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Friday, February 04, 2011

Protecting Religious Freedom: LDS Apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks Calls for Unity, Respect for Constitutional Liberty

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke today at Chapman University on the topic of protecting religious freedom. Chapman University is a prestigious private university in beautiful Orange County, California. I am glad that they would host a leader from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called "the Mormon Church") on such an important topic. The LDS Newsroom reports:
In a landmark address today to the Chapman University School of Law, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirmed the importance of the free exercise of religion and called for people to work together to protect this First Amendment right. “It is imperative that those of us who believe in God and in the reality of right and wrong unite more effectively to protect our religious freedom to preach and practice our faith in God,” he said.
Elder Oaks is a respected LDS leader and a legal scholar who appreciates the significance of the US Constitution and the complex issues around religious liberty. His call for unity among religious groups is urgently needed to protect the easily eroded gift of religious freedom.
Elder Oaks noted instances in which individuals who have spoken out or acted in accordance with their religious beliefs have been disciplined, dismissed from their employment and otherwise punished, describing these cases as another sign of the threat to the free exercise of religion.

“All of this shows an alarming trajectory of events pointing toward constraining the freedom of religious speech by forcing it to give way to the ‘rights’ of those offended by such speech,” Elder Oaks said.
Looks like an excellent and much-needed message by someone who understands the importance of this topic. Religious liberty is being threatened here in the United States, as he illustrates with some examples in his talk. Of course, it is non-existent in many nations and has recently become more precarious in other places. Yes, I continue to worry about the future of religious liberty of any kind in the Middle East, in many parts of Asia, and throughout the world. May the flame of religious liberty burn especially brightly here that other nations may see more clearly.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints calls for unity to preserve constitutional religious freedom.Elder Dallin H. Oaks of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints calls for unity to preserve religious freedom.

Update, Feb. 5: The Deseret News provides more details about the talk. An important aspect in his discussion of the erosion of religious liberty here and in other nations is government pressure against speaking openly on religious teachings about marriage.
Of his four points, Elder Oaks spent most of his time on the third, offering a number of trends "eroding" both the protections provided by the free exercise clause and its historical public esteem.

He quoted Cardinal Francis George, the then-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who referred in a 2010 BYU speech to "threats to religious freedom in America that are new to our history and to our tradition" — including threats to current religious-based exemptions from participating in abortions and the development of gay rights and the call for same-sex marriage.

Said Elder Oaks: "Along with many others, I see a serious threat to the freedom of religion in the current assertion of a 'civil right' of homosexuals to be free from religious preaching against their relationships. Religious leaders of various denominations affirm and preach that sexual relations should only occur between a man and a woman joined together in marriage. One would think that the preaching of such a doctrinal belief would be protected by the constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion, to say nothing of the guarantee of free speech. However, we are beginning to see worldwide indications that this may not be so."

He labeled as alarming recent evidences of a narrowing definition of religious expression and an expanding definition of "the so-called civil rights of 'dignity,' 'autonomy' and 'self-fulfillment' of persons offended by religion preaching."

And he took exception to the suggestion by President Barack Obama's head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that a "sexual-orientation liberty" could become such a right that it should prevail over a competing "religious-belief liberty."

"Such a radical assertion should not escape analysis," Elder Oaks said, because it condemns the notion of a centuries-old fundamental right of freedom of religion to becoming recast as a simple "liberty" ranked among many other liberties. It also would create sexual orientation as a fundamental right called "sexual liberty" and to the conclusion that religious expressions can be overridden by a fundamental right to "sexual liberty."

The result: Legal definitions of traditional marriage and family are deteriorating and under attack.

"All of this shows an alarming trajectory of events pointing toward constraining the freedom of religious speech by forcing it to give way to the 'rights' of those offended by such speech," Elder Oaks said. "If that happens, we will have criminal prosecution of those whose religious doctrines or speech offend those whose public influence and political power establish them as an officially protected class."
The full transcript of his speech, including numerous footnotes, is available online at LDS.org. (I love it when footnotes are included!) Here's an excerpt (footnote numbering left intact) that I found especially important, and surprising in the extent of troubling trends that he notes:
When Cardinal Francis George, then President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke at Brigham Young University last year, he referred to “threats to religious freedom in America that are new to our history and to our tradition."28 He gave two examples, one concerning threats to current religious-based exemptions from participating in abortions and the other “the development of gay rights and the call for same-sex 'marriage.'" He spoke of possible government punishments for churches or religious leaders whose doctrines lead them to refuse to participate in government sponsored programs.

Along with many others, I see a serious threat to the freedom of religion in the current assertion of a “civil right" of homosexuals to be free from religious preaching against their relationships. Religious leaders of various denominations affirm and preach that sexual relations should only occur between a man and a woman joined together in marriage. One would think that the preaching of such a doctrinal belief would be protected by the constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion, to say nothing of the guarantee of free speech. However, we are beginning to see worldwide indications that this may not be so.

Religious preaching of the wrongfulness of homosexual relations is beginning to be threatened with criminal prosecution or actually prosecuted or made the subject of civil penalties. Canada has been especially aggressive, charging numerous religious authorities and persons of faith with violating its human rights law by “impacting an individual's sense of self-worth and acceptance."29 Other countries where this has occurred include Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Singapore.30

I do not know enough to comment on whether these suppressions of religious speech violate the laws of other countries, but I do know something of religious freedom in the United States, and I am alarmed at what is reported to be happening here.

In New Mexico, the state's Human Rights Commission held that a photographer who had declined on religious grounds to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony had engaged in impermissible conduct and must pay over $6,000 attorney's fees to the same-sex couple. A state judge upheld the order to pay.31 In New Jersey, the United Methodist Church was investigated and penalized under state anti-discrimination law for denying same-sex couples access to a church-owned pavilion for their civil-union ceremonies. A federal court refused to give relief from the state penalties.32 Professors at state universities in Illinois and Wisconsin were fired or disciplined for expressing personal convictions that homosexual behavior is sinful.33 Candidates for masters' degrees in counseling in Georgia and Michigan universities were penalized or dismissed from programs for their religious views about the wrongfulness of homosexual relations.34 A Los Angeles policeman claimed he was demoted after he spoke against the wrongfulness of homosexual conduct in the church where he is a lay pastor.35 The Catholic Church's difficulties with adoption services and the Boy Scouts' challenges in various locations are too well known to require further comment.
These concerns are not paranoia. In a world and nation of growing power in the hands of the State, the threat of intrusions on religious liberty are real. Various excuses can always be offered for curtailing the influence of religion, but to protect liberty, lines must be drawn that the State cannot cross. I agree with Elder Oaks that we need concerted effort among religious groups, however divergent our theology, to preserve the liberty guaranteed by the Constitution regarding religion. That liberty is not just the liberty to silently believe whatever we want inside our own little cranium, but to preach, to speak, to influence, and to practice. And the freedom to speak must include the ability for religions and religious people to speak out on social issues.

Here's a video of some comments by Elder Oaks in an interview after his speech at Chapman.


Update, Feb. 6, 2011: For those interested in further details and legal analysis regarding the threat to religious liberty associated with conflicts around same-sex marriage, see Roger Severino's article (PDF) "Or for the Poorer? How Same-Sex Marriage Threatens Religious Liberty" in the Summer 2007 issue of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. It's easy to say that the issue should not affect religious liberty, but it's quite a different matter in practice. The legal implications are serious and merit further debate and discussion.

205 comments:

1 – 200 of 205   Newer›   Newest»
Openminded said...

I see a somewhat hypocritical parallel with this and the LGBT's need for liberty, which is primarily being denied by religion.

Pops said...

Um, you're kidding, right? If LGBTs want something some religion won't give them, they're free to start their own religion. Only governments can deny liberty.

Openminded said...

Oh please, Dallin Oaks. Losing freedom of speech because, all of a sudden, gay people can get married? Can we pull up some analogy from the denial of interracial marriage, 'cause that is about how ridiculous things have gotten.

And Pops, I'm going to go ahead and ask that same question to you. Are you serious?

"The result: Legal definitions of traditional marriage and family are deteriorating and under attack."

Good. They were no better than the ones based on race from back in the day. Eventually, things will go the way of love and equality.

Christianity will always speak out, in some way, against it though. It's ingrained in the Bible, anyways. And the culture. A sometimes surprisingly unforgiving culture.

Good riddance. What a backwards civil rights issue.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Openminded, do you see religious liberty as a fundamental right to be preserved? What do you think of those who take the "good riddance" view regarding the religious liberty of groups who don't share their opinion on gay marriage? Is religious liberty something that is available only for selected, approved topics?

Take a look at some of the encroachments detailed by Dallin Oaks. If governments can extend their power to punish those who express religious views you disagree with, what will stop them from later inhibiting or controlling religious expression in other areas?

Openminded said...

Jeff,
religious liberty is a very serious issue to me.

But come on, you have to know by now that the government has restricted religion before. This is not a slippery slope of doom for religious expression. Sure, advocates of traditional-only marriage are coming under fire, and it's wrong. Just like it's wrong that even slightly religious people get denied jobs in professorship in areas such as science.

But what's also wrong is denying a fundamental liberty to the human life: allowing marriage. You would be horrified to wake up and find that your marriage has been struck down. You'd likely feel extremely discriminated if, as you were falling in love with someone, you couldn't take it the next step of marriage because heterosexual orientation was something looked down upon.

You list some serious encroachments of religious liberty (trying to keep up with the updates here), and religion should not be a factor in the hiring process unless it interferes with the work in some way (YEC as an astronomer?). But the position of traditional-only marriage is likewise an encroachment of liberty, and should be looked down upon just like the denial of interracial marriage.

Openminded said...

Also, if the Westboro Baptist Church is any "indication", I'm sure you guys will be just fine.

I really see this as church leadership grasping for straws to prevent gay marriage.

Pops said...

Elder Oaks' point is this:

...it condemns the notion of a centuries-old fundamental right of freedom of religion to becoming recast as a simple "liberty" ranked among many other liberties.

In other words, under the current philosophy all that is required to eliminate freedom of religion is to find or fabricate "liberties" that can be ranked ahead of specific religious beliefs, thus destroying religious freedom one tenet at a time.

Brett said...

This is such a joke for our leaders to present on such a topic... and in California, no less.

We've shredded section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants and now we have the nerve to speak out about respect for the Constitution?

What if I belonged to a religion that believes homosexuality is not wrong and teaches the sanctity of gay marriage as well as hetero marriage? Not only have we failed to protect that religious freedom but we've gone out of our way to deny it.

It's not that Elder Oaks is wrong in what he's saying, it's just that we need to protect ALL freedoms guaranteed by our constitution... not just the ones that WE believe in.

Pops said...

What if I belonged to a religion that believes homosexuality is not wrong and teaches the sanctity of gay marriage as well as hetero marriage? Not only have we failed to protect that religious freedom but we've gone out of our way to deny it.

I don't know who you're referring to when you say "we". The LDS church does not control the United States federal government, nor does it control any of the various state governments. The role of the LDS church in these matters is to lobby government to do those things it believes are in the best interest of preserving society. If you would like to encourage government to do something different, I'm not aware of anything prevents you from doing so. (Lobbying for something you desire is not the same as attempting to silence those with differing views. All voices deserve to be heard.)

If you belonged to such a church, you would be free to perform and engage in gay "marriages" - which is sort of like saying you could draw square "circles", but that's a different topic.

Openminded said...

"In other words, under the current philosophy all that is required to eliminate freedom of religion is to find or fabricate "liberties" that can be ranked ahead of specific religious beliefs, thus destroying religious freedom one tenet at a time."

You're overreacting. Dallin Oaks is overreacting. And Brett is right, there is hypocrisy written all over this statement.

But don't worry. You'll be fine. He's just employing every bit of rhetoric he can to scare the public away from gay marriage. I can't blame him either, there's not really a constitutional argument against it, and this "definition of marriage" thing is more of a political sound bite than it is a legal argument against gay marriage.

Brett said...

@Pops

The "we" I'm referring to is members of the LDS church who put the time and money towards Prop 8 and similar measures across the country. It also refers to the LDS church involvement in NOM. Those efforts in California were specifically directed at removing constitutional rights of a minority. And they succeeded (for now).

You wrote: "The role of the LDS church in these matters is to lobby government to do those things it believes are in the best interest of preserving society."

LDS Corp can certainly lobby as much as it would like. But it has now lobbied, and encouraged its members, to take away religious freedoms from others. That makes Elder Oaks talk a bit hypocritical.

Let me ask you this: if the people were to vote in favor of removing the LDS church's right to perform civilly recognized marriages, would that be an attack on our religious freedom and on our constitutional liberties?

Kathryn Skaggs - LdsNana said...

As someone who has frequently experienced the backlash of having the audacity to speak out on current issues with my "faith based" opinion, I am thrilled with Elder Oaks address!

Thanks for sharing it.

tDMg

Pops said...

Let me ask you this: if the people were to vote in favor of removing the LDS church's right to perform civilly recognized marriages, would that be an attack on our religious freedom and on our constitutional liberties?

Good question. I'm not sure that would be a slam dunk either way. I believe it's currently the situation in some countries.

If a law were enacted that prohibited the Church from performing any marriages at all, that would be a problem. But the argument can be made that the state has the prerogative to decide who can and who cannot act as its agent in establishing state-sanctioned, legally-binding associations.

Those efforts in California were specifically directed at removing constitutional rights of a minority.

Help me out here. Which constitutional rights are being taken away?

Rander said...

Marriage throughout history has been an institution aimed at protecting the family unit in which procreation of children is possible. I can't buy the idea that it is a fundamental right for any arbitrary parties, but a covenant with serious obligation and duties rooted in human biology--the biology that procreates, leaving women and children vulnerable without marital protection. Marriage has almost always been subject to societal limitations (e.g., not marrying close relatives, being of adequate age, etc.), with limitations varying depending on culture, but it has been rooted in male-female relationships.

Outside of legal marriage, domestic partnerships are possible. Consenting adults can live together if they wish and have lifelong or temporary partnerships, but why does marriage need to be redefined?

The protections as well as obligations society confers upon legally recognized marriage does not deny any fundamental human right to those who do not wish to be in other kinds of relationships. I understand you strongly wish to change the historic definition of marriage so that you won't feel that a domestic partnership is a second-class relationship, but to do so would challenge and erode the millennia-old institution of traditional marriage and would enter into a social experiment that may have some undesired consequences.

Brett said...

@Pops

You wrote: "Good question. I'm not sure that would be a slam dunk either way. I believe it's currently the situation in some countries."

It is that way in other countries but in those countries it usually applies to all religions (or all except the predominate/state-sponsored religion).

"If a law were enacted that prohibited the Church from performing any marriages at all, that would be a problem."

So why is it okay to take away that right from those who believe in gay marriage?

"Which constitutional rights are being taken away?"

The right to marry the partner of one's own choosing regardless of gender. That was the constitutional right that was removed by Prop 8 in California.

Brett said...

@Rander

Your view of marriage is, it would seem, rooted in your personal religious beliefs. As has been indicated by Elder Oaks, we ought to respect the religious beliefs/freedoms of others as well.

The argument that the definition of marriage is somehow historically fixed is false. It has changed throughout history, including the history of the LDS Church.

Further, we don't legislate the purposes for which any given couple gets married. Some do not have the intent of procreating. Others lack the ability. Gay couples can and DO have children. Are their kids less deserving of protections?

I certainly agree that marriage for many of us is a sacred religious ordinance and a covenant with God. My temple marriage/sealing certainly was and is. But my beliefs about my marriage are not the beliefs of others and, again, others' beliefs in this regard need to be honored... even if those beliefs contradict ours.

We (the United States) attached a host of rights to the ordinance and contract of marriage. Constitutionally guaranteed due process and equal protection under the law require that we extend those same rights to the homosexual minority.

Pops said...

The right to marry the partner of one's own choosing regardless of gender.

I can't seem to find this in the Constitution - a little help?

Brett said...

@Pops

Study the California Supreme Court decision which overturned Prop 22. That's the best explanation.

Prop 8 specifically amended the CA constitution to remove the right of marriage regardless of your partner's gender.

But, many of us believe that the due process and equal protection clauses in the U.S. Constitution also guarantee marriage equality.

Pops said...

Marriage isn't a right. There is a right of association, which I don't think is infringed in any way - free people can and do live with whomever they choose.

Marriage is a specific contractual relationship offered by the state whereby one man and one woman are united under the law. The state has an interest in the relationship because it is the one known to produce the next generation of citizens.

The state has no interest in establishing a contractual relationship with two men living together, or two women living together, or three men, or a man and his dog. The people involved may have a personal interest and are free to enter into contracts with each other.

To say that the state should be gender-blind when it comes to marriage, given that gender plays a pivotal role in the state's interest in marriage, is like saying visual acuity shouldn't be taken into consideration when issuing a driver's license, or legal training when admitting to the bar.

Brett said...

@Pops

"Marriage isn't a right."

You can keep saying it but...

The California Supreme Court disagrees with you. Twice (when they overturned Prop 22 and again when they overturned Prop 8).

The federal district court judge who overturned the marriage definition clause in the Federal Defense of Marriage Act also disagrees with you.

The US Supreme Court who ruled that marriage is a "basic civil right" in Loving v Virginia (different case, but quite a few parallels) also disagrees with you.

Regarding the interest of the state in only allowing man-woman marriage, you can take a look at my response to Rander. We've never legislated the reasons for a marriage and gay couples have children.

As for your analogies they don't hold up: visual acuity has a direction impact on one's ability to drive. Ditto with legal training and the ability to practice law. But, one's sexual orientation does not adversely their ability to marry the person they love.

125 years ago we, as a people, (I'm LDS, not sure if you are) were upset that the federal government wouldn't respect our definition of marriage. The federal government came and seized the assets of our church. Now, another minority wishes to have the same benefits of marriage under their belief system. Why are we working to deny that? Is it sour grapes? Or, just hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Reading Oaks's speech, one would think that the evil atheist-secularist-relativist-homosexualist oppressors had gotten some law passed that denied Mormons the right to marry. For a guy on the winning side of the contest, he sure knows how to play the victim.

Also, I thought it was rather unseemly for Oaks to stress the role "religion" played in the abolition and civil rights movements, given the fact that President Young was not an abolitionist and President Benson despised MLK. Yes, religion has played a key role in ending injustice. It has also played a key role in furthering injustice.

Oaks claims to be demonstrating that the right of free expression of religion has eroded, but in fact he does no such thing. To demonstrate that claim, Oaks would have to compare the overall state of religious expression today with that of some period in the past. It ain't enough just to cite a few cherry-picked examples, and Oaks knows this perfectly well. He's smart enough to know what he's about here: standard-issue culture-war sophistry.

Anonymous said...

Right on, Brett. Pops doesn't know what he's talking about. In claiming marriage is not a right, I'll bet he's playing this game: The Constitution does not specifically enumerate a right to marriage, ergo, marriage is not a right. (Pops needs to ponder the 11th Amendment.) In any event, the California case hinges on a different right: our constitutionally guaranteed right to the equal protection of the laws. (Pops needs to ponder the 14th Amendment.)

The Church has regrettably confused its own doctrines with Constitutional realities and come down on the wrong side on this one. It will come to rue the day.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, do you really buy the divisive, us-against-them BS that Oaks is selling? Did you not notice (to give just one example of his sophistry) that he claimed "a serious threat to the freedom of religion in the current assertion of a 'civil right' of homosexuals to be free from religious preaching"--and then tried to back up that claim by citing incidents from OTHER COUNTRIES that don't have a First Amendment like we do?*

Q: Why would he cite anecdotes from other nations in a talk about our own American "constitutional liberties"? A: In order to conjure up a threat that in fact does not exist here. (Need I add that religious leaders should have more respect for the truth?)

In any event, in this country, the First Amendment right to express religious condemnation against homosexuality would seem to be awfully darned secure--witness Fred Phelps.

Finally, as an atheist, I want to call out your replication of that part of the headline which reads, "Oaks Calls for UNITY." "Unity"? Of a sort, I guess. Oaks is calling for the religious to unify themselves AGAINST a common enemy (which just happens to be a minority in this country, and that just happens to include at least one reader of your blog, namely, me). That strikes me as divisive. Does it not bother you, at least a little bit, to see a leader of your church calling for such a thing (and calling it "unity")?

If anyone wants to issue a true call for unity in this country, they should appeal to that which in fact DOES unify ALL of us as Americans. That something is NOT religious belief; it's our shared commitment to the political norms and procedures of our form of constitutional democracy.

Maybe someday a less parochial Mormon leader will have the intellectual courage to call for THAT kind of unity.

* Says Oaks, "One would think that the preaching of such a doctrinal belief would be protected by the constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion, to say nothing of the guarantee of free speech," which is to say he is clearly speaking of the American context. But he immediately adds that "we are beginning to see WORLDWIDE indications that this may not be so," and he goes on to cite international evidence, not American evidence. Do you see the rhetorical slippage here?

Pops said...

The discussion really does hinge on whether marriage is a right or a contract. I disagree with the notion that it's a right on the basis that rights exist independent of governments. A marriage license is an instrument of government and does not otherwise exist.

