ROTC may move from BYU to UVU after colonel bristles at Honor Code

I certainly hope BYU doesn’t prevail on this one, such as by getting a more compliant colonel assigned to the position.


Especially considering AFROTC/the Colonel work for the USAF, not an official faculty member of BYU.

In that case, his oath/pledge to abide by USAF policies on/off-base takes precedence…including his right to have coffee off-campus at his own house or anywhere else.

He sounds like a very ethical man, to not be willing to give lip service by pretending he was going to follow their honor code, while drinking coffee and alcohol anyways. They have no right to demand that of him. Perhaps they are trying to only get Mormon officers.

I’d buy him a cup of coffee…or a bourbon.


Interesting side question.

Assuming the USAF knuckles down to BYU and appoints a Mormon as AFROTC detachment commander, would said commander have the right to order subordinate officers/NCOs/enlisted under his/her command to be bound by BYU’s honor code even when it conflicts with their own first amendment rights in the area of religion when off-campus/at home?

Would there be possible Constitutional/conflicts of interest issues involved here? Could the subordinate officer/NCO/enlisted appeal this order feasibly if s/he felt this order is an intrusive overreaching one into his/her own rights to not have another religion imposed on him/her by other entities…including one’s own CO?

I’m certainly not the right one to ask. We were never told to give up coffee or alcohol in the military (except in excess, and except while flying). I was asked obnoxious things, like, “Can I touch your breasts” or, “Will you suck my…” by senior officers, which theoretically sounds far worse, but a request is different than an order. And the answer, of course, was NO. However, the military does have its own code of ethics, and they have punished people for extramarital affairs and officer/enlisted relationships. You do give up many of the rights that you take for granted as a civilian, and there are ridiculous things that you can get disciplined for. But religion is not something that is allowed to be imposed.

However, if the senior officer is expected to abide by some honor code, I suspect anyone else working in the unit would also be expected to abide by the same thing. It would be a different issue if someone was actually trying to enforce something like that. But you can’t drink alcohol when you are in Saudi Arabia (though people surely sneak it in), so it’s not like they don’t enforce those kind of issues elsewhere.

I can see some arguing that there’s a major difference between being based in a sovereign country with a SOFA in which all soldiers/employees must obey the laws of that country.

Something which doesn’t apply to the USAF officers and subordinates under his/her command in the case of BYU off-campus in the CONUS unless they’re also living on-campus…say in the dorms.

I agree. There would be no leg to stand on, if your senior officer ordered something like that. However, if everyone is required to take some sort of pledge, oath or promise to work for, well? Who knows how seriously someone is going to take it. There are some mini Hitlers out there, but I can’t imagine them trying to discipline you for something like that. Well, I can imagine them trying, but not getting away with it if the individuals made a fuss.

Could they attempt to get officers/NCOs/enlisted who make a fuss by writing a poor OERs/personnel reports which could ruin his/her prospects for further promotion/desired assignments?

Well, people can always do that, for whatever reason. If you just get a mediocre one, it could be bad. However, that would all be speculation. Hopefully this will get worked out, where the ROTC unit will either move or the school won’t try to hold non believers to their religious standards. In the end, it usually comes down to money.

Agree that BYU is wrong here. It’s one thing if the honor code applies when the military personnel involved in the ROTC detachment are on campus. It’s another to enforce it on them when they’re off-campus…especially in the privacy of their own off-campus homes. That’s ridiculous.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the ROTC units/Military branches may find it easier to move the detachments. Especially if the private university concerned pushes this issue too hard.

There’s historical precedent for military branches removed ROTC detachments from other private colleges/universities when the private colleges/campus cultures and military/ROTC detachments ended up being in conflict.

Yep, well if BYU wants to lose the detachment, I think they will be accommodated. You can’t force non believers to adhere to your religious principles. I suspect this was just the first guy to speak up. Someone always has to be first.

Is the Col going to suffer adverse career effects from this? It seems all too likely to me.

I guess it depends upon what his career desires are. I hope not. But from my limited experience, ROTC detachment commanders seem to get that job as the last job before retirement anyways…I don’t think it’s the fast track to General at all, and he does have at least 20 years. Odd are, with 20 years of flying experience, he’s probably intending on getting an airline job anyways, and this would absolutely not hurt, might even help. Airline pilots LOVE their beer and live on coffee, for the most part.

The short answer is no. There’s a big difference between telling a soldier not to drink alcohol or coffee and telling a soldier he has to pray. The military issues orders not to drink alcohol all the time(although they might make very limited exceptions: communion administered by a priest).

So the Mormon religion prohibits alcohol, coffee etc. but allows members to enlist in the military where they may have to kill people?

The military does make restrictions on when and where people can drink alcohol, however…I’m not aware of any military position that you could have where they could order you not to drink alcohol anywhere you are in the world, at any time. Whether you are at home, on vacation, time off, in a country where it is completely legal to do so. And I am unaware of restrictions disallowing you to drink coffee anywhere, unless it’s certain locations where no food or drink is allowed.

Could the CSAF legally order all airmen to stop drinking, except for religious purposes? I can’t see why not. Given all the negative effects of alcohol, I think it’s an easy case that such an order would serve a valid military purpose.

Coffee might be tougher to ban. The airmen complaining to the wing commander about his constitutional rights being violated when he doesn’t get his Starbucks latte probably is the type on his way to getting weeded out for one reason or another.

I would bet BYU capritulates, BYU has more to lose, but UVU isn’t an equivalent institution at all and the students would not be comparable. Where does the money come from for ROTC scholarships and how is there no issue before now with the separation of such money from religious schools?

Could military members be ordered to never drink alcohol at any time? That sounds like complete speculation and I sincerely doubt that has ever happened. Maybe they can be ordered to never eat sugar or cheeseburgers too. That’s getting on the borderline ridiculous, and I can tell you, it would be a tough road recruiting if people thought their entire lives, on and off duty were going to be micromanaged like that.

The airman complaining about not getting his Starbucks latte would be complaing to a guy with a mocha in his hand. Nobody, from the top to the bottom, appreciates frivolous rules imposed that affects their lives, when there is no rational justification. Particularly if it’s done because of someone else’s religious beliefs, and no other reason.