SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah gay-rights organization has started a petition to protest the naming of a new Weber State University program after the second-highest ranking leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who has called homosexual attraction as unnatural and immoral.
The Utah Stonewall Democrats sent a letter last week to the school’s board of trustees asking them not to name a family-orientated fundraising and support center after apostle Boyd K. Packer, who is second in line for the Mormon church presidency, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Packer’s comments in the past have drawn backlash, including an address in 2010 when he denounced homosexual attraction as unnatural and immoral. Packer suggested gays could change their orientation with enough faith. In April, Packer warned church members against a “tolerance trap,” in what some considered to be a reference to the legalization of gay marriage.
The group says Packer’s comments over the years contrast the goals the university should have in regards to modern families. He has also in denounced interracial marriage and said the greatest threats to the Mormon faith are from feminists, gays and intellectuals.
“To name something that is family-oriented in honor of a person who has such a narrow vision of what a family is, a vision that quite frankly excludes a lot of Utah families, is reprehensible in my opinion,” Bob Henline, a board member of the Democratic caucus, told Tribune.
The Ogden-based university has no plans to reconsider the name, said spokesman John Kowalewski. He told Tribune that the decision was not taken lightly and that the university tries to create an environment that “welcomes all viewpoints.” He pointed out that they created a scholarship in the 1990s named after Matthew Shepard, a gay man brutally killed in Wyoming.
Officials at the public university of about 25,000 students said they hoped naming it after Packer would help drive up donations and help them reach the goal of raising $1.25 million. The name was announced a month ago, and so far they’ve raised about three-fourths of the goal.
The family center is not a building, but a program to support programs that include literacy and parenting programs for underprivileged families and a new charter school on campus.
Packer has been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 1970.
College leaders considered some of Packer’s past comments, said Jack Rasmussen, dean of the College of Education, but he told Tribune that most people served by the center “would not know or have an interest” in those comments.
“Only certain kinds of people would know about those remarks or worry about those remarks,” Rasmussen said. “A student whose tuition is being paid by someone in the center, I’m not sure they’re going to lose a whole lot of sleep thinking about (the name).”