But, one's sexual orientation does not adversely their ability to marry the person they love.

That's not the interest of the state in marriage. The state doesn't give a fig whether two people getting married love each other.

Brett said...

"The discussion really does hinge on whether marriage is a right or a contract."

I disagree... Either way, the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection of the law still apply.


"That's not the interest of the state in marriage. The state doesn't give a fig whether two people getting married love each other."

True. The state has no legal interest in WHY two people choose to get married. They get married for a multitude of reasons and those reasons are not judged by the state prior to giving a marriage license.

Anonymous said...

Actually, "the state's interest in marriage" is not relevant here. What counts here is "the state's interest in limiting marriage to heterosexual marriage." But the state really has no such interest that is compelling. There is no interest here, merely prejudice against a long-disfavored group. Just like the state never had any compelling interest in refusing interracial marriage. It was merely a bigoted majority enlisting the state in expressing its prejudice.

Brett said...

I often wonder what things would be like if the LDS Church had taken Elder Oaks position BEFORE the Prop 8 vote.

What if that infamous letter from LDS Corp headquarters had asked members to use their time and means to DEFEAT Prop 8. What if it had said that, in defense of our belief that everyone should be allowed to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience (A of F 11) and that human law should not dictate forms of public/private devotion (D&C 134:4), we should work to defeat the proposition.

Just think how that might have changed the tone of the debate. A Christian religion standing up vehemently for the rights of homosexuals. It could have been amazing and spiritual and uniting. It would have upheld the US Constitution in its purest form. And, it would have given religions the ground to continue to sustain their own freedom of speech/worship.

Too bad it didn't go that way.

mkprr said...

correct me if I'm wrong but as far as I know, under prop 8 you can have a same sex wedding ceremony. It just won't be recognized by the state as a marriage, it will instead be some sort of civil union. The state doesn't recognize the eternal nature of a temple marriage either by the way. I have never heard the church whine about that.

The church did fight to practice their definition of marriage 125 years ago. As I understand it though, the issue wasn't that the church felt bad because the state wasn't recognizing their plural marriages, the church was upset because the state kept throwing anyone who performed the ceremony into jail. Under prop 8 no religious rights have been revoked as far as I can tell. If I invoke the authority of God to marry a man to a man in California I won't be thrown into jail. The state just wouldn't call it a marriage. I don't see any religious rights being infringed upon here. I see how it can hurt peoples feelings though.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Anon asked, "Jeff, do you really buy the divisive, us-against-them BS that Oaks is selling?"

I think it's healthy and important to recognize that there are sincerely held religious reasons for not wanting to create a definition of marriage that is substantially different than that given in the Bible. This, of course, creates a divide between those who share those religious views and those who don't. Trying to shout down the religious folks by calling them "divisive" (along with "bigots," "morons," and some words I won't write here) strikes me as just a bit ironic if not hypocritical.

The instances of suppressed religious liberty that Oaks cites help illustrate what is clear to many on the receiving end of religious intolerance: that there is a problem, a global problem and most certainly a local one.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

And yes, there are also religious folks with sincerely held religious reasons for wanting gay marriage. They, too, should have a voice and be able to express their viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, for the purposes of this discussion it doesn't really matter whether you or others consider yourselves to be "on the receiving end of religious intolerance." This is more of that rhetorical slippage. Religious intolerance (much less verbal criticism of one's beliefs) is not at all the same thing as the denial of one's constitutional right to freely exercise one's religion.

Religious figures rather intolerantly diss atheism all the time, and polls show that an avowed atheist is even less likely to be elected president than a Mormon--but I've never thought to inflate those facts into a full-fledged Threat to My Precious Constitutional Liberty!

The really odious thing here is Oaks's victimology. He blows a lot of smoke, but fails utterly to demonstrate any genuine abrogation of his First Amendment free exercise rights--for the simple reason that there hasn't been any. Mormons, Catholics, evangelicals, and everyone else Oaks has invited to join his pity-party are as free as ever to worship, to proselytize, to argue their case in the public sphere, you name it.

But then again, maybe I'm wrong. If so, you should be able to give us at least one clear-cut example in which you or Mr. Oaks have actually been prevented by the government from exercising your religion.

If so, can you please give us one?

Brett said...

Jeff wrote: "I think it's healthy and important to recognize that there are sincerely held religious reasons for not wanting to create a definition of marriage that is substantially different than that given in the Bible. This, of course, creates a divide between those who share those religious views and those who don't."

Homosexuals are well aware of that divide and have been for quite a long time. Here's the difference... homosexuals have not tried to deny heterosexuals the ability to marry. But many of those who espouse your interpretation of the Bible HAVE sought to deny gays the ability to marry.

And that is where it becomes not only divisive but hurtful.

Brett said...

Jeff wrote: "And yes, there are also religious folks with sincerely held religious reasons for wanting gay marriage. They, too, should have a voice and be able to express their viewpoint."

Yep... I'm one of them. But we should only be allowed to "express" our viewpoint. Apparently when it comes to acting upon that belief, we must bow to the will of the majority as is the case in California. Correct?

Brett said...

@Jeff and mkprr

So let's turn the tables...

Your argument is that gays in California still have the right to establish churches and "marry" in them it just won't be recognized by the state or federal government.

Alright then, suppose that a majority of voters in your state decided to pass a proposition that would remove your right as a Mormon to marry another Mormon.

You can still be sealed in the temple, but it won't be considered a marriage. You are not permitted to receive a marriage license under any conditions. And if you marry in another state, it won't be recognized in the state where you live.

You might be able to get a "civil union" but that will ONLY be recognized in that state in which you live. It won't travel with you and it won't be recognized on a federal level.

So, if that were the case, you were absolutely banned from marrying a fellow Mormon, would you feel that your religious freedoms had been upheld? Remember, you can still be sealed in the temple - that's just as good, right?

Would you feel that those who had placed the proposition on the ballot were acting in a spirit of unity as Elder Oaks calls for?

Would you feel that they had respected your constitutional liberties?

oneofyourNathans said...

Jeff, that is a great post! It is wonderful that the Church has leaders who recognize the threats that are facing us and who say something about them. What Elder Oaks says is so true! Anyone can see what he is talking about: reductions in religious liberties in various places around the world, including the United States - and a reduction in freedom of speech.

Should government deny us the opportunity to bless so many lives with our teachings? Should government deny us freedom of religion and freedom of speech?

Aparently, some think redefining constitutional rights to include liberties that those who passed the Bill of Rights regarded as wrong, and redefining as wrong those liberties that those who passed the Bill of Rights specified as rights, is morally equivalent to holding to the founders' values. Others believe this redefining is morally superior. And still others don't care. Where will we be in ten years if we don't heed Elder Oak's counsel?

NathanS said...

Brett, If the leaders of the Church gave us the go ahead on procreation after a temple sealing, I don't think the common LDS would care what the state or the county called our unions. We didn't when poligomy was part of the Church. I believe marriage for LDS is more about obedience to God's law than about some romantic notion of the word "marriage" or about what the state thinks. Think of it this way, state recognition of a marriage has traditionally held tax liabilities, not exactly a good thing for impoverished parents of large families. State recognized "marriage" has been a financial sacrifice for LDS and for other Christians. Do gays want marriage to obey God? What did God say about a man laying with another man as with a woman? Since God told men not to do that, isn't obedience to God irrelevant to the idea of homosexual marriage? Where is your beaf but with the fact that not all aspects of society fully repudiate God's law on sexual unions? Isn't it true that that is your aim and anything short of that is hurtful? So also is it hurtful when fewer marriages occur after same-sex marriages are legally recognized and fewer children get to grow up in families with marriage relationships. So it's your hurt or others' hurt. That's not a pretty choice but it's a choice people will make. But deeper down, I don't think your hurt will end when all aspects of society fully repudiate God's law on sex. I think the only way to end your hurt is to accept God's law and his loving kindness. I think your preference is for a false choice and the result of getting your way will be more hurt instead of less.

Either way, the Lord and I love you. And that is why we would like you to perceive God's law in a better light.

Brett said...

@NathanS

You wrote: "Brett, If the leaders of the Church gave us the go ahead on procreation after a temple sealing, I don't think the common LDS would care what the state or the county called our unions."

That's ironic since we actually use the terms "legally and lawfully wed" in our temple ceremony.

But my question wasn't if the we'd pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and move forward without the benefits of legal marriage. My question is would we feel that our religious freedom had been respected if a law was passed that banned two Mormons from legally marrying.

The rest of your post seems to be arguing the case for codifying the LDS interpretation of God's will into law. Isn't that contrary to Elder Oaks message?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, so oneofyourNathans echoes Oaks's claim that there are "reductions in religious liberties in various places around the world, including the United States"--and yet, like Oaks, gives not a single concrete example from the U.S. It's easy to find examples from other countries and then slip them into an eloquent speech as if those examples tell us anything about the state of religious rights here, but it's also rhetorically sleazy, and sorry, but I object. It is not worthy of reasonable people. It is unworthy of Jeff's blog. (Jeff, don't you think you should expect better from your leaders? They're not politicians, after all. Why do you let them speechify like politicians?)

Jeff usually does better work than this. I'm wondering if maybe it was the subtlety of Oaks's rhetoric, combined with Oaks's reputation, that has caused Jeff to drop the ball on this one.

FWIW, NathanS, polygamy is STILL a part of LDS doctrine. Of course we all know that plural marriages are currently not being performed, but they remain as firmly ensconced in D&C as ever. And, of course, at least if the Church's doctrines are correct, there are any number of plural marriages going strong right this very moment in the next world.

Brett, you've clearly won your most recent point. You can tell by the way oneofyourNathans has retreated to an irrational argument-from-authority, and by the unbelievable way NathanS responded to your question. I mean, does he REALLY expect us to believe that if the government declared intra-Mormon marriages illegal, he wouldn't mind? Note the way he couched his answer in terms of that ludicrous conditional: it would be okay IF the Church leadership told us not to worry about it. That's a bit like saying, "I wouldn't mind someone cutting my legs off, IF it didn't affect my dancing...."

I would add that for all the priggishly authoritarian words above about obedience to God's commands, none of your interlocutors (except yours truly, the atheist!) seem to recognize that it is you, Brett, who is asking us to obey one of God's comandments, namely, Jesus's commandment to not do unto others what we would not have done unto us. This comandmentment is at the core of your challenge, yet none of the Christians here seem to be treating it as such. They seem rather more eager to obey God's commandments when it means setting themselves up over others and abrogating others' rights than when it means adopting an attitude of empathy, compassion, and humility.

Lots of religion going around, but not much Christianity, IMHO.

Jeff, you struck the right note when you wrote that the larger issue here is "codifying the LDS interpretation of God's will into law." This was the issue with both Prop 8 and the ERA. When is it appropriate for the Church to enter the political arena to make one of its doctrines binding on all American citizens? When, that is, has the Church itself thought it appropriate to do so? And on what grounds? The Church doesn't go political on every social issue it cares about, only some. Clearly there must be some criterion in use, but I'm not aware that the Church has ever articulated it.

Maybe the Church doesn't WANT to go too far down this road, because, after all, it is the road that eventually leads to theocracy (oneofyourNathans seems eager to get there today!) and thus a topic that feeds into anti-Mormon fears that date back to the days of Joseph Smith's campaign for President of the U.S.

What would be very interesting right about now would be a careful history of the Church's presumably evolving understanding of the theocracy question, that is, the question of the proper relationship between its doctrines and the secular law, starting, of course, with the handling of the polygamy controversy. Maybe Bushman would be interested?

Pops said...

I hold little hope for the continued existence of our society and culture, not only because of the assault on bedrock values but also because of our inability or unwillingness to understand the language used to articulate its structure and workings. The promoters of gay marriage persist in inventing new meanings for fundamental legal terms and phrases ("rights", "due process", "equal protection") in order to justify the unjustifiable. If engineers interpreted expressions of natural law in the same manner, they would build cars that fall apart, buildings that fall down, and airplanes that won't fly.

I suppose that's next.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm wrong, but Pops seems now to be invoking a particular view of morality, namely, the idea that there are "objective moral facts" on par with the objective natural facts of science. That's what gives the appearance of rationality to his analogy between moral relativism and bad engineering. (This way of thinking is quite popular among those who consider themselves opponents of moral relativism.)

Just for the sake of argument, let's assume there ARE objective moral facts on par with the facts of science. Pops's mistake is his further assumption that we ALREADY KNOW what all of those facts are. But a quick look at the history of science suggests we should not be too quick to make that assumption. What in Newton's day seemed obvious, self-evident facts about space, time, and gravity turned out not to be facts at all. In the wake of Einstein, we had to (if I may use Pops's words against him here) revise the language and "redefine" the terms "used to articulate" the natural world's "structure and workings." The result was an awkward period in which the "promoters of [relativity theory] persist[ed] in inventing new meanings for fundamental [physical] terms," etc., etc.

The same is true of what struck everyone as self-evident, obviously true facts about the age of the earth, until Charles Lyell came along and showed that we'd gotten those particular facts wrong.

The same is true of what struck everyone as the self-evident facts of natural theology--that something which is designed must have a designer, etc.--until Darwin came along and demonstrated that we'd gotten those particular facts wrong, too.

Clearly, once engineers understood that Einstein was right about the facts, they were right to shift to the new, "redefined" conceptual vocabulary. The fact was that what they'd thought to be the truth was NOT the truth, and they adjusted accordingly.

That wasn't "scientific relativism" but its very opposite. To OPPOSE this shift in spite of the evidence supporting it would have been the very worst kind of conservatism, clinging to the old ways just because they were the old ways, or just because the new ways seemed so counterintuitive. To have opposed this shift would also, of course, have retarded the progress of engineering. It would have been BAD for engineering, not good.

So, is it not possible that what we once thought were the objective moral truths about gay marriage were in fact wrong? Are we so arrogant as to think that what we have always considered a moral fact must be true merely because we always have thought it? If that's the case, then it's misleading to speak, as Pops does, about the perils of "redefining" marriage, etc.

Claiming that gay-marriage proponents seek to "redefine" marriage settles nothing. It tells us no more about the moral status of gay marriage than a claim that Einstein "redefined" gravity would tell us about the correctness of this theory.

Note that I'm not merely arguing here that Pops is wrong. I'm arguing that he's wrong even when we grant what appear to be his fundamental premises.

Pops is right if and only if his understanding of the fundamental moral facts is right. Maybe he understands those facts, maybe he doesn't, but surely it is incumbent on him to demonstrate that he does, and this he has declined to do, choosing instead to hide behind irrelevant cliches about "redefining" marriage.

I suppose at this point Pops might object that he DOES know the objective moral facts, because, as a member of the One True Church, his leaders have a direct pipeline to God, etc., etc.--the "revelation" argument. And that might work to convince him, but for me it will only confirm my sense of the supreme arrogance of the Godly.

When gay marriage is legalized and socially accepted across America, one reason will be that its opponents made such weak arguments.

Anonymous Too said...

"Maybe I'm wrong, but Pops seems ...

"...is it not possible ...? ...If that's the case....

"...It tells us no more about....

"Pops is right if ...but surely it is incumbent on him to demonstrate... and this he has declined to do....

"...it will only confirm my sense of the supreme arrogance of the Godly."

And you had the gall to say:

"When gay marriage is legalized and socially accepted across America, one reason will be that its opponents made such weak arguments."

Brett said...

Pops said: "...not only because of the assault on bedrock values..."

Are you suggesting that allowing gays to marry is an assault on a bedrock value?

You do realize that the vast majority of gays are raised by married heterosexuals, right? They are taught about the value of marriage and family. They just want to emulate it in their own lives. They see the happiness that married couples have and want it too.

The desire for commitment, monogamy, family, home... that is absolutely NOT an assault on a bedrock value it is supporting that value. To suggest that allowing gays to experience both the joys and challenges of marriage somehow damages its sanctity is ludicrous.

Pops wrote: "The promoters of gay marriage persist in inventing new meanings for fundamental legal terms and phrases ("rights", "due process", "equal protection") in order to justify the unjustifiable."

Okay - then please, explain to me how I have misunderstood the meaning of due process and equal protection. I cited state, federal, and supreme court cases to back up my explanation. Can you provide the same?

Brett said...

@Anonymous Too

Anonymous is simply using that wording as a means of allowing for discussion. I suppose he could state his opinion as fact, as Pops does, but that doesn't appear to be his style.

"...one reason will be that its opponents made such weak arguments."

Well, that was Judge Walker's verdict in the Prop 8 case.

Mateo said...

So... I'm a bit late to the party and my last post got lost to the ether. :P

Lots of interesting posts here and I enjoyed Anony's post about the importance of having definition that change over time as we seek to enlighten ourselves. It's often used as a condemnation by religious friends of mine that "science is always changing! You can't place stock in that sort of thing." What seems so odd to me is that this is a much safer way to go then deciding how something is and then refusing to ever analyze it again. Anon already hit this subject very well so no need to continue beating said dead horse.

As far as Oaks' talk goes... I really don't get in what areas he feels his religious freedoms are being upended. Is it because his religious grounds for marriage only being between a man and a woman are not accepted by the government? Is the LDS church being forced to recognize gay marriages? He states that there are strong evidences that this is the case but then seems to have forgotten to lay these out in much detail. I'm intersted to know of what reporter (that was fired for not photographing a gay marriage) he was referring to. I remember reading of one from Boston that was let go for sending inappropriate and inflammatory email out. I'm assuming this is not what Oaks would be referring to as this would not help his case much.

It's very hard to see this subject and not feel like this is a group of people that have enjoyed special privaleges for a very long time feeling frustration at the prospect of losing some of that "elite-ness" from a despised minority group. A shift towards equality will always feel like oppression from the point of view of those at the top.

Keep in mind that I'd be first in line to protect a church's right to worship as it sees fit, or to hold onto whatever bronze age moral views it chooses, but when it seeks to have it's opinion validated by the governing forces of the land (and then whines that it's being bullied when things don't go it's way) I have little sympathy.

Can we really state that freedom of religion is at jeopardy when groups like the Westboro Baptist Church are as well protected in their back wards views as they are?

Quantumleap42 said...

Just a note to Anonymous, Einstein's theory of relativity didn't prove Newton wrong. A lot of people said that it did, and I am sure that you could find someone famous that said so, but the current, and by far most widely accepted view among physicists is that Newton's theories were simply a low energy approximation to Einstein's relativity. That means for all intents and purposes we can use Newton's theories and it still works. If you take a physics class the first thing they do is teach you Newton's laws (which can actually be summarized as conservation of energy and momentum). It is only when we get to the most extreme cases that we have to start to include relativistic effects. But that does not mean we do away with everything Newton ever did, it just means we add on something more to help "correct" the equations when we are considering an extreme case. For relativity to work Einstein had to rethink a few of the assumptions made by Newton, but he did so in order to preserve even more critical assumptions made by Newton, namely regarding energy, force, momentum and invariance.

If there is anything that we should learn from "a quick look at the history of science" is that just because our understanding expands and we now have more insight and predictive power in our theories does not mean that we should do away with what we previously considered to be our foundation, but that we should actively search out, treasure, and preserve the core principles that make our existence possible.

Mateo said...

I will say this for the article and speech. It makes it very clear that gay marriage is a religious argument and not one based on constitutionality. The movement has always failed to provide a good reason for why gay people need to be prevented from having a federally accepted marriage, though they would claim that this was NOT just an attempt to legislate one particular religious outlook and that it was to "protect families." That's a standpoint I've never quite understood (what are gay people doing to damage a straight person's family? How is making a firm commitment to another person based on love something which degrades and destroys the firm commitment made by others in love?

Mateo said...

@quantumleap,
Well placed. This is correct. The idea behind what Anon was saying still holds very true though. I don't think he was insinuating that if there are slight issues with a theory that we immediately throw it by the wayside. It was more that we don't dogmatically cling to a particular theory and refuse to question it which is what we sometimes (and definitely in this case) seem to witness happening in the realm of religion.

Trying to stick to newton's theories and say "this is all there is to it!" is just plain wrong even though his theories still hold value for the concepts of physics.

mkprr said...

@ Bret,
There are many similarities between apples and oranges but there are important differences as well. If the right of an adult man and an adult woman to be married was denied because of the religion they subscribe to I would certainly see that as unconstitutional religious persecution. That isn’t what prop 8 did. As I understand it, Prop 8 was designed to legally solidify the definition of the word marriage as it has been understood for decades. Civil unions of various types are provided for anyone who doesn’t want to be married in the traditional sense of that word. If other types of unions aren’t recognized across state boarders this is an issue that needs to be addressed but changing the definition of traditional marriage isn’t necessary.

Also everyone is complaining about how Oaks is blowing things out of proportion. Please reread his comments. Oaks isn’t complaining that his religious freedoms are being upended, he is stating that there are signs that we are headed that direction. Let us compare his tactics to global warming, a far less personal matter, and see if his tactics are as extreme as you are suggesting.

We see signs and global trends that global warming is real and that it is, at least in part, due to the horrible way we are treating this planet. Should we keep polluting the atmosphere until the polar caps melt? After all they haven’t melted yet so wouldn’t it be extreme to make changes before they melt?. Or should we take note of the signs around us and make a change now in hopes of avoiding a disaster?

mkprr said...

