jump to navigation

How Mormon Doctrine Shapes Romney’s World View November 4, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Mitt Romney, Racism, Religion, Women.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment


Roger’s note: I have studiously avoided posting articles about the current presidential election becuase both candidates leave much to be desired, and one gets tired of advocating for the lesser of evils.  I will make this once exception at the last minute.

By Kirk Robinson

November 03, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – As Mormon missionaries in the 1960s, Mitt Romney and I were required to present six “discussions” to “investigators” before baptizing them – he in France and I in northern California. Central to those discussions was the “Plan of Salvation” (POS); and central to it, the “Doctrine of Eternal Progression.” These doctrines are also the essence of the Mormon temple “endowment ceremony” in which covenants of allegiance to God and the Church are made, accompanied by oaths of secrecy.

The doctrines are unique to Mormonism and absolutely central to it. There is no way that Mitt Romney’s view of the world cannot have been shaped by them, especially given the rather cloistered life he has lived. Together with passages of Mormon scripture, they imply several disturbingly retrograde political views that define the Republican-Tea Party:

* Women are subordinate to men.

* People of color are, or were, morally underdeveloped compared to white people.

* Gays cannot become gods, i.e., will be damned.

* The correct political philosophy is libertarianism.

* The best form of government fosters free-market capitalism with minimal regulatory oversight of business and industry.

* Earth is only a temporary home to be used as a stepping stone, not necessarily to be preserved or conserved.

* War in the Middle East is inevitable as part of God’s plan for “the last days.”

* Lying for the cause of righteousness, such as winning the election, is morally acceptable.

The Plan of Salvation

This takes us back to before the creation of Earth, when we were spirit beings living in a “spirit world.” We were created out of “spirit matter” through a process of conception, gestation and birth involving a heavenly father (God) and mother. The firstborn spirit of our heavenly parents was Jesus, the second was Satan, and other notables included early Mormon leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. They were especially “righteous” beings who were “fore-ordained” to play important roles in the historical unfolding of Mormon eschatology.

God eventually decided there were enough spirit children and it was time to start sending them away to college (my metaphor). So He created Earth and its myriad creatures for the college campus and solicited plans for a curriculum, graduation requirements, and future career tracks. Jesus and Satan each submitted a plan.

Jesus’s Plan

According to Jesus’s plan, the spirits who would decide to go to Earth would receive a mortal body, suffer and die, then be resurrected in a perfect union of spirit and body that would never suffer or die. A “veil of ignorance” would be placed across their minds so that they would not remember their pre-existence, and God’s commandments would be revealed to them through prophets. Importantly, they would have “free agency” to choose to obey them or not and would be responsible for their choices and actions.

Eternal Progression

All spirits who agreed to go along with Jesus’s plan will eventually receive resurrection as a graduation diploma and will be exalted to a level of glory commensurate with their earthly grades. The most righteous ones will receive the highest degree of eternal glory: the Celestial Kingdom. Others will go to the Terrestrial (middle) Kingdom or to the Telestial (lower) Kingdom. Each of these kingdoms is better than mortal existence, which is better than the spirit pre-existence. The three estates and the three kingdoms of glory represent a continuum of moral and material progress: an increase in righteousness leads to an increase in mastery and dominion over creation.

Satan’s Plan

Satan had a different plan. He knew that many spirits would be unable to resist temptations. He empathized with them and thought a much more compassionate plan would be to “force” them to live God’s commandments, so they could go to the Celestial Kingdom. The catch here is that they would have to be deprived of their free agency through dictatorial force. And this would be very bad because then they would not earn, and would therefore not merit, their eternal rewards.

There was another important difference between the two plans. Jesus told God that even though he would suffer for the sins of the world, he would give all glory for the salvation of mankind to God; while Satan said that since he devised the plan and would be doing all the work to ensure salvation for mankind, he would accept the glory for himself – and he wouldn’t have to suffer for people’s sins either, because they wouldn’t be allowed to sin.

War in Heaven

A “Council in Heaven” was held in which Jesus and Satan each pitched his plan. God liked Jesus’s plan best and gave the spirits an ultimatum, which was essentially this: “Follow Jesus or follow Satan of your own free agency. But if you follow Satan, you will be barred from eternal progression.” This fomented a “War in Heaven” in which one third of the spirits took sides with Satan and rejected Jesus’s plan, apparently out of sheer orneriness for they had nothing to gain thereby; and so they, along with Satan, were banished from the divine presence for all eternity. The rest of us were eventually born into mortal bodies on Earth (with an untold number still waiting to be born), while Satan and his minions now occupy a kind of shadow Earth where they are constantly scheming and working to thwart Jesus’s plan.

The Status of Women

There was a rank order among all the spirits with respect to their degrees of righteousness. Jesus was the highest ranking spirit. Satan was second until his “fall.” The Biblical patriarchs and prophets were high achievers too, and so were “fore-ordained” to play a big role in the unfolding of the divine plan here on Earth. The rest of us were less stellar.

Because of the natural ranking of the spirits, there will be a roughly corresponding ranking among them as mortal beings too. Eternal progression can be compared to a foot race in which the starting points in the pre-existence were staggered according to the degrees of righteousness of the spirits, with the most righteous ones having a head start. Because of their superiority, they will tend to pull further ahead on Earth. The most righteous of all will naturally be great leaders and empire builders and the like. But for some inexplicable reason, the spiritual leaders will all be males. Women cannot hold the priesthood or become prophets in the Mormon Church, and they enjoy no ultimate decision-making authority. Their primary job is to serve men, which above all means homemaking, child bearing, and child rearing.

The Status of Blacks and American Indians

The more inferior spirits on Earth start at the back of the pack and tend to fall behind even while progressing. They are the descendants of Cain (Negroes) (here the race analogy tends to break down – pun intended) and the descendants of rebellious Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon (Native Americans). God “marked” or “cursed” them with a dark skin to distinguish them. But because they have their free agency, through extra diligence they might eventually overcome their poor starts to join God’s elite. A 1978 “revelation” to then-Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball allowed blacks to hold the Mormon priesthood for the first time, presumably because they had then progressed sufficiently. There was once a passage in the Book of Mormon (it has been excised) that said the descendants of Laman and Lemuel would one day become “white and delightsome.”

