Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Professor Bott and Racism

The Washington Post recently quoted one of my BYU professors, Department of Religion professor Randy Bott.

First, some background. I first took a class from Bott when I was 18. It was a mission prep class, and my friend Aaron was also in the class. I remember a couple of things--the class was large, fun, and easy. Bott told some great missionary stories and gave us some tips on missionary work. I don't remember anything controversial, but I was only 18, and I doubt my critical thinking skills were up to noticing that kind of thing anyway.

Several years later, I needed an easy class to break up an otherwise difficult schedule, so I signed up for another Bott religion class. At some point, Bott when on a rant about environmentalists who support population control. Another student wisely pointed out that the earth would be in trouble if everyone used as many resources as Americans use. I knew the student was right, and was disappointed when Bott dismissed the comment as being untrue.

Years later, a newspaper article praised Bott for being a popular teacher--and I stated my opinion that great students challenge students, something Bott never did. He told fun stories, he counseled some students (especially athletes), and he gave out A's like candy. He never truly challenged his students.

Now, Bott has stated some ideas about reasons for the priesthood ban in a widely read, national newspaper. His ideas are outdated. Numerous general authorities, including Elder McConkie and Elder Holland, have stated that such ideas are wrong. But Elder Bott still holds on to them. The old excuses for banning blacks from the priesthood still live on.

The church, of course, has responded, and quickly.

"The positions attributed to BYU professor Randy Bott in a recent Washington Post article absolutely do not represent the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

So Bott is wrong. We already knew that.

"BYU faculty members do not speak for the Church. It is unfortunate that the Church was not given a chance to respond to what others said."

But wait a minute. Bott isn't just a BYU faculty member--he's a member of the BYU Religion Professor. Sounds like a pretty reliable source. He teaches thousands of soon-to-be missionaries about the gospel! He's the most popular professor at BYU!

Point is--if the church doesn't want people like Bott to speak for the church, they shouldn't hire him for BYU's religion department in the first place. His thoughts on the priesthood ban are not secret or new--cached pages from his suddenly-disappeared blog make that clear.

Now that Bott's gone and made a bad name for the church, he needs to be fired. He's past retirement age anyway. But his firing would make clear a few things:

First, the church doesn't employ racists to teach its religion classes.
Second, the church doesn't tolerate religion professors who teach apostasies, regardless of how popular the religion professors are.
Third, the church wishes to separate itself as far as possible from the statements Randy Bott made in the Washington Post.

Fire him. Now. (Or at least get him to resign, now--everyone understands that that's just another word for "fire" anyway). Get someone else to teach his classes for the rest of the semester. Someone who's racist and stupid enough to make those kind of statements to a Washington Post reporter does not belong on the BYU faculty.


Tim said...

And, I just found out Deseret News published an article by Nate Oman on this:

A must-read if you're interested in this or if you disagree with any part of my post. He also provides some references that I lazily omitted.

JorgenMan said...


Jenni said...

Daniel C Peterson had some things to say in response

Tim said...

Thanks for the Peterson link. I respect Peterson, but I disagree with him on this point. If the church really wants to move past this, it needs to show, swiftly and clearly, that it means business, and that it won't tolerate this kind of behavior. Being lenient on Bott won't do the trick.