Examining the Church’s Political Neutrality

Andrew gay, homosexuality, marriage, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, politics 57 Comments

neu-tral [noo-truhl] -adjective: not taking part or giving assistance in a dispute or war between others. (Random House Dictionary.)

* * * * *

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

-Jesus (Matt. 10:34-35.)

Although much, probably too much, has already been said about the Church’s endorsement of Proposition 8 in California, as well as similar ballot measures in other states, I can’t help making some observations about what an interesting case study it has presented on the issue of the Church’s political neutrality. I get the feeling that the Church’s overwhelming support for Proposition 8 signals either the beginning of a series of major political battles in which the Church will involve itself in the future with increasing frequency, or the Church’s last political stand of its kind. I’m just not sure which it is yet.

I’ll be honest: when I heard the announcement that the Church was officially throwing its hat into the ring in support of Proposition 8, I was deeply puzzled. With a few rare exceptions, the LDS Church has a longstanding policy and practice of not endorsing or opposing legislative proposals, even if important moral issues that affect the family are involved.

For example, even on the literally life-and-death issue of abortion, the Church’s official position statement states:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions. . . .

The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.

(Source.) In essence, the official position statement says that although the Church opposes elective abortion and counsels its members against it, the Church has been neutral on legislative proposals concerning that important moral issue. Or in other words, although the Church believes and teaches X, the Church doesn’t feel compelled to endorse or oppose legislation to ensure that X is made the law of the land.

In the few instances when the Church has made an official statement on a moral/political issue, oftentimes the official statement simply states that we don’t take a position on that issue. For example, the Church’s official position statement about capital punishment (another moral life-and-death issue) concludes: “We neither promote nor oppose capital punishment.” (Source.) Likewise, the Church’s official position statement about stem-cell research states: “The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not taken a position regarding the use of embryonic stem cells for research purposes.” (Source.) (See here to read the seven official position statements the Church has posted on its official website.)

The Church’s default position of political neutrality on moral issues sometimes frustrates members of other faiths who would like the Church to take a more active role in politics, as other churches do. I have a friend who used to work for the Church in Public Affairs. She often received angry phone calls from members of other faiths who were outraged that the Church wouldn’t get involved politically with abortion, capital punishment, stem-cell research, and other moral issues. The Church’s political neutrality on moral issues upset them and, in their minds, cast doubt on the Church’s claim to share the same concern for upholding traditional moral values as other Christian churches.

Because I was aware of the Church’s default position of political neutrality on these and other important moral issues, I was confused as to why–out of all the important moral issues being debated and legislated today–the Church came out so strongly and decisively against same-sex marriage. It seemed to be a departure from our longstanding policy and practice of saying, essentially, “although we believe X is morally wrong (e.g., elective abortion), the Church does not feel compelled to ensure that its moral views are enacted into legislation.”

During the Proposition 8 campaign amongst Church members, we often heard the refrain that Proposition 8 must be passed because the Proclamation on the Family states that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.” This oft-repeated argument intrigued me because, as we see in so many other examples, the fact that we believe “X” does not automatically lead to the conclusion that the Church must ensure that “X” is enacted into law. We certainly don’t take that position when it comes to our beliefs about the Word of Wisdom, abortion, adultery, etc.

The fact is that California law already departs from the Proclamation on the Family in numerous ways. For example, the Proclamation on the Family also states that “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Yet existing California law directly contradicts Church doctrine by allowing any individual to essentially re-define his or her gender at will. I’m unaware of any plans to ensure the Proclamation on the Family’s doctrinal declarations about gender are enacted into California law. So the fact that the Proclamation on the Family says “X” does not automatically compel the conclusion that the Church must work to ensure that “X” is reflected in the law.

Why? Because as members of the Church, we have long been accustomed to the reality that there are two competing standards of morality, i.e., the standards of the Church, and the standards of the world/society/culture/government. I was raised to look to the former and not the latter for my personal definition of right and wrong. I was never raised to use the laws created in Washington, D.C. or Sacramento as my moral compass. To the contrary, I was taught to abstain from fornication, adultery, abortion, alcohol, tobacco, pornography, and a host of other things that my Church teaches are 100% immoral, and yet are 100% legal under the laws of the United States of America and the Republic of California.

There are, always have been, and always will be, significant ways in which my Church’s standards depart from the government’s standards. For example, the fact that government says two people are effectively “married” simply by virtue of their having shacked up and fornicated for several months is, to me, a terrible perversion of the sacred institution of marriage. And yet that legal concept of “common-law marriage” has existed for decades in numerous states. To my knowledge, however, the Church hasn’t fought against laws regarding common-law marriage, even though such laws deviate from the traditional religious definition of “marriage.”

This most recent election in California presented another interesting contrast between the Church’s positions on two moral issues that were both on the ballot. California’s Proposition 4 was a proposal to require parental notification before a minor could obtain an abortion. This was certainly an important moral issue concerning the family and, in particular, parental rights and responsibilities. However, the Church sat silent on Proposition 4 while it encouraged its members to donate thousands of dollars and man-hours to pass Proposition 8.

All of this seems to create the appearance that over the past 25 years, the Church’s de facto position on political neutrality is that the Church abstains from endorsing or opposing legislative proposals even when important life-and-death moral issues affecting the family are involved, except in cases where same-sex marriage is at issue. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think we have to go back to the ERA to find a political issue other than same-sex marriage in which the the Church was so heavily involved.

The purpose of this post is not to advocate any particular position, but simply to share my process of seeking to understand the reasoning behind when the Church decides to depart from its default position of political neutrality and enter the political fray. I can’t help wishing I could have been a fly on the wall to overhear the discussions that resulted in the Church’s decision to become embattled in an issue that has now thrown the Church into the national spotlight. I can’t help wondering: what was it about same-sex marriage that made it more intolerable to Church leaders than, say, partial-birth abortion?

If our friend Bruce Nielson is correct, only one thing is certain: We will never know.

So what do you think? Of all the moral issues affecting the family that are being debated today, why was same-sex marriage the one that caused Church leaders to break from the Church’s default position political neutrality? And does the Church’s overwhelming endorsement of Proposition 8 signify a shift in Church leaders’ attitudes towards political neutrality, foreshadowing increased involvement in major political battles to come? Or was it the the dying moans of an out-of-touch mindset that is going the way of the do-do bird, as some have suggested? Or neither?

Comments

comments

Comments 57

  1. I’d agree that we have to go back to the ERA to find anything similar.

    According to Quinn, President Kimball received reports on how the ERA could end up affecting the Church and its day-to-day operations, and he was concerned enough to order his members into action.

    My gut feeling (ie I have no proof) is that something similar has happened with Prop 8. Probably those many lawyers in HQ put it to Pt Monson that this was major or that it would end up hurting the church or some other fancy lawyer theory. (Or maybe they were reading all these mormon bloggs were gay-marriage was defended and they wanted to send a message out to the members)

    So my guess is that the default political position is to become involved when it affects the church or has the potential to do so. Abortion, common law marriage, no fault divorce, adultery etc while morally wrong and issues to preach against, they nonetheless don’t and probably will never affect its day-to-day operation. They are similar to the evolution question that leaders argued about when H J Grant was president. Prop 8 is similar to the ERA battle.

