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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “36 – Religious Freedom”

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36 – Curtain of Religious Freedom


“Shrewdly, Mormon leaders have shifted the debate about marriage to a debate about free exercise of religion. Elder Clinton Cook in an address to LDS members warned that the acceptance of gay marriage would inevitably lead to ‘legal penalties and social ostracism’ for the religious.…” (Michael Brendan Dougherty, ‘Mormons at the Door,’ The American Conservative, February 23, 2009)


“An apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said religious freedom is being threatened by societal forces intimidating those with religious points of view from having a voice in the public square.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks made the comments today in a major address to Brigham Young University-Idaho students on the importance of preserving the religious freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution.…

Although his address on religious freedom was not written in response to the Proposition 8 battle over same- sex marriage in California, Elder Oaks likened the incidents of outrage against those who prevailed in establishing marriage between a man and a woman to the ‘widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South.’…

Elder Oaks also said religious freedom is being jeopardized by claims of newly alleged human rights. As an example, he referred to a set of principles published by an international human rights group which calls for governments to assure that all persons have the right to practice their religious beliefs regardless of sexual orientation or identity. Elder Oaks said, ‘This apparently proposes that governments require church practices to ignore gender differences. Any such effort to have governments invade religion to override religious doctrines should be resisted by all believers.’…” (“Apostle Says Religious Freedom Is Being Threatened,” LDS Newsroom, October 13, 2009)


“The tide of public opinion in favor of religion is receding, and this probably portends public pressures for laws that will impinge on religious freedom.…

A second threat to religious freedom is from those who perceive it to be in conflict with the newly alleged ‘civil right’ of same-gender couples to enjoy the privileges of marriage.

We have endured a wave of media-reported charges that the Mormons are trying to ‘deny’ people or ‘strip’ people of their ‘rights.’ After a significant majority of California voters (seven million — over 52 percent) approved Proposition 8’s limiting marriage to a man and a woman, some opponents characterized the vote as denying people their civil rights. In fact, the Proposition 8 battle was not about civil rights, but about what equal rights demand and what religious rights protect. At no time did anyone question or jeopardize the civil right of Proposition 8 opponents to vote or speak their views.

The real issue in the Proposition 8 debate — an issue that will not go away in years to come and for whose resolution it is critical that we protect everyone’s freedom of speech and the equally important freedom to stand for religious beliefs — is whether the opponents of Proposition 8 should be allowed to change the vital institution of marriage itself.…

Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights.…

Religious freedom needs defending against the claims of newly asserted human rights. The so-called ‘Yogyakarta Principles,’ published by an international human rights group, call for governments to assure that all persons have the right to practice their religious beliefs regardless of sexual orientation or identity.  This apparently proposes that governments require church practices and their doctrines to ignore gender differences. Any such effort to have governments invade religion to override religious doctrines or practices should be resisted by all believers.…

We must also insist on this companion condition of democratic government: when churches and their members or any other group act or speak out on public issues, win or lose, they have a right to expect freedom from retaliation.

Along with many others, we were disappointed with what we experienced in the aftermath of California’s adoption of Proposition 8, including vandalism of church facilities and harassment of church members by firings and boycotts of member businesses and by retaliation against donors. Mormons were the targets of most of this, but it also hit other churches in the pro-8 coalition and other persons who could be identified as supporters. Fortunately, some recognized such retaliation for what it was. A full-page ad in the New York Times branded this ‘violence and intimidation’ against religious organizations and individual believers ‘simply because they supported Proposition 8 [as] an outrage that must stop.’  The fact that this ad was signed by some leaders who had no history of friendship for our faith only added to its force.

It is important to note that while this aggressive intimidation in connection with the Proposition 8 election was primarily directed at religious persons and symbols, it was not anti-religious as such. These incidents were expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest. As such, these incidents of ‘violence and intimidation’ are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic. In their effect they are like the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation.

Third, we must insist on our freedom to preach the doctrines of our faith. Why do I make this obvious point? Religious people who share our moral convictions feel some intimidation. Fortunately, our leaders do not refrain from stating and explaining our position that homosexual behavior is sinful. Last summer Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke these words to a BYU audience:

‘We follow Jesus Christ by living the law of chastity. God gave this commandment, and He has never revoked or changed it. This law is clear and simple. No one is to engage in sexual relationships outside the bounds the Lord has set. This applies to homosexual behavior of any kind and to heterosexual relationships outside marriage. It is a sin to violate the law of chastity.…” (“Transcript of Elder Dallin H. Oaks Speech on Religious Freedom,” LDS Newsroom, October 13, 2009)


“The free exercise of religion — as protected by the U.S. Constitution — is under attack, an LDS leader says, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are being called upon to rally in its defense.

‘There is a battle over the meaning of that freedom,’ said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve. ‘The contest is of eternal importance, and it is your generation that must understand the issues and make the efforts to prevail.’…

Elder Oaks described several threats to be faced and confronted in the future, one being the threat of denying of free speech and religious freedom.…

‘A second threat to religious freedom,’ he said, ‘is from those who perceive it to be in conflict with the newly alleged ‘civil right’ of same-gender couples to enjoy the privileges of marriage.’

Elder Oaks referred to the aftermath of the majority-approved Proposition 8 state constitutional amendment in California’s 2008 election, defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Opponents criticized the LDS Church and its members, saying they were ‘denying’ or ‘stripping’ others of their ‘rights.’

‘In fact, the Proposition 8 battle was not about civil rights, but about what equal rights demand and what religious rights protect,’ he said. ‘At no time did anyone question or jeopardize the civil right of Proposition 8 opponents to vote or speak their views.

‘The real issue in the Proposition 8 debate — an issue that will not go away in years to come and for whose resolution it is critical that we protect everyone’s freedom of speech and the equally important freedom to stand for religious beliefs — is whether the opponents of Proposition 8 should be allowed to change the vital institution of marriage itself.’… 

‘Any such effort to have governments invade religion to override religious doctrines or practices should be resisted by all believers.’” (Scott Taylor, “Freedom of religion under increasing attack, LDS leader says,” Deseret News, October 13, 2009)


“MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann just listed Elder Oaks in his ‘Worst Person in the World’ segment. After reproducing some of Oaks’ most offensive quotes, he wisely concluded: ‘One would think that with the Mormons’ history of having previously been on the wrong side of integration AND the wrong side of that pesky “ancient order” of one woman per marriage, that these are subjects about which Elder Oaks would want to SHUT THE HELL UP.’” (Hugo Olaiz to Derek Price, October 14, 2009)


“LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks on Tuesday likened the post-Proposition 8 backlash against Mormons to the persecution blacks endured during the civil-rights struggle.

Now Oaks faces a backlash himself.

‘Were four little Mormon girls blown up in the church at Sunday school? Were there burning crosses planted on local bishops’ lawns? Were people lynched and their genitals stuffed in their mouths?’ asked University of Utah historian Colleen McDannell. ‘By comparing these two things, it diminishes the real violence that African-Americans experienced in the ’60s, when they were struggling for equal rights. There is no equivalence between the two.’…

Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP’s Salt Lake branch, said there is ‘no comparison.’

‘I don’t see where the LDS Church has been denied any of their rights,’ she said. ‘What the gay and lesbian communities are fighting for, that is a civil-rights issue.’

In an interview posted on the LDS Church’s Web site after the speech, Oaks called his analogy a ‘good one,’ but acknowledged that intimidation of Mormons in the wake of Prop 8 has not been ‘as serious as what happened in the South.’…

Will Carlson, public-policy manager for Equality Utah, called legal protections for gay and transgender people, including anti-discrimination and hate-crime laws, ‘human rights.’

‘The right to earn a living, the right to stay in your home, the right to be free from violence, these are the priorities of the equal-rights movement,’ he said. ‘Even in the pursuit of marriage equality, it’s about the legal protections that come with a marriage license. Just as the LDS faithful have a fundamental right to get married according to the dictates of their conscience, all Americans should have that right.’…” (Rosemary Winters, Peggy Fletcher Stack, “LDS apostle under fire for civil-rights analogy,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 14, 2009)


“Marc Solomon, marriage director for Equality California, an organization that fought to preserve same-sex marriage in the Golden State, believes that the analogy is offensive.

‘Blacks were lynched and beaten and denied the right to vote by their government,’ said Solomon, according to the Associate Press. ‘To compare that to criticism of Mormon leaders for encouraging people to give vast amounts of money to take away rights of a small minority group is illogical and deeply offensive.’” (Christopher Mangum, “Mormons are the New Black?” Advocate, October 14, 2009)


“LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks called on Mormon faithful last week not to be silenced by post-Proposition 8 intimidation, urging members to insist on the free exercise of religion.…

The LDS leader, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, said students ‘must not be deterred or coerced into silence’ by advocates for ‘alleged civil rights.’…” (Jeremiah Stettler, “Mormon-tied gay rights groups join in blasting LDS apostle’s Prop 8 comments,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 17, 2009)


“Imagine that you’re Dallin Oaks and you wake one morning to find:

  • Being LDS can get you fired
  • Your LDS marriage is invalid
  • Mormons are banned from the armed forces
  • Mormons are marginalized as deviants and sexual predators
  • Mormonism is scapegoated for everything wrong in America

Now you know what it’s like to wake up gay every morning.”

