December 6th, 2008 by M. French

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty released a full page ad in the New York Times today entitled No Mob Veto. It calls for an end to violence toward religious institutions that supported Proposition 8, and is signed by leaders representing various faiths. The letter is reprinted below (click on it to enable zoom):

For those that would like to show their support for the ad, you can add your name to the letter on their website NoMobVeto.org.  Be aware however, that it calls for one questionable commitment that may prevent some of you from adding your name, specifically.: “Furthermore, beginning today, we commit ourselves to exposing and publicly shaming anyone who resorts to the rhetoric of anti-religious bigotry – against any faith, on any side of any cause, for any reason.” Is this really a commitment that authentic believers in the Messiah should promise to undertake? Why would we “commit” ourselves to “publicly shame” everyone that commits a certain act, let alone something as open-ended and all-inclusive as committing “anti-religious bigotry” (whatever that may mean) towards “any faith, on any side of any cause, for any reason.” Is Satanism included?  How about death-crazed Islam? Are people like Joel Richardson of Joel’s Trumpet, who are rightfully (and non-violently) exposing this demonic manifestation of Islam guilty of “anti-religious bigotry”?

Overall, however, the Becket Fund ad should be commended for its clear and uncompromising call to end religious intimidation and violence. (For those who have signed the letter, I encourage you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.)

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT lobbying group and political action committee, posted a response to the ad on their website, reprinted below:

Demand the Truth

HRC’s Religion and Faith program launches response to untruthful NY Times ad.

Today, members of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion Council responded forcefully to a full-page ad in the New York Times that implies there is an organized attempt to foment mob intimidation and violence toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints due to its actions dehumanizing lesbian and gay people in the recent election campaign, particularly in California around passage of Proposition 8, which stripped gay families of the right to a civil marriage.  The ad was sponsored by NoMobVeto.org, a project of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

When did the LDS Church become the victim?  It’s hard to believe, but that is exactly what it is trying to convince the public of.  It is continuing to spend an excess of dollars in an attempt to mislead the public and transform its image.  But the truth is that this is the same church that conducted a national broadcast to every temple, calling on members to organize and write checks to the Prop 8 campaign.  The same church that donated more than half of the $40 million behind Prop 8, even though California Mormons represent just 2 percent of the state’s population.  Yes, it’s the same church.

Don’t allow them to replace the truth with their own version of the truth. Use our Religion Council’s message today to take action and demand the truth:

  • Click here to write a letter to the New York Times
  • Click here to send an email to the Becket Fund, the organization that paid for the misleading New York Times ad
  • Click here to share your personal story with NoMobVeto.org and let them know how the passage of Prop 8 affected your life

What HRC’s Religion Council had to say:

  • “Several signatories to the ad are generals in the culture wars,” said Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Church (Epsicopal), Pasadena, Calif.  “They lied about gay people in the campaign, and now they are lying again when they say we are in favor of mob intimidation and violence.  I personally talked legitimately angry demonstrators in California out of such action and every credible LGBT organization called for peaceful resistance to the Prop 8 travesty.  Many of the leaders cited in this ad preach hate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, then look the other way when LGBT people are the victims of hate crimes.  This ad is an act of individual and corporate hypocrisy.”
  • Bishop John Selders of Amistad United Church of Christ in Hartford, Conn. commented, “As an African-American, I’ve heard this before.  A few frustrated members of a minority group respond in anger to a new indignity and the oppressor calls them anarchists.  Satan, sometimes called the Father of Lies, is at work when powerful people seek to dehumanize those who are less powerful.”
  • Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre of Iliff School of Theology in Denver agreed, “I am always struck that those in power, those who manipulate the truth to maintain oppressive structures, present themselves to the public as the ones being persecuted.  Make no mistake, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a powerful organization with an agenda of imposing a narrow religious view upon the rest of America.  As we Hispanics say, ‘que vergüenza’ (what a shameful act).”
  • “Calls for tolerance of certain religious viewpoints rings hollow in a world where religion often stands by tolerating violence perpetrated on God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children,” was Rev. Dr. Erin Swenson’s reply.  Dr. Swenson is a Presbyterian minister and psychotherapist in Atlanta.
  • Rev. Dr. Ken Stone of Chicago Theological Seminary said, “While I agree that violence and anti-religious bigotry need to be combated, we must also demand an end to the violence undertaken by those religious institutions that not only encourage but also fund bigotry against lesbians and gay men. Where will the Becket Fund be when we call for endorsements of hate crimes and employment protection legislation for LGBT people?”
  • Here’s what Rev. Dr. Mary A. Tolbert of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the Pacific School of Religion had to say: “The ‘No Mob Veto’ ad would be more convincing as a statement of concern for civil debate over the well-organized and well-funded participation of the LDS church in the passage of Prop 8 had it not itself ended with a clear threat of intimidation toward anyone criticizing that church’s role in the election.  As the Christian gospels demonstrate in Jesus’ action of overturning the tables of money-lenders in the temple, sometimes speaking the truth to entrenched and wealthy religious leaders requires a dramatic stroke. To protest the enormous financial involvement of a religious body in stripping equal rights from California LGBT people, their families, and their children is in no way anti-religious bigotry; it is instead, like the example of Jesus in the temple, an attempt to speak the truth to those rooted in power and wealth whose actions serve to deprive other human beings of the equal respect and dignity all of God’s children deserve.”
  • Rev. Rebecca Voelkel of the Institute for Welcoming Resources of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force summed up: “As a Christian, I was taught not to ‘bear false witness.’  One of the deepest tragedies of the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign in California was its bearing false witness– more plainly stated, its lies– about the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.  This ad is one more example.  In response to the passage of Proposition 8, faithful, honorable, patriotic Americans from every walk of life and of many sexual orientations and gender identities gathered to say no to lies and yes to love, truth and the American way.  To name these overwhelmingly peaceful gatherings as mobs dishonors me, my family, members of my church and so many others who participated in them.  As a Christian, my religious tradition also admonishes me to speak the truth in love.  Therefore, I prayerfully ask those who have run this ad and others like it, to stop your false witness.  Instead, and especially in these times, our country and our world need all of us, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, pagans and all people of faith, to work on behalf of the dignity of all human beings.”

