The Mormon Church’s doma chronology – proposition 22
— On 8 July 1999, a person on a.r.m writes:
I am Mormon, and I don’t support the church on this issue. I just got a letter and donation slip from my Bishop asking for my support on this issue. He has used the ward list, as a mailing list, and is holding a meeting at a members house next Tuesday.
— A e-mail from Kathy Worthington notes on 8 July 1999, that five people have contacted her with a commitment to, because of the church’s political actions in California, begin the process of having their names removed from the membership rolls of the Mormon Church.
— Saturday the 10 July LA Times prints three letters to the editor in response to the article printed on 3 July, “No End to Dissent”. All three letters appear to support marriage between two members of the same sex.
— Mormon humorist, Robert Kirby, a writer for the Salt Lake Tribune‘s Saturday, 10 July 1999 column satirizes the media response to the Mormon position of same-sex marriage.
— The Deseret News in Salt Lake City prints an article on 10 July 1999 reporting that two BYU professors at the Mormon Church owned and operated university Law School describe the potential legal challenge in San Francisco as an attempt to “block the influence of religion in public life…regretably some gay and lesbian activists are very vindictive and play a mean brand of hard ball. If anyone oppposes their political agenda, they go out to punish them.” The same article described a news conference called by the Gay and Lesbian Political Action Committee which asked “the church to get out of the political arena.”
— On Sunday, 11 July 1999 on KGO-AM talk radio, Bernie Ward’s weekly program, “God Talk”, was almost completely on the topic of the Mormon Church’s fundraising efforts in California. Several mormon e-mail posters report on the program and their calls to Bernie Ward, or their attempts to call.
— 11 July 1999’s Salt Lake Tribune has a quest editorial written by Philip De Rochambeau, a columnist for Whosoever, an online magazine for gay and lesbian Christians. He first reviews the current situation in California with the Mormon Church’s position on the Knight initiative. He argues that marriage is now in the domain of governments and not churches, a change occuring as church’s ceased to control governments. While churchs may facilitate weddings, the role of religion in marriage is now meaningless without the sanction of the state. He uses legal arguments based on the 14th amendment and the US Supreme Courts decision in Romer vs Evans.
— The San Francisco Chronicle prints a letter on 11 July about the articles printed earlier in the paper, describing the Mormon Church action as “trying to transform their private prejudices and religious beliefs into the law of the land.”
— The Mormon Church owned Salt Lake City newspaper, the Deseret News, editorializes on 14 July 1999 on the controversy in San Francisco, and argues that the church has a right to “bring its influence to bear on such moral issues”, and further argues that “the criterion on which an organization’s tax exempt status stands is whether it’s political donations exceed five percent of it’s total expenditures. The money involved in the church’s support of the Definition of Marriage Act comes nowhere near that proportion.” [The LDS Church has not issued a detailed public accounting of it’s finances in General Conference since the late 1950’s. Determining the percentage of political contributions out of total expenditures is impossible based on current Church financial practice for the average church member. And, the Church’s argument that same sex marriage is a moral issue contrasts interestingly with the defense that the church’s political contributions do not meet the threshold criteria of five percent. Either the church’s position is moral and not political, or it is not.]
— On 14 Jul 1999, a poster to a public e-mail lists returns her attention to the enclosures with the 11 May letter from the Area Presidency of the Mormon Church’s North America West Area. One of the enclosures, the text of which was widely distributed on the internet, listed several bills in the California Legislature that, the enclosure argued, supported the supposed gay lifestyle. The poster noted the following.
— The 19 July 1999 editorial page of the Los Angeles Times prints a letter in response to Lynn Wardle’s opinion piece of 15 July. The writer finds some irony that the Mormon church, with it’s history of polygamy, is among those defending ‘traditional marriage’.
— Clayton Pope, of Orem, Utah, writes to the Provo, Utah Daily Herald a letter published on 23 July 1999. He states: “I believe that by allowing gay people to marry would somehow be granting them a ‘special’ right. All Americans have the right to marry. Marriage is ordained of God as a union of a man and a woman. Any person has the opportunity to select a mate of the opposite sex for a spouse. If they want to spend their life with a person of the same sex, then I believe marriage is a right that they are giving up of their own free will and choice.” Pope is a professor at Mormon church owned Brigham Young University.
— In a statement in Salt Lake City, LDS church spokesman Dale Bills says, “We regret that any member would ask to have his or her name removed from our records because the church has joined a coalition in California to oppose same-gender marriage…In the face of organized efforts to redefine marriage, the chuch has no doctrinal choice buy [to] defend the traditional family.” The article quotes Royal Thackrell of Salt Lake City as stating, “I don’t care what other people do with their lives, who do ou care so much what I do?.” And Dave Ensign, of Colorado, traveled to Salt Lake City to present his request in person, was quoted as saying that he was outraged that the church was “working to control state policy on secular marriage.”
