[Dear readers: The following is an excerpted version of a piece at Article VI Blog, where I also post.]
"Open season on Mormons." Does that sound like an exaggeration? Read on. If you're like me, you'll be amazed and disgusted at the attacks on people of faith who are only expressing their religious consciences through the ballot process, and are doing so in the most all-American ways: Grassroots organizing and small financial donations.
The LDS Church and Proposition 8According to the 2007-2008 Almanac of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the "Church") there are about 770,000 Church members in California. In a letter dated June 29, 2008, the Church's leaders asked members to "do all [they] can to support [California's Proposition 8] by donating of [their] means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman."
Proposition 8 would enshrine the traditional definition of marriage in the State Constitution. Traditional marriage had been the only kind recognized in California since 2000, when another statewide ballot initiative passed with 61% of the vote. In May 2008, however, by a 4-3 vote, the California Supreme Court held Prop 22 unconstitutional, thus opening the door to same-sex marriage in the Golden State.
By amending the Constitution, Prop 8's supporters hope, once and for all, to settle the issue in California. A coalition of religious groups, including all the Catholic Bishops in California, virtually all the Evangelical churches, the Orthodox Rabbis, and many others, are supporting Prop 8 with grassroots volunteers and financial donations from their members. The Mormons, however, are most visible because of their geographic distribution and lay ministry, which lend themselves very well to grassroots organizing.
Unfortunately, Prop 8's opponents, having achieved through the courts what they could never have achieved by the ballot box, have now chosen to attack not the ballot proposition, but its supporters. And because California Mormons have been so prominent in the "Yes On 8" campaign, they have become the chief target. Here's a report on some ways in which that personalized opposition has manifest itself.
Smearing Prop 8 Donors Because They Are . . . Mormons?Maggie Gallagher at National Review Online points us to this Daily Kos post, which she calls "disgusting." (I must agree.) Here's the key excerpt:
[T]he No on Prop 8 folks told me recently that the "Protect Marriage" campaign has raised $30 million dollars--over half of it from the Mormon Church. Now, I have nothing personally against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. . . .Translation: If you are a Mormon and you donate to Prop 8, thousands of strangers will try to smear you, in the hope of intimidating you and others into not exercising your right to freedom of speech.
But when the church and its members invest millions of dollars in an attempt to write discrimination into my state's constitution . . . there will be hell to pay.
So what am I asking you to do?
Some distributed research.
There is a list of a bunch of Mormon donors to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign (in case that one goes down, here's a mirror with slightly worse formatting.
Here's what I'm asking for:
This list contains information about those who are big donors to the Yes on 8 campaign--donors to the tune of at least $1,000 dollars. And, as you can see, there are a lot of them. It also indicates if they're Mormon or not.
If you're interested in defeating the religious right and preserving marriage equality, here's how you can help:
Find us some ammo.
Use any LEGAL tool at your disposal. Use OpenSecrets to see if these donors have contributed to...shall we say...less than honorable causes, or if any one of these big donors has done something otherwise egregious. If so, we have a legitimate case to make the Yes on 8 campaign return their contributions, or face a bunch of negative publicity.
There are a crapload of donors on this list--so please focus on the larger ones first. $5,000 or more is a good threshold to start with.
Feel free to use Lexis-Nexis searches as well for anything useful, especially given that these people are using "morality" as their primary motivation to support Prop 8...if you find anything that belies that in any way...well, you know what to do.
If you find anything good, please email it . . . .
Here's the bottom line for me: if someone is willing to contribute thousands of dollars to a campaign to take away legal rights from some very dear friends of mine, they had damn well make sure their lives are beyond scrutiny--because I, for one, won't take it lying down.
In other words, they want to silence you.
I wonder what level of care and caution the "distributed researchers" will apply to their efforts? Will they be sure that any embarrassing information they find about Mormon donors is accurate? Don't bet the farm on that one, folks.
And About That Web Site that Makes This Possible?In his exhortations to smear and embarrass Mormon donors to Prop 8, the Daily Kos post relies heavily on a web site that is deceptively named "Mormons for Proposition 8." The casual reader might think the site favors Prop 8, but he would be wrong.
