Monday, November 17, 2008

Church and Hate

Several days ago, I posted a little blurb about black voters and prop 8. In fairness, there are four other groups that deserve mention:

In what can only be described as high irony, the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) organized a $20 million donation drive to support prop 8. While marriage between men and women is an issue one might suspect the church of having views on, the "one man, one woman" aspect seems more than a bit hypocritical. Remember, this is the same church that was able to produce a historic, timely reversal by their god (allegedly) to outlaw polygamy in 1890. In reality, Utah was not going to become a state with polygamy, and rather than lose their tremendous control of the region (not to mention finding themselves essentially at war with the US), church leaders preferred to strip one of the core tenets of their religion, and god, surprisingly, was willing to acquiesce! One does not have to have much bias to see that the timing and content of god's do-over were if nothing else, spectacularly convenient. It is analogous to Catholics abandoning confession, so intrinsic was plural marriage to the fundamentals of Mormonism. To me, this is yet another example proving the theory that god is created in man's image, not the other way around. But I digress...

There is currently a movement underway to strip the LDS church of its tax-exempt status, because of its blatant disregard for the rules governing such organizations. It would seem that from a reading of the legal statute, there are ample grounds for this. That is not to say anything will come of it. The LDS church is very wealthy and influential, and few politicians want to be on the right side of things when there is very little political upside. The fact is that a majority of Americans are still at least slightly biased against homosexual rights, mostly on religious grounds. To take on the Mormons would require one to stand up against their legion of supporters, on this issue, among other denominations. I hope it happens, but I'm not holding my breath. It's a shame that a group of people with a history of being persecuted on the grounds of strange beliefs and customs will now persecute others on the same grounds.

Also on the list, for contributing more than a million dollars to the campaign against gay rights, are the Knights of Columbus. This is a group that might actually have more power than the Mormons, having nearly the same membership as well as at least tacit (and financial) support from millions more Catholics at large. While I laud the millions of dollars (and man-hours) in charity work provided each year by this organization, I cannot condone this act of bigotry, especially since this same organization fought against segregation (and interracial marriage bans). I also must point out that while much of the charity provided is at least partially beneficial, it is also tied specifically to endeavors that strengthen the respect for, adherence to, or legislation favorable to conservative Catholic dogma. The Knights in recent years have been heavily involved in supporting the ban of abortion, gay rights of any sort, as well as working to further the idea and implementation of teaching religion (at least that which is consistent with their own beliefs) in all (including public) schools. They, along with their strange bedfellows the Mormons, have been principally responsible for changing the boy scouts from a secular organization concerned primarily with nature and outdoorsmanship into a pro-god, anti-homosexual bastion of youth indoctrination. 

Likely to the consternation of at least one of our contributors, I must include the Republican Party. Since the formation of their alliance with the Christian Right, the Republicans have used an opposition to gay marriage (along with abortion, xenophobia, nationalism, and racism) as a centerpiece of their social-wedge-issue campaigns designed to ensnare what are otherwise likely to be Democratic voters (those whose economic status puts them at odds with unregulated, corporate-biased capitalism, which is the central pillar of Republican ideology). It is a well-documented fact that the Republican party worked to get gay marriage amendments (for and against), on the ballots of battle-ground states (including decisive Ohio) in 2004. The reason was simple: In light of George Bush's dismal approval ratings, they needed something that would get out the base to vote. The anti-gay voter was expected to then vote for president while there, and it was assumed that that vote would be Republican. Now why do you suppose they thought that?

Even after a remarkable electoral defeat, the party continues to stand behind this type of divisive, bigoted "social conservatism".  None other than Karl Rove, the recognized guru of the divide-and-conquer, scorched-earth campaign strategies of his party over the last decade, this week lamented his party's loss of power and cohesion, but along with suggestions on how to bring the party's economic message back to the acceptance of the voter base, he vehemently urged against any moderation of socially conservative issues. In fact, he pointed to Prop. 8 specifically as an example that the majority of voters share the party's views on this matter. In fairness, there are plenty of Democrats who have either dragged their feet or outright opposed gay rights, but it is not a central plank of their party's platform, as it is with the Republicans, so while they are individually liable to be called out, the party, at least for now, escapes my crosshairs. I await what happens under Obama's administration, given his willingness to speak openly of his support of homosexual equality, before casting judgement. But with the presidency and sizable majorities in both congressional bodies, that judgement will not be long withheld.

Last but not least, I would be remiss if I did not address the general populace, without whom these groups would be powerless to effect their repression. At some point, all of us have to look ourselves in the eye and decide that as long as one segment of us lacks the fundamental liberty guaranteed by our constitution, we all do. The equal protection clause of the constitution is designed to protect the minority from the majority, and it's high time we started acting like it. I won't ask each of you to understand, endorse, or even respect homosexuality, but merely to recognize that the freedom which allows you that opinion, also protects the object of your loathing. If we don't believe that, on what grounds do we support civil rights for blacks, or Jews, or whatever it is that you believe? It is your responsibility to protect the freedoms of others, if for no other reason than to protect your own. I leave you with a poem by Martin Niemoller, in which he describes, with chilling simplicity, the cost of silence:

When the Nazis came for the communists ,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats ,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists ,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews ,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

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