@ Anon,
You said “and yet, like Oaks, gives not a single concrete example from the U.S.” I reread the article to try to get a sense of what you are saying and I think if you’ll take a closer look you might notice something different. Oaks clearly states when he is talking about other countries and when he is speaking about the US and he specifically lists troubling events happening in the United States of America. The example from New Mexico and New Jersey seem to be very concrete examples. Others he listed took place in Illinois Wisconsin Georgia Michigan and Los Angeles CA. Although it is always hard to prove for sure that someone was actually fired demoted or denied education because of their religious beliefs, the first two examples are clearly infringing on a person’s right to their religious convictions if he is reporting them accurately.

Mateo said...

If gays shouldn't see it as a big deal that they can't have a federally accepted marriage (You guys can have civil unions! Same thing right? Why are you crying about what it's called?!?) then shouldn't straight christitians take the same stance? What's it to anyone if a gay person is "married" to a person of the same sex? How is this a problem? I'd agree that the name seems a silly thing to worry about but if they're wanting to be married I see no rational reason for denying them this.

Straight people would be (and rightfully so) furious if this same rhetoric was used to tell them that their marriages are not valid so can we quit acting like things are all fair and equal and that gay people are out of line by making such a request?

Anonymous said...

Quantumleap42: Well, sure. Absolutely true. I'm well aware (as a former physics major) that what Einstein did was basically to relegate Newton's theories to the status of a "special case," perfectly OK for low energy states, etc., etc.

However, what people believed prior to Einstein was that Newton had it absolutely nailed, that what Newton had discovered was a set of "nature's immutable laws," to use a popular phrase that made pretty explicit the parallel people so love to make between "natural law" and "moral law." But that belief--that what Newton had given us was a Great Big Shiny Universal Truth--was indeed simply wrong.

You write, If there is anything that we should learn from "a quick look at the history of science" is that just because our understanding expands and we now have more insight and predictive power in our theories does not mean that we should do away with what we previously considered to be our foundation, but that we should actively search out, treasure, and preserve the core principles that make our existence possible.

Yes, in the case of Newtonian theory we don't "throw Newton out"; we just take care to limit our application of Newtonian mechanics to cases where it is appropriate, which is to say, we don't treat it as if it were universal. On the other hand, there are any number of discredited theories that we really DO just have to throw out. Thomas Burnet's Theory of the Earth isn't really much help any more in our search for the truth, nor is William Paley's creationism, nor is phlogiston....

The point, of course, is that those who want to anchor anti-gay-rights arguments in some set of objective moral facts don't do themselves any favors by analogizing to science. In science, truths are always provisional. They have a status which is the precise opposite of that desired by the moral absolutist (not to mention tye believer in divine revelation). And of course there is so much we don't know. The real lesson is humility.

Mateo said...

@mkprr,
The analogy to LDS members being denied a federal marriage seems valid to me. There ARE religions that strongly believe that a gay marriage is JUST as sacred as a straight one and that it is equal. You have government that is telling them that their beliefs are not upheld by the state (which I don't really have a problem with.) While I don't think this is a freedom of religion issue, it goes both ways. You can't claim that freedoms are being infringed (0r are in danger of being infringed) because your personal religious views are being pushed to the side by the state or fed.

The main reason that keeping religion out of state practices is such a good thing to pursue is that nobody freakin' agrees on religion. Oaks laments this but it's a good thing for him that more evangelicals in the south have a limited impact on the way our country runs. Secular government allows people to hold onto their own beliefs without opposing religions telling them how to do it.

I've always seen freedom of religion as protecting any individual church from all the other churches. Lately it seems like it's always used to talk about how the evil secularists are trying to destroy all religion (or that we're concerned they might in the future based on the dangerous trends we see in 5 or 6 cherry picked examples of dubious authenticity.)

Scott said...

@Brett I'm mormon and I agree with you 100%. The only thing I would perhaps propose is that the government not try to define or perform marriages at all, but only provide civil unions, and provide civil unions for everyone. Then let churches or individuals define marriage how they please. Illinois recently passed same sex civil unions that would be equal to marriage in all respects, only differing my what we call them. I'm tempted to convert my state marriage into a civil union. I feel like that would make my temple sealing even more sacred.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Scott. Michael Kinsley wrote a great article, "Abolish Marriage," making a very similar argument (which is basically I think a libertarian one).

Part of the problem seems to be semantic, to be rooted in the fact that we use the same term, "marriage," to describe what the government does and what churches do. That's a problem, because the government must conform to anti-discrimination laws, the Fourteenth Amendment, etc., while churches are guaranteed the freedom to perform marriages according to their own particular beliefs. Churches have a right to refuse to perform gay marriages, interracial marriages, marriages between the divorced, and so on. So we need somehow to separate government activity from church activity.

The whole debate is not really over marriage per se, but about marriage licenses, that is, over the government sanction or approval of marriages. Kinsley argues that if we just get government out of the marriage game entirely the problem is solved. The government could approve civil unions for both gay and straight couples, without calling them "marriages," and these civil unions would define the couple's tax status, hospital visitation rights, and all the rest of the legal and practical stuff.

Then those same couples, if they wished, could augment their government-issued civil unions by getting married in the church of their choice and enjoying whatever they believe to be the spiritual benefits of so doing. Gay couples seeking Godly sanction could get married in the Metropolitan Community Church. Straight Mormon couples could get their marriage sealed in the Temple, etc.

Problem solved!

Except, of course, for those who WANT the government involved in marriage because they WANT the government to enforce its doctrinal stance on morality. I think that desire is wrong. I think government should not enforce religious doctrines; churches should be responsible for that on their own.

Mateo said...

@scott,
That's probably the best solution. :) Why government is involved with this decision is just all sorts of problematic. Civil unions (that are recognized accross state lines) for everyone and let people and their religions decide for themselves what things they consider a marriage. :P

Anonymous said...

Yes! Let's use the libertarian approach and simply abolish government marriage entirely.

Anonymous said...

The anti-religious liberty agenda in the gay-marriage movement is revealed in the refusal of its advocates to offer religious-liberty exemptions in the legislation they advance.

See "The Carrie Effect" by Maggie Gallagher.

Here is part of what she wrote.

On the same day the Iowa court ruled for gay marriage, the Vermont legislature passed a gay-marriage bill. A few days later, they voted to override the governor’s veto and the Vermont civil-union law (passed by court order) was converted to gay marriage.

There was a silver lining. Quite unexpectedly, Vermont legislators insisted on something brand-new before they would pass gay marriage: some substantive (if not fully adequate) religious-liberty protections. Gay-marriage advocates have never been willing to offer any such protection. Instead, in state after state, the gay-marriage establishment will countenance only what one scholar friend calls “fake religious-liberty protection.” She means laws that say clergy won’t be required to solemnize same-sex marriages. The gay legal establishment is not stupid: They know the First Amendment already prevents government from pushing clergy around in that particular way.

But it does not prevent the government from pressuring religious groups in other ways; it doesn’t prevent the law from being misused to pressure religious schools, charities, and other religious organizations that refuse to recognize same-sex unions as marriages. The First Amendment did not, for example, protect Boston Catholic Charities from crippling discrimination lawsuits for failing to place children with gay couples. It did not protect a Methodist group in Ocean Grove, N.J., from government-imposed penalties (including the loss of a tax exemption) for refusing to permit same-sex civil-union ceremonies on its property. It did not protect Elaine Huguenin, a New Mexico wedding photographer who was fined more than $6,000 because she did not want to photograph a same-sex ceremony, or the Christian physicians in California who have been given a rather bleak choice: your faith or your job.

Why hasn’t the Human Rights Campaign stepped forward to endorse more generous religious-liberty protections? Why don’t they take this argument away from me and my fellow marriage advocates? Why, instead, does HRC president Joe Solmonese — when I asked him on Hardball whether he thought religious groups and people should be punished for failing to accept gay unions as marriages — say, “When religious organizations step into the public sphere, it should not be surprising to people that they are bound to adhere to the laws in the states that they are operating in”?

I have been turning these questions over in my mind ever since I became aware of how serious the religious-liberty impact of gay marriage is likely to be. If the negative effects of gay marriage on religious people and institutions are an unintended consequence, why not step forward with generous conscience protections? And if the legal pressures on religious groups are an intended consequence, that’s something the American people are entitled to know.

mkprr said...

Mateo,

You said, “You can't claim that freedoms are being infringed (0r are in danger of being infringed) because your personal religious views are being pushed to the side by the state or fed.”
Did anyone claim that? If you read Oak’s again he isn’t expressing worry about the definition of marriage being changed (although we know that this probably does concern him) , in this talk he is concerned that people will be obligated by law to recognize the new definition even though it goes against their religious beliefs, and then he lists a few examples where this is already happening. Am I reading the same article that all of your guys are?

Scott, I agree, it seems that would be the best way to separate church and state on the issue for good and would free religion to be as strict about the definition of marriage as they want to be.

Mateo said...

@the last anon,
I see nothing wrong with setting up provisions to protect the rights of religions to continue condemning homosexuality. If this is the true objection then why don't we focus on this? I see this sort of reasoning often bandied though as a way to reject gay marriage entirely stating that it's a slippery slope. If the LDS church can continue to bar people from entering it's temples based on things like adultery or breaking the word of wisdom with safety from legal attack then I seen no good reason why this can't be the same. Women still can't hold the priesthood even though civil rights have already progressed secular society away from the ideals of the past.

If the true fear is that the LDS church will be forced by the government to perform gay marriage it should be talking about that and pushing for that sort of governmental change (something I would support 100% just as I would support it for any other religion or lack of religion.)

You'll always be able to point to people in any group that make excellent examples of how scary the other side is. These however don't give an accurate or fair representation of that groups real opinions. Just look at our political landscape. If you are conservative how fairly do left media groups present your feelings and opinions? If you're on the left how well does Fox news present your viewpoints when they talk about the left?

Jeff Lindsay: said...

For those interested in further details and legal analysis regarding the threat to religious liberty associated with conflicts around same-sex marriage, see Roger Severino's article "Or for the Poorer? How Same-Sex Marriage Threatens Religious Liberty" (PDF) in the Summer 2007 issue of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. It's easy to say that the issue should not affect religious liberty, but it's quite a different matter in practice. The legal implications are serious and merit further debate and discussion.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what Maggie Gallagher would think of a white restaurant owner who refused to serve black people for religious reasons. (And yes, many Christians did indeed consider the separation of the races to be one of God's immutable timeless truths.) I wonder if she considers the "public accommodations" laws that would require this guy to serve black people to be a violation of his First Amendment rights.

If Gallagher DOES consider the guy's religious liberty to have been violated, then she's got a problem that goes back a lot further than the gay rights movements.

If she DOESN'T consider the guy's religious liberty to have been infringed, then I wonder how she can count most of her cited examples (e.g., the wedding photographer) as examples of FA violations.

Here's the thing. The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

If, on the basis of religious belief, someone wishes to discriminate against black people in offering a public accommodation, should we consider that discrimination to be an "exercise" of his religion?

Maybe, maybe not. It certainly doesn't strike me as an exercise of religion in the same way as worship, baptism, and like.

But even if we DO count it as an exercise of religion, should we nonetheless think of it as falling into the same category as religious practices deemed a danger to society, such as the religious use of the hallucinogenic drug ayahuasca? As I understand it, the potent brews of ayahuasca used to attain religious visions are currently illegal in the U.S. (AFAIK without a peep of protest from Gallagher or the LDS Church).

Outlawing ayahuasca strikes me as much more of a government prohibition of the free exercise of religion than anything cited by either Dallin Oaks or Maggie Gallagher.

Maybe some religions are more equal than others. Or maybe we all actually agree that sometimes FA rights are trumped by other considerations, like the attainment of a society free of invidious and socially destructive discrimination in the public sphere.

If all that the religious are worried about is that they might, in their public activities re adoption and the like, have to be as inclusive and nondiscriminatory as Jesus, whom they pretend to admire but seem to emulate mainly in the breach, then I say they protest far too much.

Mateo said...

@mkprr,
I'd agree that if the way Oaks stated things in his talk are true the first two seem rather out of line. If a personal photographer is refusing to take on a client for whatever reason (if they are black and the person doesn't like black people) they should be allowed to do so as long as they aren't breaking any contracts or being openly discriminatory or doing it in a way that would harm the person's reputation. The same would go for a privately owned pavillion IMO unless there are local laws that I'm not understanding it should be their choice to discriminate how they wish.
These examples are rather problematic though (even on their face):
"Professors at state universities in Illinois and Wisconsin were fired or disciplined for expressing personal convictions that homosexual behavior is sinful.33 Candidates for masters' degrees in counseling in Georgia and Michigan universities were penalized or dismissed from programs for their religious views about the wrongfulness of homosexual relations.34 A Los Angeles policeman claimed he was demoted after he spoke against the wrongfulness of homosexual conduct in the church where he is a lay pastor."

If you are a professor and in your duties as a professor you choose to attack someone's sexual orientation this is a rather disgustingly inappropriate thing to do and as a dean or person in charge of employment I would certainly dismiss such a person or take disciplinary action. They're welcome to think that person is a sinner for being gay but using their position as a professor to do so is not the slightest bit okay.

With the grad students its again the same issue. Having a view that homosexuals are sinners is fine to hold. From what I remember reading about these cases from awhile back this isn't the full story though. It seems like the disciplinary action was for repeated and unprofessional attempts at public grandstanding. Perhaps there was injustice in these cases but I'm just going off the (admittedly) biased point/counterpoint arguments on this sort of thing.

With the police officer I find the way Oaks states it to raise the eyebrows a bit. Is the story really that a police officer was let go for no other reason then that in his personal time he teaches against the sin of homosexuality, or is there more to it? I'd venture that there probably is. I'd definitely defend his right to believe as he wishes and to not engage in homosexuality, but if he was making such opinions on the job in inappropriate ways then I can definitely understand why disciplinary action would need to be taken.

If a teacher attended a church that preached that homosexuality was the orientation god preferred, started to preach to your children that they would go to hell unless they practiced homosexuality, how would you feel? Should freedom of religion protect such an idea? I think it should certainly protect their right to hold and express such viewpoints, but the second they start spouting such nonsense as a paid schoolteacher (and under that mantle of authority) they have crossed a major line and I'd be rather upset.

Oaks has placed these examples to illustrate that freedom of religion is unravelling or is destined to unravel if we don't take action. I'm really not seeing it.

Anonymous said...
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mkprr said...

Yes I would agree that the first two examples are the most concrete. Not enough information is stated to give a good background into the school and employment situations and we all know how apt people are to point fingers after being fired.

Mateo said...

yeah. With the photographer example I can see it one of two ways. One: photographer made some sort of highly offensive comment and the frustrated potential clients got revenge. Two: the photographer was as professional as possible while retaining his religious values and these people were just bitter and looking for someone to make an example of and tried suing. Hard to say on these cases.

They don't seem like very strong examples of an obvious shift towards eliminating freedom of religion though.

I basically get very frustrated that people can use the "it's my religion" card to get out of something that in any other case would be a cut and dry example of bigotry and prejudice.

While I don't think that people should be forced to change such opinions it does bug me that they get upset when such viewpoints are disregarded for what they are.

Mateo said...

Probably the most likely scenario though is that the photographer was having an off day and worded things in an arguably offensive manner. Couple was offended and told friends about it that spurred them to seek legal council. Local media gets wind of the scenario and can smell the cash and it turned into a highly dramatized soap opera. :P

Pops said...

Not that anybody cares any longer, but my last comment was about how legal terms are being redefined to make it appear that gay marriage is supported by the existing legal infrastructure. It really doesn't matter if it's a judge or a protester or an advocate changing definitions, the point is that the entire system of laws and legal philosophy is jeopardized when this approach is taken. Maybe the people doing the changing are doing so intentionally, maybe not, but the end result is the same.

Gay marriage advocates claim that marriage is a "right". Well, those making that claim need to provide us with the new legal definition of the word "right", because it sure doesn't fit the old one. They also need to go back and rework centuries of legal reasoning that rely on a particular definition of the word.

The danger in redefining terms is perhaps best explained using an analogy from physics. Most people are familiar with the mathematical expressions of Newton's First Law, on of which is f = ma. This equation only works when "f" is force, "m" is mass, "a" is acceleration, consistent units are used, and the meanings of "=" and the process of multiplication aren't altered. If any of those is redefined, the equation no longer works, nor does any equation derived from or dependent on the corrupted equation. And in the process we'll no longer be able to build stuff that works except by luck.

The same happens when we change the meaning of the word "right" within the context of our legal infrastructure. Everything that logically depends on a particular definition of the word "right" is corrupted and our legal infrastructure is left in shambles.

Mateo said...

@ pops,
Yes!!! The entire country and our state of order and efficiency would be completely toppled if we allowed same sex couples to be "married"! Human sacrifice! Dogs and Cats, living together! Mass Hysteria! :)

Please explain what the inherent dangers to our society are in allowing your gay neighbors to live in a "marriage" versus a "civil Union".

As far as the physics example goes what people are stating to you is that this is akin to finding out, "hey! there's another component to this equation! If we add in constant C (which has a very minimal effect in most cases but has been shown to make the equation more accurate to reality) then the equation is a closer approximation to reality!"

Until the anti-gay marriage movement can provide some satisfying reasons as to why their fellow Americans should be denied equal status then their arguments are going to continue being pushed by the wayside.

Brett said...

@mkprr

You wrote: "That isn’t what prop 8 did. As I understand it, Prop 8 was designed to legally solidify the definition of the word marriage as it has been understood for decades."

Actually, homosexuals HAD the right to marry. So, while Prop 8 was redefining marriage, it was also intentionally stripping gays of their right to legally wed.

Funny that you said "as it has been understood for decades". Really? Is that all it takes now... just the "decades" old definition. You are correct of course - it was most recently changed when we started allowing interracial marriage. I'm curious, was that an "okay" change to the definition of marriage? Is it just gays that should be excluded?

You wrote: "Civil unions of various types are provided for anyone who doesn’t want to be married in the traditional sense of that word."

But gays DO want to be married in the traditional sense of the word. It's how we heterosexuals raised them. I think it's actually a sign that parents did a good job raising their kid (in my opinion).

"If other types of unions aren’t recognized across state boarders this is an issue that needs to be addressed..."

Exactly... by granting marital rights to all. That would do it. Yep.

"...but changing the definition of traditional marriage isn’t necessary."

Then again, as you noted, that "traditional" definition is only about 40 years old. Not really a big deal to give it an update. AND, we don't all agree on that definition. It's more of a religious definition and as Elder Oaks is explaining, one person's religious beliefs shouldn't trump another's.

"Also everyone is complaining about how Oaks is blowing things out of proportion."

I'm not. I actually agree with Elder Oaks on many of his points. I just believe that the LDS Church is NOT a victim right now, it's a perpetrator.

Regarding your analogy, you are right, we should act now based on the signs we are seeing. One of those signs is that in 2008 a coalition of church organizations worked together to promote ballot proposition in the state of California that actually amended the state constitution to REMOVE the rights of a minority group of citizens.

Brett said...

@Scott

I agree wholeheartedly. The government never should have been in the business of marriage. It should have remained a religious ordinance.

Would we ever want the government to somehow "certify" baptism into churches? Of course not. That's a religious ordinance. And yet, we somehow let them into marriage.

I agree that civil unions for all is a good compromise. And, yeah, it would probably make our temple sealings feel that much more significant to us.

Brett said...

@Pops

I responded to your earlier post but you didn't reply... but there were a lot of posts between that and now so I'll go for it again:

Let's assume we go with your definition that marriage is not a right... it's a legal contract entered into by two people.

Then, can you explain to us how we are misinterpreting the "due process" and "equal protection" clauses in the Constitution?

I've provided state, federal, and supreme court decisions to support my assertion that marriage is a right and that denying marriage based on gender is a violation of due process and equal protection. Can you do the same?

Pops said...

Let's assume we go with your definition that marriage is not a right... it's a legal contract entered into by two people.

It's a contract involving three parties. You left out the state.

I've provided state, federal, and supreme court decisions to support my assertion that marriage is a right...

If we call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? (How one answers this question is important to the discussion.)

By changing the definition of "right", we create inconsistencies and contradictions in the infrastructure of legal logic upon which our entire legal system relies. To wit, the protection of rights has historically required nothing more than eliminating obstacles to the free exercise of natural rights. The new definition of "rights" - the "right" to marriage, the "right" to health care - places government in the position of compelling certain positive behaviors. If a person has a right to health care, then government can compel a doctor to donate his time and knowledge to the treatment of someone else. If marriage is a right, then government can compel parties to perform positive actions in support of this so-called right.

Some of the kinds of nonsense rulings we can expect if we persist in going down this path are:

- Wedding photographers being compelled by law to assent to requests to cover gay marriages, or being prosecuted or successfully sued for refusing to do so (already happened).

- Prosecution of religious leaders and others for speaking out against homosexual acts (already happened).

- Schools being required by law to teach homosexual acts to school children (next in line).

