Patricia Nell Warren

Should We Be "Attacking" the Mormon Church?

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | November 10, 2008 8:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: Mormon, punishing the Mormon Church, same-sex marriage

I'm seeing the fearful comments from a few LGBT people about how we shouldn't be "attacking" the Mormon Church. They are raising an issue that we shouldn't try to get the Mormons' tax-exempt status revoked. By "attacking religion," they say, we are fulfilling exactly what the churches and ministries were told by their leaders before the election -- that they would lose their tax-exempt status if they allowed same-sex marriage to be established.

The fearful ones are even pointing out that some liberal and LGBT nonprofits have crossed over the nonprofit line to politick in the same way that the conservative churches did.

With all due respect to those who are concerned, whether we're "attacking religion" or not isn't the real issue. In fact, it isn't even a "gay issue."

I don't condone "attacking a religion" for its conservative beliefs, any more than I would condone attacking a liberal religion, or a liberal non-religious organization. Not to mention one of our own LGBT nonprofits. I certainly don't condone attacking the Mormon Church per se.

The real issue is whether we will protect separation of church and state. Are we going to fight for it or not? If we are, then we'd better fight like tigers to protect it as established by the U.S. tax code.

NO church or religious nonprofit -- and NO liberal or LGBT organization, for that matter -- has the right to violate the tax laws. Calling for enforcement of the tax laws is not "attacking" these religions. They knew exactly what they were doing, and they shouldn't be defending the fact that they stepped over the line with their "yes on 8" campaign activism. ANY AND ALL tax-exempt entities, no matter who they are, non-gay or gay, deserve to have complaints filed against them with the IRS if they have abused their tax-exempt privilege.

I repeat -- asking for enforcement of the law is not an "attack." It is simple justice.

Right-wing church nonprofits, and left-wing/liberal/LGBT nonprofits, and everybody in between, can have a choice. They can be tax-exempt, and keep all their money...in which case they have to accept the limits within which the U.S. tax code allows them to engage in direct political activism.

Or they can give up their tax-free status, and pay taxes like the rest of us. In which case they will have the unlimited freedom to lobby and shoot off their mouths and spend their money on politics like the rest of us.

The "yes on 8" ads lied...the alarmist ads that said churches would lose their tax-exempt status if same-sex marriage were established in California In fact, it's very ironical. The churches and ministries and church orgs should know by now that their own leaders lied to them. They got what they wanted by passing Prop 8 -- and now they might lose their tax-exempt status anyway. They were greedy, and had no respect for the law, or for separation of church and state -- which is still the law of the land last time I looked.

If we LGBT people aren't going to fight for separation of church and state, then we can kiss our LGBT asses goodbye. Because that wall of separation is the only thing that gives us our present freedom to organize, and speak out as we do. It's the only thing that gave us whatever civil rights we do currently enjoy.

We won't get the right to marry unless our country continues to separate church and state. And that includes the separation that the IRS is in charge of enforcing.

As I said, this isn't even an LGBT issue. Many heterosexual Americans should be fighting to protect that separation of church and state as well. They too will suffer if that separation disappears.

So this is no time for ANY American to be fearful and accomodating, no matter what their sexual orientation is. This is no time to give these ultra-conservative church people an inch of any kind. They are certainly not going to give us an inch.


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Patricia,

Absolutely everyone should see who contributed to the Yes on 8 and everyone should see who our friends are: those who contributed to No on 8. I recommend you look at your home town or places you are familiar with and let your friends and neighbors know who did what. You can get all the information from this link:

http://www.sfgate.com/webdb/prop8/

Maybe the newspapers, especially the Gay and Alternative papers in your town, would like to publish the list of all those who opposed us. Pass it on.

Kim, there is a complete list of Prop. 8 endorsers/contributors at Intolerant Faith

http://intolerantfaith.blogspot.com/2008/11/know-your-enemy-endorsers-of-california.html

Intolerant Faith got the list right from ProtectMarriage.com, who took it down later, perhaps realizing that it was not a good idea to publicize what many see as their flouting of the tax laws.

