Jesurgislac’s Journal

January 17, 2009

Why are Mormons acting ashamed?

Because the LDS Church is being investigated by the California Fair Elections Commission because there is evidence it may have broken the law by “substantially” lobbying for political legislation and failing to report campaign-related expenses.

The Yes on Prop 8 campaign, by the way, wants to change the laws that require all donors to make public their names/addresses, claiming that it’s unfair that people should know who these donors are. While the splashy side of this story has been the donors who find that their businesses are boycotted by customers who don’t like their bigotry, the silent, tactical side is this: it’ll make it a lot harder to show, next time, that the LDS Church is breaking the law.

American News Project:

December 7, 2008

No, it’s not unfair

From Reflections on faith, politics, and society: However, efforts like this (www.mormonsstoleourrights.com), to single-out and scapegoat Mormons in particular, based on their support of Prop. 8, are unfair

No, it’s not. The LDS Church mounted a concerted political campaign in California against Proposition 8, and succeeded. There are internal accounts before the election of the pressure that the LDS hierarchy was putting on bishops to pressure their congregation into doing pro-Prop8 work: here‘s one account: and from a different perspective, here’s another.

Now they see their tax-exempt status threatened as a result, they’re going all weak-kneed and saying “it wasn’t just us!” but this is cowardly bullspit. It wasn’t “just” them – but they were the only church that, as a church, stepped over the bounds that separate church from state and got their congregations to work as a political unit.

In 1978, the LDS Church ended a long-standing tradition of religiously-inspired racism when it seemed likely that the IRS was going to take away their tax exempt status. I don’t know whether their pro-Prop8 battle will be enough to lose them their tax exempt status now, but the threat should at least ensure that the LDS leadership will never again pressure members of the congregrations to take part in political campaigning and donation at the will of the church leadership.

The number of LDS church members, fervently pro-Prop8 themselves, who lack the courage of their convictions about same-sex marriage when it turns out that their public, political and financial opposition to same-sex marriage has brought public, political, and financial opposition on them, is quite astonishing to me – clearly, for all their fanatical talk about how same-sex marriage is the ultimate threat to the society, they don’t really believe that crap, any more than pro-lifers really believe that abortion=murder.

If these LDS church members believed that in supporting Proposition 8 they were supporting everything most dear to them, then the LDS Church losing its tax-exempt status (and their facing the opposition of their less-bigoted neighbours) would be just the price they had to pay for saving society. If they were brave. If they believed what they were doing was the right thing to do.

They aren’t just bigots and bullies. They’re cowards.

November 21, 2008

Jesus just sat down with sinners, he didn’t offer them health insurance!

In a recent dialogue with one of the homophobic Christians who support government bans on same-sex marriage, we had a surprisingly-open exchange of views… which ended, unsurprisingly, in the homophobic Christian running away vowing never, ever to return. (In fairness, I think I gave her ample excuse to do so: I should have stuck to giving her the battle-of-the-texts.)

I wrote: “In Canada – in any country where equal marriage exists – one could simply say Well, you think same-sex marriage is wrong, I think same-sex marriage is right, we can agree to disagree. Proposition 8 is an attack on two basic civil rights: Directly, on the freedom to marry; indirectly, given the motivation most of its supporters profess to impose their religious beliefs on others, on freedom of religion.”

Christian responded: “Sure, and theoretically this works. However, we have ramifications to this, which would directly impact a person’s freedom of religion- say a Christian business owner forced to provide health insurance against his religious beliefs. Is he supposed to just ‘get over it’?” (emphasis mine)

I answered: “Well, I’m a little puzzled by your assertion that the provision of health insurance could be against a Christian business owner’s belief. Can you explain how this Christian business owner would justify this belief in terms of Christianity, with specific reference to Matthew, Chapter 5, verses 39-48; (more…)

November 19, 2008

The universe doesn’t care what you believe

XKCD on science and religion

XKCD on science and religion

I find this strangely reassuring.

November 16, 2008

Banned again…

You know, it’s one of those peculiarities of right-wing blogs; they complain a lot (a lot!) about how “liberals can’t tolerate dissent”… yet the one thing, routinely, they cannot tolerate is people showing up in their comment threads who don’t agree with them and can say why. I got banned from Family Scholars Blog back when they were still accepting comments; Maggie Gallagher shut down comments on her blog at least partly because I just kept showing up and pointing out she was talking nonsense: recently, I noticed, multiple threads just happened to get closed to comments because, er… I showed up! and

I’ve been banned again. I think that means I won the argument, since the loser I was debating can’t cope with it…

*grin*

November 14, 2008

When you discover you never knew someone

Fred Clark at Slacktivist writes about the Liars for Christ:

Supporters of Proposition 8 were forced to resort to Lying for Jesus — pastors will be jailed! your church will be forced to conduct gay weddings! your organist may become even more flamboyant! — because they weren’t able to articulate any honest basis for opposing this right as an equal right. The ‘vixen and I got our marriage license on the same day that George Takei and Brad Altman got theirs. The wedding of George and Brad neither picked my pocket nor broke my leg, so what possible cause would I have had to object to it? What reason would I have to deny George and Brad the same happiness that my wife and I were permitted to enjoy? Such exclusion makes no sense unless we appeal to some imagined grave consequences such as those dreamed up by the Liars for Christ.

