Latter-day politics.Mormon support for an anti-gay-marriage measure in California fuels a debate about the separation of church and state
California is not the first state that leaps to mind in any discussion of the Mormons, but for the next several months, at least, the two are closely linked. As the campaign for a ballot measure to ban gay marriage heats up, the Mormon Church The Mormon Church is a religious body founded in 1830 in Fayette, New York, by Joseph Smith. It is also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS Church. There are 7.7 million Mormons worldwide. has put itself in the middle of the battle, facing questions about the proper line between religion and politics.
"It's dangerous ground to cross," Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. writer and Democratic activist David Mixner David Mixner (born August 16, 1946) is a civil rights activist and best-selling author. He is best known for his work in anti-war and gay rights advocacy. Childhood
David Benjamin Mixner was born on August 16, 1946, near the town of Elmer in southern New Jersey. says of the divisive debate looming before Golden Staters Golden Staters is a Barbershop quartet that won the 1972 SPEBSQSA international competition.
Gentlemen's Agreement SPEBSQSA International Quartet Champions
1972 Succeeded by
Dealer's Choice . "A campaign of this sort, with the major players we're seeing on the other side, could arouse intense antireligious sentiment." Mixner helped raise money last year to fend off two ultimately successful anti-gay-marriage drives in Alaska and Hawaii. Regarding the campaign in California, he says, "I think we're beyond borderline here on church and state interference."
Earlier this year, the Mormon Church, the Church of Jesus Christ Church of Jesus Christ may refer to:
Since then, what started out as a test of limits for nondiscrimination has developed into a debate about faith and church-based politicking. [The Roman Catholic hierarchy in the state has also jumped into the fray. See sidebar on page 34.] Long seen as a bastion of diversity and toleration TOLERATION. In some. countries, where religion is established by law, certain sects who do not agree with the established religion are nevertheless permitted to exist, and this permission is called toleration. , California now faces a fight over same-sex marriage Noun 1. same-sex marriage - two people of the same sex who live together as a family; "the legal status of same-sex marriages has been hotly debated"
couple, twosome, duet, duo - a pair who associate with one another; "the engaged couple"; "an inseparable that promises to carve new fault lines in the state's already tenuous political landscape.
The prospect of the joining of church and state "is the most discomfiting aspect of all about this campaign," says Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior associate at Claremont Graduate University's school of politics and economics and an analyst of California politics. Bebitch Jeffe adds that the massive donations to the measure's backers are already helping to propel their message out to the public, leaving foes in the dust. "I haven't seen anything from the `no' side yet," she says, referring to opponents of the Knight initiative. In citing the surprisingly large Mormon donations to Knight proponents, both Bebitch Jeffe and Mixner point to a vote by the San Francisco board of supervisors The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is the legislature of San Francisco, California.
Government and politics
As the official name implies, the City and County of San Francisco is a consolidated city-county, being simultaneously a charter city and charter county in October urging the Internal Revenue Service to investigate fund-raising practices of Latter-day Saints officials.
Starting in May, church leaders in Utah wrote letters to be read aloud during worship and then distributed to their 740,000 adherents in the Golden State, whose ranks include four GOP congressmen. The letters from LDS LDs
See: Liquidated damages headquarters in Salt Lake City urge California Mormons to give generously of their "means and time to assure a successful vote" on the March initiative. The missives pack a visceral punch since many LDS members believe that the signature of LDS president and prophet Gordon Hinckley make them divine instructions.
Hinckley kept up the drumbeat See Drumbeat 2000. against gay marriage. At the church's annual conference in October, he told attendees that "this issue has nothing to do with civil rights. For men to marry men, or women to marry women, is a moral wrong." Bay Area LDS spokesman Merrill Higham, who did not return calls for this story, told the San Francisco Examiner The San Francisco Examiner is a U.S. daily newspaper. It has been published continuously in San Francisco, California, since the late 19th Century. History
The beginning of the Examiner is a topic of some controversy. that the effort to keep existing curbs on marriage is about protecting "something we consider sacred."
