining job offers from other area institutions of higher learning, where "fired from BYU" is a positive qualification, rather like "banned in Boston" used to be. The moral to my story: Before rushing to judgment, check the facts.

Raymond T. Swenson comments (6/21/06):

I agree with your analysis that the adjunct instructor was clearly violating BYU policy in a way that was inconsistent with his employment there.

And I would like to point out that employees who work for organizations that SUPPORT the gay rights agenda have been fired, and their firings upheld by the courts. A particular example happened about a year ago, when Hewlett Packard's plant in Boise fired a worker for placing on his cubicle a sign that cited -- but did not quote -- a passage from Leviticus that condemns homosexual actions as sinful, even though not a single other worker had complained about it to management. The H-P policy is set at its HQ in Palo Alto, CA, and is openly supportive of giving spousal status to the "partners" of employees. H-P's firing of the man was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Since many universities were plaintiffs in the recent lawsuit that attempted to bar military recruiters from campus on the grounds that the military discriminates against openly practicing homosexuals, you can be sure that if an adjunct faculty member at one of those institutions were to write a letter in the local newspaper that denounced the school's position, he or she would also be fired.

Raymond Takashi Swenson
Attorney at Law
Idaho Falls, ID

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