(Pat Bagley editorial cartoon, Salt Lake Tribune, October 18, 2009)


“Is it possible, viewing the same event, whereby the perpetrator can suddenly look like the victim? That is what Elder Dally H. Oaks, a high-ranking official in the Mormon church, apparently wants us to believe.…

Equating the 1960s struggle for justice with the plight of a church that has been a vocal proponent of injustice is deeply offensive.…” (Byron Williams, “Mormon Paradox,” Huffington Post, October 19, 2009)


“If you’re worried that government someday will force your minister, rabbi, imam or bishop to perform a same-sex marriage, don’t be. Even if such weddings become legally enshrined and widely accepted in the United States, gay couples never will be sealed, for instance, in an LDS temple unless the church chooses to do so.

That’s the consensus of religious-liberty experts across the nation. Even so, wild rhetoric on both sides of the same-sex-marriage debate persists, overshadowing real concerns arising out of the tension between religious belief and gay civil rights. And the conflicts are not likely to evaporate anytime soon.…

Charles Haynes, a religious-liberty scholar at the First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C.: ‘There is no question that there will be many points of contention as the gay-marriage battle continues,’ Haynes says. ‘It’s an important conversation to have now to get ahead of the growing tensions.’

Religious conservatives point with alarm to strictures imposed on ministers in Canada and Sweden who can be found guilty of hate speech if they preach that homosexual behavior is a sin.…

That’s not going to happen here, Haynes says. What they forget is that in many European countries, religions are state-sponsored. America was created to separate church and state.

‘We have a strong First Amendment,’ Haynes says, ‘and a tradition of protecting religious speech.’ Instead of the pulpit, the conflicts likely will arise outside the cathedrals, temples, mosques and synagogues.

Churches still will be able to exclude gays from certain rites on the basis of their theology, for example, but many religiously affiliated businesses or individuals may not be. Several cases already have underscored religious fears, according to Robin Fretwell Wilson, a legal scholar at the Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia and co-editor of a 2008 book of essays, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts. Wilson points to the following:

» The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, owned by a Methodist church in New Jersey, rented out its beachside pavilion to various groups. The church declined to allow a lesbian couple to use the pavilion for their civil-union ceremony. Local authorities stripped the association of its exemption from property taxes and billed it $20,000.

» The Salvation Army lost $3.5 million in social-service contracts with San Francisco because it refused, on religious grounds, to provide benefits to same-sex partners of its employees.

» Catholic Charities of Maine was forced to either extend employee benefits to registered same-sex couples or lose eligibility to all city housing and development funds.

» A pair of Christians who co-own Elaine Photography in New Mexico refused to take photos for a lesbian commitment ceremony. The lesbian couple filed a complaint with New Mexico’s Human Rights Commission, which found the photographers guilty of discrimination and levied a $6,000 fine. To head off looming lawsuits, religious-liberty experts suggest writing religious exemptions for individuals and religiously connected businesses into same-sex-marriage laws.…

Perhaps the most emotion-packed issue is what to teach children. A Massachusetts case became a rallying cry for Prop 8 proponents and is being used again in the publicity surrounding Maine’s ballot measure. Robb and Robin Wirthlin, an LDS couple in Lexington, Mass., were horrified to learn that their son’s second-grade teacher read aloud a fairy tale, called King and King, about a prince who falls in love with and marries another prince. When the Wirthlins objected, they were told the school had no obligation to give them notice so their son could opt out.…

‘Any conflicts between religious liberty and gay rights are very unusual,’ says Cliff Rosky, a law professor at the University of Utah and a member of Equality Utah’s board who joins Gedicks on the panel. ‘They can be managed with common sense and mutual respect.’…”


“Several months ago LDS Apostle Dallin Oaks gave a speech at BYU-Idaho in which he compared the backlash against the church to the backlash against civil rights leaders in the 1960s. I don’t think I need to explain just how ridiculous that analogy is, but suffice it to say I find it disturbing that a leader of an organization that has committed itself to oppressing the civil liberties of a group of people would have the audacity to play the victim.…” (“LDS Hypocrisy,” Q Salt Lake, April 8, 2010)


“Even the definition of marriage is now a topic of heated debate. That is only the tip of a larger iceberg. Below this tip is the weightier matter of free exercise of religion. Contention is raging over two main issues: (1) Can marriage survive as the bedrock of our cultural heritage? and (2) Can our precious freedom of religion be preserved?

If civil law were altered to recognize so-called ‘same-gender’ marriage, you as believers in God, and keepers of His commandments, would then be regarded as exceptions to the rule. Your conscientious convictions would then be regarded as discriminatory. If you were a Christian school teacher, you could be charged with bigotry for upholding the Lord’s law of chastity. In truth dear brothers and sisters, if you lose marriage, you also lose freedom of religion. Atheistic moral bedlam and religious repression go hand in hand. At stake is our ability to transmit to the next generation the life-giving and inseparable culture of marriage and the free exercise of religion.” (“Apostle Talks Religious Freedom to Boston Youth,” LDS Newsroom, June 17, 2010)


“Subtle changes are even detectable in the arguments presented by high-ranking Church officials like Elder Dallin Oaks, a former University of Chicago law professor and Warren Court clerk and jurist who often covers legal issues in his public addresses. On September 17, Oaks spoke in honor of Constitution Day at the historic Mormon Tabernacle, arguing that a ruling on same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court would constitute ‘a significant constitutional reallocation of lawmaking power from the lawmaking branch to the judicial branch and from the states to the federal government.’ (Legal scholars responded to Oaks’ comments by pointing out the precedent of the Supreme Court’s 1967 Loving v. Virginia overturning state bans on interracial marriage.) Still, Oaks’s effective ‘states’ rights’ approach to same-sex marriage seems to signal a subtle shift from his earlier public arguments framing anti-same-sex-marriage activism as a total defense of religious freedom comparable to Civil Rights-era activism.…” (Joanna Brooks, “Mormon Leader: ‘I’m Sorry’ for Hurtful Legacy of Prop. 8,” Religion Dispatches, October 4, 2010)


“Oaks’ speech received a standing ovation from his audience of about 800 law students, lawyers and others at Chapman’s Memorial Hall. He clearly was tapping into a concern of many Americans: A 2008 Pew survey found that the country was almost evenly divided on the question of whether religious influence on government was increasing or decreasing. Among those who saw it decreasing, the majority said it was a bad trend.

But many Americans find little evidence that religious liberty is threatened.

‘I hadn’t noticed that,’ deadpanned Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which advocates a robust separation of church and state. She questioned whether Oaks was simply feeling ‘wounded’ by criticism of the Mormon Church’s role in the Proposition 8 campaign.

‘There’s a real irony,’ she continued, ‘because he doesn’t understand the meaning of religious freedom.… What they want to do is to curtail freedom for gays. They’re not for freedom. They’re for theocracy in matters of marriage.…They’re not so different from the Islamists, the mullahs.’

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, has been following Oaks’ statements from a unique vantage point. A lawyer, she is a former Mormon who grew up in Utah and has a familial perspective on the church.

‘The church has a view about men and women and how they come together and how they form families that does not include same-sex relationships. And that’s fine. I have no quarrel with that,’ Kendell said. But the church also has ‘a view that civic life should be a reflection of Mormon Church doctrine,’ she added. ‘And I doubt that that is a vision that is shared by most of America.’

Kendell said there is no evidence that people of faith are being targeted for discrimination. ‘What a certain stripe of religious adherents are asking for is actually an exemption, a free pass, from laws that apply generally to everyone else — for example, nondiscrimination protections,’ she said.

In his speech and in an interview, Oaks said he didn’t want to dwell on same-sex marriage. But the examples he cited of intrusions on religious liberty were almost all related to that debate. He cited, for instance, a New Mexico case in which the state Human Rights Commission held that a private photographer had discriminated against a couple by declining to photograph their same-sex commitment ceremony, and a case in New Jersey in which the United Methodist Church was penalized for denying a same-sex couple access to a church-owned pavilion frequently used for weddings.

What if, Oaks was asked, the photographer or church had refused to serve the couples because they were African American — or Mormon? ‘It’s a good question,’ he said. ‘And it gets into a philosophical point.… There is always a legitimate question about whether the power of government should be used to interfere with individual choices.’

In the case of the photographer, Oaks said there might be room for discussion about whether the customers’ civil rights were violated. In the other case, however, he said it was ‘monstrous’ to compel a church to allow its property to be used for something that violated its principles.” (Mitchell Landsberg, “Religious freedom under siege, Mormon leader says,” Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2011)


“It’s impossible to miss the stench of hypocrisy.  For years now, religious conservatives have been screeching that gays and lesbians want special rights.  This weekend Dallin Oaks comes out and declares that religion should get special rights

If I were cynic, I’d say his speech is entirely about the fact that religious conservatives are losing in the marketplace of ideas and he’s mounting a last ditch defense to maintain cultural privilege.  Among people under 30, gay marriage is completely uncontroversial.  Among the general population, 75% favor legal protections for same sex relationships (support is divided between civil unions and marriage).  Each year, more and more Americans support the idea of legalizing same sex marriage.  It was therefore unconvincing when Oaks said:

Although I will refer briefly to some implications of the Proposition 8 controversy and its constitutional arguments, I am not here to participate in the debate on the desirability or effects of same-sex marriage.