- LDS temples and other institutions banned from performing marriages because of their refusal to perform gay "marriages" (not far off).

The maintenance of a free society requires a consistent and logical legal framework. Misguided efforts to legitimize gay "marriage" by deconstructing that framework will produce dire consequences. Sow the east wind, reap the whirlwind.

Pops said...

The government never should have been in the business of marriage.

Government got into the business of marriage because it's a stakeholder. The state has an interest in children being raised in stable circumstances that were once provided by the traditional nuclear family. That structure, and the nature of the marriage contract, has been chipped away until it no longer bears much resemblance to what was originally intended.

I agree that civil unions for all is a good compromise.

Pragmatically speaking, we may well have arrived at this point. But it's still the white flag of surrender to the forces that would destabilize society.

Brett said...

@Pops

You wrote: "It's a contract involving three parties. You left out the state."

Really? That's an argument that you want to make... that the government is a party in your marriage?

Not me. No thank you.

But, once again, let's say you are correct. Then due process and equal protection guarantee that any two consenting adults can enter into the same contract, regardless of gender.

You asked: "If we call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?"

I'll answer your questions, when you give me the courtesy of answering mine. Otherwise this isn't a discussion I wish to continue.

You wrote: "To wit, the protection of rights has historically required nothing more than eliminating obstacles to the free exercise of natural rights."

In May of 2008, those obstacles WERE eliminated for gay couples to get married. Then, in November of 2008, 52% of California voters altered their state constitution placing an obstacle in their way.

However, as I think I've said before, I'm willing to accept your definition of the term "right" for the purpose of this discussion because, as you noted, I certainly don't accept that there is a right to health care, in that sense. But, you will need to explain to me how our constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection don't prevent us from denying two lesbian women access to a marriage license.

Does the state have an interest in stable families for children? Yes. But, they don't require children of married couples nor do they prevent them from divorcing. Gay couples also have children that deserve equal protection.

Brett said...

@Pops

Now, let's address some of those specific examples you mentioned:

Regarding the New Mexico wedding photographer. New Mexico does NOT permit gay marriage. So this is irrelevant to the marriage equality debate. That case was based on existing non-discrimination laws.

Regarding prosecution of religious leaders for speaking out against homosexuality: Can you cite a case in which one of these religious leaders was actually convicted? In the U.S.?

Schools aren't required to teacher heterosexual acts (at least not where I live) so I don't know why they'd be required to teach homosexual acts. And I'd be in the front of the line to fight against both.

Freedom of religion in our country guarantees that churches will not have to perform gay marriages. And, again, I'd fight for that freedom if it was threatened. But denying equality to a minority as a means of "firing the first shot" and making sure they don't try to curtail our freedoms is hardly Christ-like.

Why don't you go ahead and cite the OGCMA Methodist case in New Jersey and then I'll tell you why it is totally inapplicable.

I'm surprise Oaks didn't mention that. And I'm especially surprised that he is still trotting out some of the same "cases" that we made and thoroughly debunked during the Prop 8 campaign.

Brett said...

@Pops

"But it's still the white flag of surrender to the forces that would destabilize society."

I believe you and I agree that there is much that can and should be done to strengthen families.

Where we seem to part ways is that I see granting marriage equality as one of the ways that we can reinforce the importance of marriage and family.

You are, of course, welcome to disagree with that. But you haven't yet made a case as to how gay marriage would weaken other family units.

Steven B said...

Elder Oaks calls tried to make his speech appear to be about religious freedom in a general, non-specific application. It is clear that his words were really all about a perceived threat to religious freedom brought about gay rights. This is evident from the statement in his conclusion section:

"All that is necessary for unity and a broad coalition along the lines I am suggesting is a common belief that there is a right and wrong in human behavior that has been established by a Supreme Being."

Are we to believe that his broad coalition is to be concerned with Islamists who want to behead anyone who criticizes their prophet as an exercise of their religious freedom? No, this is all about society being able to condemn gays and their relationships.

Perhaps I am stating the obvious.

Along these lines then, I would comment that there are three main areas of possible conflict between gay civil rights and religious liberty. First is marriage equality for same-sex couples. This poses no conflict with religious freedom. We all know this. If Oaks worries that the church will be forced to solemnize SS marriages, it ain't gonna happen. 'Nuff said.

Second, many people with deeply held religious beliefs, like the New Mexico photographer, may want to discriminate against gay people in housing, services and employment. But the Church has already come out in support of legal anti-discrimination measures in society, just so long as it doesn't touch upon marriage. So this must not be Oaks' concern, even though his list of case evidences in the U.S. was comprised almost entirely of this type of religious freedom/civil rights conflicts.

The third area of conflict with religious freedom has to do with what is taught at the pulpit and the ability of religion to condemn gays as inferior and sinful. Oaks expressed serious concern about the ability of religion to "to preach openly, to evangelize, to engage in the public square."

This third area of concern is where Oaks and the Church are going to loose. This becomes a matter of the state having a compelling interest in protecting the health and well being of its citizens. As such, it trumps free exercise of religion. Oaks mentioned this principle in part III of his speech:

". . . in a nation with citizens of many different religious beliefs the right of some to act upon their religious beliefs must be qualified by the government's responsibility to further compelling government interests, such as the health and safety of all. Otherwise, for example, the government could not protect its citizens' persons or properties from neighbors whose religious principles compelled practices that threatened others' health or personal security."

There is serious pressure from both educators and from the LGBT community to address the problem of bullying in the schools and to curve the problem of violence and hate crimes against LGBT citizens. This is an issue of public health and personal security for U.S. citizens. The need to tone down the rhetoric from the pulpit is serious. And I think, eventually, the Church will loose on this one. I think it is going to become very unpopular, if not illegal, for society to continue to condemn gay people as inferior, dangerous or evil.

Steven B said...

I said, "I think it is going to become very unpopular, if not illegal, for society to continue to condemn gay people as inferior, dangerous or evil."

OK, I misspoke. It will not become illegal in the U.S. to condemn gays, nor is it illegal to condemn blacks or Jews or any other unpopular group. But it won't do anything for LDS Public Relations to continue down the road the church is headed. One way or another, the church will find its freedom of religious speech curtailed.

Michael said...

The problem I have with the Church's insistence in claiming this is infringing upon their ability to participate in the public square is that they are not willing to provide us faithful gays and lesbians with some very simple answers to very simple questions BEFORE they condemn us and force us to live lives of celibacy:

1) Trust our experiences and acknowledge that we did not choose our orientation.

2) Provide us with a framework of how our orientation fits within the larger plan of salvation (Matthew 19:12 and natural eunuchs). This may require an actual revelation from the Lord to clarify just as the Prophet Joseph received on many other perplexing subjects.

3) Explain how our orientation will suddenly be switched from homosexual to heterosexual upon entrance to the next world when this goes against the principal of "restoration" as articulated by Alma to his sons (our natural traits and attributes will remain unchanged as we progress unless we make an effort to permanently put off the natural man).

4) If we are required to live the "law of celibacy" as compared to a "law of chastity" then make a place for celibate singles who are trying to remain faithful and stay within the Church.

5) Clearly define and explain what defines "gender" under the Restored Gospel and how does that factor into our pre-mortal and post-mortal states of existence. If we do not reach the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, what happens to our sex organs. What defines male and female in an eternal sense if we are not able to pro-create eternally.

6) Please clarify if marriage is for love or for the raising of children. If it is for love then explain why gays and lesbians are not allowed to love. If it is for the raising of children then be consistent if requiring childless couples to live the law of celibacy and prohibit "companionship marriages" for widows and widowers.

Faith without reason leads to spiritual tyranny. Reason without faith leads to spiritual emptiness. Expecting obedience whilst ignoring reason does not build faith.

Mateo said...

@stephenb,
Well stated. I don't think that condemning homosexuality in public will ever be made illegal but it will be delegitimized in the same way all of us deal with the Westboro Baptist Church when they decide to picket a funeral. They have a legal right to say what they please but nobody has to listen to it and they can't do this sort of thing from a position such as a professor of a university or a gradeschool teacher or conduct business in a discriminatory way (if their state has anti-discrimination laws in effect and the deed is found to be in violation such as the New Mexico case that was brought up by Oaks.)

You point out something telling in the idea of this talk using points that are almost all based on discrimination of a gay person when the church earlier tried to say that it is against such things. With all these cases it was a person going about a discriminatory act in a way that violated law or private policies of the place they worked. Had the photographer refused to photograph the wedding because the couple had engaged in pre-marital sex (something that also probably was "against her religion") she should expect a similar response.

The subject is a tricky one. What do you do when some people find their religion to conflict with the desired choices of others in their country. Especially when there is not a sound legal argument to be made against the request.

Mateo said...

It would seem that the more things change the more they stay the same.

"I fully agree the Negro is entitled to considerations, also stated above, but not full social benefits nor inter-marriage privileges with the Whites, nor should the Whites be forced to accept them into restricted White areas” (Stapley, 1964)

Now this may have not been an official statement from a prophet but it does seem a bit telling of possible attitudes inside the church at the time. I realize many members hate having gay marriage compared to inter-racial marriage but the similarities seem rather striking.

Brett said...

@Michael

Great list and summary.

I've worked with gay youth in the church and I know that your list of points are consistent with the questions and issues they run up against.

Anonymous said...

That law review article Jeff directed us to above offers pretty weak stuff. On one page we read that "Religious  institutions  may  soon face another stark choice: either abandon their religious principles regarding marriage or be 
deprived of the ability to perform  legally recognized marriages altogether" (pg. 977).

What follows is basically a slippery slope argument (i.e., a fallacious argument). The first steps down that slope are these:

"Vermont has already held that the  state constitutional free exercise  rights of town clerks are not violated when they are fired for refusing to participate  in the issuance of civil union licenses to same‐sex couples for  religious  reasons. Already, at least twelve dissenting Massachusetts justices  of the peace have been forced to resign for refusing to perform  same‐sex  marriages, despite their  willingness to perform  traditional marriages" (978).

In what way exactly is the issuance of a secular piece of paper like a marriage license, or the performance of a wholly secular civil marriage ceremony, an "exercise of religion"?

It's as if someone whose religion forbids the eating of pork were to get a job as a checker at a supermarket, refuse to ring up the customer's bacon, get fired, and then make a First Amendment case like this: "I believe pork-eating is a sin, but my boss made me sell pork for other people to eat! He violated my religious liberty!"

Sheesh.

Brett said...

Anonymous wrote: "In what way exactly is the issuance of a secular piece of paper like a marriage license, or the performance of a wholly secular civil marriage ceremony, an "exercise of religion"?"

I got married in the San Diego LDS temple 12 years ago. As I recall, we had to get a license first and getting that license was completely independent of the temple ceremony. Getting the license was an entirely secular activity.

The temple ceremony, on the other hand, was an entirely religious event (at least in my mind).

As a temple-recommend holding member of the LDS Church, I still think it would be fair for the government to say: If you are going to discriminate with respect to marriage, that's fine. But, we are going to remove your ability to perform state recognized marriages.

I think that's a fair compromise. And we could still perform sealings in our temples which is, after all, the reason we go there.

Anonymous said...

I am old enough to remember when Loving v. Virginia (Supreme Court, 1968) was decided (and also because my parents made a point of emphasizing it to us kids). Twenty years later, when I was in law school, I read the case itself, where laws prohibiting mixed-race marriage were justified by the following:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” -- Judge Leon Bazile

Now, for those of you who think that being convicted of miscegenation was not much of anything, you'd be WRONG. In fact, it was a crime in Virginia, punishable with one year in prison, which this particular judge generously suspended to 25 years in exile from the state. This was in 1959; had it stood, their exile would have ended in 1984.

You're probably wondering why I'm dragging up what must seem to you ancient history. For some of us, it's not all that ancient to have our parents' marriages legitimated in the eyes of the state. I am dead serious here. And that's what we're facing here with the Church's anti-gay marriage stand. There are marriages being delegitimated by a majority vote.

I can flat-out tell you that up until very recently, if you'd put mixed-race marriage up for a vote in some states, it would have been voted down. That's why this business of deciding constitutional rights at the ballot box is simply nuts.

It's highly ironic that Mormons, who were persecuted for their beliefs on marriage, should become instruments of persecution at the hands of some Catholics and evangelical Protestants. They will not accept you as Christian, but they will use your time, talents and especially money to go after the gays and lesbians. And you're so very, very desperate for recognition as "Troo Kwistchans" (whatever THAT is) that you were willing to be used. Guess what? They still don't accept you and, in fact, have hardened their position on Mormons being Christians in recent years. You were USED.

Dallin Oaks can say what he wants, but the fact is that legal minds greater than his disagree with what he is saying. Religious belief is NOT privileged above other rights in the First Amendment, and should not be so privileged in our public life.

Of course, he and the rest of the GAs are quite able and willing to continue to spout off on how awful it is to let gays and lesbians get married, and probably will do so for years to come, as society changes (just as it did in the 1960s and 1970s) and the Church finds itself more and more out of step. That's your problem. I resigned my membership in November 2008, because I was no longer going to be counted as part of an organization that organized to take away people's civil rights.

Pops said...

Really? That's an argument that you want to make... that the government is a party in your marriage?

Of course. The state offers legal perks in exchange for couples promising to do certain things in return, such as providing a stable and secure environment for children. That's how contracts work.

Then due process and equal protection guarantee that any two consenting adults can enter into the same contract, regardless of gender.

Well, no, they can't. The contract stipulates "one man and one woman." You're asking for a different contract.

But, you will need to explain to me how our constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection don't prevent us from denying two lesbian women access to a marriage license.

Because the contract stipulates "one man and one woman." You seek a different contract, so create one.

Then, in November of 2008, 52% of California voters altered their state constitution placing an obstacle in their way.

Or, rather, they clarified the terms of the contract offered by the state.

Freedom of religion in our country guarantees that churches will not have to perform gay marriages.

That's the point Elder Oaks was trying to make - if the legal system is deconstructed by alteration of fundamental legal definitions, there are no guarantees.

A prerequisite to the rule of law is a system of legal philosophy that is correct, complete, and free of contradictions. The popular judicial philosophy of changing the meaning of words depending on the circumstances destroys any possibility of the rule of law.

Mateo said...

@pops,
"Of course. The state offers legal perks in exchange for couples promising to do certain things in return, such as providing a stable and secure environment for children. That's how contracts work."

You really are reaching here. Gay couples are perfectly capable of providing a stable and secure environment for children. Even though you'll probably decide this gentleman is lying Where has the government ever said that this is the reason it gives out marriage licenses?

Why does an unfair wording (that didn't exist until we changed it to allow inter-racial marriage as far as I'm aware) need to stay the same? You're insisting that if we allow things to be worded in such a way (after California's measure changed it, or in your words "clarified" it) that allows same sex couples to have a marriage that is recognized by the state (something many of their churches already do even though their state refuses to recognize it)that suddenly churches will be required to perform gay marriages.

Did the church have to start allowing women to hold the priesthood when women were given the right to vote? Is the church forced to allow people living a promiscuous lifestyle to be allowed into it's temples?

If Oaks is concerned about freedom of religion then he's in a rather strange place because his freedom of religion is at odds with the freedom of religion for a person that belongs to a church in San Francisco that sees gay marriage as legitimate and even godly. Are you saying that their opinions just don't count?

Anonymous said...

Pops, you write that the "state offers legal perks in exchange for couples promising to do certain things in return, such as providing a stable and secure environment for children. That's how contracts work."

I don't buy it. Marriage does NOT work the way contracts work, at least not like a contract between the couple and the state. Lots of married couples never have children, and lots of the ones that do have children most manifestly do NOT provide "a stable and secure environment" for those children. Yet the state does not on that account consider the contract abrogated; the state does not in these circumstances stop providing the married couple its "perks." At worst, the state takes the children away from one or both parents, but it does not dissolve the marriage.

To the extent that marriage IS nowadays considered a contract, the contract is between the two people who are married, not between the state and the couple. That's why marriages can be ended by the couple, but not by the state.

Another way to see what's wrong with the way you are characterizing the marriage contract: imagine that my wife and I, as a couple, take out a mortgage to buy a house. We, as a couple, have a contract with the bank. In exchange for our making our monthly payments, the bank lends us $100,000. If my wife and I decide that this contract is making us miserable, can we unilaterally decide to end the agreement between us and the bank? No way!

Yet if we decide our marriage is making us miserable, we CAN end it, precisely because the contract is between the two of us as individuals, not between us as a couple and the government.

(I would add as an aside that the notion of marriage as a contract, though ancient, is not universal. In some quarters marriage is actually considered a sacrament. And last time I checked, among those who thought that way was the LDS Church. Of course, when necessary, it appears that even a church will "redefine" marriage--from sacrament to contract.)

Anyway, if marriage IS essentially a contract, which is to say, a purely human invention, a purely social construct, then what is intrinsically wrong with changing the rules governing that contract? As any law student knows, the rules governing contracts have changed throughout history. Some of those changes have been good, and some have been bad, but there's nothing wrong with the mutability of those rules per se. When we find a set of rules that seem to result in a stronger society, we adopt them, as well we should.

I just don't think you're doing your side any favors by chacterizing marriage as essentially contractual, because contracts are governed by whatever rules a society, working through the established rules of its legal system, wants them to be governed by. (In ancient Israel at one point, if we can trust the Bible, debts were automatically canceled every 50 years. But somewhere along the line that one got "redefined.")

You also argue that we can't have gay marriage "Because the [marriage] contract stipulates 'one man and one woman.' You [gay-marriage advocates] seek a different contract, so create one." But that's basically what Massachusetts did in 2003: It created a new form of contract that replaced the old one. The old contract was between men and women only; the new one was between any two people regardless of sex. Your beef is that the new contract replaced the old one, and that the state continued to call the new contract "marriage." I don't see how your concerns are helped by insisting on the contractual nature of marriage.

Anonymous said...

Forgive me for going on like this, Pops, but you also write that "if the legal system is deconstructed by alteration of fundamental legal definitions, there are no guarantees."

Again, not so. The stability of a legal system is not anchored in the immutability of definitions. It's anchored in the regularity of adherence to procedure. As long as the redefinition of a legal term is accomplished through the established legal channels, the legal system itself is not "deconstructed." If the U.S. Congress voted to redefine "family member," against tradition and common sense, so as to exclude adoptees and in-laws, and as long as the president signed the bill into law, and the Supreme Coourt did not rule it unconstitutional, and the police and the courts applied the new law in good faith, then the system itself could not be said to have been "deconstructed." It would still be the same system as it was before.* The law itself might be a bad law, but that's a different kind of complaint. We would still have a "rule of law" that was "a system of legal philosophy that is correct, complete, and free of contradictions."

In other words, Pops, the sky is not falling.

For an example of what I'm talking about, look at the way gay marriage was established and then sustained in Massachusetts, where the sky is not falling, um, I mean, where gay marriage has not deconstructed the legal system in the slightest, where the legal system is every bit as functional as it is in every other state.

* One way to think of this is as a matter of form vs. content. Think of a sonnet (fourteen lines, rhyming couplets, etc.) as a poetic form. The sonnet can be about your true love, or your home town, or whatever, but as long as the poet has followed the sonnet-rules and given us fourteen lines, rhyming couplets, etc., then what he has made is still a sonnet. The content, that is, can be pretty much anything; the content can be good or bad or in between, but those matters of content have nothing to do with the integrity of the form in which they are expressed. If someone wrote a sonnet, with fourteen lines, rhyming couplets, and all the rest, that described the most banal aspects of existence in the most banal of language, one might rightly call it a bad sonnet, but one would hardly be justified in saying that the sonnet form itself had been deconstructed. The form maintains its integrity by virtue of adherence to the rules of the form, not by virtue of the quality of the content it is used to express.

This is why our legal system has never been deconstructed by the many, many bad laws that have been made by it. A bad law that manages to clear the Congress, that escapes the veto, and that is upheld by the courts as Constitutional might be a bad enough law to do some real harm, but it canot be said to have deconstructed the system itself.

Or think of the 18th Amendment. One can agree with the many who believe it did tremendous harm by fueling corruption and organized crime, but the nation's legal system nonetheless survived intact. That system has proved tremendously durable. Your fears of its imminent demise are greatly exaggerated.

Brett said...

@Pops

Wow... I dunno... I think my head is still spinning trying to take this all in.

First, I thought that we were supposed to be "protecting the sanctity of marriage". Now it turns out that my marriage is nothing but a contract between me, my wife, and the state.

(Let me just state for clarity that I believe my marriage is a COVENANT between me, my wife, and God. The state has no part except that somewhere along the way in the history of our country, we decided to have the government start issuing marriage licenses. That license gives the government and many other organizations the ability to treat my wife and I as one entity with certain legal ramifications. That's it.)

Then, you say that we can't redefine that contract and yet the LDS Church led the charge TO CHANGE THE DEFINITION not just once, but twice. In 2000 is was Prop 22 that added the "man and woman" restriction to their marriage law. It was deemed unconstitutional because we live in a country that doesn't discriminate based on gender. So, LDS Corp led the way again with Prop 8 to amend the constitution by limiting marriage to just a man and a woman.

