Jesurgislac’s Journal

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 2, 2008

Yes to freedom of belief: no to Proposition 8

I’ve just had an interesting conversation about freedom of belief with Mark at A Deo Lumen. Mark is responding here to Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions. He asked me: Don’t we all want our own preferences and convictions enshrined as the law for all to obey?

Well, yes and no. I have a whole bunch of personal preferences and convictions, which I do not especially want “all to obey” however much I think they’re good. I’m vegetarian, lesbian, atheist, etc – I do not want the government to make other people copy me!

But I do have some wider preferences and convictions that I do believe are something that should be enshrined as law: I believe in religious freedom, liberty of the mind – the right of everyone to believe – or not believe – what they choose. (I’ve just been discussing on another blog (to John at Have I Told You Lately?) why I think everyone in California who supports religious freedom ought to oppose Proposition 8, regardless of their personal views on same-sex marriage, because this is an attempt to get religious discrimination into the state constitution.)

I wrote to Mark “I don’t want ‘everybody to be an atheist’ – I want my right to be an atheist respected as much as your right to be a Christian. And I would fight for your right to practice your faith without infringing on other’s liberties, regardless of whether you felt the need to fight for mine. Because that is a conviction of mine that yes, I do think should be enshrined in law – because if it is, in countries where it is, such law maximises freedom of belief.”

I don’t believe that you can simply say “Well, I believe in freedom of belief, but my opponent believes that one religion should be imposed on all people, so we must be tolerant of each other’s beliefs”. “My opponent” in such a case is arguing for “tolerance” of their belief only because it suits their end – and their end is absolute intolerance of all beliefs but their own.

And that, I think, is the classic problem of the Sowell doctrine (which I may be misunderstanding completely, of course: I haven’t read his book): in a free society, in order to safeguard that freedom, there are some things that must not be tolerated: and any attempt to enforce religion on others by law is one of those things.

A religious blogger recently and with admirable sincerity responded to the query: “Why oppose same-sex marriage?” – “Because God says so!” I think too many people whose first instinctive response was “God says so!” have been unwilling to take the obvious next step – “Because I believe God opposes same-sex marriage is exactly why my opposition to same-sex marriage ought not to become law.”

(A couple of rather good anti-Prop8 videos follow under the cut.)

October 25, 2008

The basics: why I am an atheist

Because there is no god.


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