Polygamy and the Status of Gays

The people who earn the best grades on Earth will get the best jobs upon graduation from Earth. They will be the most god-like beings and accordingly will receive Celestial glory. They will become gods, endlessly creating and ruling over their own cosmic empires. Also, despite the Mormon Church’s official repudiation of polygamy, which was a precondition for Utah statehood, it is still generally accepted that achieving godhood will require the institution of polygamy in the Hereafter, with husbands being “sealed” to multiple wives. Needless to say, gay people won’t participate in this, so they can’t become gods; which is to say that they will be damned in the sense of not continuing to progress for eternity.

Cosmic Pyramid Schemes

It is a kind of axiom of Mormon doctrine that to be righteous is to follow “correct principles” that tend to produce successful and happy lives, conceived in both spiritual and material terms. Achieving godhood status is believed to be the highest possible source of happiness and joy. And presumably this grand POS will be repeated over and over for eternity, with new gods creating new worlds ad infinitum in a cosmic pyramid scheme. (This may go some distance in explaining why Utah is plagued to an unusual degree with earthly pyramid schemes in which trusting Mormons are bilked out of their life savings by trusted Mormons.)

The Status of Earth

From the point of view of the POS, Earth and its myriad creatures exist primarily for the benefit of mankind, and thereby to glorify God. They are like a pair of shoes: It is prudent to take good care of your shoes, but their primary purpose is to help you get where you want to go, in the course of which wear and tear will be unavoidable. So don’t worry too much about global climate change or species extinctions. Yikes!

Free Agency vs. Compassion, Brotherly Love, and Cooperation

The POS illustrates the relative importance of two Mormon moral ideals: free agency, which entails taking responsibility for one’s choices and actions; and compassion, brotherly love, and cooperation, which require helping those in need. Each is in its own way commendable, but combining them in a way that is responsive to real circumstances can be challenging: Concerning people ostensibly in need, when is compassion the right response and when is demanding that they take responsibility for themselves the right response?

Of the two, free agency is in an important way more fundamental than compassion, as shown by the fact that God preferred a plan that emphasized the one over the other. It is more important than doing good deeds because only good that is done freely merits moral approbation and reward. Free agency is therefore a necessary condition for individual moral progress – and ultimately also for material progress as represented by gods creating worlds and exercising dominion over them. So far, so good, but . . .

The Right Form of Government and Economic System

The POS pretty clearly supports a libertarian political philosophy, including free market capitalism with minimal regulatory oversight of business and industry. Anything less would necessitate a sacrifice of free agency.

In this connection, it is interesting that in the early days of Mormons in Utah, Brigham Young attempted to establish a very pure socialistic system, the “United Order,” that would have made Karl Marx envious. In doing so, he was clearly giving precedence to compassion, brotherly love, and cooperation over competition. Why? One can presumably imagine a morally perfect being, such as Jesus, who always chooses and does what is right without being forced to; and Brigham Young thought the Saints ought to give it a try. Unfortunately, the experiment failed. Too many of the Saints gave in to avarice when they saw a chance to make money selling stuff to overland travelers. And they weren’t anxious to share their lucre either.

The Best of  All Possible Worlds?

In Mormon terms, the best of all possible worlds will be one in which all people freely live God’s commandments. If compassion is called for, like the “good Samaritan” they will show compassion even at the expense of personal inconvenience. And they will share their talents and possessions freely to advance the greater good – as was supposed to happen with the United Order experiment. However, real people and the real world being what they are, an astonishing amount of human suffering goes unalleviated – suffering that might be prevented or relieved to a considerable extent through the institution of government programs designed to promote the general welfare, e.g., Social Security and universal health care. Yet paradoxically, given the ethical primacy of respect for free agency over the duty of compassion, from the point of view of the POS such a world must be reckoned morally inferior to one in which there is more human suffering, perhaps much more, but less state coercion. This fact doesn’t fit comfortably with Jesus’s message of love and compassion in the New Testament. Ouch!

Mormon Exceptionalism

A person who has been indoctrinated with Mormon dogma, especially if he is also a male born into a privileged social and economic position, is physically attractive, intelligent, and charismatic, might easily come to believe that he is one of the fore-ordained or “chosen ones” of God who will play a critical role in the events of the last days, including perhaps saving the United States Constitution when it is “hanging by a thread,” as predicted in the uncanonized “White Horse Prophecy” that was reputedly delivered by the Mormon Church’s founder Joseph Smith in 1843. It is known that Mitt Romney had such delusions of grandeur when he was younger. Does he still?

Sinning for the Lord

Because Mormon eschatology views human history, from the War in Heaven through Armageddon, as a continuing war between the two great forces of good and evil , sinning for the Lord” might at times be a moral necessity. Indeed, in the opening pages of the Book of Mormon, the most prominent hero of the book, a revered Mormon prophet named Nephi, murdered a man named Laban in order to steal a genealogical record of his people to take with his family to the Americas. This act was ethically justified as follows: “And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” (1 Nephi 4:12-13) (One can’t help but think of Romney’s shameless shape-shifting and etch-a-sketching.)

Armageddon

According to Mormon eschatology, we are now in the “last days” of our earthly estate, which explains the official name of the Mormon Church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Surely Armageddon is not far off, when the forces of righteousness will permanently conquer and subdue the forces of evil. This will usher in a millennium of peace in which Jesus will return to Earth to rule, assisted by the most worthy of God’s children, a good many of whom will of course be Mormons. These elite will include men who are leaders of men and empire builders the likes of Mitt Romney. They will also be members of the “House of Israel,” which consists both of the descendants of the Biblical patriarch Jacob and people who are “adopted” into the House of Israel by being baptized Mormons. From the Mormon perspective, this implies a special affinity between Mormons and Jews that is reinforced by a common history of persecution. It’s an obvious step from this to the conclusion that ineluctable Armageddon will involve a war between the righteous nation of Israel and its supporters on the one side, and its enemies on the other. As things presently stand, we are talking here about a war to end all wars between Israel and Iran and their respective allies. Just what we don’t need!

