Chad Hardy (left), the creator of a calendar of shirtless Mormon missionaries, has now not only been excommunicated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but is being denied a diploma by Brigham Young University. Jennifer Dobner of the Associated Press reports:
"A Sept. 30 letter from BYU Executive Director of Student Academic & Advisement Services Norman B. Finlinson states that a nonacademic hold was placed on Hardy's record after the university learned of the excommunication. 'If in the future you are reinstated as a member of the church in good standing, you are invited to contact my office regarding your possible eligibility for the awarding of a degree,' Finlinson wrote. Hardy said he'll challenge BYU's position. 'I intend to fight this tooth-and-nail,' the 31-year-old entrepreneur said."
Over at Times & Seasons, a popular Mormon blog, there's an interesting conversation taking place about the response by church and university to the calendar. Blogger Matt Evans observes:
"Itís hard to know why BYU would choose to prolong the Chad Hardy PR disaster. The best explanation is that BYU administrators watch late night comedy shows wondering, Why Arenít There More Jokes about BYU? Or they sit around wondering how they can really give the Men on a Mission franchise a shot in the arm with a huge dose of free publicity. This law suit will guarantee Hardy, whoís shown he understands the media well, a half dozen news cycles over the next year or two (announcing this letter, the filing of the law suit, BYUís response, the hearings, the ruling; the appeal, BYUís response, the hearings, the ruling). After BYUís administrators help Hardy sell an extra hundred thousand Men on a Mission calendars, expand his product line and make him a national symbol of Freedom of Expression, theyíll probably realize Hardy didnít accept their fight because he wanted the diploma."
But at the Dallas Morning News's religion blog, Bruce Tomaso writes:
"Doesn't sound entirely fair -- if he earned the diploma, he earned it. But, then, BYU is owned and operated by the Mormon Church. It's their school."
UPDATE: Julie Berry, the new public affairs director for the Boston Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, e-mails:
"The Church Public Affairs office released a response to the AP article by Jennifer Dobner covering this story on September 30. The full response is available here. The two points of important distinction:
- None of the men in the calendar were missionaries when photographed. They were former missionaries. The distinction is important to the credibility of the mission program around the world.
- It is impossible for Jennifer Dobner to state why Chad Hardy was excommunicated because the circumstances of an excommunication are always extremely private, complex, and multi-faceted. When an excommunication does occur, it is the sad conclusion to a lengthy process where numerous attempts to repair the situation have been exhausted. The Church's response notes that several concerns were at play in Mr. Hardy's excommunication."
(Photo, by Isaac Brekken/AP, shows Chad Hardy holding his "Men on a Mission" calendar in July.)