Saturday, August 15, 2009

AP: Mormon fight against gay marriage has damaged the church

An article today via the Associated Press is expressing the idea that the Mormon church's fight against gay marriage, particularly its role in the successful passage of Proposition 8 in California last year, has extremely damaged the church by putting it at odds with many of its own members:

Last year at the urging of church leaders, Mormons donated tens of millions of dollars to the "Yes on 8" campaign and were among the most vigorous volunteers. The institutional church gave nearly $190,000 to the campaign — contributions now being investigated by California's Fair Political Practices Commission.

After the vote, many gay rights advocates turned their anger toward the church in protests and marches outside temples that singled out Mormons as the key culprits in restricting the rights of gay couples.

That constituted a setback for the faith, argued Jan Shipps, a professor of religious history and a Mormon expert from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

. . . Church representatives don't discuss public relations strategies or challenges publicly, but at a semiannual conference in April, church President Thomas S. Monson seemed to be clearly feeling a post-Prop. 8 sting.

In an era of "shifting moral footings," Monson said, "those who attempt to safeguard those footings are often ridiculed, picketed and persecuted."

That argument doesn't wash for Linda Stay, whose ancestors were early Mormon converts. Stay said she was doubly transformed by Prop. 8. She and her husband, Steve, finally quit the church — along with 18 other family members and a few close friends — and became gay right activists.

The St. George woman's family, which includes two gay children, will play a central role in a documentary film, "8: The Mormon Proposition" currently in production. Stay's son, Tyler Barrick, married his boyfriend in San Francisco on June 17, 2008, the first day gay marriage was legal in California.

The entire article is here and is an excellent read.

Personally, I can't say that I feel sorry the Mormon church. Ethically and legally, it had every right to interject itself into the Proposition 8 battle.

It's obvious that the church didn't think that it would have to deal with a backlash. But with all things you do, there are consequences. And when you move to take rights away from people (especially solely on the grounds of your religious beliefs), you really should expect a backlash.

In short, the Mormon church is getting what it deserves.

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Seth R. said...

I think pro-gay marriage folks are really over-hyping the "damage" this is doing to the LDS Church.

Generally speaking, it only alienates people who, frankly, weren't going to join the Mormon Church in the first place.

So, from their perspective, not much of a practical loss in proselyting.

I can also tell you, from my own life in the LDS Church, that membership passionately advocating for "liberal" positions (like gay marriage) are in a minuscule minority.

So, I seriously doubt the LDS Church lost much membership from this either.

Looks to me that left wing propagandists are trying to make themselves look and feel important more than anything. The impact of this controversy on Mormon membership numbers has likely been all but invisible.

BlackTsunami said...

You wanna send that message to me again and see how many more right wing talking points you can stuff in it? lol

Seriously though, the piece doesn't come from "left wing" propagandists as you say, but from the Associated Press. Now I guess you are going to call news source "pro-gay marriage" or "left wing propagandists."

You have your opinion but it seems to me that it's all you have. The Associated Press on the other hand cites sources. Closing your eyes and ears doesn't keep things from coming. It only you from knowing that they are coming.

Seth R. said...

Actually, I voted for Obama, I consider myself a liberal, and I opposed my Church's stance on Prop 8.

So you can take your preconceptions and hang em in your ear.

And this would hardly be the first time I've seen the press try to make an issue out of something based on a few isolated defections among the LDS membership. But the reality is - it wasn't an issue then and it isn't an issue now. Almost no one I go to church with seems all that fussed about the LDS Church's position on this issue. No one back home in Utah does either.

So I'd say this supposed dissension in the ranks of every-day Mormons is mostly media hype and liberal self-congratulation more than anything else.

BlackTsunami said...

Suuure you are, Seth.And I am also sure that you voted for Obama and opposed the Mormon church's position on Proposition 8.

Now tell me the one about the Easter bunny.

Actually, to point out a fact, I made no preconceived notions about YOU, only the text of your response. It did and still does sound like something from a list of right wing talking points.

What happened to "left wing propagandists?" Now you refer to them as "the press."

How convenient.

We could go back and forwards in our email exchange, but the fact of the matter is that the Mormon church interjecting itself into the Proposition 8 fight has led to it getting bogged down with an ugly image.

I really don't think the Associated Press is conspiring to blow this thing up into a phony controversy. I don't know how it is in your church but apparently you have no idea how it is in other churches or other Mormon communities.

Seth R. said...

I saw this post over on Pam's House Blend before I saw it here. I've been following the issue somewhat.

