‘Religion Has No Place in Public Institutions’ DSC Student Argues After LDS President Announced as Commencement Speaker

president monson to speak at dscST. GEORGE – Dixie State College announced yesterday that President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be this year’s Commencement speaker.

The announcement was met with mixed reaction.

“Regardless of religious affiliations, I think it’s excellent that they have chosen someone that is truly inspirational,” said Holly Mattson.

“People young and old embarking on their future couldn’t receive wiser counsel,” said Cynthia Paramore.

However, some students want to make it clear they are not OK with the college’s decision. Stefanie McKenzi, a senior at DSC graduating this year with a degree in English, said she is outraged by the decision.

“I didn’t go to BYU for a reason,” McKenzi said. “We’re proving that you cannot be educated in the state of Utah without having this religion pushed upon you. We’re not allowing people to have differences or diversity. We’re forced to accept this religion in some way. It hits a very sore spot with me.”

In their statement released to the media, DSC announced: “Given that Dixie State College was originally founded by the LDS Church a century ago, it seems appropriate to acknowledge our roots as we prepare to enter our next 100 years.”

Monson will be given an honorary doctorate degree in Humanities as part of the commencement. DSC currently does not offer doctorate degrees to their students. Monson has also received honorary doctorate degrees from BYU, Salt Lake Community College, Southern Utah University and the University of Utah.

“I would feel differently if he had some form of accomplishments,” McKenzi said. “The way that they announced it … he’s being heightened just because of his position in the church.”

Katrina James, a St. George News reader, posted her thoughts on the St. George News Facebook page.

“He is a successful businessman and leader and a very inspirational speaker and he has lived a long time; he knows what he’s talking about,” James posted.

But McKenzi argued that it is just another way of pushing religion onto everyone in the state.

“I’m outraged,” she said. “I worked really hard for four years to get this degree and now I can’t celebrate my own accomplishments without supporting someone I don’t agree with. The fact is that I go to a public institution and … I should be able to celebrate every part of my graduation.”

McKenzi said she would like to boycott the Commencement ceremonies, but she could not do that to her family who supported her for four years. She also said that although she is a Democrat, she would be OK with former President George W. Bush speaking at Commencement.

“This is a public institution, religion has no place there,” she said.

Chris Busch told St. George News that she was unhappy when the “church president was the speaker at SUU a few years ago.”

“The families of the graduates were strictly limited on the number of tickets they could get to the graduation because so many people in the community wanted to see him,” Busch said. “If that is the case, there should be a second meeting where people can listen to him, and just have the families of the graduates at the graduation ceremony. Not everyone here is interested in what the LDS church has to say.”

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2011, all rights reserved.

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  • Cole March 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    I’m only ok with this if the religious aspect isn’t broached whatsoever, I am not against the LDS nor any religion, but I agree to some extent that he is not an appropriate speaker for this type of ceremony, I mean other than Church affiliations, what else has he done? just curious. Why not a pioneer of the business realm instead.

  • Greg March 31, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Who said that he will be pushing religion down anyone’s throat? He happens to have led a successful life and probably understands more about being successful than most others. Would she be upset if the Reverend Jesse jackson spoke? I don’t think so, because he is a Democrat? Put your anti-Mormon biases and politics aside! But like all good Dems, she believes in free speech, just not something she disagrees with.

  • greg March 31, 2011 at 7:40 am

    How about this?:

    he is a WWII veteran with an MBA. He knows about the last great war, about business, and about service, and he will relate to you with his famous storytelling skills. Or do you think there is too much service and charity in the world today?

    I thought college was about getting different points of view. I guess for some but not for anti-mormons.

    What a bunch of whiners.

  • Joe March 31, 2011 at 7:43 am

    No one said the man is going to give a sermon. They just said it was a commencement speech. He actually worked for Ronald Reagan’s presidential administration at one time. Sound like a person who is qualified to speak. Discriminating against a speaker because of their affiliations goes against what this country stands for. If a person is so offended by the clergy and anything affiliated with the church they shouldn’t attend a school founded by a church based on that “logic”.

  • Mark Holley March 31, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Wow. She sounds really whiny: “I’m outraged,” she said. “I worked really hard for four years to get this degree and now I can’t celebrate my own accomplishments without supporting someone I don’t agree with. The fact is that I go to a public institution and … I should be able to celebrate every part of my graduation.”

