Friday, November 13, 2009

Disagreeing on Politics

I was very happy to hear about the LDS church's recent hearty approval of Salt Lake City ordinances that guarantee non-discrimination in housing and employment for LGBT people of that city. I'm now especially hopeful that last year's saddeningly rapid demise of the Common Ground Initiative will be reversed this coming year, especially with Elder Holland giving a measure of support to the idea that common-sense anti-discrimination laws would be a good thing to adopt statewide.

The liberal side of the political world was glad to hear about the Church's public stance, though many decided to see it more as damage control/PR/too little too late (one sterling exception was Andrew Sullivan--a man who has been a gay-marriage advocate for two decades).

But the most intriguing aspect of the recent news, to me, was the reaction from conservative groups like the Sutherland Institute, a Utah-based organization with primarily Mormons as members. The Sutherland Institute was one of the main opponents of the Common Ground Initiative last year (watch a great debate between them and Equality Utah at the latter's website). They released a statement after the LDS Church came out in support of the gay-rights ordinances, saying
As a public relations opportunity, the LDS Church’s statement before the Salt Lake City Council may assuage the minds and soften the hearts of advocates of “gay rights” in Utah. As a policy statement, it is problematic.

The statement goes on to argue that including terms like "sexual orientation" and "sexual identity" in laws leads onto a slippery slope that makes it easier for judges and lawmakers to legalize gay marriage. In addition, Gayle Ruzicka, leader of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum and member of the LDS Church, said "We expected the church not to have a problem because they've been carved out of it. The rest of us have not been carved out of it," and that the ordinances "discriminate against people who have personal religious beliefs."

I find these disagreements intriguing because I know many Mormons who disagree with Prop 8 in California and have their commitment to Mormonism questioned for not agreeing with the Church. Harry Reid (who is against gay marriage) recently ruffled many a Mormon feather by saying that the Church should not have gotten into the Prop 8 fight. Now I wonder what the reaction, if any, will be towards those who disagree with the Church's stance on gay rights because it is too "liberal."

I won't try to use the "You're on the wrong side of the Church's stance!" card as a bludgeon to tell these people to change their views, even if it would work to my advantage in an argument, because that tactic is repugnant to me. Coercing people to believe anything is wrong, no matter the goal. Especially in the political realm, we need to understand that everyone will see things a little differently, the Church included. Birth control, abortion, and illegal immigration are other issues where I know there are good members of the Church on both sides of these issues (i.e. more liberal or more conservative than the Church's position) who disagree with the Church's stance. Don't just make appeals to authority to win an argument--if your ideas can't stand on their own, they must not be very good.

If someone doesn't agree with the Church (assuming an honest, non-confrontational disagreement) about something, especially on a political matter, why should that threaten you or me? Let's talk about it, let us reason together. Let's try out that persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned thing. Let's be civil and respectful; Christian.

See also: A great article by Margaret S. Lifferth from the the May 2009 Ensign [how ya like that appeal to authority? ha HA!]


  1. Did you see this? Wow....shocking that people could do this. It is ridiculous.

  2. Hidden: that is the most saddening, nonsensical, insane thing I have read in a long time. I am appalled, and there's nothing else to say. Oy vey

  3. Thanks Alex, we should have more discussions!

    Merinmel: your online handle is awesome, you'll have to explain it to me sometime :)

  4. Hey Austin!

    I'm going crazy with this recent development. Its really kind of disgusting to me on two fronts.
    First, I can't believe that before last week it was not illegal in Utah to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation or race.
    But second, and probably on a bigger scale, that the Church has decided, or thinks, or whatever that there is somehow a higher right given to things that "don't harm marriage" to CIVIL RIGHTS.
    And that somehow the right to housing and the right to marriage are different topics.

  5. Brody, I agree that it's sad that up until just recently it was legal to fire/evict gay people just for being gay; sadly that's still true in the majority of US states, so let's hope the federal ENDA currently under consideration in Congress passes, eh?

    As for your second point, it's clearly progress, and I think one has to admit that's better than nothing.

  6. Austin, can I add your blog to my Bloglist?

    -Megan Harris

  7. Of course, as long as I can add yours to mine! (what is yours, btw--your blogger profile is not allowing me access)

  8. Excellent. Sorry bout that. I need to figure out how to make my blog more public.

    my blog is