Patricia, while I agree with you, I think you may be overlooking the fact that there is an accumulation of anger at play here. HIV positive men believe that the government has not spent enough money to find a cure. Spiritual people feel shunned by the churches they wish had been welcoming. Couples are made to feel second class. The hypocrisy of the closeted who work against the gay community and those who are on the "down low" is nowadays held up in harsh light. Police action rooted in homophobia is obvious.

There will be attacks. There will be retribution. It will not be pretty. The youngest of the gay community will drive it.

If you want to worry about issues like this first worry about politicians like Obama. He has said he supports the government funding church school environments. This scares the hell out of me. Would you really want the US government to support church's that preach hate (like Obama's did) ? This scared me when the Republicans pushed for it but the Democratic Presidential candidate (Obama) said he liked the idea.

I am of the opinion the a strict iron fence be made between church and state. The problem is that the religious right has been working for this for YEARS and it might come true before we know what hit us. If you want to see anti gay legislation just watch it sweep across the county if the US puts any money into any church activity.

So right. And I wish I could recommend organizations fighting this, but they are as homophobic. Freedom From Religion Foundation rarely mentions gay marriage (the husband of the founder is a former fundamental pastor), and Ellen Johnson, a cute hetero blonde, president of American Atheists is good, but doesn't really have a clue about DOMA or our cause.
It is up to us gay freethinkers to really do it for ourselves. We can't look to the orgs to help us. They don't want us to do anything independently because they want donations for their orgs. Got news for them. With the economy slump, the first thing that goes down is non-profits. We have to do it as a maverick (hate that McCain reference). If Robin Tyler hadn't taken initiative in the SF Supreme Court Case with Gloria Allred as consel, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The orgs advised Robin against taking legal action and she ignored them. Look where we are today. I am not quoting Margaret Mead, but I am sure you know the quote.

Patricia - I am not an American citizen but I think I see where you're coming from. What you are saying is that they clearly broke the law and should be held fully accountable no matter what their reasoning was. I agree. They knew what the rules were before they became involved in this mess and they willfully broke the law. They should not be exempt from said law just because they play the religion card and if it were the "other" side that crossed these lines then you can be sure that they'd be the first and loudest hollering for "justice" which - if we were in the wrong - would only be fair. They did this crime and now they should do their time and if that means losing their tax exempt status then so be it, they only brought it upon themselves.

"What you are saying is that they clearly broke the law and should be held fully accountable no matter what their reasoning was."
I think that might be the thing that bothers me the most about the Religious Right. They seem to think the "Right" part means "correct", and further think that absolves them of any responsibility for their actions. In other words, their ends (holy and "right" as they are) justify their means.

Hear, hear.

I think it's time for then to be reminded that separation of church and state cuts both ways. They want to meddle in politics? Very well. Their contributions to the government coffers in the form of taxes will be most welcome.

- A hetero ally in Reno

Reformed Ascetic | November 10, 2008 10:47 PM

The ACLU has defended the rights of the KKK to hold marches and rallies. I have seen the Klan first hand, and, although I like to think of myself as a young person, I am more than old enough to have seen some of the effects of the Klan first hand. Yet, I truly do believe the ACLU did the right thing. I believe in the power of free speech.

I do not want to see legal attacks against homophobic statements or beliefs propagated by misled religious groups. By that I mean that I don’t want to see free speech legally abridged. I do want to see these positions attacked on religious, moral, ethical, logical and patriotic grounds. I want to see religious leaders called out for lying to their congregants regarding Prop 8. I want to see moralists and philosophers, religious and not, attacking the Yes vote. I believe we have ceded the moral and religious ground for far too long.