    I don’t think that the “Church’s default position [is] political neutrality”, just neutral if it doesn’t affect the church as an Institution or its operational activities.

  2. Oh, I forgot. As people wrote about the ERA battles after President Kimball died, I fully expect that one day we will also be reading the inside story on this Prop 8 battle. Already we get some insights from people like president McKay’s grandson who lead the campaign.

    I only hope to still be alive when the full story is told.

  3. Forget Prop. 8 — the church is making a mockery of its political neutrality claim by airing on its broadcast outlets the complete lineup of right-wing hatemongers such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage. How it can justify this is beyond me, other than the fact they are making tons of money on these stations. These guys are all-Republican, all-day, all the time.

  4. Andrew, you hit the issue on the head EXACTLY! It is the inconsistency and the lack of understanding provided by the Brethren that makes the Prop. 8 involvement such a difficult thing for active, chaste, gay and lesbian Latter-day Saints. If those other moral issues are so devastating to the family (divorce, adultery, abortion, domestic violence, etc.) why is SO MUCH effort, money, time and effort being spent on the gay issues without providing us with a much clearer understanding where sexual orientation fits into the much bigger plan of salvation? It creates sorrow and heartache. Why this issue? Why just this state? (I am a resident of Florida and we never heard a peep about the constitutional amendment that was on OUR ballot).

  5. We had our local mission president come out and speak at our institute about a month ago. In his previous life he had worked as a consultant for the church. He told a story about being in a meeting with the twelve when they discussed Prop 8. He quoted one of the apostles (Ballard I think) as saying concerning its stance on gay marriage, “There will soon come a time when the church alone will stand as a light set on a hill to the world.” I don’t want to give too much weight to second hand information, but it gave me the impression that the church would take the same political stance in the future.

  6. MIchael,

    Because, frankly, it was pratically a given in Arizona and Florida. Arizona’s passed 56 to 44 percent. In Florida, it was 54 to some 34 percent (my numbers might be a little off, but they’re basically right).

    Also, out of curiosity, what about our understanding of sexual orietnation do you think isn’t clear right now vis-a-vis the plan of salvation?

  7. Nate,

    If Elder Ballard’s comment is correct then why the selectivity? Why are we not plowing forward with laws against easy divorce, criminalizing adultery and fornication, irresponsible parenting, making a mockery of marriage through Las Vegas “weddings” and all the other things that destroy the lives of innocent children? Why are the straight people getting off the hook with the legislative restrictions? And I ask that you please don’t cite that easy answer of ” Because we can’t win those battles. The world has gotten too corrupt.” I feel that is a total cop-out that just make gays and lesbians the scapegoats to assuage the guilty consciences of our divorced members and lazy parents in the Church. They say “As long as we can demonize 3% of the population for all of marriage’s problems, we are obeying the counsel of the Prophet”.

  8. Andrew is right that we can’t know for sure. 🙂 However, why not just make up a few good narrative fallacies anyhow.

    CarlosJC,I agree with what you are saying. I think the Church looks at these criteria:

    1. Is it a lost cause?
    2. Is there a moral issue?
    3. Will that moral issue affect the Church’s ability to operate?

    I think #3 is the final one that you must cross the threshold for them to act.

    You may disagree with the Church’s view, but I think the fear that a redefinition of marriage would infringe upon religious freedoms (and heaven only knows the LDS Church is the poster child for lost religious freedoms via unconstitutional means here in the USA) was real enough to them.

    That’s the funny thing about politics. You don’t have to be right to act, you just have to honestly think you are. That’s how the system works in a republican democracy and it’s how it’s meant to work.

    What we don’t want is to disenfranchise people’s right to affect politics just because we think they are wrong, as I perceive many advocates of gay marriage suggesting. Hopefully the tension over the issue forces long term compromises that end up with a best solution that attempts to take everyone’s needs into consideration. Is it possible to allow for gay unions (whether or not we actually call them “marriage”) without infringing upon religious freedoms? I think so. But I think that solution will be found in honest compromised due to the political process.

    Advocates of gay marriage are certain that there is no issue of religious freedom here. But I don’t find such views reliable. I trust more to the political compromise process than reassurances of people who feel so emotionally charged over it that real problems will simply be overlooked.

  9. “what was it about same-sex marriage that made it more intolerable to Church leaders than, say, partial-birth abortion?”

    As someone who was deeply involved with prop 8 I had to study and learn and pay very close attention to the arguments and tactics used by both sides. I think the Church’s involvement in prop 8 had nothing to do with prop 8 being a “moral” [sic.] issue. Church leaders heard and bought into several not very good legal theories that suggested the Church’s free speech, and religious liberties would be at risk if prop 8 was defeated. Based on the structure and content of the Church’s official statements on the issue I think fear over these issues is the very best explanation of the Church’s involvement in prop 8. It was poorly informed political self interest, nothing more.

  10. My personal opinion (based only on how the church has been involved (not) in similar issues in my state: the church threw its hat into this ring because (1) most of the hard work had already been done (getting the initiative qualified for the ballot) (2) that showed there was already a broad-based support for the issue (3) it was close to 50-50 whether or not it would pass, (leaning more towards the not passing) so… (4) there was a good chance that the church could tip the balance and they decided to jump in.

  11. #11: You make a good point, Prairie chuck.

    We might be comparing apples and oranges. The truth is that the LDS church is NOT politically neutral on much of anything. They are definitely anti-abortion with a few exceptions, for example. They generally work through their members indirectly, rather than directly. They, for example, teach the evils of abortion and then let the members decide on their own to be anti-abortion politically. (Which overwhelmingly they do.)

    At issue here is not so much why the church suddenly gave up political neutrality, per se, they never really had it to begin with, but why they were willing to use their political capital with the members in California in this case.

    I think back to the state constitutional ammendment in Utah on the same issue and the church refused to back it but instead just put out statement saying “we are against gay marriage but we aren’t officially backing any particular measure.” (Again, note the actual lack of political neutrality.) Jan Shipps suggested there was no need to, so why spend the capital? I think there is some truth to this.

  12. One other point: there are two kids of “political neutrality” and we are co mingling them in this conversation freely.

    First, there is not taking a stand at all. The church is not known for doing this and is not legally required to. We expect Churches to affect the way their participants think and feel about the world.

    Then there is actual backing of a specific piece of legislation. This is rare for the LDS Church, but is not legally required to keep tax fee status as a religion. The Church avoids this for many reasons, but let me assure you “separation of church and state” isn’t one of them.

    Churches can back legislation without any violation of separation of church and state. That’s just a bogey man made up by people hostile to religion.

    However, what if you make your religion primarily about legal issues? (the Christian coalition, Pat Robertson, etc.)

    This last is where they stop treating it like a charity and start taxing. That makes sense because the alternative is to have all political parties claim to be a religion, so it’s a practical matter.

    But, of course, it’s still legal and is not a violation of separation of church and state either. (I wish people that bantered that term about actually understood what it meant.)

  13. #10 “I think fear over these issues is the very best explanation of the Church’s involvement in prop 8”

    My first reaction to the issue that Andrew has very thoroughly and accurately described here was that fear usually underlies dramatic action that is inconsistent with an established pattern. Any number of emotions can certainly provide motivation, but fear is the one that seems to fit here, just as it seems to fit the ERA situation.