Tipping point

Our nation has reached a point of extreme political and moral polarization, with the Republican-Tea Party on one side and the Democrat Party on the other, each vying for command of our future. One can say, accurately enough, that the one side fervently embraces the propositions listed at the beginning of this essay, while the other side vehemently rejects them. It is to be expected, therefore, that the views of the respective presidential nominees reflect this same stark opposition. While it is hardly likely that the upcoming election will resolve this clash of values for once and for all, all the indications are that it will mark a singular, momentous, and irreversible turning point in our nation’s history.

Kirk Robinson, Ph.D., is an attorney (and former Mormon, having left decisively over 40 years ago) living in Salt Lake City.

This article was originally posted at Counterpunch

When Mormons Mobilize: Anti-Gay Marriage Prop. 8 Effort ‘Outed’? February 1, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Religion.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

By Joanna Brooks
January 31, 2010
www.religiondispatches.org
New documents introduced in the challenge to Prop. 8 reveal that the LDS Church sought to create “plausible deniability” in its role in supporting the Yes on 8 campaign. Why would the LDS hierarchy want to deny Mormon involvement?

On Wednesday, January 20, in a federal courthouse in San Francisco, plaintiffs in the Perry vs. Schwarzenegger trial challenging the legality of California’s Proposition 8 introduced two documents (over strenuous objections from the defense) indicating close but cautious coordination between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Yes on 8 campaign.

The documents, according to plaintiffs’ witness Gary Segura, a professor of political science at Stanford University, indicated a desire on the part of the Church to create “plausible deniability or respectable distance between the church organization per se and the actual campaign.”

Segura’s words soon rippled across the gay blogosphere, as trial watchers from The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan to Julia Rosen of the California-based Courage Campaign latched onto the phrase “plausible deniability” as an “explosive” indictment of the Mormon Church’s allegedly behind-the-scenes relationship to the Proposition 8 campaign.

But to Mormons in California—both those who supported the Yes on 8 campaign and those who opposed it—the relationship between the church and the Proposition 8 campaign has always been undeniable.

Mormons Account for 75% of Donations

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has stated in its official news releases that it acted as part of a “coalition” of faith groups supporting Proposition 8, which amended the California State Consitution to eliminate civil marriage rights for gays and lesbians.

Says Laura Compton, spokesperson for Mormonsformarriage.com: “I’ve always said that it’s a coalition and the Mormons are Goliath.”

Documents compiled by Mormon supporters of same-sex marriage—including campaign timelines and donor profiles—show that LDS Church ecclesiastical structures, resources, and relationships were fully mobilized to generate the majority of volunteers and donations for the Yes on 8 campaign, even as Church members were coached to handle their Mormonism carefully in campaign contributions and activities.

There was nothing plausibly deniable about the Church’s relationship to the Proposition 8 campaign when, in Sunday meetings on June 29, 2008, a letter from Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Thomas Monson was read over the pulpit of every Mormon congregation in California urging Church members to “do all you can” to support the ballot measure.

Early donations from Mormons were solicited in July, when letters read in Sunday meetings of men’s and women’s church auxiliaries conveyed a $10 million fundraising goal for July and August and instructed Church members to donate exclusively to Protectmarriage.com. Donors were asked to identify their home congregation on donation forms, according to campaign observers, so that Mormon congregations could track their progress towards meeting fundraising targets set for each congregation based on their ability to pay as assessed from records of church offerings.

The Church-coordinated fundraising drive intensified in late August, when select LDS Church members identified as potential large donors were invited to participate in conference calls with members of the Quorum of the Seventy, a high-ranking Church leadership body. (Mormon Yes on 8 campaign observers believe that tithing records were used to identify call participants.) On the conference calls, high-ranking church leaders encouraged potential large donors to individually contribute $25,000 to protectmarriage.com.

That’s when Nadine Hansen, a Mormon veteran of the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment, initiated an effort to document the extent of Mormon funding for the Yes on 8 campaign. During the ERA campaign, Mormon feminist Sonia Johnson had shared with Hansen fundraising disclosure sheets from an anti-ERA group that had raised money in California. Using church directories, Hansen was then able to identify “all but one or two” of the ERA donors as Mormon. Sensing that the Church was pressing ERA-era strategies into service once again, she prepared to undertake the same donor-identification project for Proposition 8 at the website mormonsfor8.com.

In early September, a surge of $25,000 donations began to appear in campaign finance records compiled by the California Secretary of State. Hansen and a crew of Mormon supporters of same-sex marriage began to comb large donor records to identify Mormon Church members. By Election Day, mormonsfor8.com volunteers had successfully identified more than 50% of the large donors as members of the LDS Church. “And we know that we did not identify all of the Mormon donors,” Hansen relates. “You can see that in some places virtually all the money that came in came from Mormons. It’s a safe bet to say that Mormons contributed over half the money. It might be as high as 75%.”

Don’t Dress Like a Missionary

Mobilizing highly centralized and hierarchical ecclesiastical structures, Mormons also contributed as much as 80-90% of the volunteer labor for the campaign.

Implementation of a statewide grassroots volunteer structure began in late July, with volunteers coordinated through geographically-organized Mormon ecclesiastical units called “wards” and “stakes.” Church members received “callings,” or ecclesiastical assignments understood by orthodox church members to be divinely inspired, from their local church leaders to serve as regional (or “stake”-level) directors and zipcode (or “ward”-level) supervisors for grassroots campaigning. One LDS zipcode supervisor reported that the Mormon Church was “the only member of the Protect Marriage coalition” to participate in the Yes on 8 ground campaign.

On August 16, the Yes on 8 ground-campaign began its voter-identification phase, with a reported 15,000–30,000 Mormon precinct walkers knocking doors each weekend in August to identify “yes,” “soft yes,” “undecided,” “soft no,” and “no” voters and to commit “yes” voters to display “Yes on 8” lawn signs. The door-to-door voter identification campaign continued through September.

