Mormons Boost Antigay Marriage Effort
(click to read the original Wall Street Journal article)
Group Has Given
Millions in Support
Of California Fund
By MARK SCHOOFS
Comments by CHINO BLANCO
Mormons have emerged as a dominant fund-raising force in the hotly contested California ballot fight to ban same-sex marriage.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have contributed more than a third of the approximately $15.4 million raised since June 1 to support Proposition 8. The ballot initiative, if passed, would reverse the current right of same-sex couples to marry.
The tally of Mormon contributions was provided by Frank Schubert*, campaign manager for ProtectMarriage.com - Yes on 8, the initiative's primary backer. A finance-tracking group corroborated Mormon fund-raising dominance, saying it could exceed 40%.
* When Frank's not busy with his Yes on 8 duties, he's been known to enjoy a relaxing smoke. He'd also be the first to admit that being a smoker in health-conscious California is no easy thing. In Frank's own words:
I am not asking for sympathy, but I am asking people to seriously think about how acceptable it has become to attack smokers, and think about the broader implications this has on basic American principles. Like, say, this crazy idea of liberty and freedom that is at the core of our civilization.
If there is one thing the Constitution of the United States stands for, it's the principle of equal protection for all. It's not just the favored who enjoy constitutional rights. Or the privileged. Or the rich. Or the popular. It's ALL. Yes, even smokers.
You tell 'em, Frank. It's always a pleasure to read a Yes on 8 campaign manager defending the principle that smokers deserve equal protection no matter how unpopular they might be. Now I'm off to advise ALL my gay friends to take up your bad habit and thereby qualify themselves in your eyes for the equal protection that you're working so hard to deny them.
The Mormon Church decision to enlist members on behalf of the same-sex marriage ban has given supporters of Proposition 8 a fund-raising lead. The campaign to defeat the initiative has collected around $13 million so far, said Steve Smith, a top campaign consultant for No on 8, Equality for All. Both sides raised roughly equal amounts in the early stages, said Mr. Smith, but "all of a sudden in the last few weeks they are out-raising us, and it appears to be Mormon money."
The top leadership of the Mormon Church, known as the First Presidency, issued a letter in June calling on Mormons to "do all you can" to support Proposition 8.
Mormon donors said they weren't coerced*. "Nobody twisted my arm," said Richard Piquet, a Southern California accountant who gave $25,000 in support of Proposition 8. He said Mormon Church leaders called donating "a matter of personal conscience." Some Mormons who declined to donate said their local church leaders had made highly charged appeals, such as saying that their souls would be in jeopardy if they didn't give. Church spokesmen said any such incident wouldn't reflect Mormon Church policy.
* One faithful Mormon's story:
The stake [LDS diocese] president called on our home last night, a pre-arranged appointment that made my wife and me anxious. We knew it was going to be about California’s Proposition 8– that’s all the stake’s been talking about for the past month. It’s become ad nauseum in these parts ...
As it turned out, when the SP sat down with us, it was actually about making a contribution– a rather sizable contribution. He already had a figure in mind ...
Different thoughts ran through our minds after the visit. My wife wanted to know how they came up with the customized figure and stewed over the notion that they probably reviewed our tithing records ... Meanwhile, I didn’t like the idea of tallies being made for each ward. The SP said they’d be getting back lists of the donors and how much they paid. I didn’t like the idea of my faithfulness being gauged so. I also didn’t like contributing to a coalition of churches, many of which I suspect are Huckabee** fan clubs. Plus, let’s face it, it was a huge chunk o’ change they were asking from us.
Constant exhortation from the pulpit, home visits from ecclesiastical leaders, personal quotas based on past giving, tallies kept for each congregation = California's Mormons should count it a blessing that no actual arm twisting was involved in this fundraising effort.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in California after the State Supreme Court ruled in May that an existing ban, enacted by referendum in 2000, was unconstitutional. That prompted opponents to organize the current ballot initiative to amend the state constitution, banning same-sex marriage.*
* Actually, opponents of marriage equality had already organized "the current ballot initiative" well in advance of the State Supreme Court ruling.
Since then, the fight over the initiative has come to be seen as a crucial battleground: If voters uphold the right of gay couples to marry in the nation's most populous state, it could give momentum to efforts to legalize same-sex marriage elsewhere.
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is bucking the conservative wing of his party to campaign against the initiative. The latest statewide poll, taken at the end of August, shows that 54% of the state's likely voters oppose the initiative while 40% support it.
The battle has drawn in money from around the country. The Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic group, has given $1 million to support Proposition 8. Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization composed mainly of evangelical Protestants, has given more than $400,000. The Yes on 8 campaign has received "more proportionally from the Latter-day Saints Church than from any other faith," said Mr. Schubert, 35% to 40% of the total.
The Mormon Church encouraged its members to send their donations to a separate post-office box set up by a church member, said Messrs. Schubert and L. Whitney Clayton*, a senior Mormon Church official involved in the campaign. Mr. Clayton said the church didn't keep track of how much individual Mormons donated, just the cumulative total. He said members bundled the donations and forwarded them to the campaign.
* My favorite L. Whitney Clayton quote:
... popularity according to the world's prevailing norms is a very perilous scale to use to measure what's right ...
No kidding, Clayton. That's why our courts overturned our anti-miscegenation laws, even though those laws were popular at the time. It's why I would be equally upset to find myself being asked to cast a vote that would define "marriage" in such a way as to exclude "Mormon marriage" ... For Mormons, of all people, to now favor popularity contests over constitutional guarantees, and for the Mormon leadership to openly denigrate our judiciary in letters read over the pulpit to the rank-and-file membership, will surely lead thoughtful Americans to conclude that your church places more importance on political expedience than on defending what is right.
