Mormons encouraged to lend their time and money to discrimination against gays
On 7 March 2000 the state of California will be holding its primary election as part of the national process to select the next president of the United States. Among the items on the ballot will be an initiative to amend California law to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.
The initiative, number 819, is titled “Definition of Marriage” on the web page of the California Secretary of State. The listed proponent is State Senator William J. “Pete” Knight. The legal summary on the third page of the web document reads as follows:
Adds a provision to the Family Code providing that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: This measure would likely have no direct fiscal impact on state and local governments.
The Family Code definition of marriage currently reads:
300. Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary. Consent alone does not constitute marriage. Consent must be followed by the issuance of a license and solemnization as authorized by this division, except as provided by Section 425 and Part 4 (commencing with Section 500).
The Family Code also presently provides:
308. A marriage contracted outside this state that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted is valid in this state.
The California Secretary of State provided me with the text of the initiative, which would add a new section to the Family Code, by FAX:
INITIATIVE MEASURE TO BE SUBMITTED DIRECTLY TO THE VOTERS
SECTION 1. This act may be cited as the “California Defense of Marriage Act.”
SECTION 2. Section 308.5 is added to the Family Code, to read:
308.5 Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
Just prior to the 1996 presidential election, President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allows states to decide whether to recognize a marriage that was not between one man and one woman. The constitutionality of DOMA is in question as a court might find that this is a violation of Article IV, Section One of the US Constitution, which states that “…full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state….” For a court to consider the constitutionality of DOMA, a state would have to recognize some other form of marriage (two men, two women, or polygamy, as three examples), and then some test case would be arranged.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, have been at the forefront among organized groups opposing same-sex marriage. The Mormon church’s efforts in Hawaii, both in organizing and funding the supposedly local group opposing same-sex marriage, its efforts legally to be made party to the court cases there, and its fundraising have been documented elsewhere. The Mormon church’s organizing and fundraising in last years’ election in Alaska, including its last minute donation of $500,000 dollars, which was reported to have been spent on the media campaign, has also been documented.
The church’s “Church Handbook of Instructions”, which details church procedure to priesthood leaders, and was revised and issued in January 1999 has several paragraphs that seem significant.
The Church normally is exempt from paying sales, property, income and other taxes because it is a religious organization. Church buildings and other property are to be used for the purposes of worship, religious instruction, and other Church-related activities. Facilities are not to be used for political, business or investment purposes…If one stake or ward misuses the Church’s tax-exempt status, other church units could be affected. [Page 139]
The Church is politically neutral. It does not endorse political parties, platforms,or candidates….Church leaders and members should avoid any statements or conduct that might be interpreted as Church endorsement of political parties or candidates…Church facilities may not be used for political purposes except for voter registration or polling where there is no reasonable alternative…Members should do their civic duty by supporting measures that strengthen society morally, economically and culturally. Members are urged to be actively engaged in worthy causes to improve their communities and make them wholesome places in which to live and rear families. However, members should not give the impression that the represent the Church as they work for solutions to city or community problems. [Page 151]
Following the pattern of Hawaii and Alaska, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has begun its involvement in the California March 2000 election.
— A letter, dated 11 May 1999, and signed by John B. Dickson, John M. Madsen, and Cecil O. Samuelson, General Authorities of the Mormon church, and together constituting the Area Presidency of the North America West Area of the Mormon church, was addressed to all priesthood leaders in California. Recipients were directed to read the letter in Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Society (organizations for adult men and women, respectively) on either May 23rd or May 30th, 1999. The letter describes the initiative, quotes from the First Presidency on the importance of marriage, defines the initiative as a moral issue, and urges church members to give their support. The letter also states that a “broad based coalition is being formed to work for the passage of the traditional marriage initiative”, and that details will be forwarded to the recipients as they become available. With the letter are enclosures, including a Q and A on the initiative, as well as political commentary. The full text of the letter as well as the texts of the enclosures begin to appear on Mormon internet lists on 1 June 1999.
— A letter dated 20 May 1999, on LDS church letterhead, and imprinted “North America West Area”, and addressed to Stake Presidents was issued over the signature of Douglas L Callister, an Area Authority Seventy in the North America West Area. This letter was released to the public as part of a press packet on 4 August 1999, when NPR had a report on Mormon fundraising efforts on it’s program, “Morning Edition”, two and a half months after it was mailed to stake presidents. See 4 August 1999 below.
— On 9 June 1999 an internet posting from a priesthood leader detailing a meeting began circulating on Mormon e-mail lists. He described a priesthood leadership meeting in which a member of a stake presidency told the assembled group that the stake would be receiving an assessment to raise money to support the initiative, and that members would be asked to support this by contributing directly (the money would not go through church accounts) to an unidentified organization, which is not a PAC, and that the contributions are not tax deductible.
— On 11 June 1999, a person living in the San Francisco Bay area reported on a public Mormon e-mail list that a friend told her by e-mail that “stakes and wards have been assessed rather large amounts to raise for the anti-gay initiative in California. Members are being called in by their bishops and asked to donate substantial sums above tithing and send it directly to the PAC that is sponsoring the legislation ….”