His statement would have been more convincing had he not later spent a sizable chunk of his speech misleading his audience:

Religious preaching of the wrongfulness of homosexual relations is beginning to be threatened with criminal prosecution or actually prosecuted or made the subject of civil penalties. Canada has been especially aggressive, charging numerous religious authorities and persons of faith with violating its human rights law by ‘impacting an individual’s sense of self-worth and acceptance.’ Other countries where this has occurred include Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Singapore.

He then added this passage:

In New Mexico, the state’s Human Rights Commission held that a photographer who had declined on religious grounds to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony had engaged in impermissible conduct and must pay over $6,000 attorney’s fees to the same-sex couple. A state judge upheld the order to pay. In New Jersey, the United Methodist Church was investigated and penalized under state anti-discrimination law for denying same-sex couples access to a church-owned pavilion for their civil-union ceremonies.  A federal court refused to give relief from the state penalties. Professors at state universities in Illinois and Wisconsin were fired or disciplined for expressing personal convictions that homosexual behavior is sinful. Candidates for masters’ degrees in counseling in Georgia and Michigan universities were penalized or dismissed from programs for their religious views about the wrongfulness of homosexual relations. A Los Angeles policeman claimed he was demoted after he spoke against the wrongfulness of homosexual conduct in the church where he is a lay pastor. The Catholic Church’s difficulties with adoption services and the Boy Scouts’ challenges in various locations are too well known to require further comment.

In these cases, he did not provide his audience with the context of the situation or with enough background to assess his claims.  In the New Mexico case, the state has a law specifically banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and the photographer stated she would not photograph a wedding because of the sexual orientation of the persons involved.  In the New Jersey case, the pavilion in question had been rented out for a wide variety of uses – dances, family reunions, weddings, anniversary parties etc.; it had been well established that it was not a ‘church’ only location but rather a public accommodation. 

In the Wisconsin case, the professor in question sent an anti-gay email to a student – it wasn’t part of the professor’s job as an instructor, it wasn’t part of a class; it read, in part:

I decry attempts to legitimize [homosexuals’] addictions and compulsions. These, our fellow humans, deserve our best efforts to help them recover their lives. We only hurt them further when we choose to pretend that these walking wounded are OK the way they are, that their present injuries are the best they can hope for in life.

In the Illinois case, a professor sent students in his class an email:

In early May, Howell wrote a lengthy e-mail to his students, in preparation for an exam, in which he discusses how the theory of utilitarianism and natural law theory would judge the morality of homosexual acts.

‘Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY,’ he wrote in the e-mail, obtained by The News-Gazette. ‘In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same.’

He went on to write there has been a disassociation of sexual activity from morality and procreation, in contradiction of Natural Moral Theory.

When you read the email, it’s clear the professor, Kenneth Howell, moved from explaining Catholic theology to attempting to proselytize his students.  Of course, Oaks left something important out – the professor in question was reinstated to his teaching position.  This post at Chicago Now is a pretty smart examination the kerfuffle. 

In the Georgia and Michigan cases, both students violated long-standing professional ethics and failed to meet program guidelines.  In both cases, the standards were spelled out in advance and the students in question refused to meet them.  Both sued and both lost.  As the judge in one case wrote in the ruling:

 . . .the university had a rational basis for requiring its students to counsel clients without imposing their personal values.

There are actual, valid issues in each of these cases.  With the photographers in New Mexico, I think the state overstepped (if the photographer had agreed to shoot the wedding and then backed out at the last minute when she discovered it was a same sex wedding it would be different).  However, I also believe there’s a valid case to be made that if you open a business, you are a public accommodation.  And there’s a real issue that Oaks and other religious conservatives tend to studiously avoid: harm.

Take the case of the graduate students.  The defined course of studies in their counseling programs required them to prepare to counsel glbt persons – literally to treat them the same way they would treat a person of another race, economic status, gender or religion.  Both students refused to do the basics required by their academic programs citing religious objection without identifying any way in which meeting the requirements would harm them.  In one case, the school simply required the student to attend a pride celebration and report on what she saw and heard.  Too often, it seems, these religious objections amount to little more than claiming that treating lgbt persons equally offends the individual’s morals.

The Los Angeles police officer, he delivered an anti-gay sermon at a funeral for a fellow officer.   His remarks concerned the department:

‘When it comes to enforcing the law, it has to be done impartially, treating everybody with respect,’ said Maislin, who declined to comment specifically on Holyfield’s case. ‘We are concerned, clearly, about the type of speech our employees engage in.’

By definition, a police officer has to protect the whole community and every member of it.  If he is biased against some members of the community, does anyone doubt it would negatively impact his work with those persons?  If he were openly bigoted against African Americans, does anything think he’d still be a police officer?  Yet, in this case, he claims that his religion requires him to be prejudiced. 

I wanted to spend some time on these incidents precisely because Dallin Oaks did not.  If all you knew was what he said, you’d walk away with the impression that Christians are increasingly victims of a shadowy conspiracy to persecute them because they merely disapprove of homosexuality.

Oaks, like other religious conservatives, is forced to construct an elaborate argument in which opposition to gay rights is central to Christian theology.  Christian theology comes to hinge almost entirely upon its disapproval of gay people.  The six verses in the bible that talk about homosexuality are suddenly the sum total of what Christians want to talk about. 

In God’s Politics, Jim Wallis tells the story of going through the bible and removing all the sections about economics – what was left was so sparse it almost fell to pieces.  Read through the gospels and you see very few stories about sexuality but you see lots of stories about money and economics.  The Gospels never once mention homosexuality; but Jesus is abundantly clear in his denunciation of divorce.  Seems to me lots of Christians get divorced and the church never says ‘boo’. 

There’s an old joke – there are six verses in the bible about homosexuals and 300 about straight people.  It’s not that god doesn’t love gay people, it’s that straight people need more supervision. 

What Dallin Oaks and other religious conservatives are doing with regard to civil rights for glbt persons is the reason that young people are increasingly turning away from the Christian church.  Ask people under 40 and they’ll tell you that Christians are intolerant and anti-gay.  Ask people under 40 who attend church and the majority will tell you they believe the church is wrong in its stance on gay marriage.  Ask lots of people and they’ll tell you that you can be Christian and gay.  But for too many religious leaders, there is no compromise, no middle ground.  They cannot, they will not, bend. 

In the 1850s, southern preachers declared with equal vehemence that slavery was a biblical institution and doing away with it would be to deny God.  In the 1960s, racist preachers declared that segregation of the races was God’s will and doing away with it would be to do deny God.  Those same preachers taught that interracial marriage was a violation of Biblical truth.  Preachers used to tell their congregations that it was a violation of God’s will for women to vote or have jobs and they based it on the bible.  There has never been in American history an advance in civil rights that has not been passionately and vocally opposed by religious conservatives.  When Dallin Oaks stands up and as he did in this speech, declares that religious freedom requires opposition to the civil rights of gays and lesbians, he is standing in a long line of fiery American religious figures opposed to expanding civil rights.” (Glenden Brown, “Dallin Oaks Demands Special Rights: He Doth Protest Too Much,” OneUtah.org, February 7, 2011)


“Last Friday, LDS Apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks delivered another in a series of speeches designed to make the case that the LGBT civil rights movement constitutes an attack on freedom of religion, this time at Chapman University Law School in Orange County, California.

After comparing Proposition 8 supporters to black civil rights activists last year in a speech at BYU-Idaho and decrying deteriorating regard for religion in the public sphere in a speech at the Salt Lake Tabernacle last July, Oaks, a former clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, argued that moral relativism and the declining influence of religion in American life are hastening the legal penalization of religious viewpoints on matters of public policy.

One LDS RD reader wrote to observe that just the day before Oaks’ speech, on February 3, a gay-rights activist invited by students to visit BYU had his tires slashed while parked in the lot of BYU’s Law School. A painful juxtaposition, especially inasmuch as the tire-slashing incident has made the news in Salt Lake City, but has not yet been acknowledged by the campus newspaper or University officials.

Another LDS RD reader made the equally provocative observation that 18 years ago Oaks himself sounded a very different tune on the role of religion in public life, writing in the LDS Church publication The Ensign:

If churches or church leaders choose to oppose or favor a particular piece of legislation, their opinions should be received on the same basis as the opinions offered by other knowledgeable organizations or persons, and they should be considered on their merits. By the same token, churches and church leaders should expect the same broad latitude of discussion of their views that conventionally applies to everyone else’s participation in public policy debates. A church can claim access to higher authority on moral questions, but its opinions on the application of those moral questions to specific legislation will inevitably be challenged by and measured against secular-based legislative or political judgments.

