In a press release issued by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka “Mormon” or “LDS church”), the LDS church proved how difficult it is to serve two masters - in this case, the basis of their beliefs of denying civil rights to others, and the obligation not to allow their dalliance into political action.
Take the case of Mr. Danzig. In June 14, 2006, Mr. Danzig wrote a letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune1, detailing how he was a member of the LDS church in good standing, but felt that he could not vote for amendments that would bar homosexuals from marrying based on his political beliefs. While his religious beliefs as a member of the LDS church informed him that he could not personally support gay marriage, he didn’t see how he could deny such a right to other people since his religious beliefs should not preclude others actions.
In February 2008, Mr. Danzig gave up his membership in the LDS church. Now, at this point, the story might be said and done. Happens all the time - people have a difference of opinion or ideas with their religion, and leave it to pursue others.
In the case of the LDS church, however, they want to have it both ways. They state that “Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to study, learn and ask questions in their quest for knowledge.” Fair enough. And then they follow it up one paragraph later with “Honest disagreements are not the same as public advocacy of positions contrary to those of the Church. When disagreements arise, the principle of the Church is that local leaders discuss these matters with members with love and concern. This was the case with Peter Danzig.”
So get that right, folks. It’s all right to question the Church as a member - but if you publicly question the faith, then you’re going to be in trouble. That was Mr. Danzig’s failing, evidently - he should have taken his objections up with Church leadership, then shut up about them, because the last thing we want is for there to be a public discussion of things.
That, however, isn’t the part that drew my attention. It was this statement:
In his Tribune letter-to-the-editor, Mr. Danzig said he “was troubled that my church requested I violate my own conscience to write in support of an amendment I feel is contrary to the constitution and to the gospel of Christ." In reality Church leaders had asked members to write to their senators with their personal views regarding the federal amendment opposing same gender marriage, and did not request support or opposition to the amendment.
I hate to besmirch the honest of the LDS church newsroom, but I am a living example that this statement is simply not so.
In early 2008, I sat in the Apollo Beach Ward, Brandon Stake building located in Ruskin, FL. There, a local Stake representative was holding up ballot forms to get what would become Proposition 2, or the Florida Marriage Amendment, onto the ballot for the citizens of Florida to vote on. This ballot would define marriage as the union of only one man and one woman.
This gentleman explained that this was “not a political issue, but a moral issue” - basically saying that while he was espousing a political view, holding up a sheet asking people to get onto a voting measure a law (hence making the action political), and expressing the LDS church’s position that gay marriage was wrong (and therefore should be illegal for everyone, including those who may have a difference of religious opinion who might think that gay marriage was A-OK in the eyes of their religion) - however, by stating “it’s a moral issue”, that wiped away any indication that this was a political action.
At this point, this “moral not political” ballot measure request was handed out, row by row, to the congregation, and we were asked to turn them back in to our local ward leaders.
I refused. I felt that this was a violation of not only the separation of church and state in attempting to establish religious beliefs upon others - but a violation of the LDS church’s teachings. In LDS church doctrine, there are series of statements of the principles of the LDS faith. Of them, the 11th lays out the LDS church’s belief regarding the separation of church and state:
11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where or what they may.
By passing out this ballot, by telling members that this was a “moral issue” that they deny others the right to marry because of the LDS church’s beliefs regarding the religious nature of marriage - they were altering the statement of “allow all men the same privilege” to be altered to “unless you’re gay.”
The LDS church, in its press release regarding Mr. Danzig, was attempting to serve two masters: their religious beliefs, and the legal requirements. As such, they tap dance to make sure that their actions could not be construed as being in violation of religions being used as a platform for political action - which would violate their tax independent status.
But not only that, but the press release attempts to balance two others masters: that of the Truth, and Lie. I can express the personal experience that puts the lie to “we only told people to act out their personal views.”
This tap dancing takes the press release in any number of directions. It’s acceptable to question Church teachings - but only as long as you don’t take it public, even if you object to an issue over legal versus religious reasons. The church might tell its members that gay marriage is wrong, support ballot measures to outlaw gay marriage, pass out ballots in church and encourage members to fill them out - but surely we want people to express what their conscience feels, and have no interest in actually telling them how to vote!
There are times when you must call a lie out for what it is. The LDS church all but picked up their members’ hands and pushed the button for them as to what they should vote on, and proved that while they might state to allow people to “worship how, where and what they may”, that only goes as far as to whether or not the LDS church agrees with “what they may” in the first place.
1 Sadly, the letter is now in the Salt Lake Tribune archives, and I’m far too cheap to spend the $3 to get it out.