SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Mormon man has launched a hunger strike to bring attention to a campaign calling on church leaders to bring an end to closed door, one-on-one interviews where youth are asked by adult lay leaders if they are following the religion’s strict rules on sexual activity.
Sam Young of Houston, Texas, said he started his hunger strike Friday and is in Salt Lake City holding nightly chats with supporters across the street from the Mormon temple. It marks the latest protest taken by Young and his group over questions asked during the interviews about whether young Mormons are following the religion’s law of chastity.
Young and his supporters call the questions inappropriate and contend they can lead to unhealthy shaming of youth. About 1,000 people marched to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in March demanding change.
The church changed its policy earlier this year to allow children to bring a parent or adult with them. Parents were only allowed in a hallway or adjacent room under old rules. Youth can still go in alone if they choose.
The church also for the first time last month posted a list of questions lay leaders are supposed to ask during the interviews, which usually happen twice a year starting at age 12. One of the questions asks directly: “Do you live the law of chastity?”
Mormons are taught under that code not to have sex before marriage, engage in passionate kissing, touch another person’s private parts or arouse “emotions in your own body” that are supposed to be reserved for marriage.
Church officials say the interviews allow bishops to get to know youth better and determine their religious habits and obedience to God. The bishops are instructed how to handle the meetings and swear to keep the conversations confidential.
The church noted in a statement Monday about the hunger strike that it had taken steps to improve relationships between young people, their parents and leaders. The religion said it shares a desire to protect children and that it’s familiar with Young’s position and noted leaders have met with him.
The movement to end the interviews comes as others push the religion be more accepting of LGBT members. The Mormon church has shifted its tone to be more welcoming and compassionate toward gays and lesbians but hasn’t changed its doctrinal opposition of same-sex marriage and belief that homosexual relations are a sin.
Dan Reynolds, the frontman for the rock band Imagine Dragons, recently held a concert in Utah to raise funds to support LGBT youth in the Mormon church.
Written by BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press.
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