    Anon., #10 has something in the idea that there was likely fear about what could end up happening. Unfounded fear is just as powerful as legitimate fear when it comes to motivation. It’s also possible that deeper seated fears may have found an outlet through the vehicle of the political fear.

    I’ve also observed that most high-level decision makers will ultimately act in order to please those with whom they share the closest relationships. Good information and evidence can do very little to change the position of someone who is already emotionally invested in a position, and who is supported in that position by those whose opinions they most value.

    We had an unfortunate example in Canadian federal politics a number of years ago. A bill and a plan that was a very bad, VERY expensive and very ineffective idea was rammed through despite mountains of evidence that it was a bad idea. The minister in charge of the bill was a former professor at the university I attended. Her close friends at the university believed in the bill and frequently strengthened her resolve in the face of a lot of opposition and evidence. It went ahead. It was and continues to be an absolutely unmitigated disaster. Most of the provinces in the country have simply decided not to enforce the act. Why couldn’t those in a position to hit the brakes on this thing make the smart choice? They had invested too much in the position, and they couldn’t back down. Not just because of the political fallout, but I really believe that they wouldn’t back down because they were worried about what their friends would think of them if they did.

    I have unfortunately observed this phenomenon at all kinds of levels of administration, in and out of the church. On issues that contain an emotional charge, particularly fear, it is very easy for a small group of decision makers to get worked up in a meeting and make a decision that is not necessarily the wisest. They then stick to that decision “through hell or high water.” Peer support is a powerful thing, and can be very positive. But supporting one another’s idealism can get a little off track. Religious communities are susceptible to an intensifying of feeling, an overzealousness of thought and action, and even a distortion of values as a result.

    And I don’t think that our leaders (at any level) are immune to this.

  14. jjackson,

    Interesting hypothesis. I have often wondered how the Brethren view the issue of homosexuality. Is it an emotional issue for them or is there a true discussion of all the issues involved? Do they discuss the difference between orientation and behaviour (I think this one is pretty certain)? Do they have a handle on the eternal place for gays and lesbians? Are they merely projecting their childhood or young adult impressions and fears of homosexuality? Do they believe that Matthew 19:12 or Isaiah 56 relate to gays and lesbians (the natural eunuch theories)? Are they willing to actively promote and support celibacy for gays and lesbians (as opposed to merely referring to chastity with the hope of changing orientation)? What does Elder Scott say about the issue since he has a gay, inactive son?

    What do they actually discuss on Thursdays in the SL Temple when they gather to consider these issues? Do they see a connection between the priesthood issue, the polygamy issue and the gay issue? Or is it merely something they are trying to adjust to on the fly?

  15. Random thoughts:
    1. I agree that you have to go back to the ERA to find anything quite as intense as Prop 8, but the Church has been quite invovled in other ballot and leglislative issues in Utah , including parimutel betting and liquor by the drink. I have always thought the Church’s position could better be described as non-partisan, rather than politically neutral, because I do not think they hesitate to get involved in politics on certain issues.

    2. Does anyone think that the abortion article in the October 2008 Ensign was either a signal to members voting in the 2008 election, or a sign of the Church’s future invivlement in this issue (or both)?

    3. Does anyone know what Anon. is talking about in Comment #3?

  16. Martin,

    He is referring to the Church’s media holdings through Bonneville Communications. The TV stations, radio stations, and newspaper the Church owns. They allow the right wing programs to air and it is causing him agita.

  17. You said that Prop 8 “signals either the beginning of a series of major political battles in which the Church will involve itself in the future with increasing frequency, or the Church’s last political stand of its kind.”

    How about a 3rd option: The church will continue to pick and choose its battles, neither increasing nor decreasing its political battles. The church does take stands here in Utah on alcohol, gambling, ERA, and has taken on issues in other states like Hawaii on gambling as well. Yes they’re nuetral on stem cells, abortion, and other issues, but those are just battles they do not want to fight. Gambling and gay marriage seem to be more important issues, for whatever reason.

  18. “Gambling and gay marriage seem to be more important issues, for whatever reason.”

    More important than divorce, adultery, pre-marital sex, abortion, domestic violence and irresponsible parenting? I find that very hard to believe. Especially since gambling and gay marriage represent such a small amount of the US population.

  19. Mormon Heretic,

    I think jjackson’s hypothesis in #14 may have some validity. I do think that emotion cannot be ruled out but I also know these are very intelligent men. However, I have also seen very intelligent men tripped up by their inner insecurities.

    Or, perhaps, the Lord has really shown them the future consequences and they are acting upon that foreknowledge.

  20. #19 and #20:

    Mormon Heretic seems to be saying two mutually exclusive things at the same time. On the one had, he’s saying the LDS Church picks their legislation battles that they think they can win and doesn’t bother if they think they can’t. That makes sense to me.

    On the other hand he’s saying “Gambling and gay marriage seem to be more important issues, for whatever reason.” Which to me implies they are doing it based on how important the issue is to them theologically.

    But these really are mutually exclusive beliefs, unless you are accusing the LDS church of not speaking out against divorce, adultery, pre-martial sex, abortion, domestic violence, etc, in a non-legislative capacity. But presumably you aren’t, because we all know they teach against those things. (Well, with various exceptions for abortion and divorce.)

    We are mixing two issues. How important the Church thinks the issue is and whether or not they feel the need to spend political capital and resources on affecting laws over the issue. You don’t just choose to throw your resources down a rat hole no matter how strongly you feel on the issue. You always have limited resources and have to pick your battles.

    Oh, and stem cell research is a different issue. My perception, at least, is that the Church isn’t just a non-participant on that issue, but really and truly neutral. Have you *ever* heard the LDS leaders teach against it from the pulpit?

    Since the Church does not teach a fertilized egg is equivalent to a human being (unlike their conservative creedal Christian counter parts) there actually is theologically more leeway on that issue for Mormons than other types of conservative Christianity.

  21. I think moral issues the church decides to involve itself in have to do with the lack of choice (gambling aside). The ERA and Marriage issues involved the Church possibly being forced to accept things that were against its teachings. With abortion, for example, the government is not expecting the Church to accept an elective abortion as a life choice and not discipline the member according to our beliefs. Same with fornication, stem cells research, etc.

    The big fear is that the Church might be subjected to a civil rights issue if Gay Marriage becomes the law of the land. Same issue with the ERA, though I can’t think of an example that might fit.

  22. It’s been interesting reading everyone’s musings about this issue and, since I asked the question, I suppose its only fair to give my personal answer.

    I agree with the commenters above who suggested what really tipped the scales here and caused Church leaders to get involved was that they sincerely believed if they didn’t, there would be what we might term “anticipated negative future consequences affecting the Church’s operations/tax exempt status/free exercise/legal expenses, etc.” In short, I don’t think moral objections to same-sex marriage alone is what made Church leaders decide to get involved. It’s the anticipated “secondary effects” of same-sex marriage down the road that concerned them, particularly how it might present legal challenges and legal expenses in the future.

    If you think about it, that’s the one fear that seems to motivate major changes in the Church’s behavior, and even doctrine. For example, when Wilford Woodruff issued the first Manifesto against polygamy, he cited his concerns about legal and government threats to the Church’s continued existence as major factors in his decision. Think about that: the President of the Church was willing to rescind a doctrine that had previously been taught as being required for the highest exaltation because of concerns about governmental interference in the Church’s operations if it didn’t. So if the Church is willing to abandon its doctrines out of fear of governmental interference with the Church’s operations, it’s not hard for me to believe that same fear is what ultimately drives Church leaders’ decisions about when to get politically involved.

