Saturday, January 2, 2010

Government Control?

Questions for you readers, since I am not a history buff or very informed on political matters most of the time.  A friend of mine from high school has apparently been reading my blog and sent me this email this evening. Do any of you have any responses for him?  I've assumed that based on separation of church and state, religious freedom and all that, that the argument/rumor/whatever it was that was used in the Prop. 8 campaign about the church eventually being forced to perform gay marriages in their temples was ludicrous. So far, the church has not been required to let anyone else marry in the temple that does not meet their standards of worthiness.  Why would this be any different?  I am confused...

Anyway, the email, subject line 8:The Mormon Proposistion? ...

I don't understand — you could loose your membership over this.

Can we talk big picture? Why does the Church appose the government legalizing Gay marriage — Big picture? I have been in the Bishopric, I've read the handbooks.

In the 90's the Church sided with Indian tribes when the Government tried to ban the use of Paoti in Indian rituals. But the Church is against drug use — why side with it?

The Temple. If the government can take control over an Indian nation, and tell them how they can perform their rituals — why not take control of what happens in the "Secret Mormon Temples"!

So if the government takes control of Marriage. Why not force the Church to change the Temple rituals! Dictate who the Church can marry. And what about the other things we do in the temple! Why not control that!

You know President Hinckley stated, that the Church is not Anti gay. And we are not. I am not.

But the Church will do everything in it's power to defend the temple. Who do you think is telling the Church to do that?

If I have been offensive — I am sorry. You are my friend. I read your Blog, and I am sorry you are facing such hard things, and are in pain over your situation.

Anyway, there it is. Please keep your comments civil and reasonable.  I just really want to understand this better, because so many members of the church seem to be so convinced that this could really happen. I personally think that legalized gay marriage is inevitable, but that God will do what he needs to do to protect his temples and his church, if needed.  And I still don't believe that Prop. 8 was God inspiring His leaders to protect His church. I believe it was God allowing them to use their agency and govern themselves, and letting the consequences follow. Just my two cents.

Thanks for your help!


El Genio said...

We discussed the Paoti suit in a course at BYU, so I assume the reference is valid. That said, I don't think the comparison is really fair. Comparing a controlled substance to a religious ceremony is a bit of a stretch.

Interracial marriage was legal for over 10 years before the ban on blacks receiving the priesthood and temple blessings was lifted. The church was never forced to preform a single marriage during this time period. Divorce has been legal for centuries, but no one forces the catholic church to marry someone who has been divorced. The reality is that our churches have a well established precedent of religious freedom, probably the best in the world. We don't need to discriminate against one group of people to protect against an extremely unlikely future event.

And what about countries like Canada, Spain, or even the Netherlands, where gay marriage has been legal for almost 10 years? The church operates temples in all of these countries, and has no problems refusing to perform marriages that do not meet its standards.

Sarah said...

Thanks, El Genio. Your comments make sense, to me at least.

David Baker-@DB389 said...

Sarah, Right now we have temples in the United states in States where gay marriage is legal and yet there is no forcing of gay temple weddings. Like El Genio said there is strong protection for religions over anything else in this nation. For the past 150+ years the Church has performed weddings and not allowed non-members in. There is a clear code of who can and can not enter in the temple. That is controlled by religion and is subject to membership and worthiness, NOT to government discrimination acts.
And even in a worst case scenario where the Church was "forced" to perform gay marriages against its will, it would do what it has done in some African (and other) nations around the world. The civil marriage would be performed in the government at a court house and then the married couple would be sealed in the temple after the fact (usually after ~3 days to demonstrate that it is not a "marriage" but a religious rite.

Hope that helps!


BigRedHammer said...

I agree with all that's been said before. The Church has said that it opposes gay marriage because the Church must protect the sanctity of marriage. It has never elaborated on how gay marriage might infringe on that sanctity. So any guesses are just speculation.

I in fact believe they don't have an answer. If they did, I think they would have shared it. It could have been used in the fight against gay marriage. So perhaps they accept that fact only on faith.

If there is a reason this is my theory: The Church is a family-based organization. The Church stands behind the family and helps to build it up. When there are gay marriages, there are also gay adoptions. That creates a gay-led family. The Church loses its across the board pro-family stance then. Now it must say, "We're pro-family, but only if the family looks like this, [description follows]." That makes their pro-family stance a weak one. It also sounds very discriminatory.

So they're probably defending their definition of "pure families" and protecting children from growing up believing homosexuality is just fine because their parents are that way.

Those are my theories anyway.

J G-W said...

I know something about the legal and constitutional issues. In my course on American Religious History, I actually teach a section on church-state separation in the U.S.

The suggestion that LDS Temples would be forced to perform gay marriages if gay marriage were legalized is utterly false. In fact, any attempt to force LDS to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies anywhere -- in the temple or in LDS chapels -- would itself be unconstitutional.

