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Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Mormon Leaders Call For Measures Protecting Gay Rights - Sort Of ...
People walk past the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City. On Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, Mormon leaders made a national appeal for what they called a "balanced approach" in the clash between gay rights and religious freedom, promising to support some housing and job protections for gays if they back some exemptions for religious objectors to same-sex marriage.
Alan: What if my religion objects to Mormon behavior, which is the precise logic Mormon leaders use to support the right of their devotees to discriminate?
"Mormonism Is Not A Christian Religion. Founding Prophet Joseph Smith Was A Sex Pervert"
Mormon leaders call for measures protecting gay rights
By BRADY McCOMBS and RACHEL ZOLL, Associated Press | January 27, 2015
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mormon church leaders are making a national appeal for a "balanced approach" in the clash between gay rights and religious freedom.
The church is promising to support some housing and job protections for gays and lesbians in exchange for legal protections for believers who object to the behavior of others.
It's not clear how much common ground the Mormons will find with this new campaign. The church insists it is making no changes in doctrine, and still believes it's against the law of God to have sex outside marriage between a man and a woman.
But church leaders who held a rare news conference Tuesday said "we must all learn to live with others who do not share the same beliefs or values."
The language of the new campaign mirrors a website the church launched in 2012 instructing Latter-day Saints to be more accepting and compassionate toward gays. The church made clear then and now that it still opposes gay marriage and insists on its right to apply its own rules within church-affiliated charities, schools, businesses and properties, even those that provide services to non-Mormons.
The church announced the campaign in a rare news conference including three elders from a high-level Mormon governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Church leaders condemned discrimination against gays in stark terms, speaking of centuries of "persecution and even violence against homosexuals." bc
"Ultimately, most of society recognized that such treatment was simply wrong, and that such basic human rights as securing a job or a place to live should not depend on a person's sexual orientation," Neill Marriott, a member of the church's Public Affairs Committee, said in a prepared text ahead of the news conference.
Mormon leaders still want to hire and fire workers based not only on religious beliefs, but also on behavior standards known as honor codes that require gays and lesbians to remain celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex. The church also wants legal protections for religious objectors who work in government and health care, such as a physician who refuses to perform an abortion, or provide artificial insemination for a lesbian couple.
"Accommodating the rights of all people — including their religious rights — requires wisdom and judgment, compassion and fairness," said Jeffrey R. Holland, one of the apostles. "Politically, it certainly requires dedication to the highest level of statesmanship. Nothing is achieved if either side resorts to bullying, political point scoring or accusations of bigotry."
Accommodations for religious objectors have factored into every state legislative debate over gay rights. But political pressure on rights groups to make concessions to religious conservatives is plummeting as support for same-sex marriage grows around the country. In some states, such as Arizona, business leaders now side with gay advocates, saying extensive religious exemptions hurt a state's image.
When the U.S. Supreme Court set a broad expansion of gay marriage in motion last year, religious conservatives said they would press states to allow some groups, companies and people to refuse some benefits or service for gay spouses. And gay rights groups seeking job and housing protections have faced an uphill battle in the more politically and religiously conservative states. Under these circumstances, advocates for broader religious exceptions believe they can win some concessions.
The Mormon church operates an extensive network of charities, schools and for-profit businesses around the country, with total operating budgets in the billions of dollars, but the new LDS approach is likely to be especially significant in the Mormon strongholds of Utah, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona, where the church and its members play a large civic role.
After coming under intense criticism for leading the fight for California's Proposition 8, church leaders have been trying to heal tensions by telling Latter-day Saints to be more loving and respectful toward gays and lesbians, while appealing to gay and lesbian Mormons to stay in the church.
Looks to support legislation while also protecting religious freedom in major policy announcement
It is unusual for Church leaders to make so public a statement, especially with so strong a lineup of speakers. Three members of the leadership group The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at Tuesday’s news conference—Elders Dallin H. Oaks, Jeffrey R. Holland, and D. Todd Christofferson—as well as Sister Neill F. Marriott of the Church’s Young Women general presidency.
“This nation is engaged in a great debate about marriage, family, individual conscience and collective rights and the place of religious freedom in our society,” Marriott said. “The debate we speak of today is about how to affirm rights for some without taking away from the rights of others.”
While the announcement is rare, it is not surprising. Mormon leaders have had dozens of conversations over the past few years on this topic, according to a Church spokesperson—with LGBT advocates, government officials, and other religious leaders. Those conversations have continued since 2009, when the Church came out in favor of Salt Lake City ordinances that aimed to protect LGBT residents from housing and employment discrimination.
Tuesday’s announcement comes as the Utah Legislature is considering competing bills on this very divide. One measure would bar housing and employment discrimination against LGBT people in Utah. The other would protect an individual’s right to deny services, including performing marriages, based on religious beliefs. Legislatures around the country are also beginning new sessions, and religious freedom bills have been cropping up across the country, from Michigan to Texas to North Carolina.
Looming over the entire debate is the reality that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear landmark marriage equality cases in April, to be decided upon in June. Marriage was not on the table in the Church’s announcement Tuesday—and no church doctrine or teaching is changing—but the move instead signals a new strategy amid the heated national debate over when religious freedom becomes the right to discriminate, especially in matters of human sexuality.
The big question for many religious conservatives is where that line will be drawn, and ensuring that they can continue to practice their religious convictions as laws to protect LGBT rights expand. The practicalities of that debate are on Mormon leaders’ minds.
“For example, a Latter-day Saint physician who objects to performing abortions or artificial insemination for a lesbian couple should not be forced against his or her conscience to do so, especially when others are readily available to perform that function,” Elder Holland said. “As another example, a neighborhood Catholic pharmacist, who declines to carry the ‘morning after’ pill when large pharmacy chains readily offer that item, should likewise not be pressured into violating his or her conscience by bullying or boycotting.”
Ensuring such religious freedom protections in the midst of increasing laws to protect LGBT rights is a growing concern not just for the LDS Church, but for many other Christian communities. It is prompting increased collaboration between Catholics, evangelicals, and Mormons to stand for religious freedom. Last week, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who is hosting Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families in September, spoke about the urgency of this new partnership at Brigham Young University. “The differences in our doctrine and practice are obvious,” Chaput said. “But that doesn’t preclude friendship. … And it doesn’t obscure the fact that we face many of the same problems and share many of the same convictions about marriage and family, the nature of our sexuality, the sanctity of human life and the urgency of religious freedom.”
Accommodating the rights of all citizens, the Mormon leaders said, means taking seriously the rights of religious minorities. In the United States, less than 2% of the population is Mormon, according to the Pew Research Center.
“When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser,” Oaks said. “Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender. … It is one of today’s great ironies that some people who have fought so hard for LGBT rights now try to deny the rights of others to disagree with their public policy proposals.”