Truth is most media outlets only discovered the LDS Church even existed a couple years ago. So very few of them have any experience at all in reporting on the organization. Most of them end up having to rely on the Salt Lake Tribune for their reporting on the issue.

I'm just saying that the media are talking like there's some mass-defection going on and liberal voices are jumping on it like it's evidence of some fatal-blow to the LDS Church. And I'm just not seeing the evidence on the ground.

This isn't a liberal church. It frankly has always pissed me off how tightly wedded to the Republican party American Mormonism is (it's one of the main reasons I left Utah after getting married). I don't like it. But that doesn't mean it isn't just a reality of the LDS Church.

It's a highly conservative religion that people in favor of gay-marriage aren't likely to join in the first place. And those who are in the LDS Church supported Prop 8 by almost 80% last stats I heard about.

Even people like me who opposed it often aren't willing to leave the Church over it.

I just don't see the "fatal blow" or "mass defection" that some are talking about. I wouldn't mind the LDS Church changing its stance on this. And I don't mind the LDS Church taking a bit of public heat for what it did.

But I just don't think that this will hurt the LDS Church internally any more than all that right-wing crap Bush pulled hurt his support in the GOP.

I don't like it, but I don't think this issue has any legs.

BlackTsunami said...

Time will tell, Seth. I'm not looking at death blows but sometimes a damage to reputation is worse than any death blow. I don't think anyone said anything about any mass defection. The defections we are seeing as well as the gay protests create a nasty stigma. And that's what this issue is about. No one wants stigma on their reputation.

Seth R. said...

I suppose.

The only real parallel I can think of is when the LDS Church changed its policy stance on blacks having full participation in LDS ordinances and priesthood.

Back in the 1960s, there was a lot of public outcry over the LDS stance. Lots of protests, condemnations, etc.

And the LDS Church didn't budge once the entire decade. They were pretty-much impervious to such criticism by all appearances.

Eventually, most activists wrote them off as a bad job and moved on. Then years later, in the mid-70s, out of the blue, with hardly any public pressure at all, they changed their stance.

I had no idea why they did change. But I later heard a black LDS activist (who pushed for reforms from within back then) state that the primary motivator behind the change was practical requirements within the LDS Church.

Basically, it was darn near impossible to sort out who was of what race in places like South or Central America. And the LDS Church was experiencing huge growth.

The racial ban simply became practically impossible to administer. Thus pressure began to build from more progressive LDS leadership to change the policy.

But apparently it had little to do with the 1960s protests.

I guess the take-home point from the whole thing is that if the LDS stance on gay marriage changes at all, it will be from the inside based on practical and administrative concerns.

Not too encouraging I guess.

If you want to know my position, I've been advocating that government stop issuing marriage licenses entirely. Set up a comprehensive set of civil union laws for everyone (that would equally apply to gay couples) and get government out of the "marriage" business completely.

I think this benefits both gays who want to live together AND the LDS Church actually.

If you want to know more about my position, here is a blog post I wrote on the subject for an LDS audience back in the mid summer of 2008:

I just wanted to offer a third option where both sides of the debate could "meet in the middle" hopefully.

Buffy said...

They're very good at whining and pretending they're being persecuted when they're actually engaging in a worldwide effort to persecute people who've never done anything to them. How much damage they've done to themselves and their image remains to be seen. Sadly they won't end their war on us until they're forced to--when it becomes economically and/or socially impossible for them to keep it up. Then one of their elders will have a "divine revelation" and we'll no longer be under siege by them.

chosha said...

"Even people like me who opposed it often aren't willing to leave the Church over it."

Speak for yourself. While Prop 8 is not the only issue that drove me from the church, it IS the issue that made me decide that refraining from attendance was not enough and that I didn't want to be associated with the LDS church at all any more. (Up until a couple of years ago I had been a practising Mormon for 35 years.)

Another friend also resigned membership over it and for a third friend Prop 8 was the catalyst to her questioning her church membership. She is still a member at the moment, but every time the topic comes up it is obvious that this is becoming less and less tenable for her. She watched General Conference hoping to feel a renewal of her faith, but instead felt sickened by the messages preached.

Church is where I learned the importance of truth and integrity. Now the church leaders have made it clear they will claim religious freedom for church members while supporting the legal limitation of religious freedom for others. It's hypocritical and dishonest. Some, like me, have left the church. What we will never have stats on is how many stayed, but no longer believe the church is telling them the truth.

Seth R. said...

Holly, I'm not really seeing much of an impact where I'm at.

It seems to me that the people leaving over this were people, like you, who were already on their way out anyway.