And here again we see that basing policy on imaginary fears and imaginary grave consequences leads to different, but very real, grave consequences. When we choose to make laws based on imaginary fears, we see our own rights reduced to mere privileges. This is what always happens when we place fear on the throne.

Orson Scott Card (homophobic terrorist), following his sustained campaign for Proposition 8 and whining about how that made some people not like him any more, writes a follow-up post after Proposition 8 passed with such a narrow and expensive margin, praising some of the younger bullies in the fight:

So when our Latter-day Saint singles heeded the call of the church’s leaders to take part in the defense of marriage, they, more than any other group of Saints, were swimming upstream.

They worked hard. They took risks. And many of them paid a price that is heavy indeed.

Many of them lost dear friends — sometimes with bitter, angry recriminations from people they had once been close to.

It seems ironic that these young Mormons were open-minded enough to be friends with people whose lives were so different from their own; but their friends, in the name of tolerance, could not remain friends with Mormons who merely stood up for their faith.

If the situation had been reversed, if Prop. 8 had failed, these LDS young people would not have rejected their friends who voted to repudiate the meaning of marriage. And if they had, would they not have been condemned as bigots, for being unable to tolerate someone else voting his conscience?

When people whom you thought were friends turn out to be bigots, this is a sad and painful moment indeed: I’ve experienced it myself on a personal level after I came out, discovering that people I thought liked/respected me only did so when they thought I was heterosexual, and on a broader level, with many people across science-fiction fandom who once thought of Card as a decent enough man, I share the disappointment and anger we feel to discover, not only is he a homophobic bigot wannabe terrorist, he doesn’t even recognise bad science when it suits his own prejudices.

But he’s also a whiner. It turns out that the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints doesn’t even have the courage of their own convictions. Their First Presidency, the man they claim has a direct line to God, told them to campaign for and donate to the Yeson8 campaign. They did. It passed.

If the LDS Church had the courage of their convictions, if they truly believed that this action to remove the right to marry from Californian citizens was the right thing to do, why whine and bemoan and complain that they have been “singled out” as a key pressure group in getting it passed? Their complaints that people are pointing at the LDS and blaming them for enshrining this act of bigotry in the Californian constitution, seem to show either some decent shame for this horrible thing – or cowardice, a fear of taking responsibility for their actions. If it’s decent shame, let’s hear a public apology and acknowledgement that they were wrong: without that, I think we have to assume it’s pure cowardice. (Update: other examples of the Yes-on-8 crew lacking the courage of their convictions here and here: further examples welcomed.)

If the situation had been reversed, if Prop. 8 had failed, would the organisations who worked for No on 8 have whined and worried that they were being “singled out”? No. Because people who fight for civil rights have to be braver than that. Bullies are cowards.

These young bullies who rejected their friends, who joined the bigoted campaign their church ran against equal rights in California, who wanted God to have a spaceship and proposition 8 and probably a pony too – they were, Card says, “standing up for their faith”. They preferred loyalty to their church over loyalty to their friends, loyalty to the First Presidency over upholding the principle of freedom of religion and separation of church and state – and they rejected their friends. That their friends reacted to this rejection by these “heroes” with anger and bitterness is evidence, if Card were awake to that, of the importance of friendship in some people’s lives.

Tolerating someone while working to take away their civil rights is not friendship.

November 13, 2008

God needs Proposition 8 like God needs a starship

I’ve heard from a lot of people over the past week or so that Proposition 8 was just and right because it’s against the will of God for two men or two women to marry, and it’s appalling not to follow the will of God, so the Constitution of California had to be amended to prevent same-sex marriages.

Star Trek V is probably my least favourite Trek movie ever, but there’s an exchange of dialogue in it that illustrates this argument for Proposition 8 perfectly.

Towards the end of STV, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Sybok (Spock’s half-brother, if you had forgotten) are standing in awe before God. Awesome, all-powerful, supreme being: Sybok believes, McCoy’s been converted, Spock is trembling on the edge – and Kirk steps forward and asks a very important question:

Kirk: What does God need with a starship?
McCoy: Jim, what are you doing?
Kirk: I’m asking a question.
God: Who is this creature?
Kirk: Who am I? Don’t you know? Aren’t you God?
Sybok: He has his doubts.
God: You doubt me?
Kirk: I seek proof.
McCoy: Jim! You don’t ask the Almighty for his ID!
God: Then here is the proof you seek. [Hits Kirk with lightning]
Kirk: Why is God angry?
Sybok: Why? Why have you done this to my friend?
God: He doubts me.
Spock: You have not answered his question. What does God need with a starship?
God: [hits Spock with lightning; then addresses McCoy] Do you doubt me?
McCoy: I doubt any God who inflicts pain for his own pleasure.

These people claim they believe in God. Yet the God they believe in is a God that they believe needs secular legislation to enforce His will on His people. Their God needs Proposition 8.

They don’t doubt their God needs a starship – and they won’t doubt a God that inflicts pain for his own pleasure.