However, I have no sympathy for those who chose not to comply with what they knew to be the law. Every religious group is given a free choice between political activity and avoiding taxation. In this choice, they are already ahead of most individuals’ ability to define their legal own legal status. Insisting that religious institutions comply with the law is not any different than asking any one else to comply. I see nothing wrong with the lawsuit in Florida regarding hiding donations, and I see nothing wrong with insisting on IRS investigations into these matters. There is definitely the appearance of impropriety regarding the tax law and many religious institutions that supported the anti-gay agenda this election. Those religious institutions that chose to defy the legal agreement into which they freely entered should be held accountable.

Personally, I want to see them held accountable legally and morally. What would those same institutions have to say about a politician who willfully chose to engage in tax evasion to the tune of many millions of dollars? I want these religious institutions to be held to the same standard and be asked to carry the same labels they would impose on others.

touche'. here here. Bravo!!!!!!

Allan Brauer | November 11, 2008 2:27 AM

Last king strangled with the entrails of the last priest? Works for me.

I say follow the facts. Right now some Christian boards are framing this as a whole bunch of Mormons who just happened to send money to Yes on 8 groups.

Once we know the facts, then publish the facts. We do just as much good by shining a light on lawbreaking and lies.

Please remember, the Bush regime is still in power. Maybe we'll do more good by publishing the facts.

(gasp...choke) "Should we be attacking?!"

Perhaps I have completely LOST MY MIND, but exactly WHY should the LGBTI community and our allies approach civil rights as if it were a freakin' Beauty Contest? We seem terrified to "offend" the Heterosexuals-In-Power or "look bad" in the eyes of the media.

Today I chased away a sweet little ol' lady from my porch because I identified her "Christian" leaflet for what it is - HATE LITERATURE AGAINST MY FAMILY. I sincerely hope she was wearing DEPENDS.

Today I also politely confronted EVERY person I know and CAN contact on this planet (email is dandy) and simply reminded them that THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE for the pain and suffering caused by Marriage Inequality....from the widow of a 30 year "illegal marriage" who becomes homeless, to the widower who loses his husband AND the pension that would have provided security, to the broken souls of EVERYONE whose beloved family is considered SUB-American in the eyes of the law.

Yes, Silence = Death. Heterosexuals, your APATHY on this matter is CAUSING suffering. Your silent discrimination is literally killing me.

So...uh...I guess my answer to your question would be a resounding "YES", Patricia!

I am 100% in favor of approaching our next campaign with a focus on the separation of church and state.

I question whether we should be attacking any church.

Several years ago I attended a NOW conference. There was a speaker there who had lived in Saudi as an American wife of a Saudi prince (literally - they met while in school together). Without going into her whole terrible ordeal, I want to share something she said that I've tried to apply to so many situations. The discussion was about suicide bombers and she noted that we, in this country, are so arrogant about our "rightness" that we forget (or ignore) the fact that we are dealing with people who also believe they are right - and are just as willing as we are to go to the mat (or to Allah) for those beliefs.

What if we approached this from a new perspective - one where we acknowledge that, for the Mormon church, for any church, there is a question of religious belief in something. And for many, for whom their religion is the core of their day-to-day life, this belief drives their life.

It's a belief that harms us; denies us equal rights because of the way they vote when they go to their elections. And they vote as they do because that's what they're told to do from the pulpit every week (or every day). So, as Patricia said, the real argument is for separation of church and state.

Are we likely to change a pro-life advocate into a pro-choice advocate - or vice versa? Are we likely to change an institution as enormous as the Catholic Church or the Mormon Church? Perhaps eventually - but what are we going to do right now?

Well - it's all been said above - individual dialogs, yes! Absolutely! Every vote will matter, but let's also look at our framing, our message, what we can and can't convince someone of and what message they are likely to hear.

And let's get to the core issue - where is the information coming from that drives so many of those votes? Let's do as Patricia suggests and fight the battle of separation of church and state.

That's a battle we can win. That's a battle in which we will have allies outside of our own communities.