Far from unprecedented, these letters follow donations totaling $1.1 million by the Mormon Church in 1998 to the statewide campaigns against same-sex marriage in Hawaii and in Alaska--in the latter state, the LDS windfall constituted 79% of the antigay campaign's entire contributions. Measures in both states passed by greater than 2-1.
Federal tax laws bar nonprofit charities and churches from endorsing or opposing candidates, slates, or parties as a condition of staying exempt from federal taxes. These groups--signified by the tax code as 501(c)3 entities--may, however, participate in ballot measure campaigns as long as their involvement does not constitute a "substantial part" of their overall budget and activities. Backed by an opinion from city attorneys, San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden supervisor Mark Leno Mark Leno ( born 24 September 1951, Milwaukee, Wisconsin ) is a United States politician, representing California's 13th Assembly district, which consists of the eastern portion of San Francisco. says the LDS fired-raising breaches even that flexible standard.
"They're soliciting funds on church letterhead, and they're giving detailed instructions to local members on how to raise funds themselves," says Leno of the LDS appeals. While he believes the Catholic contributions to the Knight cause are lawful, Leno maintains that the Mormons' "aggressive" appeal to members' pocketbooks constitutes an "illegal fund-raising campaign Noun 1. fund-raising campaign - a campaign to raise money for some cause
fund-raising drive, fund-raising effort
crusade, campaign, cause, drive, effort, movement - a series of actions advancing a principle or tending toward a particular end; "he supported ."
But at least one tax-law expert disputes Leno's assessment. "In all probability, they [the LDS appeals] are absolutely legal," says John Pomeranz, nonprofit advocacy counsel for the Alliance for Justice, a liberal policy and watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Despite their high profile, the Catholic donations and the Mormon appeals "do not rise to a level of `substantial part' in light of either church's overall budget and activities," says Pomeranz.
"These institutions are huge, and most of what they do deals with what, in their view, is saving souls," he adds. Pomeranz laments the supervisors' eagerness to invoke the IRS An abbreviation for the Internal Revenue Service, a federal agency charged with the responsibility of administering and enforcing internal revenue laws. when "there are so many good ways to attack these contributions on their political merits."
Indeed, as the election date nears, both sides seem poised to focus on those merits, signaling a more rough-and-tumble phase of the campaign as arguments from both camps play on religious heartstrings. In response to the calls for an IRS probe, both Mormon and Catholic leaders are hoisting their religious identity as a shield to deflect charges of undue meddling med·dle
intr.v. med·dled, med·dling, med·dles
1. To intrude into other people's affairs or business; interfere. See Synonyms at interfere.
2. To handle something idly or ignorantly; tamper. in politics.
In an opinion piece titled "Religious Bigotry Is Alive and Well in San Francisco" and published in a late-October edition of the newspaper Catholic San Francisco, George Wasolek, director of public policy and social concerns for the local archdiocese, accuses Leno of trying to "malign, harass, and intimidate the Mormons (and Catholics)." The charges echo those of Republican senator and presidential candidate Orrin Hatch Orrin Grant Hatch (born March 22, 1934) is a Republican United States Senator from Utah, serving since 1977.
Hatch is a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, where he serves on the subcommittees on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure and Taxation and IRS of Utah, a Mormon, who earlier labeled the probe "as bigoted big·ot·ed
Being or characteristic of a bigot: a bigoted person; an outrageously bigoted viewpoint.
big and prejudiced as anything could be."
Leno denies such motives and cites a series of religious groups, including the Interfaith Alliance, that publicly oppose the Knight measure. "I don't believe Californians want their ballot initiative process to be overrun by an out-of-state church," he says of LDS officials. As a statewide board member of Californians for Fairness, which oversees the "No on Knight" drive, Leno, who is Jewish and gay, says he is also helping to organize a contingent of religious organizations against Knight.
Mike Marshall Mike Marshall can refer to different people:
tr.v. le·gal·ized, le·gal·iz·ing, le·gal·iz·es
To make legal or lawful; authorize or sanction by law.
le same-sex marriage, it would not keep the Mormon Church from deciding whom it can marry or not marry."