    The worst part about the article is the fact that I would guess 95% of the people are elated to have the leader of the LDS church coming, but the author sought out the one activist to prove some obscure point that doesn’t reflect the majority view.

  • Shawn Jones March 31, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Just a question has Dixie ever had a leader of another Faith speak?

  • James March 31, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    “McKenzi stated that “I would feel differently if he had some form of accomplishments”

    Before stating this, she should have looked into his other accomplishments.

    Thomas Monson was in the navy, chairman of the board of directors for Deseret News in 1977, on the Utah state board of regents handling higher education in Utah, appointed by President Reagan to the president’s task force for private sector initiatives, on the printing industries of America board, president of the printing industry of Utah, on the national executive board of boy scouts of America, chaired the audit committee for the Commercial Security Bank and was on their board of directors, member of the board of directors for Key Bank, taught at the U of U, placed 1st in Slate magazines most powerful 80 over 80, and received awards and honorary degrees from the boy scouts and U of U and other higher education institutions, received the worldwide humanitarian award from Rotary International, and many other awards and accomplishments. Almost all of these were before he was called to be President of the LDS church.

  • Dennis Busch April 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I somewhat disagree with my mother. I think it is great that in these down economic times, schools are using free speakers as opposed to paying large sums of money to bring in other big-named speakers. The person who says that they’d rather see George W. Bush, probably doesn’t realize that speaker like that cost $200,000+ while Thomas Monson is free.

    Monson, like at his other non-religious appearances, is going to probably talk about the importance of education, and that’s about it. I guess I’d rather see a free and accomplished religious leader than an overly-expensive, secular politician.

  • Shar G. April 3, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    What can you expect in a state where the mormon church has a building as part of the campus? I truly doubt that the 95% of people who’d be thrilled to have the president of the mormon church speak would feel the same way about any other religious leader; they’d be leading the opposition in that case. We live in a state that is controlled by the church, and this is one of the instances where we feel it.

    Non-mormons might not understand this unless they lived somewhere that they were constantly in the minority. Instead they question the motives of the article’s author rather than to recognize that not everyone is thrilled to have the head of the mormon church speak at a supposedly non-secular education event in our community.

    I’d be interested in knowing whether the president of the mormon church has ever spoken at the commencement ceremonies outside of Utah – and church-related schools don’t count.

  • Richard I April 4, 2011 at 7:17 am

    Wow! I cannot believe the bigotry demonstrated in this article. The constitution guaranteed freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion. Why one would choose to be offended by another’s beliefs is ridiculous. I’m not catholic but when a catholic prays or speaks at a meeting I’ve attended, it is not offensive to me. I may have different beliefs, but those are mine and they have theirs. Why focus on the differences and instead celebrate what unites us. In the case of Monson, he has devoted his life to service, not just in his church, but to his country (military), to youth (B.S.A.), and in humanitarian endeavors extended to those of all faiths. I am 100% confident that if you don’t agree with his religious beliefs that the school has not placed a font out back in which you will be baptized immediately following the ceremony, so you have nothing to worry about.

  • Kay Lynn April 27, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Just out of curiosity, Stephanie, do you know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS/Mormom) started Dixie Academy (later Dixie College and then Dixie State College)? Apparently not. Why not celebrate the 100 year anniversary with an LDS speaker? It only makes sense. Besides that, what has President Monson ever done that is to be ashamed of? Would you rather have a corrupt politician who only cares about him or herself. Wants to be paid an outlandish fee to speak? Next time, do your homework before you start badmouthing a great man such as President Monson; or even the LDS Church for that matter! Oh, and stop your whining…you sound like a 2 year old not getting her candy before dinner!

  • justcap April 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Hey Stefanie, just go enjoy your graduation.

    If you let a speaker you disagree with ruin your graduation, you have not learned anything about life during your 4 years of college. I graduated from USU last year, and guess who the speaker was? Danny Glover. Not only is he very anti-American, but he is also a boring speaker! But did we graduates let that ruin our day just because we disagree with him? Heaven’s no! Not most of us, anyway. It was still a great day and we graduated and learned something from a fellow human being.

    Lighten up and learn to learn from different opinions. If you don’t, you’ll be in for a long, tough life, in which you will find yourself “outraged” all the time.

  • Tyler May 13, 2011 at 1:56 am

    Couldn;t agree more with McKenzie. Typical Utah jive isn’t it?! She hit the nail on the head saying she didn’t go to BYU for a reason!! If I attended DSC, I woulda put up a fight against this. It is indeed yet ANOTHER way of the mormom church putting it’s ginormous nose in business it doesn’t belong in! I’m fed up and the more diverse this school and community becomes, the less tolerated it will be.

