The LDS Church and the political fight against gays

The LDS Church and the political fight against gays

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— On 28 October, an e-mail poster reports that precient lists were dropped of at the posters home so the poster could go door to door, despite the poster having told the bishopric member that the poster did not want to participate.

— The 9 November issue of Advocate, available to readers on 28 October, prints the following news item:

“Gay marriage is morally wrong, and Mormons should feel compelled to oppose it.” That was the word from Mormon Church president Gordon B. Hinckley, who spoke at the church’s annual conference October 2 in Salt Lake City. “Some portray legalization of so-called same-sex marriage as a civil right,” he said. “The issue has nothing to do with civil rights. For men to marry men or women to marry women is a moral wrong.” Earlier this year the church sent letters to its California branches asking them to urge their 740,000 members to support a March 2000 ballot initiative that would allow marriages only between men and women.”

— The 14 November issue of In These Times, available on 29 October included an article titled, “California’s Judgement Day”, by Hans Johnson. Johnson details the Mormon relationship with the Religious Right in California, much of which is anti-Mormon. He describes Jeremiah Films, which produces both anti-gay and anti-Mormon films (The Godmakers). Johnson reports how the anti-Mormon / anti-gay mix backfired in Idaho, which has a large Mormon population. In 1994, when the Idaho Citizen’s Alliance had an anti-gay measure on the ballot, which the Mormon church supported, anti-gay films produced by Jeremiah Films were shown, which included trailers for the anti-Mormon film, The Godmakers. The backlash among rank and file church members, who constitute about one third of Idaho voters, Johnson reports, lead to the narrow defeat of the measure. The article notes that the Traditional Values Coalition, run by Lou Sheldon, has ads for Jeremiah Films. Johnson notes that several Republican campaigns fizzled last fall after it was revealed that Matt Fong, Republican running for the US Senate and others, had contributed to Sheldon’s efforts, which were pro family by being anti-gay. Johnson notes “left coast voters get queasy when a once-palatable ballot option gives off the whiff of intolerance.” Johnson ends, “To keep the California coalition from collapsing, LDS officials seem poised to invoke religious bigotry to deflect charges of a foul partnership. Presidential candidate and Mormon Orrin Hatch tried out the argument on a campaign swing through San Francisco. Hatch denounced calls for an inquiry into LDS fundraising as “bigoted and prejudiced as anything could be.” [See 5 Oct on this page] Yet the heftier threat to the “spirit of tolerance,” as the Anti-Defamation League noted in denouncing The Godmakers, comes from Mormon haters themselves. For a religious minority mindful of its past, the risks of giving quarter to intolerance and looking hypocritical may not warrant forging ahead on the measure. If so, it’s approval may be in jeopardy. And the strange bedfellows in California’s crusade against gay marriage will awake to mutual recriminations.”

— California Attorney General, Bill Lockyer, orders the name of Prop 22 changed from “Definition of Marriage” to “Limit on Marriage” on 23 November. The change is made “to accurately describe what the initiative does”, stated Nathan Barankin, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office. A total of six ballot measures have name changes.

— On 3 December an internet poster reported that a friend told her that her relative bishop told her that due to poor turnouts in his ward for precinct walking, he had been calling the people on the voter lists. While the area was described as a liberal area of California, the bishop reportedly told his relative that the responses were running two to one against the Knight Initiative.

— The 7 December Los Angeles Times reports that the renaming of the ballot measure by the Attorney General is being challenged in court. The suit is dismissed the next day by a judge, leaving the name change in place.

— An ad runs in the Daily Universe, the student paper at Brigham Young University, owned and operated by the Mormon Church.

Internships available immediately with the California policitcal [sic] campaign to Protect Marriage between a man and a woman (Prop 22).
– Earn a semester’s worth of credit living and working in California from January through March, 2000. (Opportunities also available for part-time and/or 1st or 2nd block of Winter Semester.)
– Available to all majors, with preference for Political Science and/or Communications.
– California natives encouraged to apply, but not a requirement.
To apply for one of the remaining internships, or for more info., contact Robert Glazier at (916) 441-1010, or [email protected]

Despite an outpouring of anger on mormon-related e-mail lists, the ad does not say that it is sponsored by BYU or the LDS Church, nor does it specificly identify BYU as the school offering credit.

— An internet poster on 13 December forwarded a post from her ward coordinator asking ward members to mark their calendars for January 8, 15 and 22 to finish up the precinct walking. The coordinator says that as of the first of the month (December) the walkers had not quite reached 9% of the voter lists.