So, who's asking for a DIFFERENT contract? So who's altering fundamental legal definitions?

I guess I'm fortunate in that the definition of marriage that I believe in has never had to be redefined.

I think that Mateo and Anonymous have already deconstructed your argument regarding the marriage contract as some perfect universally understood legal term so I won't dwell too much more on that.

You and Oaks wish to uphold the freedoms that our country seeks to guarantee and yet you seem perfectly happy to let the majority discriminate against the minority with respect to "clarifying" the law. What of our D&C 134 and our 11th Article of Faith? Are the meaningless to us now?

I feel that the church I once knew is vanishing before my eyes. What is the Christlike thing to do here? These people, our brothers and sisters, simply want the same thing we do: a loving marriage, family, security. Why would we deny them those things? How could it possibly hurt us to let them in?

Brett said...

Mateo wrote: "Did the church have to start allowing women to hold the priesthood when women were given the right to vote? Is the church forced to allow people living a promiscuous lifestyle to be allowed into it's temples?"

I don't think that I need to state the obvious answers to those. I just want to add this:

When Loving v. Virginia overturned the laws banning interracial marriage, the LDS Church continued to deny temple marriages to those of African descent. Nobody forced the church to change that policy.

Eventually the prophet changed it.

Anonymous said...

Some of the commenters here keep using the word "redefining," as if redefinition were some horrific affront against the Divine Order. Yet when you think about it, over the years there's been a whole lot of redefinin' goin' on in the Church itself. First marriage got redefined in D&C 132. Then marriage got redefined again, back to what it had been before. Then the Great and Abominable Church, The Whore of All the Earth got redefined so as no longer to refer specifically to the Catholic Church. Then the Melchizedek Priesthood got redefined so as to include black people.

None of this redefining brought about the End of Civilization As We Know It. In fact it was actuallly GOOD for the Church. Can we even imagine a Church that had NOT revised its doctrines in these ways? Actually, I guess we can--look no further than Colorado City and Hildale.

I predict that in a generation or so, when homosexuality has become completely normalized in our culture, the Church will treat gay marriage more or less like it currently treats cohabitation: as something it considers wrong, and that will disqualify you for a recommend, etc., but not as something to mobilize against politically. And life will go on, and the Church will put the Prop 8 campaign down the same memory hole as polygamy, Mountain Meadows, and the priesthood ban. And both the Church and American society will be better off for it.

Michael said...

"I predict that in a generation or so, when homosexuality has become completely normalized in our culture, the Church will treat gay marriage more or less like it currently treats cohabitation: as something it considers wrong, and that will disqualify you for a recommend, etc., but not as something to mobilize against politically."

Hopefully, in a generation or so, our Prophet will have inquired of the Lord to determine HOW homosexual orientation fits into the plan of salvation and has provided us with further light and knowledge so that we can ACT upon that light and knowledge in crafting a life of peace, happiness and companionship for those gay and lesbians that embrace the Restored Gospel in its fullness.

Why is it so hard for us to imagine that the Lord is wiling to provide further revelation on this subject if we just ask? He has done so in many other perplexing situations.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Michael, that would be even better. Wonderful, in fact. Here's hoping.

To the future!

Carey said...

Michael,
Personal revelation works the same for you as it does for the prophet. If you really want to know how homosexuality fits in the Lord's plan, you're perfectly welcome to study the scriptures and the doctrine and inquire of the Lord yourself.

The church has been clear about its position on homosexual behavior and all other sins. There will not likely be any further knowledge revealed until we accept and believe that has already been revealed. All people must learn to put off the natural man and submit to the will of the Lord and not worship at the alter of their sexual urges.

AL T said...

Michael...

How do you know the Prophet hasn't already inquired of the Lord and the Lord for what ever reason hasn't answered yet?

Brett said...

@Anonymous

Good point on "redefining".

And, technically, when the priesthood was redefined to include black people, marriage was ALSO redefined. Because prior to that, black people could not be married in the temple.

Brett said...

@Carey

You wrote: "...you're perfectly welcome to study the scriptures and the doctrine and inquire of the Lord yourself."

I have and I've received my answer. I've defended it here both from a doctrinal and constitutional perspective. But I can't receive revelation for the entire church.

You wrote: "There will not likely be any further knowledge revealed until we accept and believe that has already been revealed."

Where are the revelations on homosexuality?

You wrote: "All people must learn to put off the natural man and submit to the will of the Lord and not worship at the alter of their sexual urges."

Not entirely true. Within current LDS teachings: Heterosexuals are expected to submit to the will of the Lord which includes dating, hand holding, dancing together, kissing, marriage, and then a life of intimacy, sex, romantic love, and child rearing. Homosexuals, on the other hand, are expected to submit to the will of the Lord but they are forbidden from absolutely everything that I just mentioned for straight people.

"All people" within the LDS Church are not treated equally. It's intellectually dishonest for you to suggest otherwise.

Michael said...

Carey,

I have studied, sought and received much insight and revelation from the Holy Ghost concerning my personal life situation as I am entitled to receive according to the pattern of the Kingdom. However, I am not entitled nor authorized to receive revelation for the Church as a whole. That right is reserved unto President Monson.

As concerns your statement: "The church has been clear about its position on homosexual behavior and all other sins. There will not likely be any further knowledge revealed until we accept and believe that has already been revealed. All people must learn to put off the natural man and submit to the will of the Lord and not worship at the alter of their sexual urges." There are so many contradictions in these words that I don't know where to start.

1) "The church has been clear about its position....." OK. But I am not looking for the church's position. I am seeking for the Lord's will.

2) "There will not likely be any further knowledge revealed until we accept and believe that [which] has already been revealed." I had not heard about the Lord revealing anything concerning homosexuality and sexual orientation in the scriptures or in modern revelation. Am I missing something? Or are you merely relying upon the unclear and ambiguous scriptural references in the Old Testament and Romans concerning male prostitution? If so, then I would suggest you not comment at all as St. Paul is very clear in his letters that women have no place in speaking in church or about spiritual matters (of course you realize that I don't believe that to be taken literally but if you are taking his words literal in one aspect you need to do so in all aspects).

3) I agree that all men (and women) need to put off the natural man (and woman) and submit to the will of the Lord and not worship at the altar (sp) of their sexual urges. For this reason, sex in marriage is only appropriate for pro-creation and is not to be participated in unless you are attempting to get pregnant at that moment. Likewise, adultery and fornication should be criminalized as they were before and divorce should be forbidden in the Church as it is a lesser law. The Saviour was very specific in Matthew 19 about that part. I also believe that allowing our children to marry the first person they fall in lust with is just compounding the problem. The parents should get together and arrange for appropriate matings with acceptable candidates. Young men and young women should not be permitted to believe that crushes or physical attractions are appropriate when it comes to selecting eternal companions.


Anonymous,

Thanks. I also look forward to that future.

AL T,

I have given consideration to that possibility. That is why I always include my own petition to the Lord that He will reveal further light and knowledge to the Prophet concerning this issue (in addition to all the other major issues we are facing in our times).

Brett said...

@ALT

"How do you know the Prophet hasn't already inquired of the Lord and the Lord for what ever reason hasn't answered yet?"

That's possible, it's possible that "we" aren't ready for the answer. And that makes me sad.

But, if we, as a church, were still lacking the answer -- Shouldn't we have followed our existing scripture instead of backing and campaigning for Prop 8 and other similar measures around the country?

Michael said...

Brett,

What you describe seems to be the same thing that happened to the blacks members under the priesthood ban. Because the general white membership of the Church were not "ready" to receive their black brothers and sisters into full fellowship and allow them to participate fully in the Restored Gospel due to prejudice and an unwillingness to receive the full Will of the Lord, the faithful black members had to suffer and be denied blessings and their full endowments.

How does this line of thought make sense? Does that mean if the majority of the church membership is not ready to implement the revealed Will of the Lord, other faithful Saints are meant to unfairly suffer to appease those not ready to move forward in further light and knowledge. I have always been confused by this type of reasoning.

Brett said...

@Michael

You asked: "How does this line of thought make sense? Does that mean if the majority of the church membership is not ready to implement the revealed Will of the Lord, other faithful Saints are meant to unfairly suffer..."

It doesn't make sense. And I hope that I didn't come across as suggesting that it should. It is of grave, deep concern to me as a member of the church. I am extremely troubled by it and by the damage it has caused to the gay youth that I have worked with in the church. It needs to be remedied.

It is also why I suggested that - since we lack that revelation - we (as a church) never should have entered into the Prop 8 campaign. And, in fact, D&C 134 and the 11th A of F should have put us strongly on the opposing side of Prop 8. If we don't know the Lord's will why were we fighting to deny people of their constitutional rights and their freedom of conscience?

In a separate post, you wrote: "1) "The church has been clear about its position....." OK. But I am not looking for the church's position. I am seeking for the Lord's will."

I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Technically, "the church" does not exist. What we as Mormons have is the "LDS Corp" (DBA "Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" and the entity that holds our copyrights, trademarks, and intellectual property: "Intellectual Reserve, Inc") *and* the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are separate things. And, as you stated, LDS Corp has made clear its position with respect to homosexuality. In fact, with their involvement in Prop 8 and similar initiatives coupled with speeches like this one from Oaks (and a similar one from Christofferson given last week as well), LDS Corp has begun to place all its eggs in one basket.

But the gospel, which includes the true will of the Lord, is another matter. That's what we await. It's what we need. And, even though I said that it's possible that the prophet asked and wasn't answered. I tend to think that the question still hasn't been truly, humbly, and sincerely asked.

Anonymous said...

If we waiting for further revelation on this matter here is something to think about.

One thing that is very clear is that the Church has always held strong to the belief that God has revealed that sexual relations are to be limited to the confines of marriage, be that monogamous or polygamous. And any form of such relations is a sin against God be it heterosexual or homosexual. In the New Testament we are taught that God instituted marriage from the very beginning with Adam and Eve. If as we believe, God made us the way we are, and instilled in us either heterosexual or homosexual desires, then by his own design, or lack of further revelation, he has denied homosexuals an avenue to express their desires without committing a sin for all these thousands of years. Why would he do that?

Brett said...

@Anonymous

I think there are a growing number of members of the Church who feel the way that you just described.

Michael said...

Anon,

I think that is EXACTLY what Elder Packer was stressing as his point in the conference talk last October. He was asking why God would do that and place those desires and feelings inside someone that were contrary to our understanding of the plan of salvation. But rather than further explore the question he concluded that orientation cannot be fixed and must be a chosen attribute. Instead of allowing the question to open the door to seeking further light and knowledge his talk was changed to eliminate the confusion and just walk the tightrope in not trying to resolve the dilemma.

Anonymous said...

Here is another question.

If creation is the power of God and he has shared that with us, but has commanded us to only use that power within the confines of marriage, why then has he not shared that power with those who's desire is for those they cannot procreate with? Even more interesting is the fact that even if two people use this power incorrectly (outside of marriage) they are not denied the power, yet for homosexuls, even if the right to marriage was given, God would still have denied them the power to procreate when there is no sin, why?

Anonymous said...

So, when people are born blind, did God make them blind? Or did God make people with birth defects, or down syndrome? Even if you were born with homosexual desires, I seriously doubt God was the cause.

All living things are created to fill the measure of their creation and have joy in their posterity. Elder Packer's question was valid, why would God create a living thing that is fundamentally opposed to the purpose of life?

Homosexuality is a topic that both Darwin and God can agree on. There is just no place for it in the survival of species.

I don't know why people are gay, honestly, all the gay people I can name have some sort of childhood sexual abuse. So it is pretty obvious to me that the cause is more complex than genetics.

The reality is that all people have weakness that must be overcome. There is nothing that is beyond the healing power of the Atonement and to suggest otherwise is blasphemous.

The Lord has commanded us to live the law of Chastity, which is to only express our sexuality within the bounds he has set. Sometimes the strength of our appetites can be frustrating, but "the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men save he prepare a way that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them".

Anonymous said...

From what I can see the homosexual population has as much or more of a gripe with God as it does with the heterosexual population that does not agree with defining marriage as something other than the union of a man and a woman.

The main underlying drive here is to seek legitimacy of ones natural desire. But for most there are two desires at play here that work virtually hand in hand. There is the desire that draws one to another in a companionship of love care and compassion to put the others needs ahead of your own in all things. Then in connection with that is the desire to bring new life into the world and to care for them to the extent of giving your own life if need be. Both of these strong attractions are attributed to God instilling them within us, and all but few of us are driven and controlled by both these desires. They are essential to the propagation of the species. Man can legitimize the union of two or more individuals be they of the same race, sex or even of the same species, as far as that goes. But for God to recognize the legitimacy of such unions, should he not grant unto them the same staying power he has give to heterosexual unions, be they within the limits he has given or not? It is in the staying power of that attraction through its own natural propagation that gives real legitimacy, not what man has to say one way or the other. Only God has the power to control that.

Stan said...

Anon,
"I don't know why people are gay, honestly, all the gay people I can name have some sort of childhood sexual abuse. "

I implore you to listen to this podcast of a BYU biology professor addressing this very topic.
http://mormonstories.org/?p=1158

These last few comments touch on the problem if evil http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil

If you put the creation into scientific terms and understand the role of evolution, the problem of evil becomes more comprehensible and the question of "Why would God do that" is less of an issue.

Anonymous said...

You are correct in saying that we all have weaknesses to overcome. But where do we get those weaknesses? According to the Book of Mormon we get them from God himself, and that if we will turn to him he will help us over come. So is blindness a weakness? Is any disorder something that can be considered a weakness. When Jesus was asked, “who did sin that this man was born blind, him or his parents?” Jesus answered that neither was the case, but God made it so that his power might be shown through the healing of the blindness. I think there is much more to that statement than we will ever fully comprehend in this life. But the point is that this scripture would suggest that indeed God did have something to do with it. In fact a careful reading of the New Testament clearly suggests that any illness or physical condition was considered to be the result of sin. When Jesus was questioned concerning his authority to say “Get up and walk, thy sins are forgive thee” He answered by saying “ is it easier to say thy sins are forgiven or though art healed?” suggesting that they are one and the same. I don’t think you will find too many that will agree with that interpritation in any religion. I for one am not sure what to make of it.

Brett said...

@Anonymous who wrote:

"Even if you were born with homosexual desires, I seriously doubt God was the cause."

But in the LDS Church we teach that our sexual orientation is a trait given to us from God.

You also wrote: "All living things are created to fill the measure of their creation and have joy in their posterity. Elder Packer's question was valid, why would God create a living thing that is fundamentally opposed to the purpose of life?"

Heterosexual unions produce homosexual offspring. That's a fact. And they seem to be doing it at a rate that has held relatively consistent over all recorded history.

There could very well be a purpose... Darwinian, divine, or otherwise... that explains why we have always had and will always have a certain amount of homosexuals being born.

Since God hasn't told us that homosexuality is NOT part of His plan - it is ridiculously presumptuous of us to declare such.

Brett said...

@Anonymous who wrote:

"But for God to recognize the legitimacy of such unions, should he not grant unto them the same staying power he has give to heterosexual unions, be they within the limits he has given or not? It is in the staying power of that attraction through its own natural propagation that gives real legitimacy, not what man has to say one way or the other."

Have you honestly taken any time to ponder that position? God HAS granted them staying power. Homosexuals have been among us, propagated by heterosexual unions, since the dawn of recorded history.

By your logic, God has most certainly legitimated homosexuals.

Your assertion that we now treat them as a lower class of human by not allowing them the right to marry arrogantly suggests that God messed up.

Mateo said...

@the last anon,
There are tons of examples in nature of animals that do absolutely horrible things by human standards. Are you suggesting that anything something offends one's sensibilities it could not have come about via god? Cannibalism, rape, and genocide are not just reserved for human beings, neither is homosexuality. Trying to say that because homosexuals cannot procreate that their urges are not coming about via natural means is ridiculous. There are several known genetic issues where the victim of them cannot procreate yet these maladies still exist. I don't pretend to know what the cause is (as in is it a particular gene) or how it's mechanisms work but I do know that there are plenty of non abused homosexuals who associated themselves that way very early in life.

Your accusation turns this into an issue of gay people simply being too weak to not give into a small temptation. That's not the case as near as I can tell. If you were told that it was evil and disgusting for you to show any form of physical affection towards the opposite gender you'd begin to see why what you're proposing is so messed up.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we all have weaknesses. We all have temptations we must resist. One of them is the temptation to attribute to God what is in fact our own prejudice. Another is the temptation to use the power of a secular state to enforce what are essentially religious beliefs.

These are the weaknesses to which Jeff, Oaks, and others have succumbed.

Mateo said...

Jeff,
Aren't the "serious legal implications" with the issue of marriage for gay people the same sorts of "serious legal implications" that people in and out of the church were worried about with inter-racial marriage?

It's easy to look at things now and say that inter-racial marriage was a totally different kind of subject but I'm pretty sure if you put oaks in a time machine and had him meet church leaders of the time during the civil rights movement he would have fit right in with the sorts of rhetoric that he is using. (Along with the Harvard law paper you linked earlier.)

Anonymous said...

And here I thought Elder Oaks was an Apostle, with a special mission to witness of The Christ.

Anonymous said...

And here I thought Elder Oaks was an Apostle, with a special mission to witness of The Christ.

He is, and he does. As an added bonus, he is among the finest of legal scholars.

Pops said...

Marriage does NOT work the way contracts work, at least not like a contract between the couple and the state. Lots of married couples never have children...

There is no consistent and foolproof way for the state to determine beforehand whether a couple will have children or whether they will provide a stable environment for raising children. Considering the history of marriage, the state does what is prudent and practical to encourage a positive outcome.

Yet if we decide our marriage is making us miserable, we CAN end it, precisely because the contract is between the two of us as individuals, not between us as a couple and the government.

Not without the consent of the state. You might wish to go back to the 1950s and take a gander at what was required to dissolve a marriage.

In some quarters marriage is actually considered a sacrament.

The state and the church are not necessarily involved in marriage for the same reasons. It is true that marriage is both a contract, where the state is concerned, and a sacrament, where the church is concerned.

Anyway, if marriage IS essentially a contract, which is to say, a purely human invention, a purely social construct, then what is intrinsically wrong with changing the rules governing that contract?

Nothing is wrong with changing the rules. My point all along has been that the mechanism being employed to change the rules will have unintended consequences. When a judge changes a legal definition, contradictions, inconsistencies, and gaps are created in our system of jurisprudence.

I just don't think you're doing your side any favors by chacterizing marriage as essentially contractual...

Elder Oaks addressed legal aspects of freedom of religion. To say there are legal aspects to an issue does not mean there are not other aspects.

Your beef is that the new contract replaced the old one, and that the state continued to call the new contract "marriage."

From a legal perspective, any state is free to make such a change if it is done properly. The original topic, again, was how fiddling with the legal system corrupts it.

Pops said...

The stability of a legal system is not anchored in the immutability of definitions. It's anchored in the regularity of adherence to procedure.

Au contraire, mon frère. The changing of a definition affects all jurisprudence that relies on that definition.

It's easier to understand in a context where there is less ambiguity than in the English language, such as the language of mathematics. Some time back there was an April Fool's Day parody that legislation had been proposed to change the definition of pi from 3.14159... to exactly 3.0. If such a law had actually been proposed and passed, silly though the idea may be, every equation that uses pi (and there are more than most people realize) would have to be reworked in order to restore correctness. Otherwise, attempts to design useful products and conduct meaningful research would be in vain.

Likewise, there is much in jurisprudence that relies on a specific meaning of the word "rights". Changing the definition wreaks havoc on those legal equations.

For an example of what I'm talking about, look at the way gay marriage was established and then sustained in Massachusetts, where the sky is not falling...

It takes time for these things to work their way through the system. If the people of Massachusetts want gay "marriage", they should enact legislation to that effect. For a judge to make that determination is legal mischief.

One way to think of this is as a matter of form vs. content. Think of a sonnet...

The "form" of jurisprudence is the logic. Changing a definition attacks the logic of the system.

Or think of the 18th Amendment...

The 18th Amendment didn't change any legal definitions. It banned the manufacture, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beveragess.

Pops said...

Now it turns out that my marriage is nothing but a contract between me, my wife, and the state.

Huh? You lost me at "nothing but".

Then, you say that we can't redefine that contract and yet the LDS Church led the charge TO CHANGE THE DEFINITION not just once, but twice.

I'm sorry, but you're not addressing anything I've written or anything Elder Oaks said. Changing a contract is not the same thing as changing a legal definition. And the Church didn't lead the charge to change even the definition of marriage - there is nothing in what the Church promotes that is inconsistent with millennia of human tradition and legal precedent.

So, who's asking for a DIFFERENT contract? So who's altering fundamental legal definitions?

First question: you are asking for a different contract. Feel free to create a different contract, but please do so using the legal methods put in place for that purpose.

Second question: activist judges are changing legal definitions. That's legal mischief.

...the marriage contract as some perfect universally understood legal term...

No. You aren't getting it. A contract is whatever the contract states it is. A legal definition is what our tradition of jurisprudence says it is. A legal term and a contract are two different things.