The drive to ban same-sex marriage has produced some strange alliances. For example, Mormons find themselves in an uneasy alliance with Jeremiah Films, a video producer based in Hemet, Calif., that makes anti-Mormon and antigay videos. Mormons, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the filmmaker's marketing materials, are a "pagan" cult who have taken part in "murder" and plan "an end-times takeover of the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. ." The Traditional Values Coalition The Traditional Values Coalition is a Christian Right organization that claims to represent over 43,000 conservative Christian churches throughout the United States of America. Headquartered in Washington, D.C. , an Anaheim, Calif.-based antigay group led by the Rev. Lou Sheldon that also supports the Knight initiative, touts a Jeremiah Films video on its Web site.
Knight opponents face an uphill battle Uphill Battle was an metalcore band with elements of grindcore and noisecore. The group was based out of Santa Barbara, California, USA. History
Uphill Battle got some recognition releasing their self-titled record on Relapse Records. , but their odds seem to be improving. In late October a Field poll found that 50% of those surveyed supported the measure, while 41% opposed it. By contrast, in August 57% supported the measure. Meanwhile, records given by the secretary of state's office show initiative proponents outpacing Knight foes in fund-raising by about $4 million to $1 million.
If such advantages hold up, defenders of same-sex marriage in California Determining the status of same sex marriage in California has been an intense political battle for at least the last decade. As California is known for its large gay communities and generally liberal political climate, the issue continues to remain a prominent topic of debate. , deprived of resources for costly television ad blitzes, may find themselves at the mercy of Californians' instincts, which are generally resistant to giving religion too much sway in government. Bebitch Jeffe sees a reliable stone for the sling of Knight opponents if they can elicit voters' fears about "the joining of church and state." Even in tackling a topic as heated as marriages between members of the same sex, she says, "I'm not sure the California electorate is ready to accept a union of that kind."
RELATED ARTICLE: The same, but different
The Catholic Church is also a major supporter of the Knight initiative
The Mormons aren't the only denomination involved in the antimarriage initiative in California. The measure is also getting a significant--and public--boost from the Roman Catholic hierarchy. So far, various dioceses and bishops from around the state have donated more than $340,000 to support the Knight initiative, sending a clear signal as to how the church hopes its followers will vote.
"It's an issue we support, and we will be supporting it in other ways as the campaign actually opens," Carol Hogan, a spokeswoman for the California Catholic Conference, told the San Francisco Examiner.
Like the Mormons, the Catholic Church was heavily involved in the antimarriage initiative in Hawaii last year. However, the California measure could prove to be more controversial for the church, given the state's large gay population.
As of October, nine of the state's 13 dioceses had contributed to the Knight initiative campaign. In addition, bishops in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Bernadino made personal contributions to the campaign that totaled tens of thousands of dollars.
The biggest outcry against the church's participation in the initiative has come from San Francisco, where the diocese headed by Archbishop William Levada His Eminence William Joseph Cardinal Levada S.T.D. (born June 15, 1936) is an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He currently serves as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Roman Curia, previously serving as Archbishop of Portland contributed more than $30,000 to the campaign, Levada took the unusual step of defending the contribution in his column in the local diocesan paper.
"Are Clinton, Gore or Bradley `anti-gay' when they say the definition of marriage should not be changed to include homosexual unions," Levada wrote. "Neither should Mormons, or Catholics, or the many Californians who support the Protection of Marriage Initiative be accused of being so," Vice President Al Gore Noun 1. Al Gore - Vice President of the United States under Bill Clinton (born in 1948)
Albert Gore Jr., Gore and former senator Bill Bradley For other uses, see Bill Bradley (disambiguation) and William Bradley.
William Warren "Bill" Bradley (born July 28, 1943) is an American hall of fame basketball player, Rhodes scholar, and former U.S. , who are both seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, have said they are opposed to same-sex marriage. However, both have also said they oppose the Knight initiative.
