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Thursday, February 13, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—Mothers in Utah are challenging a ban on children and breastfeeding at BYU's annual Women's Conference, and they are asking The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to change the rule.

School officials say kids and babies are not allowed at the event at the Marriott Center at BYU, an arena that doesn't ban children under 16 for any other event, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

The two-day conference in Provo begins April 30, and it is considered the largest gathering of Latter-day Saint women. Topics include sisterhood, marriage and the gospel around family.

“It's just really bizarre that at a conference about family and womanhood that they wouldn't allow nursing children to be there,” said Nataly Wixom-Burdick, a member of the church and mother of an 11-month-old . “You'd think that a women's conference would be aware of the struggles that mothers, especially nursing mothers, go through.”

Sarai Lambert Pixton, a mother of a 4-month-old boy, said she wanted to go to the conference until she read the notice on the school's website that says: “Nursing infants cannot be accommodated.”

“Saying that he's not allowed also means that I'm not allowed,” she said.

It's unclear when the policy was implemented.

BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said the decision was made “after considering the logical and safety constraints in place and considering the needs of all conference participants.”

In 2018, Utah was one of the last state's to pass a law to clarify that it's legal to nurse a child in public. However, that does not apply to the campus of BYU, which is a private university.

The BYU men's and women's basketball teams play in the arena, which seats nearly 19,000 people. But unlike basketball games and other events at the center, children would not be able to stand out and move around during conference sessions, Jenkins said

Jenkins said those who can't attend because of the rules can watch a free delayed broadcast of the conference on the church's website and the university's television channel.

Wixton-Burdick said she wants the church to change the rule.

“It's not like it's something we don't deal with all the time as church members,” Wixom-Burdick said. “There's always crying babies in sacrament meetings and we roll with it. So why can't we roll with it during this conference.”