I think my head is still spinning trying to take this all in.

That's apparent. I'm not sure what isn't clear about what I've written. Help me out.

Anonymous said...

I feel that the church I once knew is vanishing before my eyes. What is the Christlike thing to do here? These people, our brothers and sisters, simply want the same thing we do: a loving marriage, family, security. Why would we deny them those things? How could it possibly hurt us to let them in?

This is a different topic, and is neither simple nor easy.

I had a friend, D., who was somehow convinced there would be no harm in experimenting with the "gay" side of life. When he did, it was as if he had grabbed a 40-KV power line. He couldn't let go no matter how hard he tried, and he knew it was killing him very quickly. In our conversations between his suicide attempts it was pretty clear that he knew he had made a mistake, but that he couldn't find a way out. He didn't end his life because of disapproval from people he didn't care about. He ended it because he couldn't undo what he had done to himself. It didn't help that he had lost most of his support system, having abandoned his wife, his children, his Church, and his God. You will never convince me there is anything good or decent about the homosexual lifestyle - it has killed too many of my friends, both spiritually and physically.

Anonymous said...

Pops writes, When a judge changes a legal definition, contradictions, inconsistencies, and gaps are created in our system of jurisprudence.

Pops, this whole "changing the definition of marriage" is silly. It's not like the California Supreme Court decided that "marriage" would henceforth mean "mashed potatoes." The Court ruled that a class of people previously excluded from a thing would now be included in the thing. But the thing itself is still the same thing.

Now, you can argue that the inclusion of this new class changes the very nature of the thing. And we've seen these arguments before: it's the argument that white supremacist snobs make about their all-white country clubs: If we let black people in, it's just not the same. And in a crybaby sort of way they're right, if they truly believe that the essence of the club is its exclusionary all-whiteness. But is anything like that really the essence of marriage? And do you really want to align yourself with the segregationist country-clubber mentality? Because this is ultimately all it boils down to. All this talk about the "redefinition" of marriage "deconstructing the legal system" is just so much smoke.

Anyway, the proof is in the pudding. Gay couples have been getting and staying married for nearly eight years now in Massachusetts and other states. Please point us to the legal and social disasters that have ensued. Please show us how the LDS Church has been harmed by those gay marriages.

Alas, poor Massachusetts! Must be a terrible place to live, what with the destruction of its legal system and all. A lawlessstate, right here in the good old USA! Must be particularly difficult for Mormons in that state, what with all the religious oppression. I'll bet the stakes in Boston, Cambridge, Hingham, Springfield, etc. will be sutting down any day now, if they haven't already been put to the torch by the lawless hordes.

OK, OK, sorry for the tone. But what do you suppose ordinary people are going to conclude when they hear these kinds of apocalyptic charges, then look at places like Massachusetts and see happy gay couples, happy straight couples, and thriving LDS Churches?

Brett said...

@Pops

"Huh? You lost me at "nothing but"."

Go back and read my post. Right after that I clearly explained that I viewed my marriage as a covenant between me, my wife, and God.

"I'm sorry, but you're not addressing anything I've written or anything Elder Oaks said."

Actually I'm addressing exactly what you and Elder Oaks are saying. Call it a contract or a legal definition or whatever you want. But prior to 2000, California state law did NOT define marriage as being between a man and a woman. The LDS Church led the charge with Prop 22 to change that definition. They made the change so that the CA legal code would reflect their religious beliefs without regard to the beliefs of others.

If marriage was considered a contract in California it obviously was not legally defined as being between a man and woman. If it had been, why would Prop 22 have ever been written?

"A contract is whatever the contract states it is."

Exactly. And Prop 22, Prop 8, the federal DOMA legislation... all of those had to re-write law because this "marriage contract" as you call it, didn't state that it was ONLY between a man and a woman.

"Second question: activist judges are changing legal definitions."

Overturning a ballot proposition that changed CA law and the CA Constitution is simply RESTORING what was.

But, this brings me back to the point that I've made and the question I've asked you before and you keep ignoring: Our constitution guarantees due process and equal protection of the law. Those guarantees require that this marriage "contract" be extended to all regardless of gender.

How many "activist" judges have to come to that same conclusion before they stop being "activists"?

Anonymous said...

If evolution plays any role in the creative process, then we may be able to assume that mutation is a valid part of the evolutionary development that has brought about more advanced life forms. The theory is that the mutation process undergoes numerous small incremental changes over very long periods of time, few of which ever succeed in bringing about a new species. This is brought about by each generation producing some offspring with ever so slight differences. The likelihood of that mutation taking root and continuing in its ability to reproduce is its staying power as a valid mutation. The parent specie will continue to produce various mutations of itself in its offspring, that never changes. However, simply because a species produces an offspring with differing conditions does not mean that that condition will take root of its own and reproduce no matter how many generations generate that mutation.

I am not saying that this is the case for homosexuality, but it does seem that it can fit the model, but we really have no idea of the validity of the model itself. But we also must keep in mind that if God is using evolution as part of his plan, each creation is his in any form, and we will be judged by how we treat all of his creation.

Brett said...

@Anonymous who wrote: "I had a friend, D., who..."

I'm very sorry for your friend.

I have a friend who is also gay. He's a young man and LDS. And, not unlike many other gay LDS men, he has made suicide attempts and fortunately has not yet succeeded.

Having spent many hours talking with him, I can tell you that his story is quite different than your friend, D. He is despondent because he knows that if he stays in the church he will be forced to live a life of loneliness and despair - not ever having a partner and helpmeet to love and care about. He is depressed because he has been taught by his church and his family that his nature is sinful and yet he cannot change it. He hurts because he feels that if he pursues love and companionship, his own family will abandon him.

I disagree that this is "neither simple nor easy". It's also not a "different topic": Just ask yourself why you refer to it as the homosexual lifestyle. Why does it have to be some different, foreign thing?

We pushed it out there. We do everything we can to make them different. We raise them in our homes and families and then when we find out that they are gay we say "No, you can't have what we have. You aren't worthy to have that same happiness that we raised you with. And don't look toward religion because it condemns you. And don't seek the same rights, because you don't deserve them."

What kind of lifestyle did you expect your friend to live when you defined the world to intentionally exclude him?

I have news for you. Your friend was gay. It wasn't something he chose. Maybe if his church had allowed him a way to live his life with integrity then the rest of that sad story never would have happened.

Jack said...

Sorry, LDS church is going to be on the wrong side of history with this issue. LDS church and its leaders have been wrong before, and they will be again.
I can not find many instances when they have been on the right side of history when it comes to social issues.

Openminded said...

I'm surprised this 126-comment topic has gone on like it has.

Anyways, here's something relevant ( from a discussion at another site):
if you look back at the 1878 Supreme Court case, US v Reynolds, which concerned polygamy, the Court ruled that freedom of religion in the Constitution concerns freedom of belief, not freedom of action. This is why it is still illegal to murder someone even if your faith says you should.

Once the church loses its standing against gay marriage (it'll happen.), there will probably be more talk along the lines of that Supreme Court decision

Rander said...

Another good perspective on BeliefNet: Tolerance, gay marriage, religious liberty. There does seem to be a basis for the slippery slope concern. The direction of that slope has been pretty clearly crafted with earth moving equipment.

Rander said...

From the BeliefNet article I just mentioned:
As Peter Steinfels wrote in the NYT two years ago, top legal scholars are not sure to what extent the Bob Jones precedent will affect religious institutions in the wake of same-sex marriage's advances in constitutional law. But nobody who understands the philosophical issues at stake here is under any illusion that this is going to be no big deal. From Steinfels column:

Marc D. Stern, whose many years handling religious freedom cases for the American Jewish Congress have made him an expert in the area, can hardly be identified as a conservative agitator. Yet he firmly believes that legal recognition of same-sex marriage will make clashes with religious liberty "inevitable."

"No one seriously believes that clergy will be forced, or even asked, to perform marriages that are anathema to them," Mr. Stern has written. But for other individuals and institutions opposed on religious grounds to same-sex marriage, its legal acceptance would have "substantial impact."

He has in mind schools, health care centers, social service agencies, summer camps, homeless shelters, nursing homes, orphanages, retreat houses, community centers, athletic programs and private businesses or services that operate by religious standards, like kosher caterers and marriage counselors.


More:

Besides possible, even if remote, risks regarding tax exemption, the scholars' papers noted laws forbidding discrimination in hiring or toleration of a hostile workplace environment. They noted antidiscrimination provisions in many local or state laws licensing commercial enterprises and professional activities, as well as in the ethics codes of professional associations that have a role in accrediting professional schools, licensing professionals or resolving civil suits. And of course they noted the civil rights laws, federal, state and local, barring discrimination in places of public accommodation, housing and education.

Must a Bible college admit a legally married gay couple to married student housing? Must an Orthodox Jewish day school offer health benefits to the spouse of a legally-married gay employee, if it offers them to heterosexual marrieds? As the Becket Fund's Anthony Picarello pointed out in this excellent Heritage Foundation symposium featuring legal scholars on various sides of the same-sex marriage issue, the state of marriage is so pervasive in American law that a finding of the constitutional right to same-sex marriage will dramatically affect religious liberty. Even if courts were to find that a religious institution had the right to maintain a discriminatory policy with regard to homosexuality and gay marriage, they could still suffer substantially from government accomodation. This is what happened to the Boy Scouts of America, who secured (barely) their right to discriminate against gays as a matter of free association, but who have not been able to successfully defend in court the withdrawal of government accomodation -- precisely because the Scouts run afoul of anti-discrimination laws....

Rander said...

And finally:
Roger Severino, a lawyer at the Becket Fund, cited two more real-world examples of the kinds of trouble religious institutions are finding themselves in because of these rulings:

In New Jersey, the city of Ocean Grove recently yanked a Methodist institution’s real estate tax exemption because it refused to perform civil unions in its outdoor wedding pavilion.

In Iowa, the Des Moines Human Rights Commission found the local YMCA in violation of public accommodation laws because it refused to extend “family membership” privileges to a lesbian couple that had entered a civil union in Vermont.

Based on the ruling, the city forced the YMCA to recognize gay and lesbian unions as “families” for membership purposes, or lose $102,000 in government support for the YMCA’s community programs. Equal provision of benefits to all couples was not enough — only the YMCA’s explicit adoption of the state’s new definition of family fulfilled the government’s requirements.


This list barely mentions the avalanche of employment discrimination lawsuits religious institutions will face, if, for example, employees at religious institutions publicly enter same-sex unions in violation of the institution’s teachings and employment policies.

The key thing here is not that state legislatures are granting marriage to same-sex couples. It's that the courts are finding that it's a constitutional right. Sooner or later, I believe, the US Supreme Court, thanks to its reasoning in Casey and Lawrence, will affirm the constitutional right to same-sex marriage when it receives a case. Churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions that live by their religion's traditional teachings on marriage are to be seen by the law as no better than stone-cold racists. And then the lid will come off.

Pops said...

Pops, this whole "changing the definition of marriage" is silly.

You missed a few comments. The definition being changed that will cause harm to jurisprudence is the definition of "rights". I've been supporting Elder Oaks' position that playing games with the legal system in order to achieve what would otherwise not be achievable will have unintended consequences, most of which will be unpleasant for all involved.

Anonymous said...

He is despondent because he knows that if he stays in the church he will be forced to live a life of loneliness and despair - not ever having a partner and helpmeet to love and care about.

No disrespect intended, but that's tough cookies. I have two brothers and two sisters who have been "forced to live a life of loneliness and despair" for reasons other than same-sex attraction. I have a cousin who is alone because of same-sex attraction, who discovered when he got out of the victim mindset and got on with his (virtuous) life things got a lot better.

Your friend needs to understand that every person on the planet has unfulfilled desires and dreams. The rest of us cope by accepting the hand we've been dealt and moving on with our lives.

Pops said...

The key thing here is not that state legislatures are granting marriage to same-sex couples. It's that the courts are finding that it's a constitutional right. Sooner or later, I believe, the US Supreme Court, thanks to its reasoning in Casey and Lawrence, will affirm the constitutional right to same-sex marriage when it receives a case. Churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions that live by their religion's traditional teachings on marriage are to be seen by the law as no better than stone-cold racists. And then the lid will come off.

Bravo. Another person gets it.

Mateo said...

"Churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions that live by their religion's traditional teachings on marriage are to be seen by the law as no better than stone-cold racists. And then the lid will come off."

Ummmm... I think we arrived at that point awhile ago. The LDS church doesn't exactly have a shining record when it comes to the now commonly accepted forms of civil rights either.

Anonymous said...

If God is the founder of any of the ancient religions or modern faith based religions then, then one could even say that he is and has been on the wrong side many social issues of today.

Perhaps that is why more people today have little or nothing to do with formal religion. God just doesn't get it.

Brett said...

@Anonymous who wrote: "No disrespect intended, but that's tough cookies. I have two brothers and two sisters who have been "forced to live a life of loneliness and despair" for reasons other than same-sex attraction."

Well, without any detail on your brothers and sisters circumstances, I'll just say this: There is a HUGE difference between some mental or physical circumstances that prevent us from being able to marry and having the church that you were raised in tell you that what you are is evil and that you must live a life of celibacy.

You also wrote: "The rest of us cope by accepting the hand we've been dealt and moving on with our lives."

Yes, but in the case of my gay friend, if he was to accept the hand that he was dealt and live his life as a gay man he would be shunned by his family and church. That's not a decision that anyone should have to make. And I doubt it's a decision that your siblings have had to make.

Brett said...

@Rander & Pops

Did you notice that the NJ Ocean Grove case and the Iowa YMCA case both happened in states where gay marriage was not legal at the time?

Rander also misstated the Ocean Grove case: the Methodist association was not asked to PERFORM a civil union. It denied the couple's request to have their civil union ceremony in the pavilion that the association own but which had been declared as a public space. As such it was tax exempt and it had also been maintained using public funds.

Neither of those are cases regarding gay marriage. They are non-discrimination cases.

And, yes, if you are going to accept tax dollars or even tax exemptions you should not be permitted to discriminate.

Another enlightening thing about Rander's post and Pops response is this: Pops has said on this board that gays can have "something else" they just can't have "marriage". That's a sentiment echoed by many who oppose gay marriage. Yet here in the cases noted by Rander, we see that the sentiment is not actually sincere. Both cases mentioned above involve civil unions and in both cases those civil unions were wholly disregarded.

Those are great examples as to why homosexuals want (and deserve) marriage equality not "separate but equal" civil unions.

Mateo said...

@ brett,
"Rander also misstated the Ocean Grove case: the Methodist association was not asked to PERFORM a civil union. It denied the couple's request to have their civil union ceremony in the pavilion that the association own but which had been declared as a public space. As such it was tax exempt and it had also been maintained using public funds.

Neither of those are cases regarding gay marriage. They are non-discrimination cases."

Thank you for pointing this out! The arguments regarding homosexuality and its danger to religion are jumping all over the place and aren't at all consistent. Also I didn't realize that about the pavillion but the whole thing makes way more sense now. It really feels a bit strange that Oaks would have used such an example when technically this wasn't a church losing it's ability to decide who uses it's private property but an issue where there was a bit of muddy water as to who really had say on the pavilion. Also as you stated it had nothing to do with gay marriage and was instead an issue of discrimination. Basically what I keep getting from Oaks' talk (and maybe he wouldn't argue against this) is that it's a violation of the freedom of religion to not allow people to discriminate in a public venue against homosexuals. I see no other way to interpret what he's saying as every one of these cases is in regards to discrimination charges.

I'm guessing the church is worried about this because as has been in the past when a minority starts winning discrimination cases like these it becomes harder and harder to marginalize their viewpoints without looking like a bigoted ogre.

Brett said...

Mateo wrote: "It really feels a bit strange that Oaks would have used such an example when technically this wasn't a church losing it's ability to decide who uses it's private property but an issue where there was a bit of muddy water as to who really had say on the pavilion."

What's even more shocking is that two of the cases Oaks mentioned: NJ Ocean Grove and the NM photographer, are the same cases that the church used in its Prop 8 campaign. Two and a half years ago.

What's worse is the the LDS Church has come out and said that it doesn't object to equal rights for homosexuals just that they cannot use the word marriage. And yet, here we see that they don't really mean that.

Mateo said...

Yeah. I remember hearing that line as well, that the church was okay with them having their rights as long as they don't get to call it marriage. Definitely seems at odds with those cases being sited. It seems like awhile back there was a bit of a rumble because a park on temple square had a very similar situation (where it's ambiguous as to whether the city or the church owns it) and two gay men were caught kissing there and were kicked out by church security. I'm not totally sure on all the details but it's one of those issues where the church is certainly within it's rights to have strict rules on what behaviors are admissible on it's own property but when it comes to public property (or property that is being maintained by the state) then anti-discrimination laws can come into play.

Anonymous said...

God just doesn't get it.

That pretty much sums it up (in a sardonic way). I'm pretty sure when we've had the opportunity to view the situation through his eyes our opinions will change.

...if he was to accept the hand that he was dealt and live his life as a gay man he would be shunned by his family and church.

Ah, there's the problem: "as a gay man". We all have defects of character. The scriptures state explicitly that God sees to it that we all have weaknesses, and they also explain why. The challenge is to get past them and not succumb to them, which usually can't be done without humility and God's help. To instead campaign to legitimize what God considers to be sin is not the humble approach, that's the arrogant approach, and by definition it won't lead to happiness.

Brett said...

To Anonymous who wrote: "To instead campaign to legitimize what God considers to be sin is not the humble approach, that's the arrogant approach, and by definition it won't lead to happiness."

Wow. That's interesting. Because, you see, I would have thought that to assume God considers something a sin when he actually hasn't communicated that to us seems to be the arrogant approach.

I also find it interesting that you took this quote of mine: "...if he was to accept the hand that he was dealt and live his life as a gay man he would be shunned by his family and church."

And you focused in on calling the "as a gay man" a defect of character. A weakness. Yet the family and church who shunned him, they apparently get a pass.

Personally, I'd rather be the gay man living a life of integrity as God had created me than to be the person shunning a member of my own family. While we don't have much clarity regarding God's opinion of homosexuality, we certainly have it regarding our responsibility to love and forgive.

Anonymous said...

From my own Jewish perspective, I don't understand why anyone would invoke Christianity against gay marriage, for the simple reason that I can't understand how anyone can be a Christian at all. I mean, Jesus was the leader of an apocalyptic cult, just one of many such figures during the troubled times of the Roman occupation of Israel. He predicted that the world would end and he would return from the dead on clouds of glory before the members of his cult died off. This is why his admonitions to give no thought to the morrow, to sell all one's possessions and give the money to the poor, etc. make sense: because with the end so near, such worldly concerns were trivial.

Of course, the world did not end as Jesus had predicted, which means he was wrong, which means he was not God. End of story. So why do people continue to think he was God? And if he's not God, why would anyone accede to the authority of any organization, i.e., church, built on the obviously false notion that he IS God? I honestly don't get it. Yes, churches do many wonderful things, and yes, many Christians are wonderful people, but c'mon: all these things shall come to pass before the present generation passes away.... It just didn't happen.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd rather be the gay man living a life of integrity as God had created me than to be the person shunning a member of my own family.

Good thing those aren't the only two options - neither is a good choice.

While we don't have much clarity regarding God's opinion of homosexuality, we certainly have it regarding our responsibility to love and forgive.

Disagree with the first part, agree with the second part. Sodomy has always been condemned by God. But, as you suggest, we condemn the sin, not the sinner.

Brett said...

@Anonymous who wrote: "Sodomy has always been condemned by God."

Sodomy is a very specific sex act and not even exclusive to homosexuality (sorry to be blunt, but it's true). As with all sex acts, I believe God has certain conditions under which they are to be used.

If you can provide a clear revelation in which God condemns homosexuality, I'd like to see it. Not an apostle or a prophet who expresses their opinion or their interpretation, but an actual revelation of God's word.

You also wrote: "But, as you suggest, we condemn the sin, not the sinner."

Except in the LDS Church and many other churches, we still condemn the sinner as well. We might give lip service to NOT condemning them, but in practice, we still do.

Anonymous said...

If you can provide a clear revelation in which God condemns homosexuality, I'd like to see it.

"Homosexuality" is vague. It clearly isn't a sin to have same-sex attraction, if that's what you mean. If you're talking of homosexual acts, then you're out of luck:

We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

Brett said...

@Anonymous who wrote: "If you're talking of homosexual acts, then you're out of luck:"

I'm "out of luck"? I didn't realize this was like contest or something. I am, by the way, a happily married man (to a woman) with four amazing kids so I'm not here to justify something in my own life.

However...

Your quote ("We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.") is from "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" which is NOT a revelation.

President Packer tried calling it a revelation in the latest general conference but either he or someone else had to redact it when his message was published.

He had said, referring to the above proclamation: "It qualifies according to scriptural definition as a revelation and it would do well that members of the Church would read and follow."

That entire sentence was stricken and replaced with: "It is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow."

So, it's a guide, not a revelation. The document itself even explains that it contains THEIR words. If God was going to communicate something this important to us, wouldn't He do it with more than a single line in a "guide"?