A Web site run by individual Mormons, Mormonsfor8.com, has tracked all donations to the Yes on 8 campaign of $1,000 or more listed on the California secretary of state's Web site. The site's founder, Nadine Hansen, said they have identified more than $5.3 million given by Mormons but believe that donations from church members may account for far more than 40% of the total raised.
Robert Bolingbroke, a Mormon who lives near San Diego, said he and his wife decided on their own to donate $3,000 in August. Later, he was invited to participate in a conference call led by a high church official, known as a member of the Quorum of Seventy. Mr. Bolingbroke, a former president and chief operating officer of The Clorox Co., estimates that 40 to 60 Mormon potential donors were on that call, and he said it was suggested that they donate $25,000, which Mr. Bolingbroke did earlier this month. Mr. Bolingbroke said he doesn't know how he or the other participants on the call were selected. Church leaders keep tithing records of active members, who are typically asked to donate 10% of their income each year to the Mormon Church.
Same-sex marriage hits at the heart of Mormon theology, said Terryl Givens, a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond. According to scholars and documents on the Mormon Church's official Web site, couples married in a Mormon temple remain wedded for eternity and can give birth to spirit children in the afterlife. Most importantly, Mormons must be married to achieve "exaltation," the ultimate state in the afterlife. Mormons also believe they retain their gender in the afterlife.
"This all explains the Mormon difficulty with homosexuality," said Mr. Givens. In a theology based on eternal gender*, marriage and exaltation, "same-sex attraction doesn't find a place."
* Like all LDS, Mormon gays are confident they'll "retain their gender" in the afterlife. The issue at hand is "sexual orientation." The good professor parrots an all-too-common Mormon malapropism, making it necessary to point out yet again that "gender" doesn't mean what Terryl Givens thinks it means.
The church, which typically* stays out of political issues, has occasionally entered the fray. In the 1970s, for example, it opposed the Equal Rights Amendment.
* Typically? And before ERA, where did the LDS church stand on Civil Rights? In any case, as far as marriage is concerned, let's take a look at what the Mormons have had to say over the years:
1. From the current LDS manual for young men (12-18 years old - i.e., the Aaronic Priesthood):After six decades of bad marriage advice from the Mormons, isn't it about time we stopped paying attention to LDS admonitions on the subject?
“We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question”
2. From the 90's: RUSSELL M. NELSON:
”The commandment to love our neighbors without discrimination is certain. But it must not be misunderstood. It applies generally. Selection of a marriage partner, on the other hand, involves specific and not general criteria. After all, one person can only be married to one individual. The probabilities of a successful marriage are known to be much greater if both the husband and wife are united in their religion, language, culture, and ethnic background. ”
3. From the 80's: SPENCER W. KIMBALL:
"We are unanimous, all of the Brethren, in feeling and recommending that Indians marry Indians, and Mexicans marry Mexicans; the Chinese marry Chinese and the Japanese marry Japanese; that the Caucasians marry the Caucasians, and the Arabs marry Arabs."
4. From the 70's: BOYD K. PACKER:
“We counsel you…to marry…within your race. Now interracial marriages are not prohibited but they are not encouraged, for the blood that’s in your veins is the blood of the children of the covenant.”
5. From the 60's: BRUCE R. McCONKIE:
"...[I]n a broad sense, caste systems have their root and origin in the gospel itself, and when they operate according to the divine decree, the resultant restrictions and segregation are right and proper and have the approval of the Lord. To illustrate: Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry."
6. From the 50's: MARK E. PETERSEN:
"I think I have read enough to give you an idea of what the Negro is after ... It isn't that he just desires to go the same theater as the white people ... the Negro seeks absorption with the white race. He will not be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage ...Now we are generous with the Negro. We are willing that the Negro have the highest education. I would be willing to let every Negro drive a Cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. But let them enjoy these things among themselves. I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation?"
The prominence of Mormon donors in the Proposition 8 fight has also led to alliances with evangelical Protestant groups and other Christian religions, some of which have deep theological differences with Mormons.
Jim Garlow, pastor of the evangelical Protestant Skyline Church near San Diego and a leading supporter of Proposition 8, said, "I would not, in all candor, have been meeting them or talking with them had it not been for" the marriage campaign. Rev. Garlow said he had developed a "friendship" with the Mormons he met, although he feels the theological differences remain "unbridgeable."*
* Reverend Jim's candor is admirable, but "theological differences" are the least of this unwieldy coalition's worries. The Yes on 8 campaign has employed a legal team (Alliance Defense Fund) that bars hiring of Mormons, Jews or any other non-Evangelical applicants.
But he noted how Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants have formed tight bonds through their joint work against abortion, and he said a similar process* might occur with Mormons.
* But such a "process" is not really up to the Mormons, is it, Jim? It's up to you and your Evangelical buddies to get out of the business of hating Mormons. Growing up Mormon 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.
Asked if working on Proposition 8 might improve the standing of Mormons in the eyes of evangelicals, Mr. Clayton said, "That's just not been on our radar."*
* With all due respect, Mr. Clayton, your radar might be due for an upgrade. Here's Mitt Romney in a September 2007 Q&A with Christianity Today:
CT: How do you think relations between Mormons and Trinitarian Christians have changed during your lifetime?
Romney: I don't know that there's been a significant change relating to doctrine. [But] 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."
Mr. Clayton said he would be happy to work with "anyone else who would be willing to roll up their sleeves and go to work to try to preserve marriage between a man and a woman. That's our interest."*
* The Mormons are undeniably working hard to eliminate marriage equality in California, but what about the Evangelicals running the Yes on 8 campaign? Are they rolling up their sleeves? Not so much.The Saints are being played for suckers by the same bigot brigade that forced my Mormon ancestors to flee the country to escape persecution.