Great response, Ricci.

We definitely need to apply the tax codes equally to all sides. Just as I argued that we need to equally enforce a standard that prevents out of state groups/individuals from donating to elections in states where they are ineligible to vote.

Question Patricia - did the Gay & Lesbian Centers and other LGBTQ groups in California take a stand on Prop 8? Because the ones in AZ did.

Planned Parenthood is a 501c4, as well as a 501c3. They are able to endorse candidates and take a side on ballot issues because they do that with their 501c4 money. But they have to keep a very close watch on their books so that the right funds are going to the right thing.

I don't have a complete list of these CA groups, and whether they were 501c3s or 4s. According to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's website, they did have a "no on 8" war room during the campaign, and dispatched volunteers around southern California.

It can certainly be argued that LGBT nonprofit groups and institutions did what they did in self-defense, but they might also have been breaking the law. However, I would feel outraged if the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center get squashed by the IRS while the religious righters get off scott free.

Frederic B. (Rick) Elliott, III | November 11, 2008 5:32 AM

Separation of Church and State is a complex issue that began with Presbyterians in Virginia objecting to paying taxes to the state Anglican church.
The cynic in me has only seen this separation invoked when the church propounds stances against that person's belief.
In its inception it was to deny the establishment of a state church. Since then it's broadened its scope to favor slavery and all sorts of other things. The misconception is that the state and church should not be allowed to intersect in any way--that there are state things and church things and the twain shall never meet.
Richard Niebuhr in his ground-breaking book about the issue,CHRIST AND CULTURE, seemed to be favoring a stance in which the church and state are in tension. When one gets out of line, it calls the hand of the other. One of the prime examples in recent history has been the decidedly religious overtones of the Civil Rights movement. One can't listen to Dr. Martin Luther King without recognizing that he saw civil rights as a religious matter. He certainly didn't separate church and state in his message. Indeed his message was to both state and church.
The question I ask is whether or not LGBT civil rights are a religious issue? If we draw illusions to black civil rights, we must realize it was coached in religious terms and ours is also. There's no real jump from equal under the law and all being created in God's image and declared good. The problem is that church and state are so closely intertwined, it's hard to draw a line of demarcation between church and state. We consciously blur that line with IN GOD WE TRUST, One nation under God, indivisible..., using a bible in a swearing in of Barack Obama, and--so help me God that a witness in a trial agrees to. In my opinion many of these are a violation of the commandment--not using God's name in vain. We do use God's name in vain when we include God to bolster up our testimony or position.
The most obvious example of violation of church and state is the Supreme Court's ruling that religious prayer favoring a particular religious group is not appropriate in schools. Do not be deceived by the Evangelical Right campaigning to put God back in the schools. What they really mean is put "our" kind of prayer back in the school, not just any kind of prayer. And the reality is that no one can put God anywhere. That's not in the powers of a human being. However, I vow that God never left the schools. God just saw to it that one "flavor" of Christianity couldn't use the schools as a recruiting ground with public prayers.
As long as we make ministers an arm of the state in registering marriages, I believe the state doesn't have the right to tell that minister whom she/he can marry and who not. The state has already abrogated its power to the church and cannot pick and choose how the church acts out its power.

Back to Niebuhr--When the church gets out of line, the state is called upon to call the church to account. There are obvious points where the state needs to call the church to account. Witness the sweetheart deal between HEB Food Stores and the Southern Baptist Church. HEB would build a food store and donate it to the Baptist Church. Then they'd rent it back for a pittance, thereby avoiding property taxes. For a while a family would donate to the church a scholarship only for their offspring--getting another tax break.
Yes, LGBT rights are rightly a religious matter. And the Church is called upon to intevene for those rights. When God creates humans in God's own image, God didn't say--now you LGBT folks are an exception to the creation I, God, intend.