Further, the concept of "lawfully wedded" is a man-made construct and one that we (as a church) have actively sought to deny to homosexuals making that half of the statement fairly difficult for them to follow.

So, was that it or do you have an actual revelation?

Anonymous said...

Also @ Anonymous who wrote: "Sodomy has always been condemned by God."

True enough. Problem is, in the Bible "sodomy" doesn't refer to sex acts (which acts are, as Brett pointed out, committed all the time, often with considerable gusto, and never with any churchly condemnation, by straight married couples).

The "sin of Sodom" was not a sexual sin. It was the sin of greediness and inhospitality. Don't take my word for it; take it from Ezekiel, who wrote, "This was the sin of thy sister Sodom, she had plenty, but refused to share it with the needy stranger."

The Sodomites' threat to gang rape the strangers, and Lot's offer of his virgin daughters to be raped in their stead, make sense only as symbols of extreme inhospitality and extreme inhospitality, respectively.

Churches are forever reducing the divine commandments to sexual prohibitions. This is very useful, since sex is such a powerful force that it sets people up for perpetual guilt, which can then be converted by the churches into perpetual obedience. (Obedience to the churches, not to God.)

Anyway, anyone who reads the Sodom and Gomorrah story as a condemnation of homosexuality is biblically illiterate.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the rest of what he said:

Pure love presupposes that only after a pledge of eternal fidelity, a legal and a lawful ceremony, and ideally after the sealing ordinance in the temple, are those life-giving powers released for the full expression of love. It is to be shared only and solely between man and woman, husband and wife, with that one who is our companion forever. On this the gospel is very plain.

He's either a prophet or he isn't. Choose carefully.

Further, the concept of "lawfully wedded" is a man-made construct...

...the first lawful wedding being Adam and Eve...

Note that Elder Packer also said:

If one is denied these blessings in mortality, the promise is that they will be provided for in the world to come.

Have faith in God and faith in the future, even the future that lies beyond this life. Those who lead virtuous lives will be rewarded by a God who knows our hearts and still loves each of us.

Anonymous said...

The "sin of Sodom" was not a sexual sin.

You need to take that up with Jude:

Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Anonymous said...

Have faith in God and faith in the future, even the future that lies beyond this life. Those who lead virtuous lives will be rewarded by a God who knows our hearts and still loves each of us.

OK, sure. But the promise of pie in the sky when you die does not excuse injustice in the here and now.

If the Church's enemies somehow managed to outlaw Temple weddings, do you think Oaks or Packer would accept it on the grounds that, hey, those who suffer in this world will be rewarded in the next?

Just have faith in the future!

"Work all day, live on hay, you'll get pie in the sky when you die." That's what the oppressor tells the oppressed. I ain't buyin' it.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous citing Jude:

Bible fight! Ezekiel disagrees with Jude!

Golly, you'd almost think the Bible was a not-wholly-coherent anthology of ancient writings by historically situated beings, just like all the sane scholars say it is, rather than Holy Writ....

The fact is, Jude is not part of the Bible. I'm Jewish, you see, and, well, sorry, but the Bible starts with Genesis and ends with II Chronicles. All the rest is just apostate stuff written by splinter groups that carry about as much weight with me as the Strangites probably do you with you. Why should I care what an apostate like Jude says when I have the word of a Jew like Ezekiel?

Brett said...

@Anonymous who wrote: "He's either a prophet or he isn't. Choose carefully."

His calling as a prophet, seer, and revelator does not mean that everything he says is gospel truth. Nor does it mean that everything he says is the will of God. If it were, why were his words edited?

Listening to an apostle does not release us from our responsibility to seek confirmation from the Spirit.

You also wrote: "...the first lawful wedding being Adam and Eve..."

Really? You got a copy of the license?

And you quoted Packer: "If one is denied these blessings in mortality, the promise is that they will be provided for in the world to come."

Yeah - but not too long ago LDS Corp was teaching that homosexuality was the sin next to murder. Glad we've progressed.

And by the way, I'm still not sure why a gay couple can't live a virtuous life.

Does this mean that we don't have a revelation on it?

Anonymous said...

Define "revelation".

While you're at it, show us the revelation that contradicts what Elder Packer spoke from the pulpit at General Conference and which was left unchanged.

Anonymous said...

And by the way, I'm still not sure why a gay couple can't live a virtuous life.

I agree. Missionaries do it all the time.

Anonymous said...

OK, sure. But the promise of pie in the sky when you die does not excuse injustice in the here and now.

Injustice? What injustice?

Brett said...

Anonymous said: "Define "revelation"."

It's the making known of divine truths through communication with the heavens.

You wrote: "While you're at it, show us the revelation that contradicts what Elder Packer spoke from the pulpit at General Conference and which was left unchanged."

You once asked me to be more specific, I think I'm going to have to do the same here. But when you do, please note, that I have said I am not aware of any revelation that discusses the topic of homosexuality. (That's why I've asked for your help on the matter.)

"Missionaries do it all the time."

Funny. But I assume you know what I meant.

Anonymous said...

You once asked me to be more specific, I think I'm going to have to do the same here.

Fair enough. Here's President Gordon B. Hinckley speaking from the pulpit at General Conference:

There are those who would have us believe in the validity of what they choose to call same-sex marriage. Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and our sisters. However, we cannot condone immoral practices on your part any more than we can condone immoral practices on the part of others.

Perhaps you don't consider that revelation. Perhaps you don't consider it inspired. It seems to me a rather perilous position to be picking and choosing which of the prophet's words are inspired on the basis of our own wisdom. Believe me, there are commandments that, if rescinded, would make my life a lot easier. But that's not how it works. Their job is to hold up the standard. Our challenge is to figure out how to measure up to the standard.

There's been enough contention and to spare on this topic here on this blog. You know where I stand, Brett, and I know where you stand. I feel bad that you would assume I shun those with same-sex attraction, because I don't. I've had two friends die as a direct result of homosexual activity. I have a cousin whom I greatly admire who is gay, but who has chosen to live a virtuous life. I never treated any of them differently than any other friend or relative. I don't think having same-sex attraction is a sin.

Anonymous said...

Injustice? What injustice?

It is unjust to be denied the equal protection of the laws, precisely as the California Supreme Court (and then Judge Walker) said.

That injustice.

If I may return to my primary objection to Oaks's speech: he is arguing that we should massively violate the 14th Amendment rights of gay people in order to prevent essentially nonexistent violations of the 1st Amendment rights of religious people. In the process of doing so he is reaaaally stretching the 1st Amendment's notion of the exercise of religion, not because that stretching is logically justified, but because it allows him to characterize as religious oppression actions that simply aren't.

Given that the Church WON the Battle for California, it's quite unseemly for it to be playing the victim card in this way. He's making the Church look like a bunch of sore winners.

Anonymous said...

Hinckley to teh gays: we cannot condone immoral practices on your part any more than we can condone immoral practices on the part of others.

That's not very specific. What does he mean by "immoral practices," and how does the fact that some people practice those immoral practices translate into a justification for the Church's massive political support for Proposition 8?

If the Church had simply criticized California's legalization of gay marriage, and continued to advise gay people not to get married, the Church could be satisfied that it was not "condon[ing] immoral practices." Why then go the extra mile on this particular issue and do more than merely refuse to condone? (Answer: the Church is homophobic.)

Read Hinckley's words carefully: we cannot condone immoral practices on your part ANY MORE THAN we can condone immoral practices on the part of others.

But the Church obviously IS doing MORE to gays THAN it does to other sinners. It labors to have gay marriage rights revoked. It doesn't labor to have heterosexual sodomy or cohabitation rights revoked. Blatant double standard. Conclusion: the Church is homophobic.

By "immoral practices" does he mean "sex outside of marriage"? If so, then providing gay people the opportunity to have sex inside of marriage would seem to eliminate the sin. Ergo, the sin here is not (despite the Church's prevarication on this matter) "sex outside of marriage."

Nor is the sin here sodomy, for sodomy is practiced all the time by straight people within marriage. It used to be illegal in many states for married people to practice sodomy, yet the Church doesn't seem to be too upset about the Supreme Court's legalization of sodomy. So that's not it either.

No, the real sin here in the eyes of the Church is "sex between two men or two women," not "sex outside of marriage." It's sophistical for the Church to claims it's the latter when it's really the former.

Pops said...

It is unjust to be denied the equal protection of the laws...

So we've come full circle. This gets back to the legal definition of "rights" and "protection". The protection of rights is a restraint on government action, which is a negative, rather than a requirement for the state to act in a positive manner, to do something for people.

Marriage is not a right because it consists of a positive act by the state. Equal protection applies to marriage in the same way that it applies to the letting of contracts to pave roads or the issuing of a driver's license - those who do not meet the established criteria have no legal expectation of receiving that which is offered.

Marriage as defined by the state stipulates "one man and one woman". Those who wish to change it should do so by the means provided. To arbitrarily change the meaning of legal terms in order to achieve this end will cause problems down the road because it undermines the logic of every legal principle and law dealing with rights and protections under the law - which was the point of Elder Oaks' address, a point that seems to have been missed.

Pops said...

That wasn't as clear as it should have been.

To arbitrarily change the legal meaning of terms such as "rights" and "protection" (which meanings are not necessarily the same as the common or colloquial definitions) in order to change the definition of "marriage" will cause problems...

Anonymous said...

@ Pops: The protection of rights is a restraint on government action, which is a negative, rather than a requirement for the state to act in a positive manner, to do something for people.

So what? Your point is irrelevant to the case at hand. The fact is that IF a government IS going "to do something for people," which it obviously does when it issues a marriage license, that something must be done within the constraints of the 14th Amendment.

No one is arguing that the government MUST do something positive for gay people--this is a red herring of your own invention. Americans could, if they wished, vote to take the government out of the marriage business altogether. But we haven't done that. We seem to prefer to have our government doing positive things for straight couples. Having done that, the argument goes--having already acted in this positive maner--that government action must be restrained by the Constitution.

Nowhere does the Constitution require the government to act positively to build courthouses. The government could choose not to do so--it could decide always to rent, for example. But IF the government IS going to build courthouses, it cannot put a sign on those buildings saying "Whites Only--Coloreds Use Rear Entrance."

The Constitution does not require the government to issue licenses to dentists either. But IF the government is going to do so, it must do so within the constraints to the 14th Amendment. If it DOES discriminate against some group, it must do so on the basis of a compelling and rational interest, etc. Absent that interest, the license must be available to all.

Ditto for the government's provision of marriage licenses for straights only.

This isn't rocket science, people. The California Supreme Court and Judge Walker are not making this stuff up out of thin air.

Both the law and the currents of history are on the side of gay marriage. And there are already thousands and thousands of legally married gay people in this country. The debate is really over already. Get used to it.

No, don't simply get used to it. CELEBRATE it! Hooray for America! Justice and liberty FOR ALL!

Anonymous said...

Yes to the above. What some people need to get used to is that we don't live in a theocracy. We don't use the power of the government to instantiate the kinds of invidious distinctions among people that are so important to certain religions. And that, my conservative friends, is LIMITED government. Proposition 8 INCREASED the power of the government to meddle in the private lives of individuals.

Anyone who supported Prop 8 and also claims to support limited government is deeply confused.

Brett said...

@Anonymous who wrote: "There's been enough contention and to spare on this topic here on this blog. You know where I stand, Brett, and I know where you stand."

I'm willing to drop our line of discussion if you wish. I didn't intend for it to be contentious but I'll tell you, when you get a call from one of your former seminary students in the middle of the night because they just swallowed a handful of pills - it tends to become a very passionate subject.

You told me that you believe I'm in a perilous position by picking and choosing among the prophets words. Brigham Young once said: "The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord." I don't have a quote handy but my recollection is that Joseph Smith taught a similar principle. As did other prophets who followed them. I don't pick and choose, I go with what the Spirit tells me.

What I believe is perilous is for church members to assume that we have clarity regarding the Lord's will on the subject of homosexuality when what we actually seem to have is the best opinions of our leaders. They are trying but in just my 40 years of life, the teachings have continually changed.

My hope by being outspoken and participating in discussions like this is that I can encourage more members to make fewer assumptions and err more on the side of compassion. Our youth should never, ever be considering suicide rather than "coming out" and yet it happens all too frequently. I wish we would spend more time worrying about that and less time concerned with whether two men or two women can get a marriage license.

And I would not accuse you of shunning gay people. I didn't think that I had.

Nervous said...

There is an agenda from activists for LGBT + SSM that threatens religions liberty--if religious liberty includes the right to teach children that some sexual behaviors are wrong. The goals of that activism include silencing voices for traditional morality. An example is seen in the details behind two new laws proposed in California See background at http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=262485#ixzz1DtimGgTH.

Those laws ban in any school texts, events, class or activities any discriminatory bias against those who have chosen alternative sexual lifestyles, according to Meredith Turney, legislative liaison for Capitol Resource Institute.

But there are no similar protections for students with traditional or conservative lifestyles and beliefs. Offenders will face the wrath of the state Department of Education, up to and including lawsuits.

Nervous said...

also this:

'Hate' laws could label 5-year-olds 'offenders':

A campaign recently was launched in Montgomery County, Md., to classify the speech of advocates for people who choose to leave the homosexual lifestyle as "hate speech," which then could be banned under Obama's law.

"Hate speech is unwelcome in Montgomery County Public Schools," said an e-mail to the offices of Regina Griggs, national director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, known as PFOX. "I would like to ask that you immediately cease distribution of your flyers at our public schools.

"We intend to pursue every method possible to protest your actions if you choose to continue," the message warned.

The conflict was sparked by competing flyers distributed to public school students, one from PFOX, which reaches out to all those leaving the homosexual lifestyle regardless of religious affiliation, and the other from the homosexual-rights group PFLAG, or Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

The PFLAG flyer said if "homosexual" students can't talk to their family members, "there are still people you can talk to."

The PFOX flyer explained "former homosexuals do not think something is wrong with them because they decided to fulfill their heterosexual potential by overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions."

The flyer from PFOX offered resources to help with "tolerance for everyone regardless of sexual orientation" for parents and students such as event speakers, books for libraries and brochures.

It said, "No one should be labeled based on the perception of others. Get smart! Explore the origins of your same-sex attraction. ... The decision of a prom date, a car, or whether to super-size those fries can be based on a feeling, but important decisions should not be made on feelings alone."

The law signed by Obama also was targeted recently by a lawsuit alleging it violates the civil rights of Christians and pastors, who according to the complaint now can become the target of federal investigations, grand juries and even charges for no more than opposing the activism of homosexuals.

The lawsuit was filed by the Thomas More Law Center in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of Pastors Levon Yuille, Rene Ouellette, James Combs and Gary Glenn, the president of the American Family Association of Michigan.

Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, said at the time the lawsuit over the "hate crimes" law was filed, "There is no legitimate law enforcement need for this federal law. Of the 1.38 million violent crimes reported in the U.S. by the FBI in 2008, only 243 were considered as motivated by the victim's sexual orientation. Moreover, [Attorney General] Eric Holder himself testified at a Senate hearing that the states are doing a fine job in this area."

He called it a "political payoff" to homosexual advocacy groups for support of Obama in the last presidential election.

"The sole purpose of this law is to criminalize the Bible and use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their biblically-based religious belief that homosexual conduct is a sin. It elevates those persons who engage in deviant sexual behaviors, including pedophiles, to a special protected class of persons as a matter of federal law and policy," Thompson said at the time.

The Hate Crimes Act was dubbed by its critics as the "Pedophile Protection Act," after an amendment to explicitly prohibit pedophiles from being protected by the act was defeated by majority Democrats. During congressional debate, supporters argued that all "philias," or alternative sexual lifestyles, should be protected.

Brett said...

@Pops

"Marriage as defined by the state stipulates "one man and one woman"."

But in California it WASN'T defined that way!

That shoots a whole through your entire argument about how this is a contract that doesn't fall under equal protection.

If marriage had been defined "man and woman" then there never would have been a need for Prop 22 or Prop 8 in California. There would not have been a reason to pass the Federal DOMA legislation. All of those were attempts to re-define the marriage contract as only between a man and a woman.

You wrote: "To arbitrarily change the meaning of legal terms in order to achieve this end will cause problems down the road because it undermines the logic of every legal principle and law dealing with rights and protections under the law - which was the point of Elder Oaks' address, a point that seems to have been missed."

To achieve what end? Equality?

The point that you and Elder Oaks seems to be missing is that LDS Corp with is National Organization for Marriage are the groups responsible for initiating the "arbitrary changes in the meaning of legal terms".

Pops - If you are against changing legal terms than right here and now you ought to renounce the above mentioned laws (CA Prop 22, CA Prop 8, Federal DOMA, and all others that have sought to add change or delete language regarding marriage).

You cannot have it both ways. You can't say that changing legal terms is wrong and simultaneously claim that "your side" just needed to alter state and federal laws & constitutions "to add clarity".

Anonymous said...

Brett,

Agreed.

I've always felt that the prophets and apostles have sent pretty clear messages on the subject, and they've always seemed to be reasonable messages. It's never seemed out of character for God to give some the challenge of same-sex attraction. Anyone who is a candidate for Celestial glory will be tested to see if they are willing to sacrifice everything for it, or whether they will hold back.

Pops said...

Read what I wrote a bit more carefully. If some would like to change the definition of "marriage", I only ask that they do so by legally-appropriate methods.

The California initiatives followed correct procedure. I oppose having a judge toss out a legally-correct action on the basis of a misdefinition of "rights". It undermines the rule of law and has the potential for far-reaching consequences across a much broader spectrum than the issue of marriage.

Brett said...

@Anonymous who wrote: "I've always felt that the prophets and apostles have sent pretty clear messages on the subject... Anyone who is a candidate for Celestial glory will be tested to see if they are willing to sacrifice everything for it, or whether they will hold back."

Yep - they used to teach that marriage was the path to Celestial Glory. Good to know that celibacy is also now an option.

Brett said...

@Pops

You wrote: "I oppose having a judge toss out a legally-correct action on the basis of a misdefinition of "rights"."

Perfect... because the state and federal judges who have tossed out Prop 8 did so based on the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection NOT based on some definition of "rights".

And you wrote: "It undermines the rule of law and has the potential for far-reaching consequences across a much broader spectrum than the issue of marriage."

Except you can't seem to identify what those "far-reaching consequences" might be. Like Oaks you can only throw out red herrings without actually making a case against marriage equality.

I know you believe that Prop 8 followed the "correct" procedure, but judge after judge after judge has said that what Prop 8 did was unconstitutional. How many judges have to rule the same way before you stop considering them to be "activists"?

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Brett, I disagree with some of your positions, but I honestly have enjoyed the way you express yourself and tackle the issues. In fact, that's true for a lot of the folks on this controversial topic. Openminded, Mateo, Pops - you've all given us a lot to think about and I appreciate the frank but generally civil tone taken.

Anonymous said...

Good to know that celibacy is also now an option.

That's not exactly how I would have put it. I would put it more along the lines that "those not be willing to give up family and spouse if called upon to do so don't quite make it".

Pops said...

You continue to confuse the issue of {undermining jurisprudence by the invention of artificial rights} with {the gay marriage issue}. If you were a scientist, mathematician, or engineer you would understand the implications of redefining some fundamental concept or relationship to the body of logic that derives from or relies on it. I guess I won't be able to help you on this concept, which is unfortunate because that's what Elder Oaks' address was about.

Speaking of Prop 8, I think a most telling part of the Prop 8 decision was this statement:

Rather, the exclusion [of same-sex couples from marriage] exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.

That sounds more like social engineering than adjudication. The position of the LDS Church on Prop 8 is that society will in fact suffer harm if gender roles are erased from the family, and that it is in the best interest of the state to preserve the historical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Pops said...

I might add that the "That time has passed" assertion was a necessary premise for both the due process and equal protection conclusions. Without it, the ruling wouldn't hold water.

Mateo said...

@ pops,
With all respect you really need to drop this idea that scientific principles can't be redefined. We went over this before and it was explained in great detail that this is not the case. Scientific principles are constantly changed when it is found that there are other aspects which they don't adequately describe.

If Gay people were trying to change the definition of marriage to say that opposite sex partners could no longer be married then you may have something to stand on here, but that's not the case at all.

How was allowing inter-racial marriage not the same "redefining" of principle underlying ideas of what marriage is?

Newton's laws of physics are still tremendously helpful and useful even though they've been shown to not encompass the whole truth. We've added onto those ideas with relativity theory. It was also added upon by Quantum mechanics with things smaller then we had thought about before. Then there's string theory that is super theoretical though but which attempts to tie all these theories together.

Traditional ideas on marriage are important and good. As we've come to understand other cultures, peoples and religious beliefs it makes sense that such definitions can and should be tweaked to encompass others.

Attempts like those of Oaks and your own come off to me as attempts to give some sort of a rational reason for doing something that really when it comes down to it is bigotry, prejudice and discrimination. It's much the same tactic that every prejudiced movement in the past has taken (or if you're in some parts of the world still is taking place in regards to race in a very open and obvious way.)