— On Sunday, 13 June, a friend of mine called his Stake President and point blank asked him if the reports on the internet were true. The Stake President flatly denied it.
— On 14 June 1999, a second confirmation from the San Francisco Bay area was sent to a public internet list. A bishop reported: “The stake presidents have been asked to raise specific dollar amounts. It is not supposed to done ‘officially’. It is to be done by contacting individuals directly. The stake president is doing it himself.” The stake president specifically told the bishops that a person not contributing was still eligible for a temple recommend.
— Later on the same day, 14 June, a person reported on an e-mail list that while the letter read in meetings came from the Area Presidency, the directive about money came to her stake president through the Area Authority Seventy, and not directly from the Area Presidency. Area Authority Seventies, according to the “Church Handbook of Instructions” [January 1999] “serve under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve, the Presidents of the Seventy, and the Area Presidency where they are assigned. Like oher Seventies, they may be assigned to preside at stake conferences, create and reorganize stakes, set apart stake presidencies, an ordain and set apart bishops. They may also serve on area councils, and as counselors in Area Presidencies. In addition, they may be assigned to tour missions, and assist with training in stakes, missions and districts. They may be given other responsibilities as needed.”
— On Wednesday, 16 June, my friend who inquired of his stake president, as noted in 2) above, was called on the phone by the Stake President. He told my friend that he had had a meeting that evening, and that he had been given an assessment, and was calling to correct the information he had given my friend on Sunday.
— On Friday, 18 June 1999, a friend called Cecil Samuelson, a counselor in the Area Presidency of the North America West Area, and one of the men over whose names the letter of May 11 was sent. Elder Samuelson said that my friend could feel comfortable understanding the letter as official church policy. The letter’s purpose was to urge church members to support a coalition that drew together many different religious and non-religious groups. The coalition could be reached in Sacramento by calling Rob Stutzman at (916) 444-8080. Elder Samuelson stated that no specific contribution amounts were being sought at any level of the church organization, but the people were being encouraged and things were being done locally so he could not speak for specific local actions. He said that the church looked at this as a moral issue, and that “the doctrine of the church was very clear.”
A call to the phone number listed above shows that it belongs to
The Protection of Marriage Committee
1121 L Street, Suite 810
Sacramento, CA 95814
[An article in the San Francisco Examiner dated 5 May 1999, reported that a Mike Marshall is the campaign manager for Californians for Fairness, which opposes the initiative.
Californians for Fairness
505 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
The phone number is (415) 227-1020. The web page is www.NoOnKnight.org and e-mail can be sent to [email protected]]
— A California church member reported on a Mormon internet list on Monday, 21 June 1999, that the day before, Sunday the 20th, that at the beginning of Sunday School he and several ward members were invited by a counselor in the bishopric to visit during Sunday School with the bishop in his office. The Bishop talked with them about the fundraising campaign. The bishop told them that gay activists were prepared to spend 10 million dollars to defeat the initiative and that it needed to pass to protect the world that their children would live in. He mentioned gay activism in the San Francisco area as a problem. The bishop told them, the author of the e-mail post reported, that the fundraising effort was being done under the authority of the Area Presidency, and that the First Presidency was supportive. The bishopric would provide later the information as to where to send the money, and told the group that the money would not be tax deductible. He also told them that there would be no pressure to donate, nor any ecclesiastical repercussions for not donating. The post further reported the specific dollar amount that was being assessed the Stake, as well as the specific amount that had been assigned to his ward, but, to protect his identity, I have declined to state those dollar figures. The bishop also told them that he could not say anything about this over the pulpit. The bishop stated that Salt Lake [presumably Church headquarters] wants to make sure this proposition passes since California sets patterns for the nation and if California supported same sex marriage, the rest of the country would follow. The bishop told the group in his office that this was the right thing to do since it was in accordance with the Proclamation on the Family.
— A woman reported in an e-mail post about a phone conversation with a friend on Monday, 21 June 1999, about what happened in her friend’s ward. The bishop made a presentation on the initiative in Relief Society. After the bishop left, two women in the group made public comments expressing concern about the church interfering with their right to decide the issue and vote freely. A third woman, a visitor in the ward, also described the private meetings the leaders were having with church members to request donations. At the close of the meeting, the Relief Society president defended the initiative as a moral cause, as well as the methods the church is using to support it financially.
— A priesthood quorum leader reported in a post dated 22 June 1999 that the request for financial contributions to support the passage of the initiative was on the agenda for “next Sunday’s” meeting of the bishop and the other leaders of organizations for adults in his local ward.
— One person in an e-mail post on 22 June 1999 reported that his Stake President had discussed the letter of May 11th with Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who reportedly confirmed to the Stake President that the letter was to be read. Elder Maxwell said these things were done with his approval.
— On 24 June 1999, a priesthood leader in the greater Los Angeles Area reports that his ward had been given an assessment of $10,000. He also reported that the Stake President told the bishops that the direction to become involved had come directly from Gordon B. Hinckley, the President of the Mormon Church.