Mormon volunteers were coached to avoid disclosing their ties to the LDS Church. “When we went to our training meetings, they said, don’t bring up the fact that you’re Mormon. Don’t wear white shirts and ties; don’t look like missionaries. When you go out [canvassing], bring a non-member friend. When you’re calling people, don’t say I’m a Mormon,” says Laura Compton.

On October 8, LDS Church members in California attended a special meeting broadcast from Salt Lake City by satellite to wards and stakes throughout California and to BYU students with California ties. Encouraging Church members to think of the satellite broadcast as though they were “sitting in [a] living room having a confidential talk,” high-ranking LDS Church officials, members of the Quorum of the Twelve and the Quorum of the Seventy, introduced Church members to the final voter persuasion and get-out-the-vote “phases” of the campaign, asking members to use social networking technology to “go viral” with their support for Proposition 8 and commit four hours each week to the ground and phone campaign.

A primary source of Mormon messaging during the Proposition 8 campaign was the anonymously-authored “Six Consequences if Prop 8 Fails” document, which went viral across Mormon social networks after its introduction by email in mid-August and was utilized as a training document and handout in the Mormon-coordinated ground campaign. The document alleged that the legalization of same-sex marriage would eventuate in the teaching of same-sex marriage in public schools and the elimination of religious freedoms. Mormon legal scholar Morris Thurston described this as “untrue” and “misleading” and urged the LDS Church to discontinue its further dissemination.

Even as some Mormons urged the LDS Church to dissociate itself from questionable tactics of the Yes on 8 campaign, the profound connection between the Church and the campaign was obvious to insiders. As Laura Compton of mormonsformarriage.com relates, “Anybody who was part of the process knew exactly where they were getting their marching orders from.”

Highly centralized and hierarchical LDS institutional structures, widespread experience with door-to-door proselytizing, disciplined messaging among former missionaries, and extensive social networks that facilitated viral messaging, combined with a religious and cultural tradition that assigns enormous value to obedience to church authorities, service, discipline, and sacrifice to create a potent political force that was no secret to those within the culture.

According to Laura Compton, the LDS Church provided the “backbone of leadership, flesh of volunteers, blood of money” for the Yes on 8 campaign. “When there’s a natural disaster, Mormons are among the first to mobilize with resources and volunteers, and they get a lot done very fast. This time they applied their talents to what they perceived to be a political disaster. They’re good at mobilizing and they work hard.”

Still, Compton and other Mormon observers of the Proposition 8 campaign continue to wonder why the church has been reticent to acknowledge the extent of its influence.

“They did not want to be outed,” Hansen relates. “And yet they were with ones with all the organizational skills. And whether its because [the Church] is concerned about tax-exempt status or they want to avoid bad publicity… they want to do it and not have anyone know they do it at the same time.”

One cultural factor contributing to this apparent two-mindedness is the continuing insularity of Mormon culture. Mormon studies scholars suggest that Mormons living outside of Utah (like other minorities) have developed a “divided sense of self” and a related tendency to adopt a self-monitored or “coded” form of speech with outsiders.

Hansen recalls this same insider-outsider mentality from the political struggle over the Equal Rights Amendment, recalling that a man from her Mormon ward “called me, upset because I had written this letter to the editor… ‘You’re making the church look bad,’ he said. But I said, ‘I’m not making the church look bad. I’m telling what the church is doing. If it looks bad, it’s because it is bad.’”

Mormons Mobilize to Deprive Gays of More Rights March 4, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Religion, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 Posted by Tana Ganeva, AlterNet at 2:28 PM on March 4, 2009.

Apparently not satisfied with merely screwing over gays and lesbians in California, the Mormon Church is currently mobilizing its extremely productive, teetotaling followers to block civil unions for same-sex couples in Illinois.

 On Tuesday the Church sent out an email alerting LDS faithful to a civil unions bill set to go before the Illinois legislature tomorrow. The letter calls on followers to blast legislators with calls and letters opposing the measure.

 Why is the Mormon Church so deeply alarmed by civil unions legislation in Illinois? Because it will shatter social mores and crush the innocence of children. Duh.

 According to the letter:

 This bill will legalize civil unions in the state of Illinois, and will treat such civil unions with the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections and benefits as are afforded within marriage. In other words, civil unions will be different in name only from marriage. As has already been seen in Massachusetts, this will empower the public schools to begin teaching this lifestyle to our young children regardless of parental requests otherwise. It will also create grounds for rewriting all social mores; the current push in Massachusetts is to recognize and legalize all transgender rights (An individual in Massachusetts can now change their drivers license to the gender they believe themselves to be, regardless of actual gender, which means that confused men and women are now legally entering one another’s bathrooms and locker rooms. What kind of a safety issue is this for our children?). Furthermore, while the bill legalizes civil unions, it will be used in the courts to show discrimination and will ultimately lead to court mandated same-sex marriages.

 

 The Mormon church recently attracted controversy for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in its push to pass California’s discriminatory Prop. 8. Critics argued that the Church had overstepped its legal bounds by directly interfering in the legislative process (in a state other than Utah, no less). But I guess depriving minorities of fundamental civil rights is too important to leave to the government.

 p.s. It needs to be said that not all Mormons support the Church’s bigoted stance towards gays. For example, the group Feminist Mormon Housewives took on the Church on their blog over Prop. 8. There are also gay Mormon groups, such as Affirmation, whose members identify with LDS teachings but reject the Church’s attitude towards LGBT people. Affirmation writes in its about page: “We rejoice in life. We reject the tyranny that would have us believe that who we are — gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender — is evil or wrong. We affirm that we are all children of loving Heavenly Parents.”

Text of Terror: A Bill Granting LGBT Citizens Equal Rights Evokes Biblical Citation March 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Religion.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

blogimage_sized_leviticus2

Those who cling to a harrowing scrap of an otherwise marginal biblical text want the rest of us to believe that it amounts to persecution to ask them to unclench their fists so that all of us can live together in peace.
As a bill allowing government employees to share health benefits with their same-sex partners headed toward passage in the Colorado state senate a couple of days ago, one dissenting Republican legislator used a line from the Bible to provide the context for his dismay.