That's my 2 cents anyways. I realize it's not going to change anyone's opinion on the matter though. Thankfully time will march on and with any luck this whole debate will go the same way as the previous ones with people eventually getting used to the idea that a minority group is not in fact going to destroy their way of life and then move onto some new enemy to blame.

Mateo said...

@ jeff,
I've really enjoyed the back and forth, spirited, debate going on here as well. Kudos for creating a spot where people can discuss this stuff in a calm, reasoned manner. :)

Brett said...

@Jeff

Thanks. Even though I don't agree with Oaks, I'm glad that you posted the article and your thoughts so that we could have this discussion.

I've spent almost all of the past 10 years in YM callings or as an early morning seminary teacher. I can tell you that every quorum/class that I worked with had at least one gay young man in it. So this discussion of the church's position on homosexuality is a tremendously important one to have.

Brett said...

@Pops

You wrote: "If you were a scientist, mathematician, or engineer you would understand the implications of redefining some fundamental concept or relationship to the body of logic that derives from or relies on it."

I have a statistics degree from BYU ... does that qualify me as intelligent enough to understand what you are saying? I also was gainfully employed as a statistician at a rather large technology company whose product likely occupies some real estate in the computer you are using right now. I spent years working side by side with some of the brightest engineers working on the cutting edge of photo-lithography and semiconductor research.

I understand the case you are trying to make but I'm not buying it.

You wrote: "The position of the LDS Church on Prop 8 is that society will in fact suffer harm if gender roles are erased from the family, and that it is in the best interest of the state to preserve the historical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman."

Yep. That's the church's position. It also appears to be your position. But you haven't made a case as to what that harm would be. Neither has Oaks.

Brett said...

@Pops

You wrote: "I might add that the "That time has passed" assertion was a necessary premise for both the due process and equal protection conclusions. Without it, the ruling wouldn't hold water."

The judge isn't stating that religious or personal beliefs have to change with regard to gender roles in marriage. Just that they are not uniform across society. Our own scripture (D&C 134) requires that we support such a conclusion by not dictating forms of worship (and marriage is a form a worship) for those outside of the church.

Pops said...

I understand the case you are trying to make but I'm not buying it.

So, you don't think that changing the definition of "standard deviation" would have any effect on the field of statistics. Curious.

Pops said...

The judge isn't stating that religious or personal beliefs have to change with regard to gender roles in marriage. Just that they are not uniform across society.

It went beyond that, to the point of saying that one set of beliefs is legally repugnant.

But you haven't made a case as to what that harm would be.

This is where you hold the advantage of saying, "That's just your opinion of what might happen", which is true but not particularly useful in exploring the consequence of changing what has worked for millennia. Where is the case that nothing bad will come from the change? Where is the case that anything good will come from the change? Why change?

Brett said...

@Pops

You wrote: "So, you don't think that changing the definition of "standard deviation" would have any effect on the field of statistics."

No, you cannot change the definition of standard deviation. It is what it is, and like you said, at a minimum it would create mass confusion.

But, the analogy is incorrect. Standard deviation is a formula to calculate a known value.

Marriage, on the other hand, is a legal construct. You fought vigorously to defend it as nothing more than a contract. While it provides (and will continue to provide) great benefits in terms of raising children - we have never required that it be used as such.

The idea that marriage should be defined as only a man & woman is rooted in religious and societal norms. As the judge wrote, those societal norms have changed. And as Oaks argues and D&C 134 supports, one's religious beliefs (or lack thereof) should never be forced on anyone else.

So, your "standard deviation definition" analogy doesn't hold. Standard deviation is not based on societal norms nor religious beliefs.

Brett said...

@Pops

You wrote: "It went beyond that, to the point of saying that one set of beliefs is legally repugnant."

To those of us who see this as a constitutional issue of equality, equivalent to the Loving v. Virginia case, it is legally repugnant. I support anyone's rights to believe that marriage is whatever their religious beliefs profess it to be. But, that shouldn't be enforced on the rest of the population in a constitutional republic.

You wrote: "This is where you hold the advantage of saying, "That's just your opinion of what might happen", which is true but not particularly useful in exploring the consequence of changing what has worked for millennia."

Predicting future change is definitely going to be a game of opinion. But, I don't think that you have yet to venture an opinion as to what the consequences will be. And, if you are going to say "what has worked for millenia" then you must also reinstate polygamy and wives as property. Why was it okay to change marriage to eliminate those concepts?

You asked: "Where is the case that nothing bad will come from the change? Where is the case that anything good will come from the change? Why change?"

I'm not suggesting a change. Prop 22 is what changed (temporarily) CA law. Prop 8 sought to change the CA constitution. Federal DOMA legislation was passed in order to prevent gays from marrying. Eliminating all of those enables marriage equality because marriage wasn't legally defined as man & woman.

But, if it wasn't that way and if there are jurisdictions where marriage is defined as exclusively heterosexual unions then I would say that those who are making the case for NOT allowing equality have the burden of proof.

The good that would come from getting the government out of the way and allowing gays to marry is that we would eliminate the labeling of a minority as second-class citizens. It might also help with acceptance and reducing the number of gay teens that kill themselves. It would likely reduce the number of homosexuals shamed into heterosexual marriages only to find out, several kids down the road, that they can't hold together such a union (if you really care about the protection of children, you ought to do some research on that topic). It would uphold the church doctrine in D&C 134 and Article of Faith 11. It would show that we live Christ's command to love our neighbor as ourselves.

And yes, those are just my opinions.

Mateo said...

@pops,
"which is true but not particularly useful in exploring the consequence of changing what has worked for millennia. "

Wow... really? You do realize how wonderfully this sentence would fit into a KKK rally, right? Majority groups will ALWAYS use this excuse when a minority group starts gaining any sort of ground.

Homosexuals aren't just suddenly springing out of the ground due to a wicked society, despite what some wish to believe. They've always been there, and in the past their "condition" has been so publicly hated that they tended to keep a lot quieter and try to ignore what they were usually to pretty bad results. As America has become more and more a land of the "free" as time has gone on fringe groups of minorities have become more brave in speaking up for themselves.

That Gays in the past have not been allowed to have a publicly accepted form to show their commitment and love for each other is, as I see it, an injustice, and has no logical basis other then, "ewww gross! Gay people are nasty and I don't want anything that reminds me of the horrible things that they engage in!" Many people in the US right now have no issue at all with changing state laws to prohibit such marriages but then somehow justify their decisions by saying that this is how it HAS to be. Also by pretending that what the federal government recognizes as a marriage MUST fall in line with what their personal religion teaches on the matter. Yet you don't see glaring issues with this? You can't see how that in itself is where the real danger to freedom of religion springs from?

Living in a free and just nation means you're going to be surrounded by new and different things. You're welcome to have personal beliefs as to the righteousness of such decisions, but if you're advocating privilege be withheld from certain groups because they make you uncomfortable then it's something I wholeheartedly would fight against.

"The position of the LDS Church on Prop 8 is that society will in fact suffer harm if gender roles are erased from the family, and that it is in the best interest of the state to preserve the historical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman."

Do you have any idea how many straight marriages are ending in divorce? There are TONS of kids that are not growing up with traditional gender roles or a "nuclear" family set up and I meet tons of them every day. Know what? They aren't bad people. They're well adjusted, successful, and most of them have healthy attitudes towards their own marriages and families. While the upbringing of others may be WAY different then what the LDS philosophies promote this is not a horrible thing in fact in some cases this dogmatic adherence to how a family is SUPPOSED to be causes a lot of problems for people. They have these expectations about how life is supposed to be if they are righteous and they follow all the rules and then get a completely different outcome and feel horrible about themselves. Thankfully the church is very aware of this and GA talk quite often about the importance and variety of living a good life even if you are never able to have a family. Long story short the idea that the "gays" are going to erode society is just as logical as the one that stated that inter-racial marriage would erode the fabric of society (and the exact same accusations were being made during that point in history as well.)

Pops said...

Wow, this is much harder than I thought it should be.

No, you cannot change the definition of standard deviation...

Marriage, on the other hand...

The subject was changing the definition of rights, not the definition of marriage.

A lot of jurisprudence depends on a specific definition - or definitions - of the term rights. When willy-nilly substitutions are made in order to achieve in the courts what cannot otherwise be achieved is legal mischief that will have far-reaching legal consequences. Once again (sigh), that was the point Elder Oaks was trying to make.

Brett said...

@Pops

You wrote: "The subject was changing the definition of rights, not the definition of marriage."

I apologize... I guess in the chain of messages I got confused.

But, I thought for the sake of argument we had dismissed marriage as a right. You said, it's a contract. I said, okay, let's discuss it as a contract. Then you said you can't change the contract.

My argument from my last two posts still stands and you have not refuted it. I'll continue to discuss marriage as a contract (even though the Supreme Court said it was a right four decades ago). And it is a contract that happens to come with a long list of legal benefits. Constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection require that we allow gay couples as well as straight couples to enter into marriage.

I haven't discussed changing the definition of "right". That's a straw man that you continue to insert.

You wrote: "When willy-nilly substitutions are made in order to achieve in the courts what cannot otherwise be achieved is legal mischief that will have far-reaching legal consequences."

No "willy-nilly" substitutions have been made.

How is it NOT legal mischief for the majority to try and vote away constitutional guarantees from a minority?

And you still have not told us what legal consequences could possibly result.

You wrote: "Once again (sigh), that was the point Elder Oaks was trying to make."

Actually, the point Oaks was trying to make is that constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion appear to be threatened. That is a concern to me. It is one of the reasons that I think overturning Prop 8 is so vital: We cannot allow a majority vote to remove constitutional guarantees from anyone. Allowing Prop 8 to stand sets a very dangerous precedent... the very danger that Oaks fears.

Pops said...

Brett:

Then you said you can't change the contract.

Pops - 9:26 AM, February 13, 2011:

Marriage as defined by the state stipulates "one man and one woman". Those who wish to change it should do so by the means provided.

Brett:

Actually, the point Oaks was trying to make is that constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion appear to be threatened.

From the original post:

"All of this shows an alarming trajectory of events pointing toward constraining the freedom of religious speech by forcing it to give way to the ‘rights’ of those offended by such speech,” Elder Oaks said. [Note 'rights' in quotes - meaning they are fabricated rights, rights according to a new definition of the term.]

Pops said...

When a belief is viewed by the courts as legally repugnant, legal action is justified against those who act on the basis of said belief. For example, the refusal of the LDS Church to perform gay marriages in their temples becomes actionable. A Church that teaches against homosexual behavior stands to lose its standing as a legitimate religion.

Mateo said...

"A Church that teaches against homosexual behavior stands to lose its standing as a legitimate religion."

Right because we've obviously seen that this is the case with the plethora of things the church sees as sinful and evil, yet are perfectly legal. It's illegal to tell a woman she can't be hired for a position due to her gender, yet the church is still seen as a "legitimate" religion and has very defined gender roles with women not allowed to hold the priesthood no matter how much the petition it.

You're building a fanatical threat of a dystopia that is not grounded in reality here. That society may look down on the LDS church for it's views may be likely, but then again there's already plenty of fuel for that as it is. If the state wants to start forcing the LDS church to add gay marriage to it's temple ceremonies, or forcing women to be allowed the priesthood or forcing the church to admit those that would otherwise be "unworthy" into getting temple admittance, then I will gladly defend it's freedoms. As of yet, none of those things have happened.

Pops said...

Well, there you go - anyone who predicts negative consequences as a result of judicial mischief apparently suffers from some sort of fanaticism. The logic seems be that if none of the things suggested as possible have ever happened, they cannot happen. That's not a rational position.

Pops said...

The decision overturning Prop. 8 stated explicitly that the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses - the justifications for the decision - do not apply if it is true that:

1. There are gender-based differences in human beings, and

2. Those gender-based differences produce a better outcome in marriage from the perspective of the state.

In other words, if these two assertions are true, the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court is in error and the state is justified in enforcing gender requirements in marriage.

The first is quite obviously true. Physical and psychological differences between the genders are well-known and well-documented. I don't know that the court addressed this one - I assume it felt the need to eliminate only one of the two and apparently felt the second was the easiest target.

But even though the second is clearly true also, the court rejected the notion of gender-based roles on the basis of anecdotal evidence, the observation that gays and lesbians will "feel bad" if denied the "right" to marriage, and a handful of academic studies.

Among many things ignored by the court is the reality that heterosexual marriage is the union of two complementary human beings, resulting in a synergy that is not possible from the combination of two like parts. That this synergy arises specifically from gender differences makes it legally and constitutionally proper for the state to restrict marriage to "one man and one woman."

Brett said...

@Pops

You wrote: "Marriage as defined by the state stipulates "one man and one woman". Those who wish to change it should do so by the means provided."

But it didn't. At least not in California and a number of other states. It didn't say that in federal law either. Those who are against marriage equality decided to change the definition to exclude gays. And yes, they did it with a ballot initiative. But do you not see the problem with that? As populations and attitudes change we can arbitrarily go back and forth regarding which marriages are valid. There are already groups preparing to put new initiatives on the ballot in CA to legalize gay marriage and attitudes have changed enough that they will likely be successful. It's a ridiculous thing to put to a vote.

You quoted Oaks: "All of this shows an alarming trajectory of events pointing toward constraining the freedom of religious speech by forcing it to give way to the ‘rights’ of those offended by such speech"

And we all agree that freedom of religious speech should not, must not be constrained. There is no right to NOT be offended. But there are constitutional guarantees to due process and equal protection and those require that we extend marriage to gay couples.

You wrote: "A Church that teaches against homosexual behavior stands to lose its standing as a legitimate religion."

Well, that didn't happen with respect to civil rights for blacks when we kept them out of the priesthood and the temple. Nor did it happen after interracial marriage bans were removed by SCOTUS. It hasn't happened with equal rights for women. And it hasn't happened in the states where gay marriage is legal. But, as you said, that doesn't mean it couldn't happen. And I agree that we have to vigorously defend freedom of religion. But, I don't agree that taking away the constitutional guarantees of others will somehow help protect ours.

The LDS Church and you seem to justify the voting away of constitutional guarantees of homosexuals as a means of protecting our constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

That's a dangerous route to take.

Brett said...

@Pops

You wrote: "The decision overturning Prop. 8 stated explicitly that the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses - the justifications for the decision - do not apply if it is true that:"

Where is that? It's a rather lengthy document, could you provide us with a page number so we can get the full context?

You wrote: "In other words, if these two assertions are true, the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court is in error..."

The Ninth Circuit hasn't ruled on the Prop 8 case yet.

You wrote: "Among many things ignored by the court is the reality that heterosexual marriage is the union of two complementary human beings, resulting in a synergy that is not possible from the combination of two like parts."

Has anyone suggested prohibiting heterosexual marriage?

You wrote: "That this synergy arises specifically from gender differences makes it legally and constitutionally proper for the state to restrict marriage to "one man and one woman."

That would only be true IF the state required those entering marriage to act within those specific gender roles. It clearly does not.

Pops said...

But it didn't.

There are many aspects of marriage not explicit in the law. In the District Court ruling, for example, one finding of fact was "When California became a state in 1850, marriage was understood to require a husband and a wife...". Subsequent findings relate that in the 1970s several homosexual couples sought marriage on the basis of changes to the age-of-consent wording. At this point in time the California legislature responded by clarifying what was meant by marriage, e.g. "one man and one woman". In 2008 the California Supreme Court struck the language "between a man and a woman", as well as Prop. 22. So the only access to marriage for homosexual couples was provided by judges who changed the law, not by anything inherent in the law as understood and practiced prior to that ruling.

Well, that didn't happen with respect to civil rights for blacks when we kept them out of the priesthood and the temple.

It isn't clear that it could not have happened. Try opening a restaurant that caters only to whites and see how it takes before you land in court. The issue of "public accommodation" seems to be the sticky wicket regarding racial discrimination.

The LDS Church and you seem to justify the voting away of constitutional guarantees of homosexuals as a means of protecting our constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

No. As stated by the United States District Court for the District of Northern California (sorry about the Ninth Circuit reference), "When a law creates a classification but neither targets a suspect class nor burdens a fundamental right, the court presumes the law is valid and will uphold it as long as it is rationally related to some legitimate government interest."

The Court asserts that gender-based roles in marriage are irrational. The Church claims that gender-based roles are both rational and essential. The involvement of the Church in Prop. 8 was not to protect religious freedom, but to protect the institution of the family.

Pops said...

Where is that? It's a rather lengthy document, could you provide us with a page number so we can get the full context?

That was my summary, not a quotation.

Has anyone suggested prohibiting heterosexual marriage?

The point I was making is that a heterosexual marriage is, in fact, superior to a homosexual marriage due to the synergy of complementary partners. I'm not sure where "prohibiting heterosexual marriage" came from...

That would only be true IF the state required those entering marriage to act within those specific gender roles. It clearly does not.

The state does not have to require couples to act within those gender roles, it only has to demonstrate the advantage accrued to the state as a result of the different gender roles. It has to show the gender requirement to be "rationally related to some legitimate government interest."

Mateo said...

"Well, there you go - anyone who predicts negative consequences as a result of judicial mischief apparently suffers from some sort of fanaticism. The logic seems be that if none of the things suggested as possible have ever happened, they cannot happen. That's not a rational position."

You're creating this ridiculous argument that we need to deny gays the right to marry because otherwise the church will be forced to perform gay marriage.

First off those are two COMPLETELY separate issues. How are you assuming they are one and the same? As Brett noted there ARE states where gay marriage is legal and the church has not been forced to perform gay marriage.

Secondly we have good evidence to suggest that this will not be the case as this has never been the case in the past. Does that mean things can't change in the future? No. Yet if you want to use that sort of reasoning why not outlaw the use of alcohol for fear that the state will force you to allow drinking in the temple? Freedom to worship as one pleases is one thing. Getting to have the state back up your personal feelings on what is an acceptable marriage is a totally different one. In order for YOUR religion's ideals to be held up it means that the religious viewpoints that are in opposition must be pushed down. For someone arguing on behalf of religious freedom you have a funny way of doing it.

I think maybe the primary reason you and I will probably never agree on this subject is that you really can't seem to accept the reality that homosexuals aren't just people that want to trample god's laws and be rebelious. They honestly and truly are the way they are. They really do find the same gender to be attractive in the same way that you are attracted to your wife. They really honestly do get love, companionship and stability from their same gender relationships in the same way I assume you do with your wife. They truely are capable (not all of them but then the same goes for heterosexual parternships) of raising families with strong moral values (even if the values may not be exactly the same as yours on all fronts you'd be surprised how many of them are similar) and ethics. If you were truly able to see that you'd be able to see why telling them that what they have is not allowed to be referred to as a marriage because they're going to try and destroy the fabric of america with their gayness or ruin freedom of religion, is such a ridiculous thing to be saying.

So far I'm not seeing any arguments you've made that couldn't have been used against the women's suffrage movement. You can keep making this argument that it's destructive to change the definition of marriage but that's EXACTLY what prop 8 did. It changed the def to be exclusive to heterosexual couples. What this really comes down to has nothing to do with worries that changing legal definitions will destroy america and everything to do with you believing that homosexuality is a sinful behavior and that if it's condoned in any way by the state that the gays are going to start spreading everywhere and destroy morality.

Mateo said...

"When a law creates a classification but neither targets a suspect class nor burdens a fundamental right, the court presumes the law is valid and will uphold it as long as it is rationally related to some legitimate government interest."

Now we already know that you don't consider marriage as a "right" (which I highly doubt you would stick to if your ability to have a state recognizes heterosexual marriage was under fire) so I'll let that rest, but how is prop 8 NOT targeting a 'suspect class'? Am I not understanding the wording here?

Again what rational reasons does the state have for needing to cut off the ability for same sex partners to get married in the state of California? From a state position the same sex couples are doing the same stuff the hetero couples are. They're working, paying taxes, buying houses and businesses, and raising children. Now you can say "well they can't raise children as well as straight couples can!" but where is your rational justification of this? You're going off your personal feelings but there are plenty of examples of both good and bad parenting in both same and hetero sex couples. Your beef with homosexual marriage has nothing to do with a rational analysis of what works and is coming from your interpretation of what religion teaches against same sex relationships. While prophets are perfectly free to voice their strong opinions condemning homosexual relationships there are and will continue to be happy monogomous and christian gay couples out there. Why does your interpretation of what is a marriage get to trump theirs?

I've said it before but if I could wave a wand the state wouldn't recognize marriage and it would be civil unions all around since people can't seem to deal with the idea that the state isn't there to make everyone else follow what you believe. You'd think the LDS church would get that since it's often been on the other end of this sort of issue (with things like polygamous marriage.)

Pops said...

You're creating this ridiculous argument that we need to deny gays the right to marry because...

Okay, so you tell us what lawsuits are in the works. I can't read the minds of activists.

You can keep making this argument that it's destructive to change the definition of marriage...

It's destructive to the legal system to change the definition of rights in order to achieve a back-door change to the definition of marriage.

... but that's EXACTLY what prop 8 did. It changed the def to be exclusive to heterosexual couples.

Since you missed the point, the rest of your assertion has no merit. But then it wouldn't have had merit anyway because you didn't consider the entire history of marriage in the state of California.

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