Not everyone within the church was pleased with the hierarchy's embrace of the measure. The Rev, Zachary Shore, pastor of a church in the predominantly gay Castro district of San Francisco, wrote to Levada to protest the contributions. Shore said he "didn't think it was right" for the church to be supporting the initiative. His message found a welcome audience in one part of the church, at least. After Shore read his letter to his congregation on October 24, he was given a standing ovation.
RELATED ARTICLE: Out for compassion
The Rev. Mel White takes on bigger targets after questionable success "educating" Jerry Falwell This article is about Jerry Falwell, Sr. For the article about his son, see Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Jerry Lamon Falwell, Sr. (August 11 1933 – May 15, 2007) was an American fundamentalist Christian pastor and televangelist. By Scott SHACKFORD
The Rev. Mel White wants to create a movement of spiritual activism among gay men and lesbians. In this effort, White made national headlines October 22-24 when he brought 200 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered transgendered adjective Relating to a person who has undergone genital/sexual reassignment surgery Transgender health issues Hormonal therapy, cosmetic surgery, fertility options–eg, egg and sperm banking. See Sexual reassignment. Cf Transsexual. people--and some heterosexual allies--to Lynchburg, Va., to talk with the Rev. Jerry Falwell about antigay rhetoric and how it contributes to violence, Falwell admitted that his language had been too strident at times and told his guests and followers. "You need to love the sinner more than you hate the sin."
But actions sometimes speak louder than too-strident words. When White's Soulforce delegation went to Falwell's church October 23 for a scheduled dinner, they were given bottled water and told, "You don't break bread with sinners," several Soulforce delegates say.
In addition, Falwell infuriated in·fu·ri·ate
tr.v. in·fu·ri·at·ed, in·fu·ri·at·ing, in·fu·ri·ates
To make furious; enrage.
Furious. White and his delegates when he invited ex-gay ministry leader Michael Johnston to participate in a summit press conference. The press conference often drifted away from the topics of hate speech and violence to statements by Johnston and Falwell about bringing gays "out of this sinful lifestyle" and to comparisons of homosexuality to drug use.
In an October 27 Internet column Falwell gave further indication he gleaned less from the meeting than White had hoped. Falwell wrote that "with 200 homosexuals staring me in the face," he maintained his position that homosexuality is a sin. "I will preach homosexuality as sin until the day I die," he wrote,
Brian Randall, a 1991 graduate of Falwell's Liberty University and one of White's gay delegates, calls the meeting a great beginning but says, "I'll be watching to make sure [Falwell] lives up to his promises." Remembering the antigay atmosphere at Liberty when he was a student, he adds, "I will forgive, as God has commanded me to, but I will not forget."
White acknowledges that Soulforce still has its work cut out for it, "Quite frankly," he says, "Jerry Falwell doesn't know what hate speech is." With this in mind, he says, he is embarking on a campaign to education people about "spiritual violence"--what he describes as the use of religious beliefs to justify hate speech against gays. He is backed in this effort by African-American civil rights activists Rodney Powell, who came out as gay in 1976, and Jim Lawson, who helped King bring Gandhi's nonviolent strategies to the movement.
At press time, the campaign was to include an attempt to stop the November 17-18 United Methodist Church United Methodist Church, in the United States, religious body formed by the union in 1968 of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church (see Methodism). trial of the Rev. Jimmy Creech in Grand Island, Neb, Creech was scheduled to be tried on disobedience charges for sanctifying a union between two men on April 24. "We're gonna stop that trial, and we're going to do it nonviolently," White says,
In addition to the Creech trial, White says he is planning action against the company that produces antigay fund-raising letters for Falwell's and five other ministries as well as against Pat Robertson for the antigay rhetoric on his TV show, The 700 Club, and the Fox Family Channel, which broadcasts the program.
"I think in the next year or two I'm going to see everything I want to do happen," White says. "There is a mood for reconciliation."
Shackford is news editor at the Columbia, S, C., Free Times.
Johnson, an editor at Academe magazine, writes about religion and politics.
Find more on the Knight initiative and links to related Internet sites at www.advocate.com.