— In the 23 July 1999 issue of Frontiers, a gay oriented magazine, on page 23, there was a brief eport describing the letter of 11 May 1999, noting that it was to be read in church meetings on either May 23rd or May 30, as well as the contributions of the LDS church to the Hawaii and Alaska campaigns.
— Reports circulate on Mormon-related e-mail lists describing non-violent protests against LDS church involvement against the Knight Initiative at the annual 24th of July Parade in Salt Lake City, which commemorates the entrance of Brigham Young into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. About 40 protesters gathered in front of the IRS Building in Salt Lake City which is on the parade route and when LDS president Gordon B. Hinckley passes in the parade, the protestors turn their back on him. This protest was shown on Channel 4 TV in Salt Lake City.
— The 24 July 1999 issue of the Los Angeles Times publishes four letters to the editor in response to Lynn Wardle’s opinion piece that was published on 15 July. All four support same sex marriage.
— On 29 July 1999, the Atlanta Constitution prints an article written by Thomas D. Elias, of the Cox News Service, on the controversy over Mormon Church fundraising in California. This article reports that “the Mormons actually spent $52.47 mailing the letter”. Elder Callister is quoted as saying, “We’re not worried about our tax status…there is no prohibition on a church becoming involved in an insubstantial way in an issue that is central to the religion.”
— The 9 August 1999 issue of Newsweek, which arrived in the mail on 3 August, had the following report, under the heading, ‘Gay Marriage’. Over a picture of the Salt Lake Temple, labeled ‘Asking members to fund a fight’, with the title, “Mormon Money”, the unattributed paragraph reads on page 6:
Politics is a tough game for Latter-day Saints. Criticized for pouring cash into battles against same-sex marriage in Alaska and Hawaii, the Mormon Church apparently decided to organize its rank and file to support California’s Definition of Marriage Initiative. Letters went out encouraging the state’s 750,000 Mormons to donate privately. But some contained appeals for specific amounts, which some local church leaders say went too far. “This is beyond the bounds of anything I’ve been asked to do,” said one. Salt Lake City Authority called the appeals “unfortunate” and against church policy.
— I received a copy, by fax, of the letter referred to above under the date of 20 May 1999. On the letterhead of the North America West Area of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Douglas L. Callister, an Area Authority Seventy for the North America West Area, addresses Stake Presidents:
We are greatful for your willingness to support the request of the First Presidency that we assist in every proper way to assure passage of the Traditional Marriage Initiative… This letter contains further instructions in connection with the raising of support funds as follows:
1. I have been asked to supervise the raising of the funds. I will be assisted by Elders Merrill Higman and Floyd Packard. Within a few days one of us will contact you.
2. In every instance the contribution of a Church member will be voluntary and in his capacity as a private citizen. No undue pressure of any type will be applied.
3. No fundraising may take place on Church property, through use of Church letterhead, or by virtue of general announcements in Church meetings.
4. An education process will be required so that those approached will understand that this is a moral issue, rather than political, fully justifying the support of LDS families.
5. All checks should be made payable to “Defence of Marriage Committee” and mailed to Post Office Box 10637, Glendale, CA 91209-3637. We will keep appropriate accounting records and make these available to you for your individual stake. For each donor we need the name, address and occupation.
6. Please advise the donors that contributions are not tax-deductible.
7. We are pleased to accept contributions from any donor, whether or ot a member of the Church. There is no limit on the amount of contribution, although any donor who contributes $10,000 or more must file a simple campaign report. (I can help with this.) We may also accept checks from businesses.
8. Experience shows that it is generally more succssful to begin with the more affluent members, suggesting an appropriate contribution and thereafter extend the invitation to those of lesser means. We desire that as many as possible be invited to contribute in order to increase their awareness of the Initiative and develop a personal attachment to the project. Many of these members will be asked to provide telephone and other grass roots efforts near election time.
9. Our objective is to raise this money in 60 – 90 days.
We recognize that this is a large assignment. It is evience of our continuing commitment to traditional families as the fundamental unit of society. Thank you for this and boundless other service you so faithfully offer.
Douglas L. Callister
The letter is suggestive of the following:
1) The effort has the approval of the First Presidency.
2) The letter confirms that the Church is raising funds: ‘this letter contains further instructions in connection with the raising of support funds’, and ‘I [Elder Callister] have been asked to supervise the raising of funds’.