    That said, here’s a summary of what it seem to be the criteria behind the decision of when the Church gets politically involved in a major way, ala ERA and Prop 8:

    1. Is it a moral issue?
    2. Practically speaking, can the Church’s endorsement/opposition affect the outcome?
    3. Does the issue threaten the Church’s freedoms, operations, or existence?

    I think the Church gets involved on a massive scale only when a “Yes” answer is given to ALL THREE of these questions.

    But the Prop 8 campaign demonstrates the serious unintended consequences that can result if people aren’t careful and complete when they attempt to justify or explain why the Church has chosen to become involved. When people try to explain the Church’s involvement by simply saying “it’s a moral issue” or “because the Proclamation on the Family says X” or “we must be a light on the hill,” that begs the obvious question of why we aren’t taking the same massive political interventionist approach with all the other big controversial moral issues out there. And because same-sex marriage happens to be the only issue that has met all 3 criteria above in the minds of Church leaders within the past 25 years, I think that creates the unfortunate impression that the reason why the Church is acting differently on this issue is some sort of disproportionate animosity toward homosexuality.

    But personally, I don’t believe animosity toward gays is what fueled the Church’s decision to be involved in Prop 8. As I stated before, I believe the three criteria above are what is driving their decision-making, and primarily criteria #3: “Does the issue threaten the Church’s freedoms, operations, or existence?.” And we can debate all day long about whether Church leaders’ legal fears were well-founded, but if we’re trying to understand why they did what they did, then the real issue is simply whether or not those legal fears were sincerely held. And I think the answer to that question is “Yes.”

    And that’s precisely what makes me the saddest about this whole Prop 8 campaign: although I don’t believe animosity toward gays is what fueled Church leaders’ decision, when several spokesmen give incomplete explanations of why the Church has become involved (e.g., “it’s a moral issue,” or “the Proclamation on the Family says . . .”), it raises the obvious question of why the disparity between the Church’s involvement in this and other issues. And when you start looking at all the other moral issues where the Church isn’t politically involved on a massive scale, that’s when people start assuming it must be fueled by some disproportionate animosity toward homosexuality. But in reality, I think the answer to the questions: why not abortion? why not common-law marriage? why not adultery? why not [fill in the blank]?, is that none of those issues have met the 3 criteria above. None of them have yet threatened to limit or interfere with the Church’s operations or freedoms, or posed the threat of future litigation. But I do believe if a situation ever arises in which any of those issues meets all 3 criteria, you will surely see the Church get politically involved as if its fighting for its own survival.

    And that’s why this whole Prop 8 thing has been so sad to me: I don’t believe the Church’s decision was fueled by some disproportionate animosity toward gays, but that’s obviously the way it’s been perceived by so many.

  23. Andrew,

    Very good summary. Do you think that the threat to the Church’s freedoms, operations or existence would still be valid if the US just decided to re-classify marriage as a civil transaction for governmental purposes and then allow churches to actually determine what they accept as marriage?

    We do this already for divorce (which is considered first and foremost a civil transaction), why not for marriage?

    Andrew Sullivan makes that point in a very good Atlantic article found at:

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/11/modernity-faith.html

  24. I wonder if it would be possible for the two sides (I mean conservative theists and liberal supporters for gay marriage — whatever their personal orientation) could compromise more.

    Up to this point, the only compromises have fallen out of the political process. If both sides could talk more, and help each other figure out how to protect the other’s legitimate concerns, we could undoubtedly find a solution faster.

    But then again, I haven’t really ever heard of such a compromise process happening without one of the parties ending up “losing it all” in the end. I mean like I’ve never heard of it.

    I think we’re doomed to only work out compromises via the political process and the threat of worse if we don’t compromise.

    It becomes a sort of self fulling prophecy, though. After all, if your opponent is uncompromising, you can’t afford to be. There were compromises made in Mass. that lead to what happened there. Same with California. It’s concerning that compromise leads to failure of your own concerns and interests, thus you feel like you can’t compromise. And, in fact you can’t.

    In the case of gay marriage, why couldn’t Mass have, at a minimum, kept the Catholic church in the adoption business? Things like that are really scary.

  25. “Do you think that the threat to the Church’s freedoms, operations or existence would still be valid if the US just decided to re-classify marriage as a civil transaction for governmental purposes and then allow churches to actually determine what they accept as marriage?”

    Personally, I think the LDS church would consider this ‘bad’ but ‘better than redefining marriage.’

    Doing this is sure to erode the concept of marriage as a public commitment even further, but reduces risk of religious freedom surrounding the concept of the word “marriage.”

    On the other hand, I don’t see how it gains conservative theists anything, now that I think about it. After all, can’t liberal churches just choose to perform gay marriages and thus this is really just a path to the same thing as redefining marriage? Hmmm… hadn’t thought of that before.

    Under this proposal, marriage loses all legal meaning so, in terms of preserving religious freedom, I think it would be preferable because there wouldn’t be fears over people defining “marriage” legally in such a way that you can be prosecuted for defining it personally otherwise.

  26. Michael (25), I think that’s exactly what the law will finally be when all the dust settles on this issue. However, it will occur state by state because the Constitution designates marital status as a states rights issue.

    Personally, that approach makes sense to me. In my opinion, this whole morass is unfortunate and unnecessary because government really doesn’t need to be in the marriage business at all. The overwhelming majority of people view marriage almost like a religious sacrament that the government has recognized. And so when someone wants to propose a new definition of marriage, people get upset because they feel like the government is trying to dictate their religious views. And of course the folks on the other side feel like the religious folks are trying to impose their religious definition of marriage on everyone.

    But it’s such an unnecessary fight. Why does the government need to formally recognize a marriage formalized in a church as such? Imagine if the government were to give some sort of special recognition to baptized persons; imagine the fight we’d have over what constitutes a valid baptism. And that’s precisely the sort of fight we’re having over marriage now.

    So it seems the solution is for government to strike the word “marriage” from the law books. Then create a neutral legal status, like “civil union”–which just signifies that the government is acknowledging the societal reality that two people have created a domestic inter-dependence by sharing living quarters, finances, medical decisions, etc. Then the temples and churches marry whoever they want to marry, same sex or not, and everybody who wants the government to recognize their domestic interdependence, however solemnized, applies for a “civil union.” So my wife and I who were married in the San Diego temple have a “marriage” in the eyes of our Church and God, from our perspective, and Mike and Steve who were married at the United Congregationalist Church have a “marriage” in the eyes of their church and God, from their perspective. And from from the perspective of government, both couples have a “civil union.”

    I think that’s where this is all headed ultimately.

  27. Andrew,

    I agree with the others that you present a good summary of of the issue. let me comment on two things you said:

    “So if the Church is willing to abandon its doctrines out of fear of governmental interference with the Church’s operations, it’s not hard for me to believe that same fear is what ultimately drives Church leaders’ decisions about when to get politically involved.”

    On the other hand, the fact that the US government intended to destroy the Church may have been a greater motivation. The prop 8 issue is somewhat tame by comparison.

