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The American Bar Association has dropped its investigation into a discrimination complaint against Brigham Young University.
A group of former students known as FreeBYU announced the outcome Wednesday, 10 months after asking the law school accreditors to look into the BYU policies of expelling students who leave the Mormon faith or engage in same-sex relationships.
The decision was a disappointment to the group, which released a statement saying that "BYU's policies still unduly discriminate against LDS students who change their faith."
According to documents released by FreeBYU, an officer with the American Bar Association (ABA) wrote to BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School on July 14 that, after a reviewing the group's complaint and a response from the university, "no further action on the complaint was merited. The matter is now closed."
FreeBYU spokesman Brad Levin believes his group's October request prompted the private school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make small changes in November to a process that provides some exemptions for Mormon students who haven't received their required yearly ecclesiastical endorsement but want to stay at the school. Under BYU policy, all students must obtain an endorsement from Mormon bishops, the BYU chaplain or, if a student is not a member of the LDS Church, another faith leader.
The ABA likely stopped its investigation based on the changes, Levin said, but added that because "it's not clear" how school officials will come down on individual cases, students might still feel unsure about how the school will treat them if they decide to leave the church.
University spokeswoman Carri Jenkins wrote in an email that while "some minor adjustments were made to the already existing process by which students can petition for an exception to the ecclesiastical endorsement requirement," the changes came before the school heard from the ABA. The university will continue to evaluate each student's case individually, she added.
Jenkins also pointed to a statement on the law school's website, which says "we recently received notice that the ABA has rejected the complaint and has closed the matter ... We look forward to making continued progress as we pursue our mission of providing our students an outstanding legal education in an atmosphere of religious faith."
BYU previously has said that Mormons who leave the faith are held to a different standard than those who begin their first semester having never been part of the LDS Church. The school stresses that the rule applies to students who leave the church and not those who wrestle with faith issues temporarily.
Non-LDS students pay twice what a Mormon student does at BYU on the basis that LDS families' tithing supports the faith's flagship school, located in Provo.