3) Since the letter contains “further instructions” it suggest the possibility of another letter since the 11 May letter does not give any instructions about fundraising.
4) Since at least one report indicated that a bishop spoke with members of his ward in his office during the three hour meeting schedule, both the CHI instructions and the instructions on this letter may have been violated. See 21 June 1999 above.
5) Since a form enclosed with the letter which is to be enclosed with the donation asks for the stake and ward of the donor, and since records of same “will be made available to you [the Stake President] for your individual stake”, local leaders will know who does and does not contribute.
6) This further suggest the possibility that the holder of the PO Box is the Church or someone connected with it or retained by it to compile, maintain, and forward this information, perhaps through church channels, perhaps not.
— The San Francisco Examiner on the front page of the Sunday, 8 August 1999, publishes an article by Zachar Coile, ‘Mormons raise cash to stop gay marriage’, continued on page A-17. “Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints in California are answering the calls of church leaders to back the measure financially. ‘It’s not going as fast as I hoped it would, but it’s happening,’ said Merrill Higham, a Mormon from Belmont who serves as a spokesman for the church in the Bay Area.” [Elder Higham is one of the two additional names mentioned in the 20 May 1999 letter as one of the people who would be contacting Stake Presidents.]
“‘When we talk about traditional marriage — that is, marriage between a man and a woman — we are talking about one of the core beliefs of our faith, our religion,’ Higham said. ‘So we’re talking about something we consider sacred. Not just important, but sacred‘”.
The article describes the contents of the letter dated 20 May 1999, and released on 4 August. Elder Callister was interviewed and defended the church’s right to fundraise. The article states that Elder Callister’s firm donated $4000 to support the initiative. Roger Conners, identified as a Stake Pesident in Murrieta donated $10,000. The “No On Knight” committee, according to the article, released a memo which stated that the pro-initiative committe had paid $32,400, “its single largest expenditure”, to Wirthlin Worldwide, “a Republican polling firm headed by Richard B Wirthlin, an elder in the Mormon Church who advices the church on public relations.”
Elder Higham is quoted as saying, “Even within the LDS community, there are families that have members of ther family who are involved in a lifestyle that is contrary to the church. I know that has been agonizing for them.”
The article in a sidebar reproduced the first page of Elder Callister’s letter of 20 May, and includes the text in full.
— In an e-mail post to a public internet list dated 9 August the poster stated that his bishop [in a ward in the greater Los Angeles area] told him at church the day before, the 8th, that the ward had raised about $2000 of the goal of $3000 in support of the Knight Initiative. He also reported that the bishop was trying to go by the rules: members who tried to hand him the contributions in the building were taken outside to the street so that the transaction did not take place in the church building. [The post suggests that the contributions in this ward are not being mailed to the PO box described in the letter dated 20 May 1999 issued over the name of Elder Douglas L. Callister, but are being collected another way.]
— The 16 August issue of the Riverside (CA) Press Enterprise prints an article titled, “Mormons join ballot fight on marriage”. Sybel Alger reports that “church members in Temecula, Murrieta and other cities in the Inland area have contributed more than $20,000 to support the [Knight] initiative.” Nolan Kerr, described as the Stake President of the Moreno Valley Stake, is quotes saying, “We believe this is a moral issue. It’s not anti-gay, but pro-marriage, pro-family.” Among named contributors in support of the initiative are Roger Conners, Stake President “in Temecula and Murrieta”, who donated $10,000, “his business partner and fellow Mormon, Thomas Smith,” who contributed $5000, “Temecula attorney Philip Oberhansley”, who contributed $1000, and “Banning veterinarian Mart Westbrook, who is a church leading in the Banning Pass area” also contributed $1000.”
The article notes the LDS church’s partipation in fundraising on the same-sex marriage issue in Alaska and Hawaii, the anti-ERA efforts of the Mormon church in the 1970’s and that “in 1989 and 1992, Coachella Valley Mormon leaders fought local gambling initiatives.”
— On 17 August 1999, a couple living in a ward in central California stake report that a bishop’s counselor called them into a meeting in one of the church classrooms and asked for a contribution of $250. Other families in the ward mentioned that the had also been asked to contribute $250.
— In the 20 August 1999 issue of Frontiers (see 23 July), under the title, “Voting Wih Their Feet”, on page 44, there is a news article on Kathy Worthington’s monitoring of LDS church members asking to have their name removed from church membership records.