— An internet poster, a parent of a gay child, reports on 19 December that another child was denied a temple recommend by the bishop when she went in for a temple recommend interview. When asked if she was sympathetic with groups whose purposes were contrary to the church, she said that she had a gay brother. She shortly received her temple recommend after the intervention of the stake president.

— Another California internet poster reported that in her 19 December Sacrament meeting the bishop over the pulpit announced a special meeting after the three hour block, stating that President Hinckley had told Elder Dickson [a member of the North America West Area Presidency] that more money was needed for the gay marriage ballot issue and that the “forces of darkness” were spending more money than anticipated and more money was needed. The bishop stated that the stake president had told all bishops to hold these meetings and to have meetings with individuals as required.

— On 20 December an internet poster forwarded a post from the ward coordinator asking church members to contact members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to ask them to ask supervisors to oppose a resolution by Supervisor Yaroslavsky opposing Prop 22. The measure opposing the Knight Initiative passed.

— The 27 December issue of the San Jose Mercury News publishes “Churches defend role in campaign”, by Hallye Jordan. The article outlines Catholic church financial contributions, as well as the letters from Mormon leaders to church members. Both Catholics and Mormons supporting and opposing the Knight Initiative are interviewed.

— A Southern California poster reports that in his ward Sacrament meeting on 2 January 2000, the bishop announced that because they did not get enough precinct walkers two months ago, that the entire stake was to report to the stake center the next two Saturdays (8 and 15 January) to knock doors. The bishop stated that Gordon B. Hinckley has called the Area President with this request, and the area president had called the Stake President. The people were told to NOT wear white shirts and ties.

— A California church member reported on 9 January that her stake president visited her ward’s Sacrament meeting. He told those attending church that the church’s involvement is a directive from the Twelve and President Hinckley, and therefore church members should consider it as having come directly from Jesus Christ. He invited anyone with questions about the church’s involvement to call him directly and he will explain why this is the right thing to do. He told them that next Saturday (the 15th) is the last day to walk precincts. After that, volunteers will start phoning voters. In response to a question about the other churchs included in the coalition against the proposition, the stake president admitted that it was really just Mormons, for the most part. He stated that when he walks precincts he does not tell people that he is mormon and that that is OK because he is a volunteer. He stated that the news reports about a letter from other churches wanting to meet with LDS church leaders about Proposition 22 was a misquote and that it was really just one minister from West Hollywood that wanted publicity. He stated that he had received more calls and attended more meetings about this issue then any other thing in the two and a half years he has been stake president.

— A letter dated 11 January 2000 from the Mormon Church Area Presidency of the North America West Area addressed to all stake presidents and bishops:

11 January 2000

To: All Stake Presidents and Bishops in California, to be read in Sacrament Meeting Sunday, January 16

Dear Brethren:

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have solemnly proclaimed “that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). On March 7, members of the Church in California will have the unique opportunity to promote a measure that will help “maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society”.

By voting and urging family and friends to vote YES on Proposition 22, which limits legally sanctioned marriage in California to a man and a woman — the divinely established institution of marriage will be protected.

As President Gordon B. Hinckley stated in the October 1999 General Conference, “Some portray legalization of so-called same-sex marriage as a civil right, this is not a matter of civil rights; it is a matter of morality…nevertheless…our opposition to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies…

“I commend those of our membership who have voluntarily joined with other like-minded people to defend the sanctity of traditional marriage. As part of a coalition that embraces those of other faiths, you are giving substantially of your means. You are contributing your time and talents in a cause that in some quarters may not be politically correct but which nevertheless lies at the heart of the Lord’s eternal plan for His children.”

We express our gratitude to you who have already given unstintingly of your time and means to this effort. Now with only 45 days remaining until voters go to the polls, we urge all members to redouble their efforts in this noble cause. We would greatly appreciate it if all would continue contacting friends and neighbors as directed by the local coordinator about this issue, and distribute, as well as put on your own lawns, the provided yard signs.

Please be sure that you are eligible to vote, assist others to do the same, and help in other ways as election time nears.


