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Utah State School Board investigating member for post about LGBTQ youth

The Utah State Board of Education announced Tuesday it's reviewing a controversial social media post made by board member Natalie Cline for "potential board bylaw violations" after they received complaints.

The Utah State Board of Education announced Tuesday it's reviewing a controversial social media post made by board member Natalie Cline for "potential board bylaw violations" after they received complaints. (Jordan Allred, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education announced Tuesday it's reviewing a controversial social media post made by board member Natalie Cline for "potential board bylaw violations" after receiving complaints.

In the now-deleted post in question from earlier this week, Cline shared a photo of a sign from a Utah seminary that read: "If you are LGBTQIA+ welcome to seminary."

Cline called out the seminary program at Layton High School as she wrote: "Time to make some phone calls" and "The world is too much with us."

Seminary is a private institution of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Students are able to attend classes there in Utah during their school day on a release program. The State School Board does not have authority over its curriculum or management.

A spokesman for the church declined to comment on the issue Wednesday.

This week's incident isn't the first time Cline has received widespread attention for her social media activity. An online petition in February called for Cline's removal over her social media posts that the petition claimed called for patrons to support "xenophobia, racism, homophobia and cultural regression" as part of Cline's ongoing protest against the potential teaching of critical race theory in schools. State School Board bylaws do not provide for removal of a board member or censure. However, they allow a board member to be stripped from a board position or assignment by vote of the full board.

Cline, who represents District 11 on the Utah State Board of Education, was sworn into office Jan. 6 after her election to the board seat last November.

The board noted that Cline did not indicate that recent post was her personal opinion and not to be attributed to the board.

"Cline and other board members are free to speak as private citizens outside of their official capacity as board members and in compliance with board bylaws. The comments of one board member as a private citizen do not reflect nor should be construed as the board's position on any matter. Official board positions are made in public meetings, voted on by the full board, and documented on the website," school board leadership said in a statement.

They said the board's official position on issues — including those raised in Cline's frequent social media posts — can be found on the group's website under its strategic plan, a resolution denouncing racism and supporting equity in schools, and civic education.

"The board does not condone rhetoric that is in opposition to these public positions or that inspires any type of hate speech against students," board leadership added.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, also criticized Cline's post and former North Ogden City Council candidate Greg Smith for reposting it with the comment, "Time to get out our muskets."

The comment in Smith's now-deleted post appeared to reference a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at Brigham Young University on Monday, Williams noted in a statement Tuesday.

During that talk, Elder Holland quoted a previous talk from Elder Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the church's First Presidency and president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In President Oaks' comments shared by Elder Holland, he said: "I would like to hear a little more musket fire from this temple of learning," which Elder Holland noted could have "applied to a host of topics in various departments, but the one he specifically mentioned was the doctrine of family and defending marriage as the union of a man and a woman."

Elder Holland noted that university trustees "are not deaf or blind to the feelings that swirl around marriage and the whole same-sex topic on campus," explaining that they have "shed more tears on this subject than we could ever adequately convey." He said they are trying to avoid, and they hope everyone will try to avoid, "language, symbols, and situations that are more divisive than unifying at the very time we want to show love for all of God's children."

Criticizing Smith's post, Williams said: "Reckless rhetoric often precedes acts of violence."

"Natalie Cline's ongoing obsession with LGBTQ youth is equally disturbing. She has been leading a one-woman crusade against our community ever since she was elected to the Utah State Board of Education. Her dangerous rhetoric continues to incite hysteria and moral panic among Utah parents," he added.

After the school board's announcement, Cline continued to share social media posts Wednesday about critical race theory and other issues with a disclaimer that says "not an official (Utah State Board of Education) board position."

On Aug. 20, in a post about another issue, Cline contended that "they are trying limit my ability to freely post," and asked others to copy and paste her post to their own pages and tag her in it.

The Utah Democratic Party in a statement Wednesday afternoon called for Cline's resignation from the state school board.

"Natalie Cline is on a one-woman crusade, out of step with Utah values, as well as those of her own district." Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant said in a statement. "While Layton High students tried to create a welcoming space for all of their neighbors, Ms. Cline is doing the opposite. It is time for Utah parents to start asking which example to follow."

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