As for me, Oaks’s address generated many questions. What are the evidences that religious freedom is under legal attack in the United States? He cited a few cases (some of the same ones used in scare-tactic ads from the now-discredited National Organization for Marriage) but none of them pertains to the rights of churches or private individuals (acting as private individuals) to create and maintain their own religious beliefs and practices.

I’ve heard volumes of anecdotal evidence from LDS people who’ve been shunned by neighbors and coworkers, disadvantaged for promotions, and targeted for vandalism and derogatory speech. (One reader recently related that a co-worker told him that he considered him an ‘enemy’ simply for being Mormon.) But is this an attack on religious freedom, continuing blowback from the Proposition 8 campaign, or simply the price of being a minority (racial, sexual, or religious) in America?

Had Mormons not invested ourselves so expensively in a less-than-forthright campaign to reshape public laws to match our own theology, would we be experiencing public shaming? And does longstanding public animus towards Mormons cross the threshold into systematic discrimination? Only if you’re running for president; aside from the fact that some of our co-workers are mean to us, most of the rest of us seem to be doing just fine.

In his address, Oaks clarified that the major threat to religious freedom was actually ‘moral relativism.’ But where some see the decadence of ‘moral relativism,’ I see the advancement of religious pluralism and the erosion of a conservative religious prerogative to define public life. For 50 years Mormons have ‘passed’ as regular Americans and harnessed the power of popular social and religous conservatism to advance political agendas (such as the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment and the passage of Proposition 8 and other anti-marriage-equality laws) in the service of the most conservative version of LDS theology. On political-religious matters, we have partnered almost exclusively with ‘natural allies’ like conservative evangelicals, Catholics, and conservative Jews. (Indeed, in his address, Oaks mobilized several rhetorical tropes that appealed exclusively to conservatives, including the idea of a ‘conspiracy’ to scrub out references to God in US history and the ugly canard that President Obama attempted to undermine freedom of religion by using the phrase ‘freedom of worship.’)

But if the battle to protect religious freedom is a real as Oaks argues, Latter-day Saints may need to rethink our decades-old strategy of relying on popular conservatism as a cover for our own unique theological interests. Now as it appears inevitable that the balance of public opinion is turning or will soon turn in favor of civil marriage equality for LGBT people, Mormons stand to lose the political prerogatives that we’ve enjoyed as a benefit of popular political conservatism. We are facing the stark prospect of once again returning to the marginal position we occupied in the late 19th century during the period of open Mormon polygamy: as a religious minority with views on marriage that reflect our own theology but diverge significantly from civic norms. Gone will be the pride we once took in our power to direct public opinion to meet our own private goals.

Indeed, many Mormons fear that broad acceptance of LGBT people will put us in the position we found ourselves in during the 1970s when Mormon institutions like BYU became the object of public boycotts and shaming. But whereas careful examination has shown that the Black priesthood ban was based in Mormon custom rather than in scripture, the prohibition of homosexual love and marriage in Mormonism is rooted in doctrines at the core of the faith: namely, the idea that marriages on earth mirror the shape of God as a male-female couple.

Orthodox LDS people who, following LDS Church leaders, continue to hold that homosexual love and marriage are immoral, will probably have to get used to being a minority once again. It may be that (as is the case with the rights of women in religion), once the foundations of civic equality are established, no one (except members) will really care what rules churches set and apply to their own memberships. Or perhaps institutions that steadfastly reject any moral standards that make room for homosexuality will come in for increased public shaming.

In either case, it will be easier for LDS conservatives to protect their religious freedom as a minority if they acknowledge that Mormons live as a minority not in a depravedly morally relativistic society (as Oaks argued) but in a democracy defined by legitimate moral and religious pluralism. We share citizenship with millions upon millions of religious people for whom LGBT equality is an article of faith. Recognizing them as neighbors deserving of equal protection for their religious beliefs should be fundamental to any discussion of gay rights and religious freedom in America.” (Joanna Brooks, “Mormon Leader: Religious Freedom Under Attack by Gay Rights,” Religion Dispatches, February 9, 2011)


“Last year the LDS Church gained a good deal of positive press when it officially endorsed Salt Lake City’s anti-discrimination ordinances. By many this was seen as a step toward a greater level of compassion and understanding from an organization commonly viewed as antagonistic on matters of LGBTQ equality.…

The official topic of Oaks’ speech was ‘Preserving Religious Freedom,’ but it really should have been entitled ‘Perverting Religious Freedom,’ as the entire speech was nothing but an attempt to demonstrate how religions, like his, are under attack in America because gays and lesbians want equal rights. That’s right folks, his freedom to believe how he will and to preach that belief is under assault because people want (and are demanding) equal treatment under the law.

Oaks argues that the freedom of religion clause contained in the First Amendment provides special protection to religious organizations because of its ‘pre-eminent place’ as the first statement in the First Amendment. Given that, he says, religion becomes a more important protection than speech, assembly, the right to bear arms, due process, or any of the proceeding protections provided in the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments.…

Oaks provided a couple of examples in which religious liberty was ‘under fire.’ His first such example involved a case in New Jersey in which the United Methodist Church was penalized under state anti-discrimination laws for refusing to allow a same-sex wedding ceremony on their property. What Oaks failed to point out is the simple fact that the church in question was a participant in the New Jersey ‘Green Acres’ program, which provides property tax breaks to participants and requires, in exchange, that the property be open to all, and that New Jersey’s anti-discrimination ordinances are followed.

This wasn’t a case of ‘gay rights’ trumping those of a church. This was a case of a church participating in a program, reaping the financial rewards of doing so, and then attempting to violate the basic conditions of that program. Nobody said the United Methodist Church had to participate in Green Acres, but when they chose to do so, and they took the associated tax benefits, they became contractually obligated to honor those anti-discrimination policies. They made a choice, and that choice had consequences.

Oaks also referenced the case of professors at state universities in Illinois and Wisconsin that were fired or disciplined for speaking out about the ‘sinful’ nature of homosexual conduct. Why is this considered an attack on religion? These are state employees, which means they need to adhere to state guidelines regarding conduct. They didn’t do so.…

Nobody is attacking Oaks’ religion. Nobody. What Oaks, Packer, and the rest of the LDS leadership need to understand is that we all have rights, not just them. And in no way, shape or form, do their rights take precedence over anyone else’s. I don’t care if Oaks wants to stand on a street corner like Fred Phelps and shout anti-gay nonsense at the top of his lungs. He has that right. Packer has that right. The LDS Church has that right. Guess what? I also have the right to say, paraphrasing George Takei, ‘you sir, are a douchebag.’ At least Phelps is being a bigot in the open, these clowns are hiding their ignorance and hatred behind the skirt of religious freedom.…” (Bob Henline, “Perverting religious freedom,” Q Salt Lake, February 17, 2011)


“Peter Vidmar, named last week by the U.S. Olympic Committee as chef de mission for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, said his publicly expressed opposition to same-sex marriage would not affect his support of the team members he will represent, including any who are in same-sex marriages or homosexual.…

Vidmar, 49, winner of two 1984 Olympic gymnastics gold medals, participated in two demonstrations and donated $2,000 for the successful 2008 Proposition 8 ballot initiative in California to define marriage as between a man and a woman, overturning a  California Supreme Court ruling that permitted same-sex marriage.

The Orange County Register had an Oct. 30, 2008 story, ‘Olympic gold medalist joins Rancho Prop 8 demonstration,’ in which it quoted Vidmar as saying,  ‘It’s good for our society to have a traditional definition of marriage.’…

The USOC was unaware of Vidmar’s publicly expressed views on same-sex marriage before naming him chef de mission. 

‘I have never tried to hide this,’ Vidmar said.  ‘It is what it is.’

Having been informed of Vidmar’s position on the issue, USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun issued a statement reaffirming the choice of Vidmar.…

Among the six ‘Fundamental Principles of Olympism’ in the Olympic Charter is, ‘Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.’

Weir, a two-time Olympian and three-time U.S. champion, said Vidmar’s open support of anti-gay marriage causes ‘defeats the purpose’ of his statements about respect for everyone.…” (Philip Hersh, “Vidmar says his opposition to same-sex marriage won’t affect his USOC role,” Chicago Tribune, May 5, 2011)


“Peter Vidmar stepped down Friday as chef de mission of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in the wake of a controversy over whether his public opposition to same-sex marriage made him the right person to be symbolic head of the team that will compete at the London Summer Games.

In a statement from the U.S. Olympic Committee, Vidmar said, ‘I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction from the amazing things that are happening in the Olympic movement in the United States.  I simply cannot have my presence become a detriment to the U.S. Olympic family.

‘I hope that by stepping aside, the athletes and their stories will rightly take center stage.’

Vidmar had told the Tribune his opposition to same-sex marriage came from exercising his religious freedom as a Mormon.  The Church of Latter-day Saints considers same-sex marriage immoral.

