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Defending a faith

Many voices speak out defending Church against post-vote protests

In the six weeks after California voters approved Proposition 8 to amend the state constitution in defining and recognizing marriage as only between a man and a woman, the Church became a target of protests and demonstrations.

It since has become a target of support, with others rallying in the Church's defense.

The Church released several statements — including one from the First Presidency — calling for mutual respect and civility in the aftermath (see Church News, Nov. 8, 15 and 22 editions). Also releasing statements were two prominent Catholic leaders, Bishop William Weigand of the Diocese of Sacramento and Bishop John C. Wester, Diocese of Salt Lake City (see Church News, Nov. 15, p. 4).

They have been joined by others from both sides of the marriage issue who decry extreme reaction.

New York Times full-page ad

Last week, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, signed by more than a dozen different individuals with leadership roles in Catholic, Jewish and Evangelical groups as well as university educators and former U.S. ambassadors.

Titled "No Mob Veto" (in conjunction with the group's nomobveto.org Web site), the ad first acknowledged philosophical differences among group members but called for the violence and intimidation against the Church to stop.

"Religious groups can't claim some sort of special immunity from criticism. Nevertheless, there's a world of difference between legitimate political give-and-take and violent attempts to cow your opponents into submission."

The 450-word text added: "Despite our fundamental disagreements with one another, we announce today that we will stand shoulder to shoulder to defend any house of worship — Jewish, Christian, Hindu, whatever — from violence, regardless of the cause that violence seeks to serve."

In saluting the ad's signatories, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve said: "This was a thoughtful and generous gesture at a time when free expression of people of faith has come under attack. We join with those of all religious faiths and political persuasions who have called for reasoned and civil discourse on matters that affect our nation."

Abovethehate.com letter

A project of the National Organization for Marriage, abovethehate.com, posted an open letter/petition to President Thomas S. Monson in appreciation for the Church and its members' efforts in helping to protect traditional marriage in California and Arizona and also to "express our outrage at the vile and indecent attacks" that any faith community "should be singled out and attacked in this way by powerful, well-funded political forces determined to 'make them pay' for participating in the normal political processes of democracy."

Saying that organized protests to disrupt places of worship, calls to investigate and "dig up dirt" on Americans of a particular faith and crude media campaigns to incite fear and hatred of a religious community shouldn't happen, the letter continued: "We urge more and other responsible voices to say 'enough.' "

Posted online since Nov. 15, the online letter/petition had gathered nearly 5,300 signatures through the first week of December, headlined by leaders and representatives of national and state religious, family and educational organizations including National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and California Family Council.

Anti-Defamation League

The Anti-Defamation League, which opposed Proposition 8, said defacement and destruction of supporters' property is unjustified:

"To place anyone in fear of threat to their houses of worship or their personal security because they have expressed deeply held religious views is contrary to everything this nation represents. Our Constitution's First Amendment protects freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion for all of us."

Dallas Morning News editorial

In its Nov. 19 editorial titled "Protest and Civility in a Democracy," the Dallas Morning News said: "Some gay rights protesters have voiced sentiments about Mormons, whose church was active in advocating Prop 8's passage, that if said about gays would be condemned as hate speech. Vandals have struck a number of Mormon temples. Bash Back, a pro-gay group in Olympia, Wash., trashed a Mormon [chapel] there, then issued a statement saying, 'Let this be a warning to the Mormon Church: Dissolve completely or be destroyed.' A cause, no matter how just, can only be harmed by thuggish tactics. Our pluralist democracy depends on a citizenry committed to working out differences with civility."

Michael Barber video

Narrating a YouTube video posted on behalf of John Paul the Great Catholic University, Michael Barber, a professor of theology, scripture and Christian thought decried a late-campaign ad by Proposition 8 opponents designed to ridicule the Church by depicting Mormon missionaries as barging into a same-sex couple's home, rummaging through possessions and violating their rights.

"As a Catholic school, we stand beside our friends in the Mormon Church and of people of faith who work tirelessly to preserve the freedom of religion in America. We also strongly oppose any attempt to ridicule another person's faith, even faiths with which we have strong historical and theological disagreements."

The Christian Post commentary

In a Nov. 15 commentary for The Christian Post, Chuck Colson listed a handful of hateful acts. "Two days after the election, 2,000 homosexual protesters surrounded a Mormon temple in Los Angeles chanting 'Mormon scum.' Protesters picketed Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, holding signs reading 'Purpose-Driven Hate.' Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills was spray painted. Church members' cars have been vandalized, and at least two Christians were assaulted. Protesters even hurled racial epithets at African-Americans because African-Americans voted overwhelmingly in favor of traditional marriage. What hypocrisy from those who spend all of their time preaching tolerance to the rest of us!"

Beliefnet.com post

In his Nov. 18 posting titled "Stand By the Mormons" on Beliefnet.com, Rod Dreher wrote: "Now is the time for traditional Christians — Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox — to come to the aid of our Mormon friends. They put themselves on the front line of the traditional marriage battle like no other church group. And now individual Mormons are paying a terrible price for standing up for something we all believe in. I don't know how we can stand with them from afar, but at least we can thank them, and speak out when we see them being abused. We might also think again about how we view them. . . . I have deep disagreements with Mormon theology. But they are our friends and allies and fellow citizens, and they deserve our thanks and support."

Scriptoriumdaily.com posting

Acknowledging his theological differences with the Church, Biola University professor John Mark Reynolds posted in early November on scriptoriumdaily.com that "in the battle for the family, however, traditional Christians have no better friends than the Mormon faithful. It would be wrong if that support were taken for granted. We are intolerant of the false attacks on Mormon faith and family. We stand with our Mormon friends in their right to express their views on the public square. We celebrate the areas, such as family values, where we agree. A heartfelt thank you may not win points from other friends who demand one hundred percent agreement from their allies, but it is the decent and proper thing to do. Thank you to our Mormon friends and allies!"

Volokh.com weblog

Posting on volokh.com, a weblog of legal analysis, University of Minnesota professor of civil rights and civil liberties law Dale Carpenter offered advice to gay-marriage supporters:

"Stop the focus on the Mormon Church. Stop it now. We just lost a ballot fight in which we were falsely but effectively portrayed as attacking religion. So now some of us attack a religion? People were warned that churches would lose their tax-exempt status, which was untrue. So now we have (frivolous) calls for the Mormon Church to lose its tax-exempt status? It's rather selective indignation, anyway, since lots of demographic groups gave us Prop 8 in different ways — some with money and others with votes. I understand the frustration, but this particular expression of it is wrong and counter-productive."

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