Attacks on gays = a tax on Mormons


I don't know about you, but I am incensed about the LDS Church's over-the-pulpit exhortation of its members to mobilize and help pass California's Proposition 8, banning gay marriage. When I first heard about it, in fact, my first reaction was, "Damn, they need to have their tax-exempt status revoked."

Now you can help urge the IRS to make that happen. Here are all the instructions and supporting documents you need in order to:

File a Complaint Asking the IRS to Revoke the LDS Church's Tax-Exempt Status

If the Church is going to jump into the political arena (yes, okay, they've never not been a player in the political arena) and try to legislate a segment of our population out of their legal rights, then it's only fair that they as a corporation should share this country's tax burden. They pulled this same kind of nonsense 30 years ago to help defeat the Equal Rights Amendment,* and who knows what they'll try next if their actions are left legally unchallenged?

I will never understand the idea that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples somehow threatens the institution of marriage. "Defense of marriage" makes no more sense than, say, "defense of Sunday," the idea that your belief in the sanctity of your Sabbath should mean the I can't buy a beer that day. In a pluralistic society, that's just a ridiculous, backward, and fearful proposition. Observe your Sabbath the way you see fit, and feel free to restrict the definition of a sanctified marriage inside the walls of your own church. But don't try to extend that limited thinking into the public sphere—at least, not without seeing your organization transformed into a de facto political action committee.

Mormons at large seem unable to equate their anti-gay activism (and let's be honest, the Church can equivocate all it wants, but in pushing this legislation against gay marriage, it is supporting discrimination against gays) with the anti-Mormon persecution they suffered throughout much of their early history. Mormons only wanted to be able to practice their odd little religion and their uncommon marital practices in peace, but state after state ran them out with torches and guns. (Okay, again it was more complicated than that, and had more than a little to do with the early political goals of the Church and how threatening those sounded to their neighbors, but let's take it as a given for the sake of this discussion that the persecution was entirely unprovoked.) If anyone in the world should be more sympathetic to the goal of earning society's approval for an unconventional brand of marriage, it should be the Mormons. I mean, come on. They are the sorest losers I've ever seen.

Jon Stewart is much funnier on the topic than I am:

By the way, people claiming to be Mormons attacked and beat several Proposition 8 protesters outside the Los Angeles temple last Friday. Here's news video from KTLA. I think most of the Mormons I know would be appalled by this behavior, but it demonstrates to me the dangerous lack of proportion that can take root in some people's minds when the dominant social force in their lives tells them it's okay to discriminate.

A revocation of the Church's tax-exempt status will likely never come to pass, but at least your IRS complaint can send a small message.

* The Boston Phoenix article to which I linked on the subject of the ERA was mainly an assessment of Mitt Romney's chances as a presidential candidate. So you don't have to scan the whole thing, I've reproduced the relevant passages here:

For a crash course in Mormon political power, consider the important role the LDS Church played in the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have guaranteed women equal rights under the law. Passed by the House in 1971 and by the Senate in 1972, the ERA enjoyed widespread national support and seemed destined to succeed. By 1976, 34 states had ratified it; only four more were needed to make it part of the Constitution.

Then the Mormons got involved. In October 1976, the LDS Church's First Presidency—consisting of the church's three highest-ranking members—issued a formal statement opposing the ERA: the amendment, the First Presidency warned, might "stifle many God-given feminine instincts" and lead to an uptick in homosexual activity. This denunciation had a near-immediate impact in Idaho, home to a relatively large Mormon electorate. The Idaho legislature had previously given the ERA the requisite two-thirds approval, but this was undone by a January 1977 referendum in which a popular majority opposed the amendment.

Next, the LDS Church turned its focus to the state-level International Women's Year (IWY) conferences taking place around the country. These gatherings had no formal role in the amendment process, but served as highly public barometers of female support for the ERA. As Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn recounts in a forthcoming anthology, God and Country: Politics in Utah (Signature Books), LDS women in numerous states worked to block pro-ERA resolutions at IWY conferences. The process was top-down, and controlled by the Church's (male) leadership. In Hawaii, for example, Mormon women received these written instructions: "Report to Traditional Values Van, sign in, pick up dissent forms. Sit together. Stay together to vote. Ask Presidency for help if needed." At other state conferences, male Mormon coordinators staked out various rooms and informed their compatriots when a particular vote was pending; the Mormon women in attendance then rushed in to participate. This kind of discipline and cohesion allowed the Saints, as the Mormons call themselves, to dominate conferences in states where their total numbers were quite small. For example, Mormons represented about four percent of the total populations of Washington and Montana, but accounted for half or more of the women attending each state's IWY gathering. And in both Washington and Montana, every proposed pro-ERA resolution was defeated.

In addition, under the guidance of Gordon Hinckley—then a special adviser to the First Presidency, and now the president of the LDS Church—Mormon-led civic groups were set up in a dozen states. Anti-ERA speakers were invited to speak in LDS Church buildings, and massive letter-writing campaigns were launched. Here, too, the Mormons' limited numbers belied their ultimate effect: by one estimate, Saints generated 85 percent of the anti-ERA mail sent in Virginia, where they made up only one percent of the population. Ultimately, after a promising beginning, the ERA was defeated. And while it might be going too far to say the LDS Church killed it, it certainly put the amendment on life support. True, Mormons made common cause with conservative Catholics and Protestant fundamentalists in their battle against the ERA, a collaboration that paved the way for the political sector now broadly known as the religious right. But without the LDS Church's timely intervention and efficient opposition, the amendment probably would have passed.  [full article]

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I have happy to announce that I attended the protest against the Mormon church at Salt Lake City temple square last Friday. Mom was very upset, to say the least. Also, if you haven't seen it, you should look for a video of the special comment from Keith Olberman last night. It was about Prop 8 and it was amazing.

Well, I'm proud of you even if Mom isn't! I'll definitely check out Olbermann's commentary.

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on November 10, 2008 4:02 PM.

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