    “I don’t believe the Church’s decision was fueled by some disproportionate animosity toward gays, but that’s obviously the way it’s been perceived by so many.”

    I beleive this as well, but you sure can’t say that for them. The Gay movement does itself a great disservice by the way they have acted and the acrimony they have spoken. It wouldn’t have happened had the result been reversed.

  28. The thought I had as I read Andrew’s post was “broken windows” theory. To reduce crime in urban areas, leaders focused their efforts on cultural markers like fixing broken windows and removing graffiti. They did not directly tackle the “crimes” (or moral issues in religious terms) but instead worked on creating the illusion of low crime through a well maintained environment. That illusion worked better than cracking down on crime (they also did focus on petty crimes like jumping turnstiles) because the environment was less friendly to anti-social behaviors. In this scenario, the “broken windows” theory isn’t abt crime, but abt preserving the illusion of traditional marriage as the only norm. So, this seemed like a way to preserve culture that is morality-friendly (as defined by the church) rather than legislating morality.

    My second thought was to wonder whether the church really foresaw any substantial downside to this. Who is, after all, their target audience? Not practicing homosexuals, not Hollywood types, not the academic elite (who skew atheist anyway). So, in a sense, they know where their bread is buttered. The unforeseen downside is: those gays, academics, and liberals within the church who feel embarrassed and disenfranchised (perhaps that was viewed as an acceptable casualty of friendly fire), and the creative backlash among the entertainment community as Mormons once again become punchlines (no offense Mitt), although this time from the left rather than the evangelical right (Huckabee). The potential upside that probably factored in:
    -the ability to swing the vote
    -the goodwill of other churches and “pro-traditional-family” individuals also fearful of societal erosion
    -getting people who already believed in this even more committed through their actions.

    Just a few thoughts, not as articulate as many of the preceding comments.

  29. Sorry, but I forgot one quick correction to what Andrew said. I believe “common-law” marriage requires 7 years of co-habitation (not a few weeks) or 500 fornications, whichever comes first. 🙂

  30. Michael,

    I wasn’t arguing the merits of our involvement with the proposition, but responding to Andrew’s question of whether our involvement was a foreshadowing of increased involvement in major political battles to come. The way that I understood the mission president’s comments about a light on the hill was that the brethren predict in the future that less and less churches will take a stand on the issue, but the church will remain commited to taking a stand against gay marriage even if it is the only church left taking that stand.

  31. It seems that the “the anticipated secondary effects of same-sex marriage” theory is winning out here, as long as all 3 points are ticked eg #9,#24.

    The only question I still have is why do they accept civil unions for gays were they have the same rights when it comes to partnerships, property or health benefits etc? And I’m still not sure of how solid the case is that religious freedoms will be affected by SSM?

    -Elder Scott has an inactive gay son? really, never heard of that one.

    #3 Anon; Yeap, that seems to be the case. Plus they never talk about Mo Udall as one of only 3 living cabinet members from the Kennedy administration, or much about Harry Reid on Ksl.

    Andrew #24 “the President of the Church was willing to rescind a doctrine that had previously been taught as being required for the highest exaltation” But did he really? since president joseph fielding smith and Lee both were sealed to several women but their widows didn’t nor was she able to. Today Oaks and Nelson both are sealed twice but president Hunter’s widow couldn’t. They changed the doctrine as it refers to mortality in limiting it but not really ‘rescinding it’, but the ‘exaltation part’ is still intact since a widower can be re-sealed to a second, and third or 10th wife and he can fully expect that they will still be sealed to him in the next life but a woman can only be sealed to one man. Even in geneology were women are sealed to all the husbands they had during their lifetime its done only so that the children can be sealed to their natural parents but the actual marriages are ‘left up to the Lord’ to work out in the hereafter!

  32. “Hawk,

    Who keeps track of those…..?”

    Well, I know people married over 25 years do. It’s not intentional, it is just so easy for us to keep track.

  33. “The only question I still have is why do they accept civil unions for gays were they have the same rights when it comes to partnerships, property or health benefits etc? And I’m still not sure of how solid the case is that religious freedoms will be affected by SSM?”

    Keep in mind that the Church’s language about civil unions is very specific, it mentions California specifically and also civil unions in cal. are only acceptable to the Church as long as they don’t impinge on any rights claimed or assumed by the Church. In the prop 8 broadcast that the Church did the phrase was used that the defeat of prop 8 would “inevitably” lead to infringement upon religious liberties. Pure bunk of course, notice that they gave no specifics.

    Some conservative lawyers are trying to make the case that the state would force Churches to perform SSM. What I am guess is that these lawyers didn’t bother to read the courts prop 22 decision that specifically addressed this issue. Other folks have tried to say that preaching against homosexuality would be considered hate speech. I am guess that they have not bothered to read the current hate speech laws. These arguments and other were so flimsy its pretty amazing that they yes on 8 side had the guts to make them. But it was always about fear, not about making good argument.

  34. “…the church will remain committed to taking a stand against gay marriage even if it is the only church left taking that stand.”

    I believe this is true.

    Why?

    Because the church is currently the only church to restrict who can attend a marriage. Let’s be honest here, this impacts tithing dollars. It costs money to attend a Mormon wedding.

    What is feared in the US is what has and is happening in other parts of the world, and that is a separation between the concept of legal marriage and temple marriage. Currently in the US they are one in the same. It is conceivable if gay marriage were legalized the church would no longer be able to ‘legally’ marry couples in the temple. Of course they could continue to seal them in the temple. With legal marriages moving outside of the temple the pressure to hold a recommend to attend family weddings would be greatly reduced. If you think that pressure is not real then you are not paying attention. I had several family members miss my wedding because they were not up on their tithing. I don’t know how many others continue to pay only to avoid the embarrassment of missing a family wedding.

    That is why the fight over the word is important. The inability to ‘marry’ ‘legally’ in the temple is a direct threat to the financial health of the church.

    So the gay community can rest assured that the church is not so much involved out of animosity toward them as it is concerned for its own financial well-being.

  35. There is evidence that the slippery slope factor may have influenced the church to draw a line in the sand: From a June 2008 NPR article:

    NPR.org, June 13, 2008
    In recent years, some states have passed laws giving residents the right to same-sex unions in various forms. Gay couples may marry in Massachusetts and California. There are civil unions and domestic partnerships in Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Oregon. Other states give more limited rights.

    Armed with those legal protections, same-sex couples are beginning to challenge policies of religious organizations that exclude them, claiming that a religious group’s view that homosexual marriage is a sin cannot be used to violate their right to equal treatment. Now parochial schools, “parachurch” organizations such as Catholic Charities and businesses that refuse to serve gay couples are being sued — and so far, the religious groups are losing. Here are a few cases:
    Adoption services: Catholic Charities in Massachusetts refused to place children with same-sex couples as required by Massachusetts law. After a legislative struggle — during which the Senate president said he could not support a bill “condoning discrimination” — Catholic Charities pulled out of the adoption business in 2006.

    Housing: In New York City, Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a school under Orthodox Jewish auspices, banned same-sex couples from its married dormitory. New York does not recognize same-sex marriage, but in 2001, the state’s highest court ruled Yeshiva violated New York City’s ban on sexual orientation discrimination. Yeshiva now allows all couples in the dorm.