November 8, 2008

The awful self-pity of the self-righteous bigot: reprise

About a week before the election, Orson Scott Card posted a lengthy whine about how it was so unfair that his gay friends wanted him to treat them as equals and as friends, and people were being so mean to him just because he was campaigning – as a Mormon in North Carolina – to take away civil rights for a group of people in California. Why couldn’t these people be kind to him? Tolerate his intolerance? (The awful self-pity of the self-righteous bigot.)

I thought this was just Card being a whiner – his other posts against equal marriage and religious freedom have included self-pitying references to how outrageous it is that people actually call him a homophobe for his open support of anti-gay discrimination and legal persecution of LGBT people.

But now it appears that the leadership of the LDS Church has taken to whining about how people reacted to their bigoted campaign against equal marriage in California:

It is disturbing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being singled out for speaking up as part of its democratic right in a free election.

What, everyone should just have ignored that infamous letter from First Presidency urging the membership of the Church in California to campaign for Proposition 8? Funny, I hear that bishops who tried to be low-key in their response to that letter were being criticised by church leadership for not making their political campaign strong enough. If you don’t want to be singled out for speaking up, the solution is simple: don’t speak up.

More hypocrisy:

Members of the Church in California and millions of others from every faith, ethnicity and political affiliation who voted for Proposition 8 exercised the most sacrosanct and individual rights in the United States — that of free expression and voting.

Yes. But just voting for Proposition 8 wasn’t what that letter from the First Presidency was all about. Most of the funding to support the “Yes on 8″ campaign came from outside California. It’s reported that the majority of it came from LDS members, who had been urged by their church leadership to support Proposition 8. In June, the First Presidency wrote:

We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.

That is a clear call to campaign against religious freedom in California, and against the freedom to marry. Not just to vote against it. Churches which campaign politically lose their tax-exempt status: this was a political campaign conducted by the LDS church. Trying to reduce down to LDS members just voting is a lie.

And again:

While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process.

In the New Statesman article (also linked to above), a bishop called Robert Bennion would deliberately take members of his congregation off church property in order to discuss what they might do to support Proposition 8.

“So far I’ve worked very hard to keep this whole thing at arm’s length,” Bennion said. “I see this as purely a political endeavor, which is why I don’t allow any campaigning during church time or on church property. In my mind, it’s possible to be in favor of Proposition 8 without being anti-homosexual.”
While Bennion’s Switzerland impression may seem like on good idea on paper, in reality he’s taken the one position that would make him a target for both sides. His superiors within the church, for example, have repeatedly requested that he get more involved in the issue, but their phone calls are easily ignored and Bennion himself can’t help but smile when the click of a button sends their emails from his inbox to the trash can.

Honour to Bennion for trying to keep a “sacred place of worship” separate from the political campaigning demanded by his church leadership, but it’s clear Bennion was an exception, not the rule, and an exception that came under attack from church leadership. If you base a political campaign in a church, you have no moral grounds for asking political protesters to stay away from your church.

The whine from the LDS finishes with the following piece of stunning hypocrisy:

Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information.

This from the church that funded a campaign consisting wholly and entirely of disrespect, incivility, vilification, harrassment, and lies.

Why be such whiners? I suspect it’s a symptom of privilege. (Sadly, I think another example of this is the white/racist reaction blaming the success of Proposition 8 on the “black vote” – see this journal entry for a breakdown of the issues, a numbers breakdown, and of course Pam’s House Blend.) You complain about not being treated with respect when you are absolutely accustomed to being immune from criticism from that source. One Mormon man was complaining in an earlier thread that after he’d posted a long comment calling me an infected, inferior, abusive creature not deserving of equal rights, I wasn’t being as polite to him as he evidently felt he deserved…


Update: from the demo in Salt Lake City which the LDS church took exception to: “Let us all call for greater love, better understanding, dignity and respect toward all — regardless of race, regardless of faith or lack of faith, and regardless of sexual orientation.” In that article from the Mormon Times, by the way, the author Jared Page blandly lies that “the church did not contribute directly to the campaign”.

November 7, 2008

Invalidate Proposition 8

If you donate $5 or more at www.invalidateprop8.org, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center will send a postcard to President Thomas Monson’s office in Salt Lake City, acknowledging your donation in his name:

A donation has been made in your name by _________________ to “invalidateprop8.org” to overturn California’s Proposition 8 and restore fundamental civil rights to all citizens of California. The money will be donated to legal organizations fighting the case and to support grass-roots activities in support of full marriage equality. Although we decry the reprehensible role the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leadership played in denying all Californians equal rights under the law, we are pleased a donation has been made on your behalf in the effort to overturn the discrimination your church members helped enshrine in the California Constitution. Given that throughout its history the Mormon Church has been subjected to bigotry, we hope you appreciate the donation in your name to fight religious bigotry here in California.

A fine idea. Let’s inundate his office with these cards. The behaviour of the LDS Church in politically campaigning to deny LGBT people in California equality under the law was repellent: I think being showered by postcards notifying the author of this letter how many, many people object to his religious bigotry is the least – the very least – that he deserves.

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