You make a number of good points. I agree that our system is decidedly imperfect -- that Christian religion has a preponderant position in our society, which creates a lot of the "tension" you mention. There are moments in our history when non-Christians have to act to keep Christianity from getting out of hand.

And I agree that there are moments in our history when many Christians got on the bandwagon of civil rights in an effective way -- as in the abolitionist movement against slavery, and in establishment of black civil rights in the 50s and 60s.

However, there were some white Christians who fiercely opposed freedom of any kind for blacks. And there were moments when Christian religion was mostly NOT on board. Feminism and women's reproductive choice was definitely not supported by many church people. It took one single group -- the Quakers -- to establish the right of conscientious objecting in war. There are moments when only nonbelievers like atheists and agnostics stood for the right thing.

At best, our system shows the effects of a very heterogeneous performance by many groups of people who believe in wildly varying things, and who weigh in at different times to use the "separation of church and state" machinery in different ways. Maybe that's the beauty of our system, however imperfect it might be.

I do disagree on one point. The state does not make ministers the arm of state in registering marriages. The legality of the marriage is granted with the marriage license, which is issued by the state. Without that marriage license, nothing the minister does is binding. A couple who are married by a justice of the peace, or at city hall, are just as legally married as those who have a ceremony in church.

The fact is, marriage is entirely a civil institution, and has been for many centuries -- ever since Protestantism broke Catholicism's monopoly on marriage as a Catholic sacrament. Martin Luther himself recognized that marriage had to be a civil institution, available to all, not an institution that was controlled by any one church.

This being the case, the state DOES have the right to say who can be married and who can't. In fact, the state already does that when it says "no marriage" for children under a certain age, or for people who are too closely related. In certain cases, the state also dissolves the marriages of felons. And the state says "no polygamy" to Mormons and Muslims.

When certain U.S. states have said that people of the same sex can marry, those states are entirely within their rights, and they are operating within masses of precedent. Conservative churches fiercely refuse to conduct nuptial ceremonies for LGBT people; others, like the Unitarians, open their arms to LGBT couples. That is as it should be. Different religions have the right to decide whether they will conduct that ceremony or not.

But none of those religions have the power to confer any "legality" on those marriages. This is a point that many Americans are very confused about. The religious right have deliberately set out to confuse this issue, because they want us to believe that their particular concept of marriage's "sacredness" should rule, and that it should somehow determine the legality of marriage. Not so. A marriage is legally binding whether it takes place in church or not.

Exactly, marriage is the middle ground for church and state. For more than a decade I'd pointed out that the best route to same sex marriage was on the basis of religious freedom. When the state recognizes only heterosexual unions and some religious traditions do perform and recognize same sex unions the state has crossed the line and established as a state religion those who do not recognize those unions.

Marriage is a LEGAL institution as well as a religious one, otherwise there would be no marriages not within a religious context. That, of course, would be discrimination against those who do not belong to a religious group which is why it is so. The doctrine of separation of church and state means the secular aspects of marriage as a legal contract should and must be held separate from the religious ones, that the religious arguments should have zero impact on the legal aspects.

Regarding the tax exempt status of churches.....I, as the head of a religious organization myself, have to be extremely careful not to publicly endorse any candidate. I have to remain careful to frame social issues within a narrow band of spiritual principles. For the past seven years the Fundie Right has not been held to this standard but the Left leaning religious groups have been. Every church that endorsed Bush in the past elections should have lost their tax exempt status immediately.

For an interesting counterpoint to the clear-cut separation of civil and religious marriage, check out this new article on SSRN:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1293946

The author argues that marriage hasn't necessarily been seen as a religious institution ratified by the state, or as a civil institution that has no relationship to god or spirituality, but rather a "holy secular institution." This doesn't necessarily cut one way or the other on same-sex marriage, but it emphasizes the deeply moralistic nature of civil marriage even where it is technically disassociated from any particular religious practice.

