Monday, November 10, 2008

"He prefers the company of men." "Who doesn't?"

I love me a good protest. When I lived in D.C., I used to see them all the time. But now that I live in the nation's most complacent state, I just don't get to see them that often anymore. However, last Friday I was treated to a great protest right outside my office. A group of upset opponents of California's Proposition 8 gathered on the corner opposite the LDS Church Office Building to protest the LDS Church's involvement in supporting Prop. 8. It was a pretty impressive protest (please take the time to ignore the almost 1,500 comments left on that story). As always, I have a few observations.

First, their initial chant was terrible! It was, "The people have voted - you are intolerant." I'm not sure who came up with it, but they made a couple of mistakes. First, it's not catchy nor memorable. Second, it's way too long - twelve syllables, for crying out loud! Finally, it doesn't make much sense. Yes, the people voted, however, the majority voted in line with the position the LDS Church took, so I don't see how the people's vote shows that the LDS Church is intolerant. I guess the Church could be labeled as intolerant, but it's not because the people voted.

Fortunately, by the time they started marching around Temple Square, they picked a new chant, "Se-pa-rate church and state!" Now, that's a good chant! It's on message, short, rhyming and memorable.

Second, I was pretty proud of the people who showed up in support of Prop. 8. They didn't have the usual signs reflecting the bigotry and intolerance usually espoused by religious folks who oppose gay marriage. Rather, the signs included phrases such as, "God loves you" and "Proud to be Mormon". It was much less charged than I expected. It goes to show that people can be good and reasonable. It was a real breath of fresh air.

Third, I was also pretty happy with the LDS Church's response to the passing of Prop. 8. I think it did a good job of stating why the Church supported the amendment and the extent of its position. I'm glad that the Church came out and stated what I believe to be the correct position: that we should not discriminate against homosexuals, but we must not back down when it comes to protecting male/female marriage.

Finally, I take issue with the Church's official statement on the protests (both in Utah and California). The relevant portion reads as follows:
While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to
make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred
places of worship for being part of the democratic process.
I will concede that it's possible that this is just poor word choice. Their intent might have been to say, "it is wrong to target the Church's sacred places of worship." However, given the amount of thought that must of have been put into this, I presume that the wording is intentional. Therefore, I disagree with the first part of the statement. I believe that if a party ('party' in the legal sense of the word - meaning 'entity') decides to enter the public debate in this country, they must also live with the consequences. If you come out in support of a position, you must be ready to deal with democratic backlash, including the right of your opponents to exercise their freedoms of speech and assembly. The Church shouldn't feel as though it is being unfairly targeted for becoming involved in the debate. While the backlash they have received might be disproportionate to their invovlement, that doesn't change the fact that they opened themselves up to receive it.

On the other hand, I agree with the second part of the statement which condemns protests outside places of worship. Places of worship are sacred, no matter the religion, and I don't feel that it's appropriate to protest outside them. I'm glad that the Utah organizers chose to do it was after business hours so it didn't disrupt the normal operations there and in the surrounding buildings downtown.

In the end, I'm glad that I live in a country where these kinds of debates and protests can take place and I'm willing to take the bad with the good. Look at me, ending on an upbeat, philosophical note and stating an opinion that people couldn't possibly disagree with. Maybe I should write sitcoms.

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