Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mormon Church's new position on gay rights applauded, condemned

Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah
Carol Forsloff---The Mormon Church opposed legislation in California, Proposition 8, to allow gay marriage and many of its members have marched in opposition to it.  The Church has now liberalized its policies in exchange for protection of its own rights to make personal decisions based on religious belief regardless of whether or not those decisions are viewed as discriminatory by others.

In the past the Mormon Church has contributed millions of dollars and its members canvassed whole neighbors in its campaigns against gay marriage.  It has now "abandoned its crusade," as Mother Jones and other publications have reported.

And the vociferous opposition during the time of that crusade was said to have created wide rifts in its membership, causing some members to leave the church entirely and its image to be negatively viewed by many as a consequence of the Mormon Church's position on gay rights.

Over the past few years there have been fledgling efforts from the church to open its doors to gays, including some 100 who marched in support of gay rights in 2012.  It still sees homosexuality as a sin, however, and still opposes gay marriage.  Still it has offered a truce in its political efforts to make the government conform to church policy by denying marriage rights to gays.

Mormon leaders, however, have taken a turn in its political movement against gay rights have are calling for protecting gay rights.  There is a caveat, however.

Church pastor, Jeffrey R. Holland, was reported by the Washington Post as saying the following, with the announcement of the church's newest stance:  "We must find ways to show respect for others whose beliefs, values and behaviors differ from ours while never being forced to deny or abandon our own beliefs,values and behaviors in the process."

The position regarding the protection of religious rights has been espoused in action and in print for years, culminating in a major march referencing the right to make sure government allows personal freedom to discriminate personally in making employment and social choices, when there was pending legislation to disallow such discrimination.

"Such actions would be catastrophic to our efforts to serve those in need,and to all who value the protection for religious liberty, " religious groups say in response to pending legislation.

In their own "March on Washington" religious leaders made their  foray to Congress to make sure the government doesn't tamper with their religious freedoms.

Individual liberty has been a high profile debate in Congress, spilling over into the religious arena, leaders of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish groups say.   They are underlining their interest in maintaining their special status.

Their worry has been that legislation would deny religious groups from hiring outside their faith, therefore interfering with religious freedoms.  The legislation targets those religious charities receiving federal grants.

This comes on the heels of a lawsuit recently held in favor of World Vision,an organization accused of terminating some of its employees because they did not exemplify "a personal relationship with Jesus."  The intent of the legislation is to reduce those types of firings and equalize hiring and firing in the religious arena, even as these protections are offered in the secular community.

The leaders of World Vision, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJCA), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and others argue that have addressed a letter to the members of the House and Senate, underlining their concerns about this new legislation.

Richard Stearns, the president and CEO of World Vision, U.S., says the letter addresses also Congressional interests in banning religious hiring exemptions in a budget resolution pending for this fall.

"Too much is at stake - especially among the tens of millions who receive help, care and support from faith-based charities," said Stearns at the time. "Our nation needs religious charities. For decades, we have relied on and benefited from religious charities receiving federal grants. There is no good reason - nor a compelling legal justification - to jeopardize
those organizations and, more importantly, the people they serve."

The group went on to cite legislation passed under Bill Clinton, Lyndon Johnson and George Bush, during their Presidencies, that allowed religious organizations to maintain their own choice in retaining the opportunity to hire people of their own or like-minded faith.

The Mormon Church is presently addressing what religious leaders were advocating during the march several years ago: the right to hire people of their own religious orientation.

But what does the LGBT community feel about this in terms of the church's stance on making its own choices in hiring vs their keeping a hands-off position on gay rights?  While many applaud the public pronouncement regarding gays rights to practice their own personal beliefs with reference to their lifestyles and advocate gay rights in the workplace, this formal statement shows the controversy that remains:

"The First Amendment's protection of religious freedom "does not give any of us the right to harm others, and that's what it sounds like the proposal from the Mormon church would do--it would allow a doctor to refuse to care for a lesbian because of his religious beliefs, for example," said James Esskes, who directs the LGBT project of the American Civil Liberties Union."

And while Esskes remarks overlooks the grammatical imbalance of "lesbian," a definition referring to a female and the pronoun "his,"referencing a male, he does espouse the position of some that discrimination in any public way is discrimination they find unfair.

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