The HRC’s response to the ad is fascinating because it accuses the LDS Church of conducting “a national broadcast to every temple, calling on members to organize and write checks to the Prop 8 campaign” and donating “more than half of the $40 million behind Prop 8, even though California Mormons represent just 2 percent of the state’s population.” Has encouraging people to make a difference for the cause of righteousness and authentic love now become illegal or immoral?

In addition, the HRC has somehow convinced themselves that it is virtually impossible for Mormons to ever be victims, asking: “When did the LDS Church become the victim?  It’s hard to believe, but that is exactly what it is trying to convince the public of.” The HRC needs to wake up and realize that it is indeed possible for other groups to be mistreated in this country, even organizations they believe to be “oppressors.”

As if these strange accusations and perceptions weren’t enough, next to the article on the HRC’s website, the link to the Becket Fund’s letter states “Click on the image below to read the untruthful ad”.  One wonders how the ad was untruthful, since the HRC article never makes that clear. The only direct accusation made concerning what the ad allegedly “lied about” was not found in the main HRC article but in a quote from Rev. Susan Russell who said, “They lied about gay people in the campaign, and now they are lying again when they say we are in favor of mob intimidation and violence.” Her comments, however, are highly inaccurate.  The ad never stated that the LGBT community was in favor of mob intimidation and violence – in fact, gays and lesbians were never even mentioned in the Becket Fund ad. The point they were making was that the LGBT community (without mentioning them by name) had either turned a blind eye toward or made excuses for the behavior of those who engaged in mob intimidation. Rather than accusing the writers of this ad of being “untruthful” without backing up their claims in the slightest, perhaps the HRC should consider taking the ad’s rebuke seriously and start leading the charge against religious violence and intimidation in their community.

It’s encouraging to see organizations such as the Becket Fund stand up for religious liberty and call for an end to religious violence and intimidation.  Mormons, believing Christians, and people of other faiths (or even non-faiths) have the right to let their voices be heard and to affect positive change in society.  They should not be punished for their success.

For more on the subject of the LDS Church, check out Dr. Brown’s Line of Fire show Should Evangelicals and Mormons Work Together?.

Posted in News, Sexuality & Gender Tagged with: , , , , ,

December 5th, 2008 by M. French

Dr. Brown wrote in his article Is There a “Civil Right” to Gay “Marriage”? that “A just-released study by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has also found that over 350 separate state anti-discrimination laws would likely be affected by the legal recognition of same-sex ‘marriage.’” Let’s take a look at the study in question.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a law firm based in Washington D.C. dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions.  They describe themselves as “nonprofit, nonpartisan, and interfaith”, and they seek to operate in the court of law, public opinion, and academia. The study they released sought to assess how state anti-discrimination laws would affect conscientious objectors to same-sex marriage if gay marriages were legally recognized.  The study can be viewed as a pdf file here: [Link to Study]

The study analyzed state laws having to do with gender discrimination, marital status discrimination, and sexual orientation discrimination.  They found that “because gender discrimination laws are on the books in all 50 states, moral objections to same-sex marriage could be treated as a form of gender discrimination in every state.” For the 15 states that have marital status discrimination laws, but not sexual orientation discrimination laws, they would have a “sudden imposition of an entirely new category of anti-discrimination lawsuits if same-sex marriage were imposed.” After surveying over a thousand of these laws, they determined that “over 350 separate state anti-discrimination provisions would likely be triggered by recognition of same-sex marriage.”

Their conclusions are below (emphasis mine):

Based on this data, we conclude that if same-sex marriage is recognized by courts or legislatures, people and institutions who have conscientious objections to facilitating same-sex marriage will likely be sued under existing anti-discrimination laws—laws never intended for that purpose. Lawsuits will likely arise when religious people or religious organizations choose, based on their sincerely held religious beliefs, not to hire individuals in same-sex marriages, refuse to extend spousal benefits to same-sex spouses, refuse to make their property or services available for same-sex marriage ceremonies or other events affirming same-sex marriage, or refuse to provide otherwise available housing to same-sex couples. This wide-ranging conflict between governments and conscientious citizens would take years of litigation to resolve, assuming that it could be resolved.

From the words of a nonpartisan and interfaith public interest law firm, we see that the imposition of same sex marriage will likely result in a muzzling of our ability to live consistently with our loving and non-violent faith in Jesus.  As Rob Dreher, editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News, stated concerning the conclusion of the study: “It is not a scare tactic, or a made-up charge: there really will be a substantial effect on traditional churches, synagogues, mosques and religious institutions if gay marriage is constitutionalized.”

Posted in Law & Politics, News Tagged with: , , , , ,