Right-wing nonsense

David Benkof, formerly the blogger at GaysDefendMarriage.com and writer of the weekly "Fabulously Observant" column for the Jerusalem Post, calls out his erstwhile Yes on 8 allies:

Right-wing nonsense (link to original article)

As a conservative Republican, I believe in free enterprise, traditional family values and people's basic liberties as guaranteed by the text of the Constitution. But sometimes my fellow conservatives and Republicans say and do things that I find so objectionable that I wonder if I'm on the wrong side. For example:

Discrimination. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, so I supported the man-woman marriage Proposition 8 in California - until I discovered the Proposition 8 campaign tolerates discrimination against Jews. ProtectMarriage.com's legal counsel, the Alliance Defense Fund, has in effect a "No Jews Need Apply" policy for legal and even secretarial positions. They say they're not a law firm, they're a "ministry" and thus have a right to discriminate against Jews and other non-Christians. But even if that's true, Proposition 8 had hundreds of law firms to choose from. The fact they chose one that refuses to hire a Jew like me is very disturbing. Interestingly, Jesus himself was a Jew, so when a group has a policy that would lead them to refuse to hire their own Messiah, you know something's seriously wrong.

Marriage. I have long opposed same-sex marriage. In fact, there are overwhelmingly good arguments for overturning same-sex marriage - based on the welfare of children, religious freedom, and preserving the monogamous ideal, for example. But the people defending man-woman marriage in California and elsewhere tend to use really dumb and sometimes offensive arguments. For example, the ProtectMarriage.com Web site, used to refer to a same-sex "family" (their quotes). Reasonable people can differ as to whether two men can form a "marriage," but only a jerk would claim two lesbians and their baby are not a family. And do they really have to emphasize this attitude as part of their basic argument to fair-minded undecided voters?

Transgender. I think it's appropriate to treat transgender people as the sex they believe themselves to be - whether or not I believe that deep down they are really still their birth sex. I completely respect that some people disagree. But are these values more important than everything? For example, incarcerated transgender women are at high risk for rape (and thus contracting HIV), because they are the only women in a violent, predatory, predominantly heterosexual male environment. Recently, I wrote the Family Research Council to encourage them to endorse my proposal to stop rapes and save lives by housing incarcerated transgender women in women's prisons. Their response? "To paraphrase our Policy team, housing 'transgender women' (that is, men) in a women's prison would be conceding too much." In Judaism, saving lives is more important than nearly everything. But apparently to the Family Research Council's religio-political system, ideology is more important than preventing rape. Sigh.

I don't share David's party affiliation, but I do share his belief in "free enterprise, traditional family values and people's basic liberties as guaranteed by the text of the Constitution." And although I grew up Mormon, not Jewish, it seems clear to me that members of the LDS church should likewise be wondering about the team they've joined in this Prop 8 contest. Growing up in Baptist country (the Ozarks), my siblings and I became aware from a young age that the local churches were actively demonizing our family's religion, as Amy Sullivan has recounted:

The first time I ever heard about Mormons was in fifth grade, sitting in a basement classroom of my Baptist church, watching a filmstrip about cults. Our Sunday school class was covering a special month-long unit on false religions; in the mail-order curriculum, Mormonism came somewhere between devil worshippers and Jim Jones. Although most of the particulars are lost to me now, one of the images remains in my mind: a cartoon of human figures floating in outer space (an apparent reference to the Mormon doctrine of "eternal progression") that appeared on the screen next to our pull-down map of Israel. Even at age 10, the take-away message was clear. Mormons were not like us, they were not Christian.

And Amy mentions an incident in her next paragraph that occurred only four short years ago:

Evangelical opinions about the LDS Church haven't changed so much since I watched that filmstrip more than 20 years ago. In 2004, Mormons were specifically excluded from participation in the National Day of Prayer organized by Shirley Dobson (wife of James Dobson, leader of the conservative Christian organization Focus on the Family) because their theology was found to be incompatible with Christian beliefs.

Brothers and Sisters, welcome to the Yes on 8 coalition: folks who'd dump the Savior's job application in the round file (i.e., the trash bin); the same gang who've spent decades preaching intolerance of Latter-Day Saints; the reason Mitt Romney is not on the GOP ticket.

I'll work on compiling a more complete list of the anti-semitic and anti-mormon groups that've joined the Yes on 8 side. This'll have to do for now:

- Alliance Defense Fund
- Family Research Council
- Focus on the Family

For now, as far as I can tell, this same bunch - when they see a chance to benefit from the superior dedication, commitment, and organizational skills of LDS church members - are not above flying out to Salt Lake City to make nice, as Romney himself has described it:

... several months ago, not long before he died, I had the occasion of having the Rev. Jerry Falwell at our home. He said that when he was getting ready to oppose same-sex marriage in California, he met with the president of my church in Salt Lake City, and they agreed to work together in a campaign in California. He said, "Far be it from me to suggest that we don't have the same values and the same objectives."

But when the battle looks all but lost, these same fairweather friends will desert you:

My mother is the regional director [for the Mormon Yes on 8 effort] for her area in CA, and has noted the withdrawal of participation of many other faiths in the area. With Prop 22 back in 2000 there was a strong coalition of faiths, each throwing in its support (in terms of money and individual support) to help get the measure passed. This time around (at least in her part of San Diego), the Latter-day Saints are the main (and nearly only) supporters from the faith community.