“Homosexuality is seen as a violation of this natural creative order, and it is an offense to God,” said Sen. Scott Renfroe, who noted that one biblical passage declares that homosexual relations are punishable by death.

Leviticus 20, the source of Renfroe’s citation, is not for the faint of heart. In addition to prescribing death by stoning for “men who would lie with mankind as with women” (20:13), the chapter is a veritable catalogue of smite-worthy offenses and transgressions, including adultery, sorcery and sacrifices to an also-ran deity named Moloch.

And it’s not surprising that it should be so. Leviticus was most likely composed during and immediately after the Israelites’ captivity in Babylon, when earthly powers much greater than themselves uprooted the Jews and plunked them down in a cosmopolitan society synonymous—then and now—with cultural confusion.

For a deeply spiritual people trying to hold on to their distinctive identity in a violent world, drawing sharp boundaries between the sacred and profane is an understandable response to collective trauma.

In terms of their respective powers of self-determination, the society that produced Leviticus and the modern-day Christian movement that has appropriated it couldn’t be more different than night and day. But apart from the fact that the statutes in the rest of Leviticus (on matters as diverse as the preparation of burnt offerings and the disposal of bodily fluids) seem not to concern them, the most curious thing about conservative Christians’ obsession with 20:13 is their recreation of the siege mentality that afflicted a small community of exiled Jews two and a half millennia ago.

This hallucinatory duress is apparent in statements from Sen. Scott Renfroe and other conservative lawmakers who believe that granting equal rights to LGBT folks will imperil everyone else.

Gay activists are “probably the greatest threat to America going down” said Chris Buttars, a state senator in Utah who last Friday lost his seat on the judicial committee he chaired after he likened gays to radical Muslims.

“The homosexual agenda is just destroying this nation,” Sally Kern, a state representative in Oklahoma, said last May. More recently Kern was one of 20 Republican members of Oklahoma’s House of Representatives who voted unsuccessfully to exclude from the chamber’s official record a prayer that had been delivered by an openly gay pastor from Oklahoma City’s Cathedral of Hope.

That maneuver brings to mind a moment from the documentary “Eyes on the Prize” when a young black civil rights activist asks a white police officer to pray with him.

“I don’t think your prayers get above your head,” the officer replies.

Christian conservatives resist the notion that advocacy for gay and lesbian equality is a natural extension of the Civil Rights Movement. That strategy of denial depends on the notion that sexuality is indelible if you’re a straight Mormon or Southern Baptist but somehow becomes a matter of choice if you’re a gay minister with the MCC. It also overlooks the fact that, if you take a step back from the situation, the language and behavior conservatives employ to rationalize their disenfranchisement of queerfolk bear the marks of the same psychosis of bigotry that plagued many Southern whites a generation ago—that is, a powerful group imagines itself victimized when a formerly subjugated minority gathers the wherewithal to ask for a place at the table.

While the evocation of the specter of sexual terrorism in the statehouses of Colorado, Utah and Oklahoma is a vivid example of this loose relationship with reality, perhaps the most disturbing expression of it can be found in an hour-long “documentary” produced by the American Family Association and hosted by conservative media personality Janet Parshall. “Speechless: Silencing the Christians,” which premiered last March on the Inspiration Network, makes the case that the contemporary LGBT rights movement heralds an new era of oppression for the faithful.

“It creates a context where violence is being perpetrated against Christians,” says one man interviewed for the film.

So those who cling to a harrowing scrap of an otherwise marginal biblical text want the rest of us to believe that it amounts to persecution to ask them to unclench their fists so that all of us can live together in peace? Irony and tolerance must share a deep link in the human psyche—by refusing to cultivate the latter Christian conservatives seem to have lost their sense for the former.

For me—a former seminarian from Alabama who now spends half the year in deep retreat at a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles—venturing into the dark, violent corners of right-wing American culture triggers sensations that are at once alien and familiar. On the one hand, just as a picture-postcard is a meager substitute for the direct experience of a sunset on the beach at Santa Monica, I no longer imagine that the biblical hodgepodge of primitive tribal taboo and secondhand revelation captures the wonder and full meaning of the cosmos as it unfolds all around (and through) me.

But like Scott Renfroe, Chris Buttars, Sally Kern and their tens of millions of fellow travelers, I still clutch old habits of mind that cloud over creation and that tend to keep me trapped in a nightmare world where I see menace and imperfection at every turn. What I hope for them as well as for myself is that we all come to realize the truth that there is no need to spin and toil. If we can just see that this is so, then the demons of anger and ignorance are sure to go the way of that musty old Moloch.

Religious Right Breaks the Bank to Fight Gay Marriage February 4, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Religion.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

 Candace Chellew-Hodge
February 3, 2009

But what about feeding the hungry or housing the homeless? Not on the agenda.

Within the whole of the Bible there are six or seven verses that are used to condemn gay and lesbian people – depending on the person making the argument. At the same time, there are more than 300 verses that admonish us to take care of the poor and do social justice in this world for poor and hungry.

Guess which one the religious right will pour vast amounts of its monetary resources into fighting?

The final tallies show that opponents of Proposition 8 raised $43.3 million in 2008 and had a little more than $730,000 left on hand at year’s end. The measure’s sponsors raised $39.9 million and had $983,000 left over. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has been criticized for strongly encouraging its members to support Proposition 8, for the first time assigned a dollar value of nearly $190,000 to its role in getting the initiative passed.

More than half, or $97,000, went to the time staff of the Utah-based Mormon Church devoted to the Yes on 8 campaign, according to the church’s report. Another $21,000 was for the use of church buildings and equipment during the campaign. Most of the rest went to airline tickets, hotels and meals for church officials.

Focus on the Family, the evangelical Christian media empire based in Colorado, reported giving $657,000 in cash and services to promote Proposition 8.

 

All this money was thrown around by the religious right (forcing the other side to waste money fighting them) that could have been used to improve the lives of the 7.6 million people living in poverty in the United States or the more than 35.5 million Americans who are hungry or at risk of going hungry.