    Parochial schools: California Lutheran High School, a Protestant school in Wildomar, holds that homosexuality is a sin. After the school suspended two girls who were allegedly in a lesbian relationship, the girls’ parents sued, saying the school was violating the state’s civil rights act protecting gay men and lesbians from discrimination. The case is before a state judge.

    Medical services: A Christian gynecologist at North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group in Vista, Calif., refused to give his patient in vitro fertilization treatment because she is in a lesbian relationship, and he claimed that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. (The doctor referred the patient to his partner, who agreed to do the treatment.) The woman sued under the state’s civil rights act. The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in May 2008, and legal experts believe that the woman’s right to medical treatment will trump the doctor’s religious beliefs. One justice suggested that the doctors take up a different line of business.

    Psychological services: A mental health counselor at North Mississippi Health Services refused therapy for a woman who wanted help in improving her lesbian relationship. The counselor said doing so would violate her religious beliefs. The counselor was fired. In March 2001, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided with the employer, ruling that the employee’s religious beliefs could not be accommodated without causing undue hardship to the company.
    Civil servants: A clerk in Vermont refused to perform a civil union ceremony after the state legalized them. In 2001, in a decision that side-stepped the religious liberties issue, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that he did not need to perform the ceremony because there were other civil servants who would. However, the court did indicate that religious beliefs do not allow employees to discriminate against same-sex couples.

    Adoption services: A same-sex couple in California applied to Adoption Profiles, an Internet service in Arizona that matches adoptive parents with newborns. The couple’s application was denied based on the religious beliefs of the company’s owners. The couple sued in federal district court in San Francisco. The two sides settled after the adoption company said it will no longer do business in California.

    Wedding services: A same sex couple in Albuquerque asked a photographer, Elaine Huguenin, to shoot their commitment ceremony. The photographer declined, saying her Christian beliefs prevented her from sanctioning same-sex unions. The couple sued, and the New Mexico Human Rights Commission found the photographer guilty of discrimination. It ordered her to pay the lesbian couple’s legal fees ($6,600). The photographer is appealing.

    Wedding facilities: Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of New Jersey, a Methodist organization, refused to rent its boardwalk pavilion to a lesbian couple for their civil union ceremony. The couple filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. The division ruled that the boardwalk property was open for public use, therefore the Methodist group could not discriminate against gay couples using it. In the interim, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection revoked a portion of the association’s tax benefits. The case is ongoing.

    Youth groups: The city of Berkeley, Calif., requested that the Sea Scouts (affiliated with the Boy Scouts) formally agree to not discriminate against gay men in exchange for free use of berths in the city’s marina. The Sea Scouts sued, claiming this violated their beliefs and First Amendment right to the freedom to associate with other like-minded people. In 2006, the California Supreme Court ruled against the youth group. In San Diego, the Boy Scouts lost access to the city-owned aquatic center for the same reason. While these cases do not directly involve same-sex unions, they presage future conflicts about whether religiously oriented or parachurch organizations may prohibit, for example, gay couples from teaching at summer camp. In June 2008, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asked the California Supreme Court to review the Boy Scouts’ leases. Meanwhile, the mayor’s office in Philadelphia revoked the Boy Scouts’ $1-a-year lease for a city building.

  36. Wyoming is presenting the same kind of misleading and incomplete stories that were being spread during the run up to the election. I am familiar with the details of several of these cases and what is written above misrepresents them. The big point is that in these cases there is no link to gay marriage in that the cases involve the anti-discrimination laws of the states, NOT the marriage laws. This is an important distinction because the legal framework is completely different.

    The now famous Catholic Charities of Boston case, for example, occurred prior to gay marriage being legal in MA. The problem for CCB was that they were a contractor with the state and received state funds for their work that is why they had to work within the MA legal framework regarding discrimination. Private adoption agencies that do not contract with the state still set their own standards for adoption in places such as MA and CA.

    Slipper slope thinking was used by the yes on 8 folks in order to create fear and to divide people. Even if one is against gay marriage one should be able to see the unethical nature of the fear and divide tactic that relied on so much misinformation.

    But how does Wyoming’s comment have anything to do with the topic put forth by the OP?

  37. “None of them have yet threatened to limit or interfere with the Church’s operations or freedoms”

    Andrew if you read this can you give some examples to the above?

  38. I have two thoughts on the matter.

    The first is an epiphany I had when my cousin was complaining to me about her Young Women class, and how all the other girls do is talk about marriage.

    I suddenly realized that gender is an intrinsic part of marriage, because marriage is a major part of how we visualize gender roles. When the young women are talking about marriage- what they are really doing is talking about boys- more specifically, what they expect from men, and how boys should treat them. It tells them how they should treat boys.

    This suddenly made clear to me why black women in particular supported Prop 8. Even though many of them will never marry, since marriage is all but dead in the inner cities, still marriage plays an important role in these women’s lives. It defines the ideal man. Marriage is the marker that identifies how a man ought to treat them, even if men don’t live up to it. It provides them with the ideal woman too.

    If marriage were to become a genderless agreement between two people, without the specific role of “husband” and “wife” it will slowly lose it’s power to evoke ideals of manhood and womanhood. This can not be good for society.

    In fact I think it could be argued that the potential downside for society might be far greater than even abortion has been.

    My second point would be that I am not soothed by these promises that our freedom of religion will not come under attack through the guise of “equal rights”.

    Consider the recent capitulation of eHarmony to an equal rights complaint, demanding that they offer their matchmaking services to same-sex couples as well as normal couples. If a private matchmaker is not immune to such demands, how can you be so confident that an unpopular religion like Mormonism will be immune?

    Do you really find it so implausible that two gay members will “marry” and then sue the church, demanding to be allowed to enter the Temple- on the grounds that they are obeying the law of chastity because they are married?

    A judge would never support such a violation of religious liberties, and rights of assembly- it would be in opposition to all case law and tradition! Yet that did not stop Mormons from being denied basic rights such as a trial by a jury of one’s peers- or even being denied the right to vote simply because of membership in the church (Idaho). Nor did it stop the federal government from seize the property of the Church. All in the name of suppressing polygamy, that “relic of barbarism”. Is not “equal rights” the new moral imperative? You don’t think a rejection of the morality of a gay marriage will be considered a “relic of barbarism”?

    Today’s judges certainly are not showing much respect for tradition when they suddenly find a fundamental civil right for men to marry other men in a Constitution written by people who would have never supported such a thing. (Does anyone here really believe John Adams is not cringing over the fact that the MA Constitution he wrote is being used to require the government to allow men to marry other men?) They aren’t even respectful of the voters or the majority.

    Why should we expect them to be respectful of a religion that is hated by the left, and not very popular among many citizens on the right either? Especially since the history of our own experiences in this very country teach us the exact opposite. If the courts of the country decide to ride roughshod over our right to freedom of religion- exactly how much can we expect others come to our defense?

    Even if that defense is sufficient to protect us now, I have to ask- would not the defense of the religious liberties of a Protestant, or a Catholic, or a Jew, be stronger and louder than the defense we can expect?

    Now do I think our religious liberties are in any imminent danger from the scenario I described earlier of a married gay couple getting a court order to allow them into the temple? No.