‘I believe Peter would have served our athletes well but, given the nature of this issue, I certainly respect his decision to resign,’ USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said in the statement.…” (Philip Hersh, “Vidmar steps down as U.S. Olympic chef de mission,” Chicago Tribune, May 6, 2011)


“Dear Friends:

The promotion and protection of marriage—the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife—is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people. The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government, or religious community. It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies. It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with the essential task of bearing and nurturing children.

As religious leaders across a wide variety of faith communities, we join together to affirm that marriage in its true definition must be protected for its own sake and for the good of society. We also recognize the grave consequences of altering this definition. One of these consequences—the interference with the religious freedom of those who continue to affirm the true definition of ‘marriage’—warrants special attention within our faith communities and throughout society as a whole. For this reason, we come together with one voice in this letter.

Some posit that the principal threat to religious freedom posed by same-sex ‘marriage’ is the possibility of government’s forcing religious ministers to preside over such ‘weddings,’ on pain of civil or criminal liability. While we cannot rule out this possibility entirely, we believe that the First Amendment creates a very high bar to such attempts.

Instead, we believe the most urgent peril is this: forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations—throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies—to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct. There is no doubt that the many people and groups whose moral and religious convictions forbid same-sex sexual conduct will resist the compulsion of the law, and church-state conflicts will result.

These conflicts bear serious consequences. They will arise in a broad range of legal contexts, because altering the civil definition of ‘marriage’ does not change one law, but hundreds, even thousands, at once. By a single stroke, every law where rights depend on marital status—such as employment discrimination, employment benefits, adoption, education, healthcare, elder care, housing, property, and taxation—will change so that same-sex sexual relationships must be treated as if they were marriage. That requirement, in turn, will apply to religious people and groups in the ordinary course of their many private or public occupations and ministries—including running schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other housing facilities, providing adoption and counseling services, and many others.

So, for example, religious adoption services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly ‘married.’ Religious marriage counselors would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counseling in support of same-sex ‘married’ relationships. Religious employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex ‘spouses.’ Religious employers would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action—no matter how modest— against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil ‘marriage’ with a member of the same sex. This is not idle speculation, as these sorts of situations have already come to pass.

Even where religious people and groups succeed in avoiding civil liability in cases like these, they would face other government sanctions—the targeted withdrawal of government co-operation, grants, or other benefits.

For example, in New Jersey, the state cancelled the tax-exempt status of a Methodist-run boardwalk pavilion used for religious services because the religious organization would not host a same-sex ‘wedding’ there. San Francisco dropped its $3.5 million in social service contracts with the Salvation Army because it refused to recognize same-sex ‘domestic partnerships’ in its employee benefits policies. Similarly, Portland, Maine, required Catholic Charities to extend spousal employee benefits to same-sex ‘domestic partners’ as a condition of receiving city housing and community development funds.

In short, the refusal of these religious organizations to treat a same-sex sexual relationship as if it were a marriage marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists. These punishments will only grow more frequent and more severe if civil ‘marriage’ is redefined in additional jurisdictions. For then, government will compel special recognition of relationships that we the undersigned religious leaders and the communities of faith that we represent cannot, in conscience, affirm. Because law and government not only coerce and incentivize but also teach, these sanctions would lend greater moral legitimacy to private efforts to punish those who defend marriage.

Therefore, we encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined. We especially urge those entrusted with the public good to support laws that uphold the time-honored definition of marriage, and so avoid threatening the religious freedom of countless institutions and citizens in this country. Marriage and religious freedom are both deeply woven into the fabric of this nation.

May we all work together to strengthen and preserve the unique meaning of marriage and the precious gift of religious freedom.” (“Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together. An Open Letter from Religious Leaders in the United States to All Americans,” January 12, 2012. ONE OF THE SIGNATORIES WAS H. DAVID BURTON, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE LDS CHURCH)


Note that the above letter was posted on the LDS Church’s website.  See 3841.


“In justifying the need to restrict marriage to one man and one woman, many members cite fears that federally recognised anti-discrimination laws would force religions to extend their ordinances to people not living the strictures of the faith. They fear that legal gay marriage would force churches who view homosexuality as sinful to perform marriages despite their own teachings. This argument was never logically sound, despite its widespread use. Prior to 1978 the LDS church did not allow black members to be sealed in the temple and faced no censure. Even as recently as December 2011 a Free Will Baptist church banned interracial couples from even attending services and only faced horrible press – no legal consequences.

Still, opponents to gay marriage feared that just because there hadn’t been legal challenges didn’t mean there wouldn’t be legal challenges. But another recent court case provides affirmative proof that churches have broad freedom to enact their teachings.

In January the supreme court ruled on a case regarding employment discrimination in church employment. The decision was counted as a loss for the labour movement, but provided legal precedent that churches were not subject to the same discrimination laws as other organisations. In the ruling, chief justice John G Roberts wrote, ‘The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important, but so too is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission.’ While this case did not have anything to do with gay marriage, it proved that the rights of churches to practise as they see fit are weighted higher than the rights of an individual. It proved that fears about gay marriage being forced on religion are unfounded, and unfair.…” (Tresa Edmunds, The Guardian, February 9, 2012)


“The last time I looked at Deseret News, they were touting a poll purporting to show that most Americans oppose marriage equality — something in conflict with all other polls. An investigation showed that the poll used an unrepresentative sampling, skewed to disproportionately include those people most likely to take a negative position.

Deseret News is the voice of the Mormon Church, which owns it, and twice weekly the paper publishes inserts specifically on church matters. This relationship influences the reports it publishes.

A new article they published claims that marriage equality is a threat to religious liberty. The paper says there is a ‘growing conflict between same-sex marriage and the rights of people of faith — a conflict that experts says is negatively affecting the rights of individuals and organizations to live their faith freely and without fear of punishment.’

This claim deserves the response Ronald Reagan gave Jimmy Carter in the 1980 debate: ‘There you go again.’ The story misrepresents specific cases to make them about same-sex marriage, when they were about something different.

They wrote that one case turned a ‘Christian’ into the ‘poster child’ of the alleged conflict. This was about a photographer in New Mexico. The first clue that this wasn’t because of marriage equality is that New Mexico grants no such rights. The law in question was about discrimination, not marriage. Desert News claims that ‘gay rights advocates brush off the case as an anomaly,’ but this isn’t an anomaly related to marriage rights; it is just about an entirely different kind of law.

This photographer told a gay couple she would not photograph their commitment ceremony. They sued under anti-discrimination laws and won. That they were having a commitment ceremony was not why they won the lawsuit; it was because state law forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, just as it does on the basis of religion — something I suspect Mormons find beneficial.

A good illustration would be two religious ceremonies unrelated to legal issues: first communion and a bar mitzvah. Imagine that a father calls a photographer and asks for photos of his son’s bar mitzvah. The photographer says he is a Christian and finds Judaism to be sinful, immoral, whatever. He admits that he would photograph a first communion, just not a bar mitzvah. Under anti-discrimination laws he has problems. Does that mean allowing bar mitzvahs puts the religious freedom of Christians at risk?

As the law sees it, rightly or wrongly, the issue is not the nature of the ceremony but that a specific class of people is experiencing discrimination. With or without same-sex marriage, the discrimination issue remains. And it is anti-discrimination laws that they are really complaining about.

So why not say so? Perhaps because they embrace such laws. Religious groups tend to want protections from people who might discriminate against them. Neither do they wish to be seen as supporting discrimination against people on the basis of race — at least not anymore.

The second case presented by Deseret News is equally bogus. A church-owned pavilion, in a state without marriage equality, was granted tax exemption on the basis that it was a public-use property. The owners then declined to allow a gay couple to rent the pavilion, in violation of the terms by which they obtained tax exemption. As a result they lost their exemption. What Deseret News leaves out is that the pavilion then sought tax exemption as a religious building, not a public-use building, and its exemption was reinstated.

Religious institutions have rights denied private citizens — they have the right to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc. A religiously owned radio station may refuse to hire atheists, but non-religious stations can’t refuse to hire the religious.

The other cases this report used are also related to anti-discrimination laws, not marriage laws, with one exception. Catholic Charities acted on behalf of various state governments in placing foster children into homes. For this they were granted subsidies to cover costs. Some states said that if they want state funds, they couldn’t discriminate against gay and lesbian taxpayers who provide those funds. Catholic Charities decided that it didn’t want to be charitable unless it could do so with other people’s money. Again, there was no marriage issue involved. It happened in Illinois, which doesn’t allow same-sex marriage, and in Massachusetts, which does. Providing a state-funded service in a discriminatory way was the issue, not marriage. That just doesn’t sound as convincing as pretending gay marriage threatens religious liberty.

No church has to perform same-sex weddings — just as Catholic churches don’t have to perform marriages for Mormons, and vice versa. That private businesses may run into problems with anti-discrimination laws is another matter. Those laws exist whether marriage equality is realized or not. If this is the issue, then these groups should openly say so, instead of pretending marriage rights are involved.

The hypocrisy is that religious-right groups tend to support anti-discrimination laws provided that they are protected. The idea that a gay-owned business might refuse to provide them services, or rent them an apartment, bothers them. They want anti-discrimination laws that are one-way streets, where they are free to indulge their prejudices but others are not.