On a separate note, while I believe that LDS's Prop 8 activities violated the limitations on its tax-exempt, and plan on attending a protest here in NYC tomorrow, I am somewhat uncomfortable framing this issue in terms of separating church and state as opposed to using my money to underwrite political lobbying I disagree with. Church's perform many services that are invaluable to fighting poverty, homelessness, and hunger, and as an inclusive social justice movement we should support institutions that provide these services.

That being said, I strongly object using religious and charitable tax exemptions both as a shield against the IRS and as a sword against other tax-paying Americans.

Andy, your points are well taken, and I don't think that any intelligent person would deny that many churches perform a lot of important and useful social services. But disagreeing with them on marriage is not an attack on the services they perform.

If you look at the actual history of marriage in the West, and the circumstances under which Europeans were compelled to develop the concept of "civil marriage," I think you might agree that civil marriage is best kept "civil," i.e. secular and governmental.

I read the article you suggest, by the Rutgers professor. I think his idea of civil marriage as a "holy secular and moralistic institution" is an oxymoron. Bloody battles were fought in Europe over marriage, among Protestants, Catholics and Anglicans, and the emerging nation-states finally agreed that marriage had to be secularized and made available to the large and growing population of Europeans who were disgusted with religion and wanted no part of it.

Several years ago, I wrote a long article for Gay & Lesbian Review that goes over this ground. You can find it at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3491/is_3_12/ai_n29179046/pg_1?tag=artBody;col1

This is not only a seperation of church/state issue.

Sure, some churches don't want to allow same-sex marriage. But, for other churches, this limits the ceremonies they could perform. For example, the Unitarian Universalists would perform same-sex marriage. Not allowing some churches to marry the way they want to IS a violation of freedom of religion.

Unfortunately this doesn't seem to be a Separation of Church and State issue.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/11/mormon_meddlers.php

If this isn't a Separation of Church and State issue, I think what we should do is continue with the protests, repeal efforts, attempts to keep the issue in the front of people's minds.

Patricia, I am far from being familiar with the various ins and outs of the subject of exemption from taxation, but it occurs to me that there's a need for a bit more careful use of terminology here, lest legitimate arguments concerning the role of religious institutions get too broad and perhaps loose some of their core effectiveness.

When people talk about tax exemptions, they most often are referring to what the IRS law and regulations refer to as the "501(c)(3) exemption concerning federal income taxation. Churches fall under this category. They don't pay federal income taxes on their contributions (that's true of some other types of not-for-profits also), but also their contributors can deduct those contributions on their federal income tax returns. In a sense, the latter is the "biggie" in the sense that the taxpayers end up subsidizing part of the church's operations.

The word "not-for-profit" and "tax exempt", however, also gets used in terms of state income taxes as well as such things as local property taxes. And what can or can't be done under these may vary from the federal 501(c)(3) rules.

501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from directly or indirectly endorsing/opposing political CANDIDATES. That is not the same as the subject of lobbying and/or issue advocacy. While I am under the impression that there are also limitations on the lobbying aspect, including initiatives and referendums, organizations can easily skirt them by advocating on issues ("gay marriage will destroy the social fabric and harm children") while stopping short of urging one to vote one way or another. There is also the issue of relationships with other not-for-profit groups that are not 501(c)(3) and have greater legal latitude concerning this kind of advocacy. Where the specific activities of the LDS or other religious organizations fit on this spectrum isn't completely clear to me.

That's not to excuse any of the role related to Proposition 8 that the LDS has played. It's just a concern that an overly broad and imprecise targeting of exactly what provisions of law and regulations were allegedly violated and how could end up hurting rather than helping the cause of marriage equality. If any readers have more expertise in this area, I urge them to wade in here.

Don, your point is well taken. Admittedly I am not a lawyer, nor a legal expert on tax-exempt stuff.

