A BYU philosophy student was reported to the Honor Code Office and University Police on Dec. 13 for allegedly making death threats toward All Enlisted, a group responsible for the Facebook event “Wear Pants to Church Day,” the first event created by the advocacy group to promote women’s equality in the LDS Church.
The student’s post on the event’s Facebook page states “every single person who is a minority activist, should be shot.. in the face… point blank… GET OVER YOURSELVES”. Hours after the threat was posted the event was removed from Facebook and members of All Enlisted reported the student to BYU’s Honor Code Office and police.
“We organized this event to highlight one of the gendered cultural norms in our church as a symbol of the larger gender inequities that exist,” said event coordinator Kimberly Brinkerhoff Baptista. “It looks like people get pretty angry when you challenge the status quo.”
BYU Police Public Information Officer Arnold Lemmon confirmed that they had been contacted about the incident, but that it was outside of their jurisdiction because the student is suspected to live off-campus. BYU Police referred the complaint to the BYU Honor Code Office which has opted not to comment on the status of its investigation of the threats to protect the student’s privacy.
In a later comment, the same student retracted his death threat but not his malice stating, “the motive of the comment was to rile each of you up, which I did in a most successful way. I didn’t even know that this post made such an impact till I received a phone call this morning pleading for me to delete this post. I will not be deleting this post. I will let this fire burn until anyone who chooses to be an activist has their day ruined completely.”
The student had been the most public and extreme assailant of All Enlisted but not the only one to make threats of violence. One organizer, who has since left the group All Enlisted, received a private message that threatened her life. Details on that instance have not been disclosed to protect the anonymity of the threatened organizer but the threat is under investigation by authorities.
Other severe responses to the “Wear Pants to Church Day” ranged from impartial to extreme. Another BYU student allegedly messaged a member of All Enlisted saying, “…lighten up. If God designed you to take a [word omitted], you should be able to at least take a joke.”
The negative responses did not damage the event according the event organizers. Dialogue of “Wear Pants to Church Day” put the event in the national spotlight, hitting news sites The New York Times and National Public Radio.
“In the end, the extreme nature of the criticisms leveled against our event made our point for us better than any pair of pants ever could,” Baptista said. “Not only that, but it was the single factor that landed us in the international press. So in that sense, the best way to have opposed the event would have been to not oppose it at all.”