— An e-mail post dated 23 August 1999 from a poster in Ventura County, described a ward priesthood meeting discussion the day before. A High Priest asked what was going on, since he had heard that requests for donations to support the Knight Initiative were being made, but, no one had contacted him. The bishop confirmed that he was “acting as a fund raising agent”, but that he was doing so as a private citizen, not in his capacity as bishop. Later, after the elders and high priests separated, a stake leader told the high priests that their ward had been asked to raise $4000, and that just over half had been raised.
— On 4 September 1999, I received at home a form letter from Elder Merrill Bateman, President of Brigham Young University, and a member of the Seventy, and as such a LDS General Authority. Addressed to “Dear Alum”, the letter requested continuing support for the “Lighting the Way” capital campaign ay BYU, which has, according to the letter, raised more tham $250 million dollars. President Bateman notes several things the money will fund on campus, includiing the addition to the Lee Library. The letter continues, “Still there are many priorities of the campaign that are underfunded. Each priority has the power to light the way for countless students, who in turn, will lead us into the next century. Imagine with me, the kinds of real life differences your gift, combined with those of others can achieve…”. President Bateman then lists what apparently are six of the underfunded priorities. The second one listed is “…a repository of information that will help a legislator defend laws upholding marriage and the traditional family.”
— On 4 September 1999 an internet poster described a meeting in a ward south of the Bay Area. The bishop was giving a presentation about homosexuality and the Knight Initiative. A woman in the ward objected, during the meeting, to politics being discussed in church and told the bishop that she felt that the ward had a problem with homophobia, and that the church ought to be teaching compassion.
— On 8 September 1999 an Los Angeles area priesthood leader mention in an e-mail post that in a leadership meeting the men present were told that the stake was not even close to meeting the dollar assessment given by the Area Authority Seventy.
— On Friday, 10 September 1999, a story goes out on the AP Newswire that a small number of pickets had demonstrated outside the LDS Church Office Building in Salt Lake City the day before, protesting the church’s slow response in handling their reqursts to have their memberships canceled following the LDS Church’s support of the Knight Initiative.
— The 16 September issue of City Weekly in Salt Lake City, in an article by Ben Fulton, describes fundraisers to oppose the Knight Initiative in California, which the LDS Church is supporting. Also described in the article is picketing at the LDS Church Office Building by those who have asked that their names be removed from the membership records of the LDS Church, and a potential class action suit against the church to expidite such requests. The article also describes a plan to picket Temple Square during the Church’s General Conference on 3 Oct 1999.
— An editorial, written by the Rev. Alan Jones, executive director of the San Francisco United Methodist Mission and the co-chair of the Interfaith Alliance of California, is published in the San Francisco Chronicle, 16 September 1999. Rev. Jones suggest that the timing of the Knight Initiative with the presidential primary is “less about preserving standards for marriage and more about motivating conservatives to get out and vote for candidates who reflect their narrow agenda.” “A much more appropriate goal for the religious community is to build strong and healthy familes in which all children can grow up without fear of persecution.”
— On 17 September 1999, at 7:00 pm in the Saltair Auditorum in the Student Union at the University of Utah, a panel discussed “The Church, Gender, and Politics – From ERA to DOMA”. The opening session of a conference of Mormon feminists, Counterpoint, the panel consisted of presentations by several people.
1. Martha Sonntag Bradley summarized the LDS Church’s campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. Arguements used against the ERA included that it was a moral issue and not a political one, it would threaten the traditional family, and create ambiguities in the family structure. These arguements against the Era (and feminism) are all being used by the LDS Church against same-sex marriage.
2. J.D. Williams described how the LDS Church’s conflicts with government go back long before the ERA issues to include problems at Kirtland, polygamy, prohibition, J. Reuben Clarks denunciaions of the United Nations, Ezra Taft Bensen’s support of te John Birch Society, the ERA, and priesthood issues so far as those with African ancestry, as well as issues with gay rights.
3. Stephen Clark noted the importance of living in a diverse society and that in a “market place of ideas” the good ideas usually prevail. He described the US Supreme Court case of Loving vs Virginia, which eventually lead the courts to allow interracial marriage. The judges involved decided that marriage is an issue of personal choice, and citizens have the right to pursue personal happiness by chosing whom to marry.
4. Nadine Hansen reviewed the LDS Church involvement with the Knight Initiative in California. About the same time as the 11 May letter there was a telephone conference between the Area Presidency, Stake Presidents, and Elder Neal A Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, during which Elder Maxwell stated that this involvement had the support of President Hinckley. The assessments or goals for the amount of funds to be raised in each stake were given orally and not in writing. As details began to appear through the Mormon internet community [as described in this chronology], the LDS church tried to downplay its role. When the Callister letter of 20 May 1999 surfaced, the LDS church public affairs spokespersons had to admit what was happening. Even though the Proclamation on the Family does not mention the words gay or homosexual, its main political use to date seems to be to oppose gay marriage. It seems the church insists on investing it’s money in not allowing gays and lesbians to try to do what so many heterosexuals have failed to do: to live in a committed relationship and have stable, happy families.