North America West Area Presidency

John B. Dickson
William R. Bradford
Richard H. Winkel

— An internet poster reported on a stake priesthood meeting he attended the week of January 9. The stake president reportedly said that the brethren were concerned that the church members in California were “slothful” and did not appear to be taking this issue seriously. He stated that the Area Presidency would be shortly sending out a letter to all church members. [See above] All members were to be exhorted to turn out for two more precinct walks on the 15th and 22nd. The stake president read aloud Doctrine and Covenants 101:43 – 54 about slothful servants who did not build a watchtower as the Lord commanded and the enemy broke in and destroyed the orchard. What is happening is California is just the same as this; we should no be second guessing God’s prophet, and that failure to stop same-sex marriage would lead to the destruction of the family. He wants everyone registered to vote, and noted that it was best to get people to vote absentee and early because once those votes are in they are locked in. He noted that those opposing the initiative would have ads right before the election and so getting people to vote absentee would prevent them from being influenced at the last minute and perhaps changing their votes. The goal is to get 25% of those who were canvassed and who support the initiative to vote absentee so they cannot change their vote. The stake president said that the stake was sent 3000 yard signs and that all were to be up by 22 January. It was reported that about 1500 voters have been contacted in that stake, and that 60% favored the initiative, 15% were opposed, and 25% were undecided or declined to state an opinion. Other speakers at the meeting opposed domestic partnership laws, as well.

A letter from a Bishop in Westwood to members of his ward begins circulating on mormon e-mail lists on January 12.

— An Associated Press report by Ross Sneyd dated 13 January goes over the wire services. Burlington, Vermont lawyer, Thomas McCormick, representing the Mormon Church, testifies before a Vermont legislative committee following the recent Vermont Supreme Court decision that gay and lesbian couples are entitled to the same benefits as married couples under the Vermont State Constitution. He argues that the State Constitution be amended to prohibit same sex marriage. Raising the issue of polygamy, he asks “What is it going to mean if you redefine marriage today that says, yes, the very attractive couples in the Baker case can be married? What are you going to say tomorrow when three or more people want to get married? If you say yes to same-sex couples, what do you say to two sisters or two brothers who want to be married?” This action expands the Mormon Church efforts to four states: Hawaii, Alaska, California and Vermont.

— In a post circulated on several mormon e-mail lists on 14 January, the question is raised about how the church’s actions in California may violate Doctrine and Covenants 134: 9, which reads: “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.” The verse is widely discussed and debated on several lists.

— On 15 January I receive a copy of an article from The Beehive, Volume 24, issue number 9, a newspaper for Mormons in the Nevada area. Beginning on page 8 and continuing on page 10, writer Ken Ward reports that a coalition of religious groups will launch a “Protection of Marriage Initiative” in Nevada in 2000. The coalition is described as comprising of the Mormon Church, “Catholics, Muslims, fundamentalist Christians, and African-American Protestant churches.” The advisory panel has representatives from the Mormon Church, plus “the Christian Coalition, Independent American Party, Nevada Concerned Citizens, Nevada Eagle Forum, Nevada Republican Assembly, Citizens for Responsible Government.” The article states that “the Coalition for the Protection of marriage has more than 50 prominent Nevadans on its sponsoring committee. Among them are a number of latter-day Saints from Clark County, including Jay and Fran Bingham, Chuck Horne, John and Marilyn Lee, Jerry and Lucille Lusk, Michael and Antoinette Montanddon, Ray and Linda Rawson, and Russel and Gail Warthen.” “We are not trying to attack anyone, we’re just trying to protect marriage,” [Richard] Ziser adds, noting that gay rights groups have been increasingly active in diseminating their views in schools. For example, A National Education Association-sponsored pamphlet, “Just the Facts”, condemns “reparative therapy” for homosexuals and characterizes religious groups as “bigots,” he says.” This expands the church efforts to five states: Hawaii, Alaska, California, Vermont and Nevada.

— Several internet posters in different parts of California reported on 15 and 16 January that the priests and teachers quorums (14 – 18 year old teens) were being organized during the church meeting block for a service project on Saturday, January 22 to distribute lawn signs supporting Proposition 22 to ward members homes and placing them there. Adults were requested in their meetings to be drivers to assist the young men in this project. At least six internet posters from different areas of the state reported such projects being organized, suggesting that this was planned at the area level. The email reports gave ranges of 400 to 600 signs per ward. All the lawn signs are to be up for Sunday morning, 23 January.

— On 17 January a e-mail writer reported that Institute of Religion directors (part of the LDS Church’s education program: a building near college campuses where LDS college students can take religion classes as part of their education) were instructed to make sure that all registered students who were legally eligible to vote were registered to vote and to encourage them to vote yes on Proposition 22.

— A poster on 18 January reported that his stake president told him that President Hinckley is unhappy because the California church members have only provided 51% of the amounts assessed the wards and stakes to support Proposition 22.

— An 18 January report shows that as of 31 December 1999, the group supporting the initiative has raised $4.8 million and those opposed have raised just over $2.5 million.

— An e-mail poster on 19 January notes that he is “overcome with pride in my church membership as I learn about the selfless love being displayed in the Inner City Project [in Salt Lake City]…and I write with shame at my church membership when I see the kind of mindless[ness] that’s being purveyed in California under the authority of the church…”

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