Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Church, State, and What's the Difference, Anyway?

So, back to the Boyd K. Packer BS on the Weber State University campus.  Here's the deal, in case you missed it.   Well, it turns out the husband (Jared Lisonbee) of the woman (Shairylann Lisonbee, whose parents should be smacked for that spelling) whose letter to the editor first clued me on this freakshow travesty used to be an associate/assistant professor in the very department where this mess is going down.  

Yes, that's an awkward paragraph, but the operative phrase there?  "Used to be."

That's right--he was the only person on staff to raise objections, and now he's out of a job--or will be, once his contract is up.  That's right, Weber chose not to renew, and gave no reason for their decision.  

Now, those Utah-type folks might argue "Oh, it's a coincidence" or "it's got nothing to do with the church or the Packers-decision" or (and most likely, as this is the way this sort of thing so often goes down) "he was let go for unrelated performance issues."  And maybe that's true.  Maybe there's no connection whatsoever.  One thing, though--he was told that he and Weber State just might not be a "good fit."

Hmm.  I've heard those words.  From a staff member teaching in that very building.  I blogged about it HERE months ago.

Here's the scoop on the Lisonbee family and Weber State as it arrived in my email box last night:

On May 6th, Shairylann Lisonbee wrote a letter to the editor, concerning the naming of a family outreach center at Weber State University after LDS Apostle Boyd K. Packer. She suggested that this was a bad idea, since the center was at a public university, and was intended to serve a diverse set of families in the community. The name was problematic because Brother Packer has forcefully spoken out against interracial and homosexual families in the past. It is possible to respect Boyd K. Packer as a person, and as a religious leader, without believing that it is a good idea to put his name on a family outreach center at a public university, given his past statements and views that oppose the loving families of so many.

Inspired by her letter, I wrote my first petition about this issue, borrowing many of her thoughts on the matter. The petition currently has 2,316 signatures.

Shairylann's husband is on the faculty at Weber State University in the College of Education where the Packer Center is housed. When the name of the center was first announced, Jared Lisonbee suggested that naming the center after Brother Packer would alienate many of the very families that the center was intended to serve. He was the only member of the faculty at the meeting to express such obvious concerns.

It has recently come to my attention that Jared has now been removed from his position at the University, and all indications are that his removal was a result of his opposition to the naming of the family center, and of his wife's letter to the editor, and the resulting petition. I believe that this is a morally reprehensible action. If dissenting voices cannot even be heard at a public university, for fear of retaliation that might cost the person their job, then how can an open and free dialogue on the issues be maintained? I believe that this is a severe miscarriage of justice, and, if things are as they strongly appear, this is an apparent attempt by an individual to impose their vision of a harmful and hurtful religious orthodoxy on others at what is supposed to be a public university.

With permission, I would like to quote the letter Shairylann wrote with her initial reaction to the firing of her husband:

"I'm in shock. My husband just lost his job over the naming of the Boyd K. Packer center at Weber State University. He is an assistant professor at Weber in the College of Education - the college responsible for the Packer center. Last year in the faculty meeting where the name for the family center was announced, he was THE ONLY person who protested the naming, mentioning that Packer was not viewed as friendly toward gays, academicians, feminists, and interracial couples. Since then, his department chair became increasingly hostile, making off-handed comments toward him like "You know, Weber State is not a good fit for everyone." On May 6th I wrote my letter to the editor that was published, criticizing naming the Weber's family center after Boyd K. Packer. I shouldn't have. Yesterday, out of the blue, my husband received a letter telling him that his contract would not be renewed, giving no reasons for the decision. It is so obviously related to our opposition to the naming of the Packer Center, but I doubt we could ever prove it. He is going to talk to people today about making a possible case for religious discrimination, but I'm sure we our going to be jobless in the end, and he will have an ugly professional strike against him. I hate that there is no real protection from the church in this state."

Obviously I am very unhappy with what has happened here, and I also feel somewhat responsible, because I am the one that took her original letter to the editor, and turned it into a petition, that eventually ended up in the news, and that produced some bad press for Weber State, a result that may have partially motivated these reprehensible actions. Nevertheless, I feel like we have done the right thing here, despite the price that some have been forced to pay for speaking up.

I would encourage everyone here to again take up the petition, and pass it around among all of your friends and family. Letting the faculty and administrators at Weber State know that there really are a large number of people who oppose their actions and decisions on this matter.

Please pass this on to those that you know, and spread the word.

Thank you,

James L. Carroll

What can I say?  I'm not proud of my Alma Mater right now.  Canning someone for expressing a dissenting view?  That might fit in with the Boyd K. Packer world view, but that's utterly unacceptable for a PUBLICLY FUNDED institution of higher learning in the United States.  If that's what happened, if Mr. Lisonbee was left jobless because he and his wife disagreed with a highly questionable decision, then, my old school shames itself, and shames the rest of us by association.  Come on, be a state university--Utah already has a BYU.


Speaking of the above disaster, I have friends who work for Weber State University.  They are being vocal and amazingly brave (let's face it, it's scary speaking out against an organization that, allegedly, fired someone for speaking out), and I'm very proud of them.  


Speaking of the Mormon Church and the endless twisting and melding of church and state in Utah, this meme/picture came sliding across my Facebook wall today:

A beautiful picture, no question about it.  It's gone viral, no telling who took it or when.  And if it doesn't strike terror in your heart, I don't know what will.  This came scudding through with a quote from that atrocious Lee Greenwood song--you know, "Proud to Be an American?"  The picture-perfect melding of church and state here--the clear implication that church IS state.  The sick forwarding of the idea that to be patriotic is to be religious and vice versa.  This picture, in all its technical and compositional beauty, is a nightmare.

Note some of the comments.  Especially the last one which, I can only hope, is satire. Other than "sobering," the rest of these comments strike me as something straight out of an SNL skit.  

Hooah, indeed.


And, since I have you right there on religion, let's talk about parents who use religion as a bludgeon to guilt, condemn, and terrorize a gay child, all under the guise of loving support and . . . garbage.  Here, read this:

My 15 year old said he doesn't pity this woman, but I do.  I pity her the same way I pity anyone who does awful, stupid things and later comes to regret them, but not in time to stave off tragedy.  But the sad reality is that this boy had every ounce of self-love, self-confidence, joy, self-acceptance, and surety of love bludgeoned out of him by Bible-wielding parents.  Reason 5,678 why mythology sucks.


And now, speaking of crappy things parents do to their kids?  If you name your child "Whiskey Chance," (that's first and middle), don't be surprised when he winds up in jail.  Seriously, are you stupid?  How did you THINK that was going to turn out?


And that's it for today.  Here, have something visually stimulating:

Oh, and I apologize for the crappy formatting here today.  Sometimes Blogger just decides to go with its gut feelings and disregard any pesky alignment decisions I make.  Can't wait to see what it's done with the font.  

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