These zealots spend their worldly treasure not on feeding the hungry or housing the homeless. Those issues are not sexy enough and don’t raise enough money from their constituents. Instead they’ll empty the storehouse to ensure that two men or two women who love one another and want to commit their lives to one another cannot call it a marriage or partake of such rights as being able to make medical decisions for their loved ones. They base their efforts and their expenditures on Bible verses like Leviticus 18:22: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable,” but forget later verses like Leviticus 25:35: “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.”

Then again, the religious right doesn’t treat the alien or temporary resident with the respect the Scriptures demand, either. So, perhaps this colossal waste of money is simply par for their course. Their spiritual bankruptcy is complete, then – gays can’t get married in California – and the least of these are still poor and hungry.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as associate pastor at Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, S.C. Her new book is Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008).

Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage November 15, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 Published: November 14, 2008

SACRAMENTO — Less than two weeks before Election Day, the chief strategist behind a ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage in California called an emergency meeting here.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Frank Schubert was the chief strategist for Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman in California.

“We’re going to lose this campaign if we don’t get more money,” the strategist, Frank Schubert, recalled telling leaders of Protect Marriage, the main group behind the ban.

The campaign issued an urgent appeal, and in a matter of days, it raised more than $5 million, including a $1 million donation from Alan C. Ashton, the grandson of a former president of the Mormon Church. The money allowed the drive to intensify a sharp-elbowed advertising campaign, and support for the measure was catapulted ahead; it ultimately won with 52 percent of the vote.

As proponents of same-sex marriage across the country planned protests on Saturday against the ban, interviews with the main forces behind the ballot measure showed how close its backers believe it came to defeat — and the extraordinary role Mormons played in helping to pass it with money, institutional support and dedicated volunteers.

“We’ve spoken out on other issues, we’ve spoken out on abortion, we’ve spoken out on those other kinds of things,” said Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormons are formally called, in Salt Lake City. “But we don’t get involved to the degree we did on this.”

The California measure, Proposition 8, was to many Mormons a kind of firewall to be held at all costs.

“California is a huge state, often seen as a bellwether — this was seen as a very, very important test,” Mr. Otterson said.

First approached by the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco a few weeks after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May, the Mormons were the last major religious group to join the campaign, and the final spice in an unusual stew that included Catholics, evangelical Christians, conservative black and Latino pastors, and myriad smaller ethnic groups with strong religious ties.

Shortly after receiving the invitation from the San Francisco Archdiocese, the Mormon leadership in Salt Lake City issued a four-paragraph decree to be read to congregations, saying “the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan,” and urging members to become involved with the cause.

“And they sure did,” Mr. Schubert said.

Jeff Flint, another strategist with Protect Marriage, estimated that Mormons made up 80 percent to 90 percent of the early volunteers who walked door-to-door in election precincts.

The canvass work could be exacting and highly detailed. Many Mormon wards in California, not unlike Roman Catholic parishes, were assigned two ZIP codes to cover. Volunteers in one ward, according to training documents written by a Protect Marriage volunteer, obtained by people opposed to Proposition 8 and shown to The New York Times, had tasks ranging from “walkers,” assigned to knock on doors; to “sellers,” who would work with undecided voters later on; and to “closers,” who would get people to the polls on Election Day.

Suggested talking points were equally precise. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.

But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.

“It is not our goal in this campaign to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong — the less we refer to homosexuality, the better,” one of the ward training documents said. “We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay.”

Leaders were also acutely conscious of not crossing the line from being a church-based volunteer effort to an actual political organization.

“No work will take place at the church, including no meeting there to hand out precinct walking assignments so as to not even give the appearance of politicking at the church,” one of the documents said.

By mid-October, most independent polls showed support for the proposition was growing, but it was still trailing. Opponents had brought on new media consultants in the face of the slipping poll numbers, but they were still effectively raising money, including $3.9 million at a star-studded fund-raiser held at the Beverly Hills home of Ron Burkle, the supermarket billionaire and longtime Democratic fund-raiser.

It was then that Mr. Schubert called his meeting in Sacramento. “I said, ‘As good as our stuff is, it can’t withstand that kind of funding,’ ” he recalled.

The response was a desperate e-mail message sent to 92,000 people who had registered at the group’s Web site declaring a “code blue” — an urgent plea for money to save traditional marriage from “cardiac arrest.” Mr. Schubert also sent an e-mail message to the three top religious members of his executive committee, representing Catholics, evangelicals and Mormons.

“I ask for your prayers that this e-mail will open the hearts and minds of the faithful to make a further sacrifice of their funds at this urgent moment so that God’s precious gift of marriage is preserved,” he wrote.

On Oct. 28, Mr. Ashton, the grandson of the former Mormon president David O. McKay, donated $1 million. Mr. Ashton, who made his fortune as co-founder of the WordPerfect Corporation, said he was following his personal beliefs and the direction of the church.

“I think it was just our realizing that we heard a number of stories about members of the church who had worked long hours and lobbied long and hard,” he said in a telephone interview from Orem, Utah.

In the end, Protect Marriage estimates, as much as half of the nearly $40 million raised on behalf of the measure was contributed by Mormons.

Even with the Mormons’ contributions and the strong support of other religious groups, Proposition 8 strategists said they had taken pains to distance themselves from what Mr. Flint called “more extreme elements” opposed to rights for gay men and lesbians.

To that end, the group that put the issue on the ballot rebuffed efforts by some groups to include a ban on domestic partnership rights, which are granted in California. Mr. Schubert cautioned his side not to stage protests and risk alienating voters when same-sex marriages began being performed in June.

“We could not have this as a battle between people of faith and the gays,” Mr. Schubert said. “That was a losing formula.”

But the “Yes” side also initially faced apathy from middle-of-the-road California voters who were largely unconcerned about same-sex marriage. The overall sense of the voters in the beginning of the campaign, Mr. Schubert said, was “Who cares? I’m not gay.”

To counter that, advertisements for the “Yes” campaign also used hypothetical consequences of same-sex marriage, painting the specter of churches’ losing tax exempt status or people “sued for personal beliefs” or objections to same-sex marriage, claims that were made with little explanation.