    Am I confident that such a scenario will be impossible 40 years from now? I can not say so with confidence. Can you? Think on the changes in our society in the last 40 years. $0 years ago I could have said that it was impossible with complete confidence, but not now. What changes will we see in the next 40 years?

    Our society is not constant, and I am not encouraged that the future society will be friendly to us. So I do not find the accusation of this worry being nothing but fear mongering persuasive in the least.

  39. Michael:

    I read the post, but I find it wanting in a number of ways.

    1) If one gives *any* credence to the idea of modern revelation (and granted, I understand that some homosexual folks believe that the First Presidency has sold out to the Christian right), then one must acknowledge the orthodoxy of the Proclamation on the Family in its declaration that gender is an essential part of our nature. That’s to say nothing of the strictly heterosexual models established by Jesus (neither is the man w/o the woman nor the woman w/o the man in the Lord) and others. Of course it doesn’t address it explicitly b/c the definition is self-restricting. If it’s not the heterosexual order, then it is not the celestial order.

    2) I recognize that numerous homosexual members really believe that God gave them their sexuality. However, if this argument were extended across every individual who was born with something, we could glorify any kind of ailment. Are we to believe that one-armed people will be in the celestial kingdom? Certainly not…they will be perfectly resurrected. Individuals with genetic disorders that affect gender? Hardly…they will be made whole. I hurt for those who face SSA, folks like Stuart Matis…and believe that he will be given a fair shake in his judgment in the afterlife just as my friend Jade who committed suicide for other reasons will be given one.

    3) As far as the Holy Ghost is concerned, I will not speculate on the Holy Ghost’s current status, except to say that there’s a reason we are never commanded to pray to him.

    In other words, while he’s right that there are many gaps in our knowledge, we can’t deduce that a lack of knowledge in one area translates into a paralyzing weight of ignorance. That b/c we don’t understand the marital status of the H.G. does not mean that we suddenly question everything else that has been taught about gender relations in both ancient and modern revelation. There might be ambiguity in the legal questions surround SSM, but we are not talking about legalities. This is strict theology…and re: theology, there is very little wiggle room on the question of homosexual urges in the celestial kingdom. We have no, none, zero evidence pointing towards it…and bountiful evidence pointing towards heterosexual as the order of the day.

    Oh…and we have no evidence that J.S. taught plural marriage as the way the celestial kingdom functions, btw. My great-great-aunt, his plural wife, provided one of the most thorough accounts of Joseph’s stated rationale for plural marriage, and celestial polygamy was not part of it.

  40. Annon,

    I don’t approve of either side using emotional/misleading information. I didn’t have the time to research the NPR article – thinking that their gay-favorable bias would ensure ‘balance’.

    Has the following article been circulated? I think it has some implications to this issue.

    http://www.janegalt.net/blog/archives/005244.html

    But as G.K. Chesterton points out, people who don’t see the use of a social institution are the last people who should be allowed to reform it:

    In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

    This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.

  41. Andrew, I agree with your analysis. I’d just add that I think the church feared future social/cultural pressure to conform almost as much as they feared direct legal or government pressure. In other words, the idea that at some future date — 20 years from now, 30 years from now — Gay Marriage will become so normal/acceptable that pressure to accept Gay Marriage (both pressure from without AND within) will be too great. (Not unlike the pressure the Church would feel today in 2008 if it HADN’T extended PH to Blacks.)

    (BTW, such social/cultural pressure to change doctrine would be highly unlikely for abortion, stem cell research, common law marriage, legalized prositution, pornography, etc.)

    Bottom line: the idea that they were trying to “protect families” or “protect marriage” was really a smoke screen (or at best, merely incidental)… what the church is really trying to protect is itself.

  42. Matt (#46): If the Church was really just trying to protect itself, it seems ironic, given that the short-term win in Proposition 8 has done more to cast homosexuality as a civil rights issue than anything in recent history. Although there’s still repulsion among the majority of the population for homosexual acts, many more people are willing to support homosexuals having all the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities of other citizens than ever before. I agree that the LDS Church really probably couldn’t help but take a stand, but in the end, I think the stand it took in favor of Prop. 8 will ultimately precipitate the movement toward the future you described, not impede it. Was this an unanticipated outcome for the Church? I don’t know, but I’m reluctant to speculate that the Church was acting to protect itself, given this resultant ironic shift of public opinion.

  43. “but I’m reluctant to speculate that the Church was acting to protect itself, given this resultant ironic shift of public opinion.”

    I am not sure what you think the extent of the negative PR outcome from the Church really is. Do you actually think those who are crying the loudest over the victory of Prop 8 and against the Church were really pro-LDS Church prior? If you beleive what is on the Church web site, we have gotten much more positive play from traditional Christian organizations that have out and out shunned us before.

    There may be a temporary backlash from those who are, for the most part, not in line with us in the least. So, what is the long term damage you seem to be worrying about?

  44. SteveS (#48), the Church was/is primarily trying to protect its doctrine/theology, not its image. Andrew’s argument is that the Church is protecting itself against legal or governmental interference; I agree, but would add that it also greatly fears societal/cultural “acceptance creep”.

    When the Church decided to join the coalition it did not anticipate the liberal backlash or the strength of the “civil rights” defense. Both outcomes took the Church by surprise. As such, aren’t these after-the-fact results? I don’t see them as arguements to justify why the Church was not trying to protect itself.

    Also, I’d agree with Jeff (#49) in that I’m not sure the Church sees the Prop 8 exposure as entirely negative, let alone a wholly negative shift in public opinion. The Church’s image took a hit in liberal, academic, secularist, etc. circles, but it was never a “shining beacon” in those circles in the first place.

    Finally, you say, “I think the stand it took in favor of Prop. 8 will ultimately precipitate the movement toward the future you described, not impede it.” The movement towards the general acceptance of Gay Marriage was already well underway. Prop 8 only showed us the current score. I think both sides were surprised by the outcome — each side thinking they were further ahead, and each side shocked by the obvious resolve/passion of the other side. The question is whether Prop 8 accelerated or impeded the inevitable legal and cultural acceptance of Gay Marriage? SteveS suggests that the former, that Prop 8 “preciptated” (i.e. accellerated) acceptance of Gay Marriage. I see it as the inevitible “one step back” on the two-steps-forward-one-step-back march towards greater civilization.

  45. Matt (#50): Thanks for clarifying. I interpreted the “protecting itself” to mean public image, not its doctrine. I think we both agree, and your further comments clarify some of my own opinions on the issue. Cheers.

  46. Wyoming,

    Your ‘article’ is indicative of the lies thrown at Gays by those who wish to deny us our civil rights. Here are your examples and the rest of the story on each one.

    Adoption services: Catholic Charities in Massachusetts refused to place children with same-sex couples as required by Massachusetts law. After a legislative struggle — during which the Senate president said he could not support a bill “condoning discrimination” — Catholic Charities pulled out of the adoption business in 2006.

    HERES WHAT YOU FORGOT TO SAY: That Catholic “Charities” wasn’t really a charity, but a TAXPAYER supported non-profit. No one said that they had to shut down. They said they could not continue to discriminate AND be a defacto State agency.

    Housing: In New York City, Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a school under Orthodox Jewish auspices, banned same-sex couples from its married dormitory. New York does not recognize same-sex marriage, but in 2001, the state’s highest court ruled Yeshiva violated New York City’s ban on sexual orientation discrimination. Yeshiva now allows all couples in the dorm.

