Prop 8, a Campaign Based on Fears and Lies

As someone who was raised in the Mormon Church and fulfilled my two-year missionary assignment overseas, I know something about Latter-day Saints teachings.
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It's hard to believe, but there's a backlash being carefully crafted against gay Americans who are understandably hurt and angry at the passage of California's Proposition 8. Even though that narrow vote stripped loving couples of their legal right to marry, some religious leaders would have us believe that gay America is targeting religious freedom in protesting the outsized role of the Latter-day Saints Church.

There have been nationwide protests, but nearly everyone has been peaceful. In any case, how do a few isolated incidents of spray paint equate with losing a constitutional right to equality given under the law? How does one incident of white powder in one church building -- a horrible act everyone condemns -- suddenly turn gay Americans into terrorists? It does if your singular goal is to block equality for one group of Americans.

And when did the LDS Church become the victim? Is this the same church that conducted a national broadcast to Mormon chapels 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 two percent of the state's population?

As someone who was raised in the Mormon Church and fulfilled my two-year missionary assignment overseas, I know something about LDS teachings. And I know that God's view on homosexuality as expressed by Mormon prophets and leaders has changed so many times that the Church has little credibility in this area.

Church Elders have advocated for the utter destruction of homosexuals and have not ruled out violence as a defense against someone who is gay. Today, the Elders do not condone violence. That's a relief.

And it's confusing everywhere you turn. The church long proclaimed that being gay is a choice. Today, Elders sidestep the issue by saying the Church doesn't have a position on what makes people gay. Today the Church asks gay members to remain celibate where they once called on us to overcome our homosexuality and return to "normal, happy" living.

Mormon prophets say they have a direct line of communication with God. Is God changing His mind? To many of us, this constant retelling and rewriting God's view is reminiscent of their view of Black members. The Church stated that African-American men could not participate in the full blessings of the Gospel, until a revelation by their prophet in 1978 said all worthy males could hold the Priesthood. I remember being instructed about how to talk to Black people I might encounter as a missionary -- that they were welcome in the Church, but they'd never attain the full status that other men could achieve.

Finally, I believe many are missing the fundamental rub here: the Prop 8 campaign was based on fears and lies. Fears that homosexuality would become elementary school fodder, and lies that churches would be taxed, and priests or ministers refusing to marry gay or lesbian couples would be arrested.

They knew, and certainly the LDS Church knew, that what was taken away in California was the right to a civil, legal marriage. It had nothing whatsoever to do with religions which remained free to either open or close their doors to same-sex ceremonies.

So, yes, people are mad. And that anger is fueled not just by the towering role of the LDS Church, but the fact that a religious institution which promotes truth would, in this case, promote and fund lies. That doesn't sit well, whether you're a former Mormon as I am, or simply a gay American who sees one religion intent on taking his legal rights away.

Bruce Bastian, who lives in Orem, Utah, is the co-founder of WordPerfect.

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