The U.S. government did threaten to interfere with temple marriages in order to prevent polygamous marriages from being contracted in the 19th century. In this case, polygamy was banned in the Utah territory by Federal statute. Since the marriages presently performed in LDS temples are monogamous and legal, that would not be an issue. Since legalizing same-sex marriage would have no effect on the legality of heterosexual marriage, there would be no legal impact on temple marriage from legalizing same-sex marriage.

The people in charge of the Prop 8 campaign knew (know) very well that this is the case.

Furthermore, the legalization of same-sex marriage would not even have any impact on the Church membership. The Church would still have a right to exclude gay men or lesbians in same-sex relationships from becoming members, and again, thanks to the 1st Amendment, nobody would have the right to interfere with their ability to do so.

This is a red herring... One of the many deceptive rumors that was spread among opponents of gay marriage to arouse hysteria and make gay rights advocates appear to be a threat when in fact that were just trying to defend the rights of same-sex couples...

Alan said...

As an attorney I can confirm that JGW's analysis is spot on.

Sarah said...

Thanks, everyone, for your expertise. That is exactly what I wanted.

Gay Saint said...

I just have to add that even though I also think this argument is rooted in bias and fear, I would not be opposed to furthering religious protections if gay marriage became legal. I think both sides of this issue are operating under too much fear, because we percieve our families being attacked (on both sides!). If we can put the fear of the people who believe this to rest, we might find we have more allies - even if that means we have to craft the language of future bills to ensure protections for churches.

Kengo Biddles said...

I apologize if I'm not at my most eloquent, and I will say that I think Gay Saint's suggestion is truer to the mark - but I think that the Church very zealously tries to protect itself legally - and I wonder if the whole Prop 8 debacle wasn't some misguided attempt to shore up the rights of churches.

Obviously, I'm not a decision maker, so it doesn't matter - but that's been my thoughts as I've reflected on the subject.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to be very careful about how constrained your sources of information are. Everyone commenting here already agrees with you, so of course, they are going to give you the side of this argument that agrees with you and downplays the legal consequences of legalizing gay marriage. Even the legal analysis given has been filtered so that it only addresses the constitutional issue of forcing churches to perform gay marriages (which the constitution would prevent) but doesn't consider the consequences of the church being labeled a "discriminatory" institution. Many laws regarding employment and control of property are aimed at preventing "discrimination" and many of those laws have been written (or are being re-written as nearly happened here in Utah this summer) so that churches aren't exempt from them. The church could very well find themselves in a costly discrimination lawsuit if, say, a seminary teacher decided he was gay and was fired when he left his wife for his gay partner. Or find that they can no longer control apartments they own that are set aside for the sole use of members (as they do for missionaries). So while the church wouldn't be forced to perform gay marriages in the temple per se, our not performing gay marriages in the temple will be used as a hammer against the church in other legal arenas.

Scott said...

Jacob's right (shock! we agree [somewhat] on something!) :) in that there are considerations other than temple marriages.

The church's history-making support of the Salt Lake anti-discrimination ordinances was only secured when the ordinances were edited to include clear exemptions for religious bodies. Obviously the church has an interest in maintaining its right to discriminate.

It is about discrimination. Some would like to believe that it's not discriminatory to refuse to rent to a gay person if it's a church refusing, or if the refusal is motivated by religious beliefs. But discrimination is discrimination (at it's root discriminate simply means to choose in favor of or against something based on some unique quality). The question is not whether or not it's discriminatory to refuse to rent to a gay person, but rather whether or not that discrimination should be allowed.

Society has already decided that some discriminatory behaviors are okay. We discriminate based on age when we hand out driver's licenses or sell alcohol, and we've decided that such discrimination is acceptable and even preferable.

We've decided (fairly recently) that it's not acceptable to discriminate against a person based on race, under virtually any circumstance (I'm not aware of any instance in which a person or organization could legally deny someone something based entirely on that individual's race).

Most states have decided (and Utah is starting to agree) that it's not right to discriminate against a person based on their sexual orientation, but in many cases (or at least in the case of the SLC ordinances) there's a proviso to that assertion: a church can legally discriminate if its tenets require it to do so. That is, a church cannot be forced to rent a church-owned property to a gay couple.

Where Jacob and I probably part ways is in deciding exactly which areas a church should be allowed to discriminate in and which it should not. :)

I agree that a church should not be forced to employ people whose actions and behaviors are contrary to the dictates of said church.

I don't agree that a church should be allowed to refuse to rent an apartment to a gay couple if it is making said apartment available on the open market. (An apartment that is reserved for missionaries would never be an issue, since it's never placed on the market to begin with).

I guess for me it all comes down to the standards of membership in a given church, and whether membership is required for any given activity. It's not unreasonable to require membership in a church for all employees (though not every church does). If a church only rents its properties to members, the same standards could apply. When that church starts renting to non-members, it should no longer be allowed to impose standards of membership on its tenants.

I've probably gone on much longer than I ought to have. :) But there's my 20 cents.