5. The question and answer session included discussions about the tax-exempt issues, and some in the audience suggested that churches be taxed, or, at least that portion of their funds expended in political causes be taxed. When the question of why the LDS Church is so strongly opposed to feminists and gays, the responses ranged from the idea that it is about control, maintaining traditional roles, that we should see LDS theology as being a procreation theology, to a discussion about a theology that “allows” for singles as ministering angels. One person present proposed that individuals have rights, not groups. Groups have rights only as they are derived from individuals. Claims to protect the rights of churches and families are all too often destroying or damaging of the rights of individuals.
— On September 24th, stake presidents were invited to meetings throughout California where they were given packets of material that include a video and a discussion guide about the Knight Initiative. The stake presidents were told to instruct their bishops to hold a combined Relief Society and Priesthood meeting (meaning, all adults) to explain the church position in favor of Knight, and to request that members be more politically involved, including lawn sign display, and participation in door to door work. The video consists of three speakers, Elders Maxwell, Scott and Ballard, from the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who explain that it is the 1995 church Proclamation on the Family that requires the church to oppose same sex marriage. Over the next few days, scattered reports of the meetings appear on LDS-related internet lists from across California.
— US Today, in its 4 October national edition, prints an article titled, “Mormons back anti-gay measure”. The article describes Senator Knight’s three previous failed efforts to get the state legislature to pass his bill, and then turning to the initiative process, despite state law already defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. The two letters from the Area Presidency and from Elder Callister to stake presidents are discussed, as are the church donations in the earlier Hawaii and Alaska campaigns. Elder Callister told the writers of the article that “they have no idea how many mormons contributed or how much they gave.” This comment was made despite the fact that the 20 May letter over his signature states that a form is to be used which asks for the donors ward and stake, and that the letter tells the stake presidents that they will receive reports as to the donations from their stake.
— The San Francisco Chronicle reported in its 5 October issue that following the San Francisco supervisors decision to formally ask for an IRS investigation of LDS church political activities surronding the Knight Initiative in California, US Senator Orin Hatch of Utah, a Mormon and a declared presidential candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, called the supervisor’s action “bigoted and prejudical.” Hatch stated that he supports the Knight Initiative, but that gays and lesbians “need some sort of recognition for a monogomous relationship.” Hatch said that the supervisor’s resolution “flies in the face of free-speech rights almost as much as anything I’ve ever seen.”
— The Salt Lake City Tribune in its 11 October edition reports that a National Coming Out Day rally was held in the Sugar House area of Salt Lake City on the 10th. The article noted that speakers discussed the LDS church political activities in California. The church owned Desert News did not cover the rally.
— David Knight, the gay son of California State Senator Pete Knight , in an editorial in the Los Angeles Times on 14 October detailed his father’s rejection of him, a veteran of the Gulf War, and his partner, after coming out as a gay man. David also stated that Senator Knight has a brother who died of AIDS.
— 20 October: Based on a number of e-mail reports from all around California, following the canceled combined Priesthood/Relief Society meetings, ward firesides were organized instead. Summarizing these posts, the following seems to be the new approach from the LDS Church. Those conducting the meeting state that the coalition supporing the Knight Initiative approached the church because the church is organized geographically and is organized in a way to generate large numbers of volunteers. At the meeting, the video made for stake presidents was shown. The organization is each ward has a Knight coordinator, who reports to a stake coordinator. Each ward has a goal of 50 volunteers, each of which is supposed to find a partner who is not Mormon. Intructions for the volunteers are available, as is a survey, designed to determine levels of support. A person who states that they are opposed to the initiative, are to be thanked without attempting to change their mind. Those who agree are to be asked if they could give financial support, though none is to be collected, and phone numbers or e-mail addresses are collected for those who want further information or who might be willing to work in favor of the initiative. The information that this door-to-door survey collects is to be entered into a statewide database by one of three LDS church members with internet access in each ward who are being recuited to assist with tabulating the data.
— The highly respected Field Poll on 27 October shows that support for the Knight Initiative is at 50%, a seven percent decline from the poll in September. Those opposing the initiative increased from 39% to 41% and those undecided increased from 4% to 9%.
On to Part 3