Dragging unrelated issues into the marriage equality debate seems par for the course. When you don’t have legitimate threats with which to scare people, you either have to invent entirely bogus ones or drag in the unrelated. Opponents of marriage equality have done both. H.L. Mencken wasn’t far off when he said, ‘The whole history of the country has been a history of melodramatic pursuits of horrendous monsters, most of them imaginary.’ Certainly this would be another example for Mr. Mencken, were he still alive.”  (James Peron, “There They Go Again: Mormon Paper Distorts Facts to Bash Marriage Equality,” Huffington Post, February 12, 2012)

The following are the referenced excerpts from the Deseret News article:

“That’s why Huguenin didn’t hesitate to respond matter-of-factly to the e-mail from Vanessa Willock who asked about photographing a commitment ceremony with her long-time girlfriend.

‘We do not photograph same-sex weddings,’ Huguenin wrote. ‘But again, thanks for checking out our site! Have a great day.’…

The state’s human rights commission was unmoved and found Huguenin guilty of discrimination. She was ordered to pay over $6,000 — the costs of Willock’s attorneys.…

In November, wedding-cake maker Victoria Childress told a lesbian couple who came to her home-based business in Des Moines that as a Pentecostal Christian she would not be able to make a cake to celebrate their wedding, which she defines as the union of one man and one woman. Shortly after, the couple told a local TV station they felt discriminated against, and later mentioned they were contemplating a lawsuit. Even though they chose not to pursue legal action, gay-rights groups have boycotted Childress’ business and she says she’s been inundated with letters and e-mails from people who either praise her decision or condemn her a bigot.…

‘It’s a right-wing talking point to stoke up fears for something that’s not a problem,’ said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, a group dedicated to promoting same-sex marriage. ‘There’s only one or two isolated examples (of clashing) as to how this has even been an issue. We settled this question in the country decades ago when businesses were saying ‘We don’t want to serve blacks or Jews, Latinos, Mormons,’ and (the country) said ‘No, when you’re a business opening your doors to the public, you have to serve everyone. That’s (called) non-discrimination in a democratic society.’‘

But in a review of more than 1,000 state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender or marital status, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty discovered that 350 of those laws would be triggered, or become applicable for lawsuits, by the recognition of same-sex marriage.

That means that when individuals of faith decline to host a same-sex wedding in their catering hall, or refuse to provide health insurance benefits for a same-sex spouse, they can, and likely will be sued under one of those now-active 350 ‘anti-discrimination laws — laws never intended for that purpose,’ according to the 2009 report.…” (Sara Israelsen-Hartley, “Colliding causes: Gay rights and religious liberty,” Deseret News, February 12, 2012)


“The church also suggested that regardless of how members felt about the marriage bill, they should advocate for an exemption that would protect religious organizations from having to perform same-sex marriages and to allow individuals and small businesses to refuse to cater to such marriages (a nod to the famous cases of photographers and bakeries that have refused to serve customers celebrating a same-sex wedding in states where it’s now legal). The language the Mormon church favors mirrors the religious freedom argument the Catholic Church has adopted in its fights over everything from contraceptive coverage to gay marriage.…” (Stephanie Mencimer, “Election Over, the Mormon Church Quietly Re-enters the Gay Marriage Fight,” Mother Jones, October 29, 2013)


“Why should all religious and non-religious Utahns be terrified of such proposals? We’ve seen this all before. The same language was floated (and in some cases passed into law temporarily) back during the civil rights movement 50 years ago. White business owners claimed that their religious beliefs meant that they should have the right to put up ‘Whites Only’ signs. County clerks said their religious beliefs meant that they should have the right to refuse to marry interracial couples because they believed God found them to be an abomination.

We, as a country, rejected those nonsense arguments. We recognized that religious liberty meant the right of an individual to believe whatever they choose, but when you are acting on behalf of the government or when you are acting as a business, you must treat all people equally. You, as an individual, may believe that God finds interracial couples to be an abomination, but that doesn’t mean your business or your government has the right to violate that couple’s civil rights just because they believe differently.

True religious freedom relies on religious pluralism — the recognition that everyone in the country has the right to believe (or not believe) whatever they choose without fear of being persecuted for those beliefs.…” (Eric Ethington, “Same-sex marriage and the attack on religious freedom,” Q Salt Lake, October 27, 2014)


“In the news conference a few examples of this ‘war against religion’ were offered. What was missing were the thousands of stories of freedoms and liberties denied to the LGBT community because of the lack of legal status and protection.…

The measure of religious liberty is whether one can personally practice one’s faith, and there is nothing within the new rights being afforded LGBT citizens that interferes with that.…

The rights of churches to practice and perform rites as they see fit is locked down and has been since the formation of this country.

What is at risk are the basic fundamental rights and privileges that being a citizen of the United States affords us. When a couple cannot obtain a marriage license they are legally entitled to based on the religious convictions of the county clerk, then basic rights are being violated. When one is forced to go from pharmacy to pharmacy, trying to get a prescription filled because every pharmacist in town finds the legally prescribed drug to be counter to his/her religious sensibilities, then religious freedom has trumped all other freedoms. When someone is forced to vacate an apartment because the new owner does not agree with the lifestyle of some of the tenants, then religion becomes a façade to mask discrimination.…

I agree with the LDS Church that we must balance religious freedom with securing the rights of our citizenry. However, it is these basic civil rights that are really being attacked, not religious freedom.” (Curtis L. Price, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Salt Lake City, “Op-ed: Religious freedom is not under attack in this country,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 7, 2015)


“Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, cannot use her Christian faith as a justification for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, a high-ranking Mormon authority said Tuesday.

Public officials ‘are not free to apply personal convictions — religious or other — in place of the defined responsibilities of their public offices,’ LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks said in a speech in Sacramento, Calif. ‘A county clerk’s recent invoking of religious reasons to justify refusal by her office and staff to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples violates this principle.’…

The Rev. Gregory Johnson, chairman of Standing Together, a consortium of Utah’s evangelical Christian churches, also disagreed with the Mormon apostle — especially his opposition to Davis’ stance.

‘Conscientious objection and religious exemptions are part of our country’s heritage,’ Johnson said. ‘When fighting in wars or endorsing or participating in a marriage you think does not honor God’s design for marriage, such people have to be accommodated.’…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Mormon apostle Oaks: Kentucky clerk wrong not to issue same-sex marriage licenses,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 20, 2015)


“I reject the idea of a wall between church and state. The more appropriate metaphor to express that relation—reinforced by various decisions of the United States Supreme Court—is a curtain that defines boundaries but is not a barrier to the passage of light and love and mutual support from one side to another.…

First, parties with different views on the relationship between church and state should advocate and act with civility.… We all lose when we cannot debate public policies without resorting to boycotts, firings, and intimidation of our adversaries.…

Second, on the big issues that divide adversaries on these issues, both sides should seek a balance, not a total victory. For example, religionists should not seek a veto over all nondiscrimination laws that offend their religion, and the proponents of nondiscrimination should not seek a veto over all assertions of religious freedom.… Thus, in a head-on conflict over individual free exercise and enforced nondiscrimination in housing and employment, for example, the Utah Legislature crafted a compromise position under the banner of ‘fairness for all.’ It gave neither position all that it sought but granted both positions benefits that probably could not have been obtained without the kind of balancing that is possible in the lawmaking branch but not in the judiciary.

Third, it will help if we are not led or unduly influenced by the extreme voices that are heard from contending positions.…

The Supreme Court bowed toward this principle in its majority opinion in Obergefell, the 5-4 case establishing a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage. It implicitly rejected several argued bases for its decision, such as alleged animus in traditional marriage laws and the need for establishing a new suspect class for laws affecting those with same-gender attraction. Either of those bases for the decision would have complicated the kind of accommodation I advocate here. Just as important, the majority opinion also included some teachings that are particularly welcome to those who argued the losing position. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy acknowledged the reasonableness of the religious and philosophical premises of those who argue that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman and assured that the First Amendment will protect religious organizations and persons who continue to teach them.…

So taught, we must, to the extent possible, obey both systems of law. When there are apparent conflicts, we must seek to harmonize them. When they are truly irreconcilable, we should join with others of like mind in striving to change the civil law to accommodate the divine. In all events, we must be very measured before ever deciding—in the rarest of circumstances—to disregard one in favor of the other.

In that context, I say to my fellow believers that we should not assert the free exercise of religion to override every law and government action that could possibly be interpreted to infringe on institutional or personal religious freedom. As I have often said, the free exercise of religion obviously involves both the right to choose religious beliefs and affiliations and the right to exercise or practice those beliefs. But in a nation with citizens of many different religious beliefs, the right of some to act upon their religious principles must be circumscribed by the government’s responsibility to protect the health and safety of all. Otherwise, for example, the government could not protect its citizens’ person or property from neighbors whose intentions include taking human life or stealing in circumstances purportedly rationalized by their religious beliefs.

