I read and then replied to some comments on somebody’s note on Facebook regarding the LDS Church’s involvement in the Proposition 8 campaign. I feel it is worthwhile to share that discussion with a broader audience. Here’s how it went:
I do not, however, agree that the Mormon church played only a minor role in the passing of Prop 8. While it’s true that the LDS church did not donate money directly, they pretty much rallied up any member who could to donate both time and money to the cause. They held firesides and commissioned their members to do whatever they could to assist in the passing of Prop 8. Many members donated only because it was a “commandment” from the prophet. The quorum of the 12 even personally called a few rich members of the church and told them it was their “priesthood obligation” to donate money to the cause.
The church itself was involved in virtually every way. It’s BECAUSE of what the leaders had been doing, and how they were pushing their members to donate, how they egged people in Utah to donate money to support a ballot in a state that they didn’t live in, and how they made the entire church body feel like it was a commandment to support Prop 8, that people are so incredibly upset.
Brian also quoted his friend Rob as saying:
I am disgusted with the LDS Church. In light of their blatant disregard for the separation of church and state… I wish I could take BYU off my resume.
To have had ANY association with the LDS Church or its educational institutions is now an embarrassment.
I’m still baffled by what the problem with the church supporting prop 8 is supposed to be. Members did not donate “only because it was a ‘commandment’ from the prophet.” Mormons have brains, they think for themselves, and they spend their money how they want and vote how they want. They supported proposition 8 because they agreed with it. If you read the letter that the church’s leaders used in encouraging the measure ( http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/california-and-same-sex-marriage ) it’s clear that it falls quite short of being a “commandment.”
I live in Utah and saw how the California residents in my area mobilized to support proposition 8. There was no compulsion, no “egging on.” Non-Californians were told not to get involved, though of course some still did anyway. Mormons are just good at making things happen, and they are willing to put their money where their mouth (and heart) is. Is that against the law somehow?
To Rob: I’m sorry that you are ashamed of your association with BYU because of the church’s supposed “blatant disregard for the separation of church and state.” Perhaps you should have paid better attention in your American Heritage class, because you are forgetting some key points about the meaning of the First Amendment. In particular, there is no prohibition of religiously-minded people participating in public debate. Both sides of the Prop 8 debate are founded on moral value judgments. Just because Yes on 8 people’s value judgments were informed by their religious beliefs does not make their value judgments less valid than those whose views were not religiously-founded. Were the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s efforts to promote blacks’ civil rights invalid because he was a Baptist minister? Where do we draw the line between Dr. King taking one stand and the LDS church taking another? It seems that the only line is an arbitrary one based on whether those stands coincide with your particular political views or not.
Indeed, this arbitrary and conveniently agenda-promoting distinction between some religious people supporting one cause and others another strikes me as a profound injustice. Feel free to disagree with whether Proposition 8 was a good idea or not. But please do not vent your disappointment at its passing by claiming that prop 8’s proponents did not deserve to participate in the public debate simply because they are religious people and organizations. To segregate the public square into arbitrary “approved” and “unapproved” segments—especially when these labels are little more than code for the more typical terms “us” and “them”—is not appropriate and does our society a great disservice. In the end we let voters evaluate a measure based on the various arguments put forth for and against, but there is not and there should not be a restriction on who can make those arguments.
For anybody who has lingering doubts on this issue, please read my posting of a speech entitled “Religious Values and Public Policy” which discusses these matters in greater detail.