— A poster on the internet writes on 27 June 1999 that the priesthood meeting he attended in San Diego County that day was used to explain that the church had “authorized members” to support the Knight initiative.
— In a post to an online group, one writer on 28 June 1999 described an conversation with a relative who is a bishop in California. He reported that the bishop said that the goal for funds to be raised from the stake required an average donation of $250.00 from each family, with the better off being asked to donate more, the less well off less. The total stake goal is $50,000. (There are 160 stakes in California.)
— The Saturday, 3 July 1999 issue of the Los Angeles Times features an article by Larry Stammer, a LA Times religion writer. Titled “No End to Dissent”, the article describes the battle over rights for gays and lesbians in several religious denominations. Stammer identifies as backers of the Knight initiative “the California Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the Mormons) and the Assemblies of God and the Assemblies of God Northern California/Nevada District.” Elder Douglas L. Callister [who is not otherwise identified in the article, but is an Area Authority Seventy of the Mormon Church] was interviewed. Stammer writes, “Asked about the Mormon church’s support of the March ballot measure against recognizing same-sex marriages, Elder Douglas L. Callister said that traditional marriage between a man and a woman is at stake. ‘It’s whether or not marriage means anything at all,’ Callister said. ‘This is very painful for us. We do get involved in these [issues] unless we think it is a moral issue, not a political issue. We are not anti-gay. We have many fine friends that are in the gay community and do not wish to be their adversaries…but our concern is the thing we believe we are defending — traditional marriage. This is a moral issue and we wish we did not live in a society in which we felt it was being attacked.'”
— The Sunday 4 July 1999 San Francisco Examiner‘s front page headline reads “Mormons now target California: Church asks members to back state ballot initiative”. Reporter Robert Salladay writes about the church activity in California, comparing it to the efforts in Hawaii and Alaska. Salladay writes, “The letter was authorized at the highest reaches of the Mormon Church and should be considered ‘as inspired and coming from the Lord,’ said church spokesman Dan Rascon in Utah….’yes, a statement from the first presidency we believe is inspired and comes from the Lord,’ said Rascon. ‘But it’s up to the members as to how to proceed. This is the direction that is coming from the church, but they still have the option. Nobody is going to be disciplined.'”
— A church member in Central California reports on 5 July that members in his area received letters in the mail, with previously addressed and stamped envelopes enclosed, over the signature of a member of the Stake Presidency. He was asked to donate $150.00, and one other friend who he specifically asked, also received the identical letter with a request to donate $150.00.
— Both the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner in their 7 July 1999 editions report that Mark Leno, a San Francisco Supervisor, asked both local and state officials to investigate ending the Mormon Church’s tax exempt status following Sunday’s article in the Examiner detailing church activities supporting the Knight initiative. He asked City Attorney Louise Renne and state Attorney General Bill Lockyer to look into the issue. The article in the Chronicle noted that “repeated calls to Mormon headquarters in Salt Lake City were not returned” on Tuesday.
— A friend’s personal e-mail to me on 7 July 1999 reflects his private anguish over the Mormon Church’s actions and the widespread publicity in the Bay Area over the last few days:
I just saw today’s Examiner. Big 4.5 inch prominent headline that says: “Supe[rvisor] rips Mormon’s anti-gay lobbying”. I am sick to my stomach. I feel the need to apologize to everyone I know. I have friends, employees, clients, and business associates who I do not want to think I am in any way supportive of this dreadful activity. I asked my admin assistant for some advice about making a statement to my employees. Her first reaction was that most will already know from my past behavior that I do not support this kind of activity. That is a welcome relief, but I would like to reaffirm that feeling. But what do do about clients, and friends and others?
— On 7 July 1999, I receive a copy of a letter a friend received from the second counselor in his Stake Presidency, though the counselor does not mention his church position in the letter and the return address is his home address. The letter is typed, dated in late June and is a form letter with blanks to put in the name of the couple being addressed. The first paragraph is a single sentence, asking that the addressee “join me in an effort about which we share strong feelings”. The second paragraph describes the Knight Initiative, and gives the wording of the proposed change in the Family Code. The third paragraph warns that if DOMA does not pass, “that lifestyle will become an ever more pervasive part of our sociaty and will have an adverse effect on the family.” The nature of that adverse effect is not stated. The writer states that this is a moral issue. The fourth paragraph quotes from the 1 Feb 1994 Mormon Church First Presidency statement which “require[s] that the Church of Jesus Christ oppose any efforts to give legal authorization to marriages between persons of the same gender.” The fifth paragraph tells the addressee that “we must be willing to contribute our time and means”, wording suggestive of temple covenants of endowed church members. “Our finanial support is critical, as the cost of advertising is substantial. I ask that you contribute whatever you feel is appropriate to help pass this iniiative… As a target, I suggest that you seriously consider donating the sum of ______, but you need to evaluate this in light of your family’s present situation.” The blank is in the form letter, and the amount handwritten is is $150.00. The addressee is asked to fill out an enclosed form and return it in the addressed, stamped envelope. How the sender got the addresses to who he mailed his appeal, or who paid for the postage is not mentioned.