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Did Prop. 8 backlash cause art censorship -- or its reversal -- at Brigham Young University? Could be, as BYU photography student J. Michael Wiltbank found when his contribution to a two-week-long art exhibition -- eight pairs of benign portraits, each depicting an LGBT-identified BYU student alongside a supportive friend -- had been removed.

J. Michael Wiltbank, a photography student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, never fancied himself a budding Robert Mapplethorpe. But in December, just a few days into "Sixteen," a two-week-long departmental exhibition at the school's fine arts center, he received a call from a fellow student informing him that his work had been censored and removed from the project.

Wiltbank's contribution wasn't exactly Mapplethope's shocking Self-portrait With Whip. Instead it consisted of eight pairs of benign portraits, each depicting an LGBT-identified BYU student alongside a supportive friend, without identifying which person is which.

While the Mormon Church-owned university honor code forbids gay behavior or advocacy, Wiltbank's project didn't violate that code. Simply identifying as gay or owning up to gay feelings is permitted.

"I knew exactly what BYU's stance was," he says, "and I brought it up during the conceptual stage. My professor even had the project approved before I was able to begin photographing."

After confirming with the school's administration that his portraits had been removed, Wiltbank vented about the affair on his blog. His story made its way to a number of gay blogs and some news sites, and a few days later university administrators came calling.

They offered to reinstate the portraits, attributing their removal to a "miscommunication" within between the dean of the college and the fine arts department.

When asked whether the censorship -- and reversal -- had anything to do with the anti-Mormon backlash that followed the passage of Prop. 8, the California anti-gay-marriage measure supported by many members of the church, BYU media relations manager Michael Smart said, "That is a fair question. The reason it was resolved quickly is that it shouldn't have come down in the first place."

Smart would not specify who made the initial decision to remove the works.

On December 9, Wiltbank's work went back up -- though it didn't remain untouched.

"There was a part in my artist's statement about how I see a bit of myself in each of the portraits," Wiltbank says, "and we had to reprint it because someone wrote, 'He's gay too' on it."

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