by Averyl Dietering
Yesterday, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held a press conference to discuss their views on discrimination and religious freedom. Some have claimed that the Church’s announcement to support statewide anti-discrimination measures protecting LGBT people from housing and employment discrimination is a huge step for the Church, even though the Church already announced its support in 2009 for a local anti-discrimination ordinance in Salt Lake City. According to confidential sources, the development from supporting a city-wide ordinance to a state-wide bill are most likely a result of a top-secret Church program that for the last six years, has been boldly sending scouting parties into Murray, Draper, Logan, St. George, Orem, Cedar City, and countless other Utah cities outside of Salt Lake. These scouts have received special orders to check if LGBT people living in those cities also wanted to live without fear of losing their housing and/or their job because of their sexuality. (No word yet on whether these scouts have been sent to other states. There is definitely no evidence that the Church has sent them outside of the United States.)
A significant note that church leaders touched on in the press conference was the importance of religious freedom in protecting people of all faiths from being persecuted or discriminated against because of their sincerely held beliefs. As examples of such religious persecution, Elder Dallin H. Oaks cited Houston pastors whose sermons were subpoenaed (and later dropped) for opposing and criticizing an equal rights ordination, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich’s resignation because of his monetary support of Prop 8, and a Mormon gymnast who was pressured to step down as a leader of a delegation of Olympic athletes because of his opposition to same-sex marriage. Recognizing the extreme duress that these Christian individuals have experienced at the hands of such cruel bigots, Young Mormon Feminists has set up a charity to pay for these martyrs’ counseling and rehabilitation costs. You can donate here (alternatively, you can buy one of our popular same-sex marriage cards, and 10% of the proceeds will be donated to the cause). Don’t forget to use the hashtags #SaveTheMormonGymnasts and #Fairness4AllMozillaCEOs to bring attention to this tragic injustice!
While some have argued that such examples can’t actually be considered as violations of religious freedom as defined in the First Amendment, these
godless heathens people fail to recognize the undeniable similarities between ancient Christian martyrs and current Christians under attack. For example, St. Stephen and William Tyndale were stoned to death and strangled/burned at the stake, respectively, for their religious beliefs. Likewise, the modern Mormon can’t even say how much they hate same-sex marriage and think homosexuality is an abomination without being called a bigot. Early Mormon pioneers were forced abandon their homes and travel across the plains in the cold winter months in order to find a place to exercise their religion in peace, while nearly 170 years later, their heterosexual descendants are sometimes forced to provide medical services to queer people. I could go on, but I don’t want to belabor such an obvious point: the persecution faced by the religious right today in America is tantamount to beyond devastating.
Elder Oaks also frequently pointed out that the same people who fight for L… G… B… T… (none of the speakers explained what this confusing acronym meant, but we’re assuming it either was a replacement for the more doctrinally correct “same-sex attraction,” or that our leaders were referring to a type of deli sandwich) rights often do not support the opinions of religious people who publicly share their disdain for same-sex marriage, calling such actions “ironic.” Oaks’s advocates have rallied around this logic, using the Twitter hashtag #BuyElderOaksADictionary to express their support. After all, it is truly, literally, dictionary-ly ironic when people who work tirelessly to save LGBT lives from suicide and hate crimes don’t also work tirelessly to defend religious people’s rights to publicly hate on LGBT people.
As a last example of the immense religious persecution that religious people can face, Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of “a family’s right to worship and conduct religious activities in the home as it sees fit, and for parents to teach children according to their religious values.” It may appear that Elder Holland was using this as a generic example of religious freedom, but actually he was referring to the infamous Gay Attack of 2004, in which hundreds of teh gayz invaded a suburban Chicago home and refused to leave until the Christian family who occupied it gave up their religion and began worshipping George Takei, impeccably groomed hair, and vests.
However, the Church did leave a few questions unanswered. Elder Holland gave examples of situations in which religious people ought to be able to refuse services based on sincerely held beliefs: “for example, a Latter-day Saint physician who objects to performing abortions or artificial insemination for a lesbian couple should not be forced against his or her conscience to do so.” On the surface, it seems clear that a person who is pro-life and believes marriage is between a man and a woman ought to be able to enforce these beliefs on other people, and yet Elder Holland’s example brought up a conundrum: what is a LDS physician to do if a lesbian couple asks him or her to perform an abortion? Does the physician recognize the opportunity to protect the family from homosexuality and perform the abortion, or does the physician refuse to perform the abortion at the cost of allowing another gaybie into the world??? It’s questions like these that will determine the future of religious freedom in America.
In conclusion, the Church’s press conference is a clear example of the dangers inherent in treating all people with the respect and kindness that we would like to receive. In a truly equal world, LGBT people’s human rights can only be respected if they respect the LDS Church’s inalienable right to discriminate against them.
(P.S. Let’s not forget another important lesson we learned from this press conference: there are religious, Christian folk, and then there are LGBT people and their allies, and there is certainly no overlap in between. I mean, what would that even look like?!?)