Another of the advertisements used video of an elementary school field trip to a teacher’s same-sex wedding in San Francisco to reinforce the idea that same-sex marriage would be taught to young children.

“We bet the campaign on education,” Mr. Schubert said.

The “Yes” campaign was denounced by opponents as dishonest and divisive, but the passage of Proposition 8 has led to second-guessing about the “No” campaign, too, as well as talk about a possible ballot measure to repeal the ban. Several legal challenges have been filed, and the question of the legality of the same-sex marriages performed from June to Election Day could also be settled in court.

For his part, Mr. Schubert said he is neither anti-gay — his sister is a lesbian — nor happy that some same-sex couples’ marriages are now in question. But, he said, he has no regrets about his campaign.

“They had a lot going for them,” Mr. Schubert said of his opponents. “And they couldn’t get it done.”

Mr. Otterson said it was too early to tell what the long-term implications might be for the church, but in any case, he added, none of that factored into the decision by church leaders to order a march into battle. “They felt there was only one way we could stand on such a fundamental moral issue, and they took that stand,” he said. “It was a matter of standing up for what the church believes is right.”

That said, the extent of the protests has taken many Mormons by surprise. On Friday, the church’s leadership took the unusual step of issuing a statement calling for “respect” and “civility” in the aftermath of the vote.

“Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues,” the statement said. “People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal.”

Mr. Ashton described the protests by same-sex marriage advocates as off-putting. “I think that shows colors,” Mr. Ashton said. “By their fruit, ye shall know them.”

A Mormon’s Lament: Church is On the Wrong Side of History Again With Proposition 8 October 27, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in California.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Joe Vogel, The Huffington Post, October 27, 2008

In late 2002, as President George W. Bush began building his case for preemptive war in Iraq, a remarkable thing happened. In contrast to the general timidity of American churches in response to the conflict in Vietnam, leaders of faith were speaking out. Observed the Reverend Jim Wallis at the time:

Opposition to war with Iraq has come from a wide spectrum of the churches – Roman Catholic, Protestant denominations, Evangelical, Pentecostal, black churches, Orthodox. All of the statements, letters, and resolutions from church leaders and bodies take the threat posed by Saddam Hussein seriously, but they refuse war as the best response.

Importantly, these church leaders are not making their decision based on whether or not they approve of President George W. Bush – some do and some don’t. Rather, they are doing so on the basis of Christian theology and moral teaching.

One notable exception to this dissent: the Mormon Church.

The LDS Church’s cautious official response to the war (one of the most consequential decisions in recent American history) and near-unconditional subsequent support for the Bush Administration (in 2005, Dick Cheney was awarded an honorary doctorate and invited as the commencement speaker at BYU, the Church’s flagship institution), raise important questions about the Church’s involvement in political affairs, particularly when an issue has moral/ethical implications. When should it speak out? When should it stay neutral? And how does it treat its members with minority views?

Nearly six years and thousands of lost lives since the war began, Mormon authorities still haven’t weighed in on Iraq, Abu Ghraib, or Guantanomo Bay. Neither have they directed semi-annual Conference addresses to the genocide in Sudan, human rights violations caused by multi-national corporations, or climate change that could have devastating effects on future generations. Instead, in the past few months they have decided to take action on a “moral issue” of a different sort: denying gay couples the constitutional right to get married in California.

In support of California’s Proposition 8, the Mormon Church has gone into political overdrive. Under the direction of Church leaders’ admonition over the pulpit, they have formed a formidable grassroots machine, providing boots on the ground, making phone calls, writing letters, forwarding emails, while donating an astounding $19 million to the cause.

“What we’re about is the work of the Lord, and He will bless you for your involvement,” apostle M. Russell Ballard proclaimed in a broadcast to church buildings in California, Utah, Hawaii and Idaho.

This stand, sadly, follows a disturbing trend of being on the wrong side of history on issues of social justice and equality for the LDS Church.

For nearly 150 years, the Mormon Church stubbornly held to a racist policy that refused all members of African descent the privilege of entering temples or receiving the Priesthood. Even as slavery, segregation, and Jim Crowe receded into the American past, the Mormon Church still treated its own black members as second-class citizens. The practice was justified as the plan of God. Apostles and prophets, the highest authorities in the Church, rationalized the continued discrimination by pointing to the “curse of Cain” and disobedience in the pre-existence. Other leaders said they simply didn’t know but were sure God had some mysterious reason for keeping the full blessings of the Gospel from black people. Only a rare few leaders, including apostle Hugh B. Brown (and many more grassroots members), spoke out on behalf of civil rights. So the infamous ban lived on until 1978.

Along with polygamy, this blatant institutional racism is perhaps the most regrettable scar in Mormon history. Though progress has been made, race remains a taboo subject to this day for most Mormons, shrouded in shame and myth. It hasn’t helped that the Church still hasn’t publicly acknowledged or apologized for its racist past.

Yet sadly this is not the only example of the Mormon Church attempting to stifle progress and equality. In the 1970s the Church went to great efforts to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment for women. Much like Proposition 8, they argued that it undermined the traditional structure of the family. Church leaders called it “a moral issue with many disturbing ramifications for women and for the family as individual members and as a whole.” President Spencer W. Kimball said it “would strike at the family, humankind’s basic institution.”

Sound familiar?

So here we are, in 2008, and now the threat is gay people who are already gay, who love each other and in many cases live together, and want to get married. How does this hurt the average Mormon family?

If the concern really was the practical welfare of the family, perhaps the Church could instead invest its vast resources into making healthcare universal and affordable, expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act, cracking down on child predators, and improving the quality of our educational system. All of these issues have a direct impact on my family and millions of others.

You hear of marriages ruined all the time because of abuse, neglect, or stress over finances. But I have personally never heard of a divorce caused by another gay couple getting married.

Yet instead of focusing on issues that can really help nourish our families we obsess over a word. A word we refuse to share. A word that has never been perfectly fixed. There was a time, after all, when inter-racial marriage was just as taboo and illegal as gay marriage. Marriage has been many things, but the common ideal has been and should continue to be a relationship built on love and commitment.