My turn to sigh. Sigh.

Of course, I disagree with David's statement that "... there are overwhelmingly good arguments for overturning same-sex marriage - based on the welfare of children, religious freedom, and preserving the monogamous ideal ..." After much thoughtful consideration of this issue, I still don't see how Prop 8's passage will secure, protect, preserve - or even promote - any of the values that David mentions here. But, I'd like to set that argument aside for now in order to shine a light on the patch of common ground that we now share: "... the people defending man-woman marriage in California and elsewhere tend to use really dumb and sometimes offensive arguments."

I think it's becoming increasingly obvious to observers on both sides of this issue that "dumb" and "offensive" describe not only the coalition's arguments, but its tactics as well. The same stalwart Mormons who bring the organizational prowess that makes their church such an attractive Yes on 8 partner will trigger a backlash if the Yes on 8 campaign professionals don't step in soon and ratchet down their fervor:

For the last two months I have endured listening to the fear-mongering from the pulpit in my Southern California Sacrament Meeting, Stake Conference, Gospel Doctrine and in my High Priests Group Meetings; this in spite of our Stake President’s instructions to “not discuss this issue in our meetings”. I have respected his counsel (I oppose prop 8), but those in favor of prop 8 have not. The lobbying goes on.

In each case, the ultimate appeal is to “follow the prophet”. And the message I’m getting is quite clear: If I do not support, campaign for, give money to and vote for of Prop 8, I do not sustain the brethren. Really? And if I disagree - they don’t want to hear about it.

This isn’t the kind of “persuasion . . with gentleness, kindness and meekness” spoken of in the D & C 121:41. There has been no “long suffering” - no opposing opinion or hard questions on the issue have been allowed. The “Hypocrisy” of our past efforts to redefine marriage and family in the 19th century is swept under the berber carpet. The “Guile” of being asked to conceal our identities as members of the Church while canvassing the neighborhoods seems to be lost on everyone. Section 121 has been turned on its ear.

No member of this great Church should feel obligated or “influenced” to do anything “by virtue of a Priesthood (office)”. If you can’t persuade people with pure knowledge (the facts please) and love unfeigned (stop trying to scare us into it) none of us should feel compelled to support this. It doesn’t get more clear cut than that.

FWIW, it does seem pretty clear cut to this humble reader. But let's reference another comment from the same Mormon blog:

Soliciting contributions in wards and by quotas is a big mistake.

Obviously, local leaders think they are helping by doing such things. Instead, they are showing a tremendous disrespect for those with different views in the LDS community.

That kind of behavior is downright dumb.

It will hurt the proposition, helping the opposition. You will see news stories that the LDS church (ie. some stakes and wards) are setting quotas and soliciting contributions in the church houses. Very, very stupid.

Sad that some take the prophet’s call and then proceed to undermine the very cause he asked for help.

At this point, plenty of harm has already been done. What remains to be seen is how much more self-inflicted damage the Yes on 8 camp either takes on or avoids - which in turn will determine whether the backlash against Mormon involvement gets written off as a minor footnote in Prop 8's defeat, or if this same involvement is now destined to assume epic proportions as the central narrative used to explain the collapse of the Yes on 8 effort. Shirley Dobson may have kicked away the Mormon chair at the National-Day-of-Prayer table back in 2004, but this time around, I suspect that her crew will make sure that the Mormons are very comfortably seated when the time comes to gather round and apportion blame for Prop 8's defeat.

Considering David's description of the anti-semitism of the coalition partners he mentioned, and my description of the anti-mormonism of others in the coalition, I'll deeply resent when these so-called Christians inevitably get around to scapegoating the Mormons and the Jews for Prop 8's defeat. Of all the groups joined together in this unwieldy coalition, the Mormon and Jewish contingents are by far the least hateful folks of the bunch. But, they've gone and joined an ugly mob, and when the time comes for the Evangelical leadership to explain what went wrong to their own people, it's gonna be those "other" people, those Mormons, those Jews, who take the fall. The acrimony won't make the front pages of our newspapers, but rather, like so many of the uglier smears from the Huckabee campaign, the incrimination will wind its way "under the radar" through Evangelical media channels.

A final prediction: if the Saturday morning door-knocking and ward (parish) contribution quotas continue to draw attention, the margin of Prop 8's defeat will reflect an epic, rather than mild, backlash. During the first two Saturday walks, it's estimated that Mormons knocked on approx. one million Californian doors. I won't go into it here, but that's simply nowhere near enough doors for the purposes of the Yes on 8 campaign - and the professionals running the show are smart enough to know the score. At this point, understandably, the professionals may have no choice but to allow the digging (aka "canvassing") to continue. If they were to allow the workers - i.e., the rank and file - to catch their breath, some of these same rank and file might just take advantage of the pause to ask inconvenient questions about the hole they've been digging on the leadership's orders.

Here's a title suggestion for your next bestseller, Mitt:

Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and Proposition 8

In the interim, here's some good stuff from Hellmut:

The Stakes of 8

Has anyone else seen this? Ron Prentice, the head of ProtectMarriage.com, has apparently been a very bad boy.


David Benkof said...

Thanks for pointing to this, Chino. I thought your readers might like to see the whole essay:


Chino Blanco said...

If readers click on the title ("Right-wing nonsense") above my blockquote of David's letter, it links to the whole essay.

Thanks for mentioning this. I'll edit the post to make the link obvious.

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