Religious persons will often be most persuasive in political discourse by framing arguments and explaining the value of their positions in terms understandable to those who do not share their religious beliefs. All sides should seek to contribute to the reasoned discussion and compromise that are essential in a pluralistic society. And none should adopt an ‘us vs. them’ mentality.

Believers should also acknowledge the validity of constitutional laws. Even where they have challenged laws or practices on constitutional grounds, once those laws or practices have been sustained by the highest available authority, believers should acknowledge their validity and submit to them. It is better to try to live with an unjust law than to contribute to the anarchy that a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln anticipated when he declared, ‘There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.’

Clear cases for the application of this principle are the public officials in the executive or judicial branch who enforce and interpret the laws. All such officials take an oath to support the constitution and laws of their jurisdiction. That oath does not leave them free to use their official position to further their personal beliefs—religious or otherwise—to override the law. Office holders remain free to draw upon their personal beliefs and motivations and advocate their positions in the public square. But when acting as public officials they are not free to apply personal convictions—religious or other—in place of the defined responsibilities of their public offices. All government officers should exercise their civil authority according to the principles and within the limits of civil government. A county clerk’s recent invoking of religious reasons to justify refusal by her office and staff to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples violates this principle. Far more significant violations of the rule of law and democratic self-government occur when governors or attorneys general refuse to enforce or defend a law they oppose on personal grounds—secular or religious. Constitutional duties, including respect for the vital principle of separation of powers, are fundamental to the rule of law. Government officials must not apply these duties selectively according to their personal preferences—whatever their source.

This insistence that the constitutional and legal duties of the office override the religious or other moral scruples of the office holder implies no compulsion on the office holder’s conscience.…” (“Elder Oaks Transcript at Court and Clergy Conference,” LDS Newsroom, October 20, 2015)


“Elder Dallin H. Oaks is making national news for his comment this week about Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The LDS Church leader’s brief statement that Davis was wrong drew direct criticism from her attorney, but one expert said his speech was a ‘significant development’ in the church’s ongoing effort to steer a carefully considered course unique among faiths working together for the common causes of traditional marriage, family and religious liberty.

‘I think this is a big deal,’ said Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institutiton in Washington, D.C. ‘I think Elder Oaks’ statement is a significant development in the unfolding drama over religious liberty and gay rights.’…

Rauch said Elder Oaks’ speech is a sign that LDS Church leadership views the strategy of massive resistance proposed by many religious conservatives as a dead end that will damage the cause of religious liberty, not help it.…

‘I see Elder Oaks’ statement as an effort to build on the (Utah compromise), which showed that if you can line up all the planets you can get real things done,’ Rauch said.

Rauch called Elder Oaks’ speech the logical extension of the church’s actions this year.

‘What Dallin Oaks’ speech signifies is that the church is feeling encouraged that it’s on the right path, one consistent with its values, and ‘we’re sticking with it,’‘ Rauch said. ‘This is one more step that will be hard to walk back. It’s always possible events will change and the church will change its position, but this is a big step forward on the same road.’…” (Tad Walch, “Elder Oaks makes national news with statement on gay rights, religious liberty,” Deseret News, October 21, 2015)


“Despite its deep opposition to same-sex marriage, the Mormon Church is setting itself apart from religious conservatives who rallied behind a Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who cited her religious beliefs as justification for refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In a speech this week about the boundaries between church and state, Dallin Oaks, a high-ranking apostle in the church, said that public officials like Ms. Davis, the clerk in Rowan County, Ky., had a duty to follow the law, despite their religious convictions.

‘Office holders remain free to draw upon their personal beliefs and motivations and advocate their positions in the public square,’ Elder Oaks said. ‘But when acting as public officials, they are not free to apply personal convictions, religious or other, in place of the defined responsibilities of their public offices. All government officers should exercise their civil authority according to the principles and within the limits of civil government.’

Referring to Ms. Davis without naming her, Elder Oaks said: ‘A county clerk’s recent invoking of religious reasons to justify refusal by her office and staff to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples violates this principle.’

Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, called the speech a ‘pretty big deal’ that embraced compromise over conflict. The church has not changed its opposition to same-sex marriage, he noted, but it has also rejected the all-out opposition embodied by Ms. Davis, as well as calls from some conservative groups for public officials to reject the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling.…” (Jack Healy, “Mormons Say Duty to Law on Marriage Trumps Faith,” New York Times, October 23, 2015)


“The Mormon church cautioned the Utah Legislature on Wednesday against passing any new laws that would ‘alter the balance’ between religious liberties and gay and transgender rights as reflected in last year’s landmark anti-discrimination legislation.

‘The Utah Legislature achieved something extraordinary last year,’ church spokesman Dale Jones said in a written statement. ‘Interests from both ends of the political spectrum are attempting to alter that balance. We believe that the careful balance achieved through being fair to all should be maintained.’

The statement was issued in response to a question from media outlets about whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would support SB107, aimed at strengthening Utah’s hate-crimes laws.

The faith’s statement offers no specific support or opposition, but suggests lawmakers should not tackle any issue that would tread into areas where LGBT rights and conservative values might collide, including those related to marriage, adoption, religious liberty and, apparently, hate crimes.…” (Jennifer Dobner, “Mormon church warns against upsetting ‘careful balance’ of LGBT anti-discrimination law,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 17, 2016)


“A Utah senator criticized his church Thursday for a statement that he said effectively kills a bill aimed at strengthening the state’s hate-crimes laws and better protecting victims of bias-motivated offenses.

At a Capitol news conference, Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, said he had worked with prosecutors and activists for a year on SB107.

‘Yesterday,’ Urquhart said, ‘all of those efforts, all future legislative dialogue, all future legislative processes, they were effectively snuffed out by a press release.’

On Wednesday, a statement issued by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cautioned lawmakers — most of whom are Mormons — against passing laws that would upset the balance between gay rights and religious liberty achieved through the historic Utah compromise legislation in 2015.

‘I now reject the term ‘Utah compromise,’ ’ said Urquhart. ‘Yesterday that term, that concept, through a press release was perverted into a club to beat back further progress on civil rights.’…

While the statement offers no specific reference to SB107 or any other bill, it was issued in response to questions about the hate-crimes legislation and is widely seen as a warning that lawmakers should not tackle any issues in which LGBT rights and conservative values collide. That could include proposed legislation to address marriage, adoption, religious liberties and, apparently, hate crimes.

Urquhart scoffed at the suggestion that SB107 — which aims to impose tougher felony and misdemeanor criminal penalties on those who target their victims because of biases against race, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation or other classifications (something not available to prosecutors under current law) — offers special protections to any group or alters any carefully crafted balance of interests in Utah.

‘It protects religious communities, it protects the LGBT community, it protects everyone of any race … gender, sexual orientation …’ he said. ‘It protects all of us in the exact same way. That is balanced legislation. So any claim that my legislation needs to go away because of a lack of balance, that’s a false flag.’…

‘Right now, under Utah law, there is no legal difference between burning a pile of leaves on a black family’s lawn and burning a cross,’ Urquhart said. ‘Both are just treated like a trespass.’

He also apologized to his fellow Mormons, who will also be left unprotected from the terror that hate crimes impose on the wider community when church buildings are vandalized or set on fire by those who dislike the faith.

Such legal protections, Urquhart said, would have been offered under SB107, but the church’s statement suggests that the price for that is too high, even in a place where Mormons are the religious majority.

‘What is that price?’ he said. ‘It is that all religious protections be coupled with protections for the LGBT community. It is our church that has specifically rejected that balanced approach.’” (Jennifer Dobner, “State senator criticizes Mormon church for torpedoing hate-crimes bill,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 18, 2016)


“A proposal to ensure the equal treatment of Utah’s married gay couples in matters of adoption and foster-care placement failed on a tie vote Wednesday in a House committee.

HB234 died on the 5-5 vote after Republican lawmakers argued that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide does not require Utah to grant gay couples any other marriage-related rights.

‘It pertains only to marriage,’ said Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, the judiciary committee vice chairman and an attorney with the firm that does much of the legal work for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ‘It does not refer to a fundamental right to adoption or a fundamental right to foster.’

Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, also an attorney, was similarly adamant and read aloud portions of the ruling that says religions and individuals have the right to continue to teach and advocate for the principles and ‘family structure they have long revered.’

‘We cannot be misled to think that this judiciary committee is somehow compelled as a matter of law to broaden, to expand, to extend,’ he said.

Christensen was the sponsor of Amendment 3, which in 2004 banned same-sex marriage in the Utah Constitution before it was overturned by federal courts in 2012.…

One Carbon County judge came close to stepping over that line in November, when he ordered state child-welfare officials to remove an infant girl from the care of her same-sex foster care parents. In court papers, 7th District Juvenile Judge Scott Johansen said he believed ‘research has shown children are more emotionally and mentally stable’ when raised by heterosexual parents, and that same-sex unions have ‘double’ the rate of instability.

The comments drew a firestorm of national attention, including from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who expressed support for the women via Twitter, saying: ‘Being a good parent has nothing to do with sexual orientation — thousands of families prove that.’