But I AM a researcher, and my research started with a clear fact: the 2005 IRS decision on the Christian Coalition. Clearly the IRS had an issue with the CC's political activities, or there wouldn't have been five years of litigation before the IRS finally caved in and gave the CC what they wanted. Previously the IRS had been somewhat better about doing its job -- for example, stripping the Moral Majority of its tax-exempt status after many years of violations by the MM.

My research showed me that many legal experts regarded the IRS decision as opening the door for other conservative churches and religious organizations. Clearly many churches saw it that way. Hence the stampede of conservative religious activism during the 2008 Presidential election, and on the ballot initiatives. And hence the churches' insistence that what they did was perfectly legal.

But I believe that the IRS 2005 decision was a terrible one. It really let the dogs out. So the decision needs to be revisited. The IRS has to tighten up its own act, and do a better job of keeping these churches from exerting undue interference in the political process. That is my point.

A few churches have also openly made statements of defiance at the IRS, which proves to me that they too recognized that IRS regulations had the power to prevent them from doing certain kinds of activism. If their intentions had been perfectly legal all along, there would be no need for these acts of defiance.

It's true that 501c3s and 501c4s have slightly different parameters. But there is a problem, for example, on how "partisan" is defined. Churches are told that they may not be "partisan" on candidates, but they can speak out on ballot initiatives. In recent years, the emergence of ballot initiatives as a hot area of campaigning shows that the definition of "partisan" need to be revisited. Surely the Pop 8 battle was highly partisan!

But this is yet another area where the IRS has to clarify and tighten up on what it's doing. The agency needs to update itself, and protect all of us within the current political climate, with so many big rich churches all over the elections in a way that has never happened before.

Strategy Not Fear | November 11, 2008 1:50 PM

As someone who is not convinced that going after the Mormon church's 501(c)3 status is a good idea, I'm not fearful - I'm strategic. Patricia, you may already know that right-wing groups are directly challenging the constitutionality of the tax exemption rule in court. They want this fight as much as we do, because they believe that they will win it. And frankly, looking at our federal judiciary, they may well be right. If we take on this issue now, we are accepting their chosen framing of the issue - as a battle between religious freedom and LGBT people. Ultimately, this contributes to THEIR ARGUMENT that because they cannot express their beliefs about what the law should be without running afoul of the tax rules (and our political rhetoric supports that right now), the tax rule infringes on their religious freedom and should be struck down.

So, all I'm saying is, we need to be careful what we wish for - if we're going to say that churches can't do what the Mormons, Catholics, evangelicals and others have been doing and have done in this election without violating the tax laws, we need to be prepared for the unfriendly U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the tax laws. Is that what we want?

If we need to be "attacking" anyone, perhaps we should be "attacking" elected officials who voice views such as the following:
“I’m a Christian... And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.”
-Barack Obama.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/01/us/politics/01marriage.html?_r=2&em&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

Isn't this exactly the kind of imposition of religious views upon public policy that self-anonited "progressives" claim to so abhor?

Why was this guy so heavily supported by "the community" again?

I think we can cut our new President a little slack. He did go from that statement to mentioning us in his election-night step. That's a good start. Let's give him a chance to learn more about our issues further, and hopefully move to a stronger, more accepting position.

Right now, nothing positive could possibly be gained by our attacking Obama.

Reformed Ascetic | November 12, 2008 1:10 AM

The Times UK has a story about how President Obama sought out and privately met with Bishop Gene Robinson three times to discuss what it's like to be a first.

Apparently Bishop Robinson starting discussing it while in London for a Stonewall awards dinner.

This has changed some of my private opinions.

The LDS church is only trying to prevent the state from forcing them to perform homosexual weddings in the Temples.

From the LDS point of view this is maintaining the separation of church and state. People that are sympathetic to the homosexual movement that can't understand this are simply fascist thought police.

Gays can and should receive their civil rights through the state with a civil union. Demanding that they be able to force their unions into the churches isn't American.

The churches protecting what they consider to be sacred isn't hateful.

