Last week in a Denver suburb, someone lit a Book of Mormon on fire and dropped it on the doorstep of a Mormon temple, presumably as a statement about the church’s support of Proposition 8 in California, an initiative that amended the state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In a move that may make gay-rights supporters’ heads spin, the incident is being investigated as a hate crime.(emphasis added)
The outbreak of attacks on the Mormon church since the passage of Proposition 8 has been chilling: envelopes full of suspicious white powder were sent to church headquarters in Salt Lake City; protesters showed up en masse to intimidate Mormon small-business owners who supported the measure; a website was created to identify and shame members of the church who backed it; activists are targeting the relatives of prominent Mormons who gave money to pass it, as well as other Mormons who are only tangentially associated with the cause; some have even called for a boycott of the entire state of Utah.
The wisdom of hate-crimes legislation aside, there is no doubt that a lot of hate is being directed at Mormons as a group. But why single out Mormons? And why now?
Dozens of church bodies — including the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Christian bishops of California, and a wide variety of evangelicals — supported the proposition. It’s also worth considering that, while gay-rights advocates cannot discuss same-sex marriage for more than 30 seconds without making faulty analogies to Jim Crow-era anti-miscegenation laws, some 70 percent of blacks voted for Proposition 8. While there have been a few ugly racist statements by gay-rights supporters, such vile sentiment has been restricted. Not so the hatred directed at Mormons, who are convenient targets.
To date, 30 states have voted on initiatives addressing same-sex marriage, and in every state traditional marriage has come out on top. But somehow the fact that Mormons got involved during the latest statewide referendum constitutes a bridge too far? In truth, Mormons are a target of convenience in the opening salvo of what is sure to be a full-scale assault on much of America’s religious infrastructure, which gay activists perceive as a barrier to their aspirations. Among religious groups, Mormons are not the biggest obstacle to same-sex marriage — not by a long shot. But they are an easy target. Anti-Mormon bigotry is unfortunately common, and gay-rights activists are cynically exploiting that fact.
There are no websites dedicated to “outing” Catholics who supported Proposition 8, even though Catholic voters heavily outnumber Mormons. And the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not remarkably strident in its beliefs on the subject. So far, no gay-rights activist has had the brass to burn a Qu’ran on the doorstep of a militant mosque where — forget marriage! — imams advocate the stoning of homosexuals.
Churches oppose same-sex marriage in part because it represents an implicit threat to freedom of conscience and belief. California already had one of the broadest civil-unions laws in the country. There was little in the way of government-sanctioned privileges that a state-issued marriage license would confer. But the drive for same-sex marriage is in practice about legislating moral conformity — demanding that everybody recognize homosexual relationships in the same way, regardless of their own beliefs. Freedom of conscience, or diversity of belief, is the last thing the homosexual lobby will tolerate: In New Mexico, a state civil-rights commission fined an evangelical wedding photographer $6,637 for politely declining to photograph a gay commitment ceremony. In California, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously against two San Diego fertility doctors who refused to give in-vitro fertilization to a lesbian owing to their religious beliefs, even though they had referred her to another doctor. And just this week, evangelical dating site eHarmony, which hadn’t previously provided same-sex matchmaking services, announced it had been browbeaten into doing so by New Jersey’s Division on Civil Rights and the threat of litigation. The first 10,000 same-sex eHarmony registrants will receive a free six-month subscription. “That’s one of the things I asked for,” crowed Eric McKinley, who brought the charges against eHarmony.
Where do they go from here? Gay activists are already using the legal system to try to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Mormon church. If you believe that churches and synagogues, priests and rabbis won’t eventually be sued for their statements on sexuality, you’re kidding yourself. Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown University law professor and gay activist who helps draft federal legislation related to sexual orientation, says that, when religious liberty conflicts with gay rights, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.” A National Public Radio report on the conflict noted that if previous cases are any guide, “the outlook is grim for religious groups.”
Given their cavalier disregard for the freedom of conscience, it’s little surprise that the gay lobby is equally disdainful of democracy: They began pursuing legal challenges to Proposition 8 practically before they were done tallying the votes. Lamentably, the state attorney general defending the will of the people will be former Jerry Brown, the liberal former governor who was an open opponent of the measure and tried to sabotage it. The legal challenges will be heard by the same state Supreme Court that overturned California’s previous law forbidding gay marriage back in May. There’s a real possibility the will of the people will be spurned a second time, democracy be damned. They’ve already burned the Book of Mormon. The First Amendment is next.
If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.