  • Str8Realtalk May 13, 2011 at 2:03 am

    This is a graduation for Godsake, not a mormon “conference” (shaking my head)

  • Kristin May 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Can I say something from a mother of a graduate. I am Mormon, but inactive. If my daughter in law would have not given me a ticket I would have not been able to go to my son’s graduation and only because there were too many people there!. President Monson was a good speaker, because he has been there, done that, educated man. NOT BECAUSE HE IS MORMON! He did this for free, which saved the college money….DUH! The girl who got up and gave the Legally Blonde speech is the one you should have been complaining about! Be glad you even got to go to college! There are a lot of smart kids out there that would have loved and been honored to be in your shoes!

  • Str8Realtalk May 15, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    BREATHE kristin, it’s America, don’t get so offended/defensive. It’s her opinion, her right, and many agree with her.

  • Jezzy October 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Wow. There’s a lot of (pro) Mormon bias here. You really don’t understand what it’s like, do you? What it’s like to NOT be Mormon? You don’t want to, do you? You think it’s an exaggeration? Try marking every time it’s brought up in a week. Try being pro-gay, pro-choice, liberal, feminist, humanist and an atheist and living here. Do I bring it up? No, not really, why would I?

    Other people sure do– the student next to me out of nothing starts talking about the “pre-existence” and I just smile because to tell her I don’t believe in that would seem an insult. A friend tells me she quit her job because she couldn’t feel the spirit and asks me if I know what that means– and she knows that I’m not Mormon. In class, a PROFESSOR misleads his students about communism, gender, and partial-birth abortion (in an unrelated class). In concert choir, the majority of the music was sacred music (the professor of that class was actually exceptionally helpful with me, however), You try to start a group– so that you can have SOMEONE to talk to about these types of things– and every. Single. One. Of your flyers is torn down. The church comes to your home, again, and you have to kindly explain to them that you are not Mormon, again, and invite you to events anyway, but you’ve fallen for that too many times. You log onto Facebook, and scroll through a plethora of comments about how Young Women’s was tonight.

    And at the end of the day, you have to remember that these people are good people at heart, even if they’ve made YOUR day miserable. And then you log onto the school website, and the school announces that to pay tribute to it’s MORMON roots, they’ve invited the President of the LDS Church, Thomas S. Monson, to speak at commencement for the entire school.

    And some of your friends aren’t Mormon, so clearly they don’t capture the spirit what Dixie was founded on. And some of your friends are women, and the way that they’re treated by male church members feels uncomfortable and demeaning. And some of your friends are gay, and the idea that they will graduate with that man’s words tears them up inside– and you hurt right along with them.

    And you remember all of the pain. What it was like being in those uncomfortable tights and sitting in church, the lectures about how much of a woman’s worth as a human being is tied to her virginity, the young men who weren’t even allowed to explore their own bodies… the prayers for God to kill you… or make you thin, make you pretty… the sick stomachs and the tears shed over the sheer inhuman mess of pith that was Proposition 8… and of course, the horrifying realization that once, once you were a part of that.

    And if you fight back, if you say that Mormonism damaged you, if you say that the school needs to protect its students with more secular values, or if you say that you’re disgusted by a school that claims to care about diversity and displays that by paying tribute to the least diverse aspect of it’s entire history– LDS, Caucasian patriarchs…. then someone will jump in and say that you should not care. That you’re being anti-Mormon. That you’re over-reacting. That it’s magically NOT a religious issue.

    And it’s like they’ve won. Again. And they’ll slowly kill your spirit more and more and you’ll just have to keep smiling and treating them like people… because they are, no matter how little they seem to care what they say or do, or how they treat beliefs other than their own. It is NOT a small issue. It is NOT an overreaction. Please treat me like a person. You don’t know how badly I crave that at times.

    Long story short– I think recruiting Monson was in bad taste.

    PS- “Besides that, what has President Monson ever done that is to be ashamed of?”

    This was perhaps the rudest comment I saw — and within that, this was the most fallacious inquiry (people have a tendency to tell people they’re being whiny or rude and then respond in turn, she has, and to some extent I will here too.)– seriously? Ending the human rights of 10% of our population mean anything to you? Those gay suicides ringing any bells? Sexism? Patriarchy? None of this sound familiar?

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