So sorry, but you have been grossly misled about what our actual aims are. It's hard for me to understand why some church leaders feel they have to tell such bald-faced lies to their followers and to voters.

LGBT people are not asking to have every church in the U.S. be forced to marry them at gunpoint. Nobody in their right mind would want to get married in a hateful atmosphere where church authorities feel they have been forced.

We are asking for the right to civil marriage. Period.

Civil marriage is civil, not religious...meaning that it is the bare-bones thing that the state accepts as legal. Meaning -- at minimum -- that a couple appears at city hall, or in front of a justice of the peace, or a magistrate, and publicly declares their agreement to marry, and their mutual consent. Consent is at the heart of any civil marriage ceremony. With that, the LGBT couple would obtain all the benefits and privileges that anybody gets from marriage.

But it's not a religious ceremony. Indeed, civil ceremonies usually have no religious language in them.

For LGBT couples who want a church blessing of their marriage, there ARE a few liberal churches that are willing to celebrate a nuptial for them. The Unitarians and others. Or the couple can write their own unique ceremony with their own "spiritual trappings" and get a representative of civil authority to preside. But this is optional.

A church nuptial does not confer any legality on a gay couple's ceremony. In fact, it doesn't confer any legality on a heterosexual couple's ceremony either. THE LEGALITY IS CONFERRED BY THE MARRIAGE LICENSE FROM THE STATE, WHICH HAS TO BE OBTAINED BEFORE THE CHURCH WEDDING, AND WITHOUT WHICH THE CHURCH WEDDING IS INVALID. The minister witnesses the contract, same as the justice of the peace or magistrate, but he or she is merely a stand-in for the state. The state is what makes marriage happen.

So people like you, and your church leaders, are "protecting" something that we aren't asking to take from you. No fascist thought police are coming to break down the doors of Mormon temples and force the church to marry gay people. This idea is a boogey man that church leaders have created to scare voters into passing Prop. 8.


Johnny, you were lied to by your church leaders. The California Supreme Court ruled that it was unlawful for the government to treat same sex couples unequally by denying them civil recognition of their marriages. If a church wants to limit who it will marry, that's their business. But as far as the government goes, the law requires them to treat all citizens equally.

You were lied to. So shouldn't you be asking yourself why your leaders would lie, and who stands to benefit from it?

Reformed Ascetic | November 11, 2008 9:27 PM

Johnny,

Thanks for commenting about how you perceived this political issue. I wanted to address your comments because I share certain of the sentiments.

Any religious organization is free to decide who it will or won't marry. The grounds for acceptance can depend on membership, previous divorce, availability, church requirements like marriage counseling, and on and on. Churches are perfectly free to make decisions based on criteria that would not be allowed in other spheres of life, including racism.

If there were any organized groups trying to force LDS Temples to perform same sex weddings, I would be happy to stand against those actions.

There are numerous religious groups across the country which would be thrilled to perform religious same sex wedding ceremonies. Not out of charity, but because they see it as a fundamental part of their religious understanding of the world.

Why do the religious beliefs of those who would deny marriage, civil or religious, to same-sex couples get to trump the religious beliefs of others? And why do some people's religious beliefs have anything to do with the civil (non-religious) rights of others?

Serena and Patricia are right. Religious leaders across the country have systematically and purposefully engaged in lying to their congregants about the issues. Some have merely mistakenly trusted and accepted the lies told by others. But many have purposefully engaged in lying while using their position of religious authority to gain trust. Those at the top have access to the legal counsel to know that they will never be required to marry anyone, or to ever change their espoused religious doctrines. Even if LGBT people wanted to do so, neither American law nor public sentiment would ever allow it to be successful.

If you are a religious person, I hope you act to find out which category your leaders are in. I assume most religious people, of any faith, would find lying and abuse of power opposed to their religious beliefs.

Patricia
If a non-Profit wants to get involved politically and spend money swaying votes then it should loose it's tax exempt status immediately no questions asked!