So to my fellow Mormons: I ask you to please re-consider. Take the time you would spend fighting this errant cause with your family. Go to a movie. Take a drive together. Watch the World Series.

Maybe you don’t completely understand homosexuality. Maybe you think it’s a sin. But shouldn’t we leave that to God and allow others to be who they are and make their own choices? As followers of Christ, isn’t it always better to err on the side of compassion and love?

Martin Luther King once lamented in his famous letter from Birmingham Jail:

So often the contemporary Church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church’s silent—and often even vocal—sanction of things as they are.

In case after case when the moral chips have been on the table, I have hoped for my Church what Dr. King prayed for in his time: that “the Church as a whole will meet the challenge of [the] decisive hour.” But sadly, so often on the issues of peace, equality and social justice, it has failed, whether by silence or misguided support.

With Proposition 8 it is time to stand for justice, not discrimination. It is time to stand for equality. It is time to be on the right side of history. Regardless of race, gender, or sexuality human beings are human beings and deserve to be treated as such. Today I voice my public support in favor of treating my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as equals, and ask my fellow Mormons to do the same.

A Less Perfect Union: Gay Marriage and the Subversion of the Republic October 25, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in California.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

Scott Tucker, Truthdig, October 24, 2008

On May 15 the California Supreme Court ruled, in a 4-to-3 decision, that legal marriage in this state should no longer be reserved for heterosexuals. Six of the seven judges on that court were appointed by Republican governors, with the lone Democrat voting with the majority in this case. According to an estimate by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, more than 10,000 gay and lesbian couples have married since the first legal same-sex marriages on June 16.

In response, opponents lost no time placing Proposition 8 on the Nov. 4 ballot. Proposition 8, if passed, would change the state constitution so that marriage would be legally defined as being between a man and a woman, and thus would eliminate the existing right of same-sex couples to marry. This does not mean that the marriages of same-sex couples already legally enacted will be automatically null and void if Proposition 8 passes. On the contrary, these marriages are now legal facts on the ground, which will figure in class-action lawsuits and future court cases as the nationwide legislative battle over same-sex marriages and civil unions unfolds.

Current polls suggest a very close call on this issue in the Nov. 4 voting. The Mormon Church is pumping millions of dollars into television ads supporting Proposition 8. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Between 30% to 40 % of the $25.5 million in donations raised as of last week by the ‘Yes’ campaign has come from the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”

The coalition supporting the Yes on 8 campaign goes beyond the Mormon Church, of course. Conservative Catholics, including the Knights of Columbus, have donated more than $1 million. Focus on the Family (an evangelical group headed by James Dobson), an Orthodox Jewish group based in New York City, the National Organization for Marriage, the American Family Foundation, and various Baptist, Sikh and Muslim groups, as well as many Republicans, all have contributed heavily as well. A leading African-American cleric, Apostle Frederick K.C. Price of the Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles, was joined on Oct. 20 by 50 African-American and Latino clerics in supporting Proposition 8. The press release of this last group noted these organizational ties and funding sources: “Paid for by ProtectMarriage.com—Yes on 8, a project of California Renewal. Major funding by Knights of Columbus, National Organization for Marriage California Committee and Focus on the Family.”

For more than 30 years, right-wing conservatives have rallied a base of supporters made up heavily of white evangelicals and have waged many winning campaigns by using the ready ammunition of so-called wedge issues. Since the 1970s, the religious right has made moral crusades against abortion, homosexuality and pornography into political litmus tests for Republican candidates. They have also made direct appeals to cultural conservatives across party lines, including evangelical Christians of all races. So the power of moral conviction on the far right had a real crossover effect on the Democratic Party.

In this fight, gay people have notable allies, including some wealthy people in business and entertainment. But no movement for social justice can build a strong foundation upon such a thin upper crust. That’s why the solidarity of some labor unions has been so welcome. The California Teachers Union Issues PAC has contributed $2 million, and the Service Employees International Union donated $500,000. The California Nurses Association is strongly opposed to Proposition 8. David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, has stated, “For us, it’s a civil rights issue.” Since the right wing is running TV ads claiming that the rights of schoolchildren and parents would be violated by Proposition 8, the voices and faces of parents, students and teachers who oppose this proposition might have been featured effectively in TV and community newspaper ads as well. This would have required greater communication between organized labor and parent and student groups, and the staffs of No on 8 and Equality California.

There is a much larger and starker problem with the Democratic Party. If Proposition 8 wins, the political illusions of many gay people must be part of the public accounting. Likewise, elected Democrats gone AWOL will deserve consequences at the polls. Career Democrats with extraordinary wealth have made some donations to groups opposing Proposition 8, but they have been stingy in spending real political capital for this cause.

Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden rarely mention gay people except when speaking directly to small audiences of gay and gay-friendly donors. The issue of gay marriage is one they prefer to avoid. All the more reason we might expect the top elected Democrats of California to take up this fight in earnest. But in fact, the career Democrats, with the important exception of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, have dealt with Proposition 8 only in smaller and safer side conversations, and not in strong public messages. This is true both in California and in Congress.

The No on 8 coalition includes many reliable liberal groups and individuals, but as of Oct. 24, no television ad featuring the leading Democrats of California has brought the No on 8 message to the general public. No political courage was required for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to tell a gay magazine, “I believe we should uphold the ability of our friends, neighbors, and coworkers who are gay and lesbian to enter into the contract of marriage.” This message would have more reach and power if Feinstein dared to use the megaphone of the mass media. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer has not campaigned aggressively against Proposition 8 either, and has also not yet appeared in any television ad.

Likewise, the political capital that Rep. Nancy Pelosi has spent on this issue is spare change, but many Democrats will give her a “pragmatic” pass precisely because she is speaker of the House. A perverse logic operates in this case. If Pelosi refuses to wield congressional power in a fair fight against imperial adventures and war budgets; if she rules impeachment out of order and sidelines Rep. Dennis Kucinich and other dissenters in her own party; if she goes along to get along with the corporate oligarchy … then why should anyone expect her to risk a political bruise in defense of gay marriage?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 207 other followers