This is a site, run by members of the Church who oppose Prop 8 and who are unhappy about the Church's support for the ballot measure. The site's purpose? Identifying members of the Church who have donated to Prop 8 by posting the names of all donors to Yes On 8 and asking readers to identify those who are Mormons.
In what I consider a monument to sophistry, the site's sponsors have claimed it is "neutral." That would be funny if it were not such an outrageous lie. Just review the site for 2 or 3 minutes and decide for yourself whether that is true. While you're at it, look at the "FAQ" page and ask yourself if the answers given are sincere, or disingenuous and downright snide.
(By the way, I donated $1,000 to Yes On 8, and although some helpful soul has identified me on this list as a Mormon, I see lots of individuals on the list whom I know to be members of the Church, but who haven't been identified yet. Obviously, the supporters of "Mormons for Proposition 8" need to work harder.)
A lawyer friend e-mailed the site's sponsors:
Disclosure of religious association is a matter of constitutional protection and a privilege held by the congregant against disclosure. (Church of Hakeem v. Superior Court, 1 Cal. App. 3d 184 (1980)). Your forced outing to intimidate others would be a violation of civil rights if committed with the color of authority. That you are private and anonymous doesn't make what you are doing any more commendable.Make no mistake: These people want to shine the spotlight on Mormons who donate to Yes On 8. By doing so, they hope to discourage Mormons from donating by exposing them to smear efforts like those urged by the Daily Kos.
In other words, these people are just like the Daily Kos writer: They no doubt consider themselves very progressive, but nevertheless want to silence their opponents in the public square.
That sounds an awful lot like this political system.
Harassing Members of A Church - Because of Their MembershipApart from those repulsive efforts, how else is the opposition to Prop 8 playing out in the lives of ordinary Mormons? Well, here's a story you won't read about in the mainstream news media. I received it in a private e-mail:
This weekend we have stake conference. [Ed.: A "stake" is a geographic unit of LDS congregations, and is the rough equivalent of a Catholic diocese.] Our stake conference always begins with a stake temple session on Friday or Thursday night. Early Friday morning I received a call from the second counselor in our bishopric to let me know that there would be numerous protesters outside the temple, and to remind everyone to stay calm and to drive carefully. The beautiful Oakland Temple is located right across the bay from San Francisco, very close to the city of Berkeley. Apparently the opposition to proposition 8, the amendment that seeks to make marriage in CA between a man and a woman again, has realized the deep involvement of the [LDS] church and begun to protest right outside of the temple and harass temple patrons. The fastest way to get to the temple from our house is to take the 680 freeway, but the exit is a bit tricky. The off ramp is extremely short and straight uphill. You then make an almost blind left turn, an immediate right and another left into the parking lot.Another e-mail correspondent tells me the Oakland police did not respond to requests for help.
As we approached the off ramp, I realized there would be trouble. There was a backup onto the freeway from cars stalled on the off ramp. As we moved forward inches at a time, we realized this was due to a large group of loud protesters who were standing on both sides of the street, yelling, screaming and waving signs. When we got to the top of the offramp, ready to make our turn, one protester jumped out right in front of our car. It took my husband all his self control to carefully maneuver around him to the left and proceed to the temple. I tried not to listen to all they were shouting at us, but I was shaking as I got to the temple front door.
Several of the sisters, especially the ones driving on their own, were crying . . . .
Keep in mind: Not everyone in the Church actively supports Prop 8. There is no way the Prop 8 protesters at the Oakland temple knew whether or not the members they were harassing had anything to do with the Church's efforts in support of the measure. They were harassing those people simply because they were Mormons.
As one of our readers notes, "It is more than a little frightening how much the Left is so much enamored with the tactic of attacking the messenger rather than engaging the substantive issues."
Yes, it is.
Full disclosure: I am a Prop 8 grassroots worker myself. My wife is Deputy Communications Director for the Yes On 8 Campaign. She had no awareness of this post prior to my publishing it, and the views expressed here are my own.