Georege Romney, father of Mitt Romney, received a letter from Delbert L. Stapley (of the Council of the Twelve for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) in 1964 encouraging Romney to reconsider his views on civil rights. The letter was pretty devastating to my opinion of Mormon-influence politics. It’s hard for me not to feel betrayed; why were these issues never brought up and discussed in Sunday school?
George Romney supported Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. according to this site. He marched in parades and participated in demonstrations. He sent representatives to speak with Dr. King. What made the difference for Romney (when compared to other Mormons)? “…I got to know Negroes and…I began to recognize that some Negroes are better and more capable than lots of whites” he reportedly said. But that’s not what his church would have him believe. According to Stapley (who wrote on official church letterhead), “people are happier when placed in the environment and association of like interests, racial instincts, habit, and natural groupings” and “the Negro is entitled to considerations…but not full social benefits nor inter-marriage privileges with the Whites, nor should the Whites be forced to accept them into restricted White areas”.
George Romney, civil rights march
This is really no different than what the LDS Church teaches and encourages today about my civil rights — the rights of gays and lesbians. Their argument could be rephrased to something like this (not an actual quote), “homosexuals are entitled to considerations…but not full social benefits nor marriage privileges…” And perhaps Mitt Romney is being encouraged by the Church to stand fast on the anti-gay platform. Let’s hope Mitt follows in his dad’s footsteps and stands independent of his church on issues of civil rights and liberties.
The YouTube video below is a really good snap shot or overview of where society stood on gay rights issues in the distant past and how far we have progressed as a society in the recent past. I’ve often wondered what people will ask me in the future about this time. 50 years from now will younger generations understand what the gay rights movement was about? WIll the movement even be over in 50 years? Either way, it’s exhilarating to think history is being written right now. I will be a part of history. You will be a part of history. A question was posed in this video–which side of history will you be on? Do you know? Do I know?
Last year the Onion published an article called Future U.S. History Students: It’s Pretty Embarrassing How Long You Guys Took to Legalize Gay Marriage, which was written from the perspective of students born in 2060. About the fight for a constitutional right for gays and lesbians to wed, one of the fictional students says:
“It’s really embarrassing, when you think about it. Just the fact that people in this century were actually saying things like, ‘No, gays should not be allowed to marry,’ and were getting all up in arms about it, as if homosexuals weren’t full citizens or something. It’s insane.”
Another student asked, “If they thought it was the right thing to do, why didn’t President Clinton or Obama or whoever just say, ‘Hey, discriminating against gay people is wrong, so let’s let them get married’?”
Why isn’t it that simple? I’m not sure. For everyone out there who feels like they should be supportive of gay marriage, why don’t you come out in support of gay marriage? The Governor of Washington State recently explained one reason why she was against gay marriage for 7 years (and why she had a change of opinion): social pressure.
Growing up, I was taught that religious freedom and morality are on the decline. Until recently, I never questioned it. I’m beginning to wonder it this really is the case. Regarding morality, it was once moral to treat people with disabilities in ways that are now considered inhumane. Although I’m not appreciative of the paperwork I’ve had to complete to study the behavior of people with disabilities for my master’s thesis, I do appreciate the fact that Institutional Review Boards exist. Their existence communicates to me that morality is on an incline: people with disabilities enjoy more rights than they previously enjoyed. Steven Pinker goes into more depth:
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the LDS Church offers a potential rebuttal. I sense a conflict here. If the Bible teaches what Pink says it teaches (e.g., raid villages, kill the men and rape the women), then I’m not certain returning to Judeo-Christian moral principles is going to make the world more moral. But I may be wrong.
Regarding a history of declining religious freedoms, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the LDS Church quoted Cardinal Francis George saying “threats to religious freedom in America…[are abortion and] the development of gay rights and the call for same-sex ‘marriage'”. He then cites cases that have nothing to do with freedom of speech and have everything to do with anti discrimination laws. In other words, no religion is being stopped from preaching that homosexuality is a sin but members of churches are being told that, when in public, you cannot discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation. Here are the cases he cites:
- Photographer in New Mexico declined to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony due to religious reasons.
- United Methodist Church denied a lesbian couple access to their pavilion which was made available to the public (the church had been receiving tax breaks for making its property available to the public.
- Candidate for master’s degree in counseling was dismissed from her program for failing to adhere to the field’s code of ethics regarding treatment of gays and lesbians. Specifically, she disagreed with the American Counseling Association’s prohibition against sexual orientation change efforts
Keith Olberman awarded Elder Oaks the “worst person award” for a similar talk given at BYU-I (link). Oaks had the opportunity to clarify points about comparing Mormons during Prop 8 to blacks during the civil rights movement with Fox13 Utah:
The question I raise is whether the LDS Church has a civil right to determine for everyone which relationships government should or should not recognize. In other words, is it really freedom of speech and freedom of religion to legislate (and therefore promote) their version of morality? In sum, I question the claims of Quentin L. Cook and Dallin H. Oaks that religious freedom and morality are on the decline.