Sunday, October 19, 2008

Standing For Something

If we can't think for ourselves, if we're unwilling to question authority, then we're just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.
– Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

As you may know, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), though my personal beliefs and feelings seem to move farther in the opposite direction day by day. On Friday, I had the privilege of joining a group of about 50 Mormons and former Mormons who delivered a package to Church headquarters, to protest the Church's heavy involvement in the campaign to pass Proposition 8 in California. The event was organized online via the web site Signing For Something.

Proposition 8 is a proposed amendment to the California constitution to ban marriage between people of the same gender. The Mormon church has used church time and resources to actively campaign for Prop 8, and has directly solicited the time, money, and effort of its members to campaign for Prop 8's passage. It has organized massive efforts via its membership network, which we believe violates its own stance of political neutrality, for example as stated in Doctrine & Covenants 134:9, "We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government."

Our delivery on Friday contained about 300 letters written by individuals, carnations to symbolize those who have lost their lives over this issue, and copies of a petition explaining why we oppose the church's involvement. The petition can be found here, and has currently been signed by about 700 people, Mormons and non-Mormons alike. Those who have signed the petition hold various positions on the issue of same-sex marriage, but all are opposed to the Mormon church's attempts to use their religious influence to impose their beliefs on the larger secular society in this civil matter.

The event was covered on almost all of the local news networks, and you can see coverage at the links below. You can actually see me in some of the videos; I have a beard and ponytail, and was wearing a purple dress shirt and tie.

  • Fox 13 - I consider this the best coverage, with the clearest explanation of our position.

  • KSL - a station owned by the Mormon church; it's interesting to compare how they chose to report the story.

  • ABC 4 - also good coverage.

  • Salt Lake Tribune

  • Deseret News - a newspaper owned by the Mormon church; again, interesting to compare the differences.

Honestly, I doubt the petition or the letters will have any effect on the church's stance toward same-sex marriage, much less its stance toward homosexuality. But I cannot imply my agreement on this issue by remaining silent. I find it sad that the church characterizes this as a moral issue, when I see the issues of gay rights and same-sex marriage as analogous to the issues of black civil rights and interracial marriage in the 1950s and '60s. This has nothing to do with morality.

If you are in California, please vote NO on 8. Wherever you are, please donate to Equality For All (at the bottom of the page - contributions through ActBlue are being matched only through today!), sign the Signing For Something petition, talk to your friends and neighbors about this issue, or do whatever you can. And regardless of your feelings on this or any other issue, remember to vote on November 4.


Sabayon said...

Congratulations on the protest! Excellent job!
The church's early involvement in anti-gay marriage activism (this was, say 8-10 years ago, when one or two states had allowed civil unions and Texas was trying to pass a law that would allow them not to accept gay marriages from other states, despite the fact that this is a flagrant violation of the US constitution) was one of the things that first got my dad thinking that the church wasn't infallible, since they clearly say they will not get involved in political affairs. He felt that bullying people in to coming to protests was an improper use of membership lists.
On a side note I've found the most effective way of shutting down people bitching about gay marriage in church is to ask, with a certain amount of wide-eyed innocence, "but aren't Temple marriages the only ones that matter anyway?"

mcarp said...

I'm irritated by the Church spokeswoman's tone of voice and her insistence that this is a moral issue.

Doesn't the Church consider alcohol to be a moral issue? (It sure did back in the prohibition days!) Why aren't they trying to outlaw alcohol? Oh yeah, they lost that fight...

What about prostitution in Nevada? Why isn't the Church actively seeking a ban on prostitution in Nevada, which would seem a much bigger moral issue than gay marriage?

Sad, really.

Saganist said...

Thanks, Sabayon. I think there's a fair amount of cognitive dissonance among those who want to "follow the prophet" but disagree with the church's actions on this issue. Unfortunately, I think there are even more members who simply do what they are told without questioning why. I hope many folks are led, like your dad was, to question whether the church is doing the right thing, and whether they can personally participate with a clear conscience.

I remember when the church got involved with Prop 22 in California... 8 years ago or so. That was actually before I joined the church myself, but that's a long story for another time. Anyway, that really pissed me off as well, and I couldn't believe they could get away with it without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. I had forgotten about the emotions I felt during the Prop 22 fight, but they all seem to be resurfacing this year.

Saganist said...

Mcarp, I agree. I keep thinking about how much good could be done with the millions of dollars the church and its members have spent fighting gay marriage. Real good, the kind that actually helps people. I honestly fail to see how gay marriage damages the "moral fabric" of society. I think society's moral fabric is damaged more severely by the perpetuation of bigotry.