    HERES WHAT YOU FORGOT TO SAY: Yeshiva could have continued its discrimination. It would have had to stop taking TAXPAYER SUPPORTED property tax subsidies if it had.

    Medical services: A Christian gynecologist at North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group in Vista, Calif., refused to give his patient in vitro fertilization treatment because she is in a lesbian relationship, and he claimed that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. (The doctor referred the patient to his partner, who agreed to do the treatment.) The woman sued under the state’s civil rights act. The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in May 2008, and legal experts believe that the woman’s right to medical treatment will trump the doctor’s religious beliefs. One justice suggested that the doctors take up a different line of business.

    HERES WHAT YOU FORGOT TO SAY: The doctor was the only one on the lesbians health insurance plan. The Anti-Gay doctor effectively denied her ACCESS to medical care from any provider. Doctors take an oath to receive their licenses to not discriminate. Even in Alabama doctors have to treat people without discrimination. If you don’t want to kill people, don’t apply to the state to be the executioner. If you don’t want to provide medical services, don’t apply to the state to help people.

    Psychological services: A mental health counselor at North Mississippi Health Services refused therapy for a woman who wanted help in improving her lesbian relationship. The counselor said doing so would violate her religious beliefs. The counselor was fired. In March 2001, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided with the employer, ruling that the employee’s religious beliefs could not be accommodated without causing undue hardship to the company.

    HERES WHAT YOU FORGOT TO SAY: The former employee refused to perform her duties. What was North Miss. Health Services supposed to do? Tell the woman, ‘sorry about your premiums’ and the womans employer that paid for them, ‘sorry but we discriminate against your employees?’. Again, this is a denial of health care issue.

    Civil servants: A clerk in Vermont refused to perform a civil union ceremony after the state legalized them. In 2001, in a decision that side-stepped the religious liberties issue, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that he did not need to perform the ceremony because there were other civil servants who would. However, the court did indicate that religious beliefs do not allow employees to discriminate against same-sex couples.

    HERES WHAT YOU FORGOT TO SAY: The clerk took an oath to enforce the laws of Vermont. He broke his oath. He should have been removed.

    Wedding services: A same sex couple in Albuquerque asked a photographer, Elaine Huguenin, to shoot their commitment ceremony. The photographer declined, saying her Christian beliefs prevented her from sanctioning same-sex unions. The couple sued, and the New Mexico Human Rights Commission found the photographer guilty of discrimination. It ordered her to pay the lesbian couple’s legal fees ($6,600). The photographer is appealing.

    HERES WHAT YOU FORGOT TO SAY: This case is about public accommadation. How would you feel if a hotel said, ‘no Mormons allowed’. This is no different.

    Wedding facilities: Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of New Jersey, a Methodist organization, refused to rent its boardwalk pavilion to a lesbian couple for their civil union ceremony. The couple filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. The division ruled that the boardwalk property was open for public use, therefore the Methodist group could not discriminate against gay couples using it. In the interim, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection revoked a portion of the association’s tax benefits. The case is ongoing.

    HERES WHAT YOU FORGOT TO SAY: The Methodist Organization CAN still discriminate against Gays. The case is about whether the Methodists can continue to discriminate against certain taxpayers AND continue to run a business open not religious in nature (facility rentals open to the general public) while continuing to receive MILLIONS of dollars in taxpayer supported tax subsidies.
    Youth groups: The city of Berkeley, Calif., requested that the Sea Scouts (affiliated with the Boy Scouts) formally agree to not discriminate against gay men in exchange for free use of berths in the city’s marina. The Sea Scouts sued, claiming this violated their beliefs and First Amendment right to the freedom to associate with other like-minded people. In 2006, the California Supreme Court ruled against the youth group. In San Diego, the Boy Scouts lost access to the city-owned aquatic center for the same reason. While these cases do not directly involve same-sex unions, they presage future conflicts about whether religiously oriented or parachurch organizations may prohibit, for example, gay couples from teaching at summer camp. In June 2008, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asked the California Supreme Court to review the Boy Scouts’ leases. Meanwhile, the mayor’s office in Philadelphia revoked the Boy Scouts’ $1-a-year lease for a city building.

    HERES WHAT YOU FORGOT TO SAY: No one is arguing that the BSA can’t continue to be a private organization that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation AND religion. What BOTH cases center on is whether private discriminatory organizations can continue to discriminate WHILE receiving taxpayer supported benefits. In San Diego the BSA didn’t lose access, they lost the ability to not pay market rates to the taxpayers for public owned land because they discriminate. Same in Philly. Same in Oakland.

  47. HERES WHAT YOU FORGOT TO SAY: Yeshiva could have continued its discrimination. It would have had to stop taking TAXPAYER SUPPORTED property tax subsidies if it had … err, in most of those cases “property tax subsidies” means that the religious group is able to receive parity with other religious groups.

    The point is that they get taxed and treated as not a religious group if they don’t change, which is the point of concern. It leads people to conclude (wrongly, I think), that similar laws will mean that all LDS temples will be taxed if they won’t perform gay marriages in them.

    Meanwhile, the mayor’s office in Philadelphia revoked the Boy Scouts’ $1-a-year lease for a city building which the Boy Scouts had built, maintained and provided the property for (obviously the Boy Scouts should never have let Philadelphia have title to the building, which they had done in order to allow mixed use of the facilities — sharing them with the city and others).

    The “rest of the story” in each case is not as clear as one might suppose and the versions given here are as much spin and the original.

    Which is why, often, people find themselves not trusting each other.

    Thus the BSA didn’t lose access, they lost the ability to have access at the same rates as other non-profit similar groups are charged.

    Completing the explanation accurately restates pretty much the original point.

  48. How about all religions pay taxes, not act for the government and teach and practice what they want. Seems like a win-win to me.

  49. However, the legitimate bottom line How would you feel if a hotel said, ‘no Mormons allowed’. is very much what is at issue, in both ways.

    Which is what the discussion should be about, otherwise we get lost in details that obscure the heart of the matter.

  50. Stephen M

    YOU FORGOT TO SAY..what other DISCRIMINATORY non-profits would have to pay. You can discriminate or you can recieve tax benefits. Its that simple.

  51. Stephen M

    I wasn’t aware of any other $1 leases like the ones that a religious discriminatory group (The BSA) were provided by Oakland, San Diego, and Philly. Can you please provide me the details of other $1 leases at Balboa Park and the Oakland docks.

    I’m actually with the Green Man on this one. Lets make everyone pay property taxes and pay market rates for the use of taxpayer owned property. We can provide an exception for independent groups that don’t have revenues of more than 150,000, aren’t tied to any larger religious organization, and don’t have professional staff. Credits can be applied for non-discriminatory charitable work that is not tied to evangelism (charity with evangelism is advertising, not charity) and that does not discriminate in service provision or in employment of persons to provide services.

    That way, taxpayers don’t have to subsidize other religions. And religions that actually produce benefits for society that are of use to EVERYONE (including people without faith and Gay people) can have their charitable donations recognized. Why should the taxpayers subsidize your religion with our property taxes? We are now.

    If a church wishes to be discriminatory, thats their right under the First Amendment. But don’t ask me to subsidize it.

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