Johansen’s actions also drew a request for a Judicial Conduct Commission investigation, but he retired in December and it’s not clear whether any action was taken.…” (Jennifer Dobner, “Utah panel blocks bill to ensure LGBT equality in adoption, foster care,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 24, 2016)


“The Senate gave preliminary approval on Friday to a bill that would toughen Utah’s hate-crimes laws, by bumping up the punishments for those who commit bias-motivated offenses.

SB107 passed on a 17-12 vote after an hour of debate, although some supporters said they may switch their position when the measure comes up for a final Senate vote next week.

Friday’s success came despite pressure from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which last week warned state lawmakers not to pass bills that would upset the balance between gay rights and religious liberties achieved in legislation last year.

‘The LDS Church’s statement really took votes away from this bill,’ SB107’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, said after the vote, adding that a broad coalition supports the proposal, including many churches.

‘The LDS Church is the only church against this legislation, but it is the dominant religion,’ Urquhart, a Mormon, said. ‘When it speaks, legislators do listen.’…” (Jennifer Dobner, “Senate gives initial OK to hate-crimes bill, but debate is far from over,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 26, 2016)


“Urquhart said senators have made up their minds, and he can see no way to sway the votes.

It’s clear, he said, that the opposition from Utah’s predominant religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ultimately killed his bill, changing at least three votes that would have meant its passage and shutting down the dialogue he would have needed to win back support.

‘I felt that we were going to pass hate crimes through the process,’ he said, ‘and after their statement, there was really no way.’

Urquhart met Wednesday morning with officials from the LDS Church before the vote on the bill, a meeting in which he said he expressed his frustration that the faith opposed the measure without discussing it with him first and that the church shouldn’t be the ‘arbiter’ of LGBT issues.

In a statement last month, the LDS Church expressed a desire to maintain a balance struck last year when the Legislature — with the faith’s support — passed a landmark LGBT anti-discrimination law. That meant not moving forward on hate crimes or legislation being proposed by Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, that declared Utah’s right to disregard the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay-marriage rulings and regulating which bathrooms transgender Utahns could use.

Urquhart said it was ‘inappropriate’ to equate his hate-crime measure to an attempt to regulate bathroom use. ‘My bill is legitimate. Those are creepy and illegitimate. There is no moral equivalency.’…” (Jennifer Dobner and Robert Gehrke, “Senate kills hate-crimes bill; LGBT advocates blame Mormon church,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 2, 2016)


[129] “The legislative debates over gay marriage in New England brought to a head the issue of religious exemptions. Virtually nobody believes that the Free Exercise [130] Clause of the Constitution would permit governments to compel churches to perform gay marriages. The real debate is over how broadly to exempt from antidiscrimination laws religious organizations and religiously inspired businesses and individuals who do not wish to provide goods, services, accommodations, or facilities to same-sex weddings.…

One opinion poll revealed that support for gay marriage increased 14 percentage points when people were asked about a law that guaranteed that no church or congregation would be forced to perform such marriages against its wishes.”

(Michael J. Klarman, From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013))


Bastian: The one issue I have been following, though, is this religious liberties thing.  That’s Dallin Oaks’s thing.  That’s a big Dallin Oaks thing.  I know the Church has helped fund it.  They have hired lawyers to help draft the language and do a lot of things to really spearhead it—but stepping back.  You will almost never see their name in any of it, but they really have been one of the ringleaders of getting that whole movement going.

Prince: But isn’t “religious liberty” just code for anti-gay marriage?

Bastian: Yes.  Religious liberty is code for anti-gay rights.  Period.  “We should be able to not serve people”—like the wedding cakes and the wedding receptions and those things, they are talked about.  We tried to pass, in Utah last year, a state non-discrimination law that would prohibit discrimination in housing and employment.  People should be able to live where they want to live, and be able to work where they want to work without being fired just because someone thinks they are gay.  We felt like we had the Church’s backing on this for a long time, but then when it came time and they were ready to give their full support to this law, there was a real strong religious freedom part of it, which basically would let anyone cite their own religious beliefs for saying, “No, I don’t them working here, because I don’t believe that’s right.  And I don’t them living in my condos, because I don’t approve of the homosexual lifestyle.”  Basically, that’s what the religious liberty argument was saying.  So as a gay community in Utah we said, “Fine.  We don’t support the bill.  We don’t want it passed.”  And so the bill failed.  It would have been a horrible bill.

Prince: But Utah may still get the last laugh because of Amendment 3.

Bastian: Yes.  That would be really ironic if Amendment 3 is the one that goes to the Supreme Court and it strikes it down for the country.  That would be real irony.

(Bruce Bastian, July 30, 2014)

Rosky: But the complicated thing about the statement was that it linked religious liberty with nondiscrimination protections.  This is an area that is very complicated.  Religious liberty has become, for many people, a code word for the right to discriminate—specifically against gay people.

Prince: I think that’s what it means for Dallin Oaks.

Rosky: I don’t know.  Certainly for Elder Holland, he gave one example of discrimination against lesbians.  That was very clear.  But it wasn’t employment and housing, so we said, “OK.”

For the first time, we also ran a public accommodations law this year.  Senator Dabakis ran a public accommodations bill.  Senator Urquhart had been carrying our employment and housing bill, and, of course, to have a Republican carry something in this legislature is very important—a Mormon Republican.

There was a lot of talk about, “Should we introduce a religious liberty bill?  What would that look like?”  There are so many different things one could mean by religious liberty, and we are seeing that now.  The subject is so poorly understood.  So much of the religious liberty legislation that is being introduced is introduced to legalize discrimination against gay people without looking like it’s legalizing discrimination.  You see this in Indiana, where the governor is saying, “This bill doesn’t legalize discrimination.  What are you talking about?”  And everyone is saying, “Yes it does.”  That’s a great example of just how confusing this issue is.  And, of course, Equality Utah can’t introduce a religious liberty bill.  Nobody would vote for it because we don’t have any credibility on that issue.  That has to come from the Church.

So within a couple of weeks, the leadership of both houses had reached out to Senator Urquhart, Senator Dabakis and Equality Utah to talk about, “Could we put these things together?  What would that look like?  What would be the line, blah, blah, blah?”  And, of course, the Church eventually joined that conversation.  And so we had that conversation, and the result was SB297.  It was done under a tight timeline.…

What’s so weird is that when people say they want religious liberty, they don’t seem to want that.  But that’s the only kind that really makes sense.  If you are going to give people religious freedom to discriminate, they are going to discriminate against non-believers.  That’s effectively what they are saying to gay people: “You are a sinner!”  But in their eyes, everyone who is not a member of their faith is a sinner.  That’s a fundamental to many religions.

(Clifford Rosky, March 31, 2015)

Thurston: I’ll tell you another thing that happened, maybe two years after Prop 8.  Our local outreach people are Steve and Judy Gilliland’s.  They are really good people.  We knew them back when we were in Boston.  Steve and Judy organized an interdenominational outreach program where they got a bunch of church leaders from Southern California and took them to Salt Lake to meet the Mormons.  This was pretty well publicized.  They were taken all around, to Welfare Square and Temple Square, given the tours, and sat down in a conference room with a bunch of General Authorities.  Later, one of the people who were on that tour wrote about it and posted it online.  He was highly complimentary of the Church.  “We were treated wonderfully.  But when we were brought in to meet these General Authorities, one of them came up and said, ‘Well, you know, we were the ones who really got Prop 8 passed in California.’”  He was expecting, I think, that every one of those religious leaders would stand up and applaud.  Well, this guy was from a church that married gay people.  And the General Authority made the comment that religious freedom is under attack, and the Mormon Church is one of the bulwarks against that.  I know that this person was Whitney Clayton, although he wasn’t named in the piece.  This minister said, “You’re actually working against my religious freedom, because in my church we’d like to marry our gay members, and we can’t.”  To me, that pointed out the tone-deafness of the folks back there in Salt Lake, who assume that every religious person believes the way they believe about prohibiting gay people from getting married, that that is an exercise in religious freedom, when it is the exact opposite.

Prince: Do you think that religious freedom is under assault?

Thurston: No.

Prince: I have not seen it.

Thurston: It’s just a euphemism for “let’s change our focus on gay marriage.”  Elder Oaks is the one who has pushed this really big-time.  I think Elder is smart enough that he looked at the case that was filed after Prop 8—the district court case—and he saw what the testimony was at trial, which was overwhelmingly in favor of gay marriage, even to the point where the exponents called by the proponents of Prop 8 acknowledged that there was nothing about prohibiting gay marriage that supports traditional marriage.  It doesn’t affect traditional marriage one way or the other.  So I think Elder Oaks figured out right away, “This is a losing argument.  Let’s stop this business about protecting traditional marriage.  Let’s find a new argument.  What can we find?  Ah!  Religious freedom!  Religious freedom is under attack!”

So now, whole courses at BYU are being taught on religious freedom.  Every month they have a presentation for all the BYU students who want to attend, on religious freedom.  They bring in speakers from all over, including their own professors, who talk about religious freedom.  If you were to ask what defines BYU Law School today, it is the law school that is focused on religious freedom.

(Morris Thurston, January 17, 2014)