American Psychological Association refuses to hold BYU accountable for discrimination

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American Psychological Association refuses to hold BYU accountable for discrimination

20 February 2017 — FreeBYU just received the APA’s response to our complaint documenting religious discrimination against psychology students at BYU. In its response, the APA refused to hold BYU’s psychology program accountable to the APA’s accreditation standards prohibiting discrimination against students and faculty.

The APA’s Role in Inclusion and Diversity at BYU

The APA’s accreditation standards state that policies of accredited schools may not be “used to preclude the admission, hiring, or retention of individuals because of… personal and demographic characteristics. These include, but are not limited to, age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, language, national origin, race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, and social economic status.” (“Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology”, p. 10, footnote 4).

The APA also requires that an accredited program has ”nondiscriminatory policies and operating conditions, and it avoids any actions that would restrict program access or completion on grounds that are irrelevant to success in graduate training or the profession.”

FreeBYU applauds the APA’s stated commitment to diversity and inclusion. BYU’s continued practice of imposing eviction, termination, and expulsion on LDS students who change their religious affiliation is inconsistent with the APA’s stated commitment. BYU’s practice of not admitting formerly LDS students based on religious affiliation is also in violation. Our complaint to the Association documented BYU’s discriminatory policies and practices that apply to students and faculty in APA-accredited programs, and asked that it take action to require that BYU comply with its accreditation guidelines.


Why the APA is wrong to exempt BYU’s psychology programs from its discrimination requirements

In its response, the APA expressed its view that our complaint was against “the institution of Brigham Young University.” This is incorrect:

  1. Our complaint clearly targeted APA-accredited programs at BYU: even the very first sentence reads, “I am writing to file a formal complaint on behalf of students and faculty members in the APA-accredited programs at Brigham Young University (BYU) located in Provo, Utah regarding violations of the Guiding Principles for Accreditation of the American Psychological Association (APA).”

  2. The APA includes BYU’s Counseling Psychology, Special Education and Clinical Psychology / Department of Psychology, and Counseling and Psychological Services in its list of accredited programs.

  3. BYU also claims APA accreditation in its program materials. For example, BYU’s Ph.D in Clinical Psychology claims “The Clinical Psychology doctoral program at Brigham Young University is a well-established, nationally visible program… Our program has enjoyed continuous accreditation by the American Psychological Association (APA) since 1971.”

  4. All students and faculty in APA-accredited programs at BYU are subject to BYU’s honor code, which brings honor code content and enforcement squarely within the scope of the APA’s accreditation.


The APA’s response demonstrates a reluctance to hold BYU’s APA-accredited programs accountable for complying with its accreditation standards, and stands out in unfortunate contrast to their published support of nondiscrimination.


Background on BYU’s Honor Code

In order to be in good Honor Code standing, BYU students must meet an ecclesiastical endorsement requirement passed off by their local church leader. For LDS students, this takes the form an in-person interview with the bishop of their congregation, wherein the student’s adherence to the Honor Code is assessed. Students without an ecclesiastical endorsement are not allowed to enroll in or attend classes, work on campus, graduate, or reside in BYU approved housing.


FreeBYU’s Position


Despite LDS advocacy for religious freedom around the world, BYU students who exercise their religious freedom and leave the LDS faith are still subject to expulsion, eviction, and termination. Therefore, FreeBYU calls upon BYU to:


  • Honor the LDS Church’s 11th Article of Faith, which “allow[s] all men… [to] worship how, where, or what they may.”

  • Reform the Honor Code further by removing the stated prohibition on LDS disaffiliation, and by affirmatively stating that one’s religious affiliation is not an Honor Code issue: students are free to believe and worship according to the dictates of their own consciences without risking expulsion, termination, and eviction.

Media Coverage

KUTV2: FreeBYU says American Psychological Association ‘refused’ to hold BYU accountable


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