Both of those posts contain many inaccuracies and outright lies about the scope or intention in this instance. The Advocate ( a publication I usually rely upon for solid journalism) is equally shoddy in its coverage.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently sent a private e-mail to its Illinois members urging them to contact state legislators and voice opposition to civil union legislation the state is currently considering. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the e-mail was sent to at least one LDS ward in Illinois and was authorized by a bishop named Chris Church.
The diaries on this site and this Advocate article make it sound like there is an official church policy disseminating these e-mails. Instead, the e-mail in question was written by a private member on the Ward webspace that is available to members and sent to all members of only that specific ward. It is true, that a Bishop has to approve of all messages that are sent not merely between a few members but to the whole ward, but this does not imply that support of this message is official ward policy. Ward e-mails tend to contain information about events or causes that may be of interest to the members of the ward and there is usually not a high level of top down control.
Moreover, it might be useful to point out exactly what a Bishop is in the LDS church. A bishop is merely a person called to a leadership position in a specific ward. He is not a paid individual or full time worker for the church. Instead, he is typically an individual who is also involved in the professional world. Bishops are individuals and just like anyone partake in political activity in their private lives; The bishop in my ward in Boston was actually involved in the Mitt Romney campaign, for instance. Thus, LDS bishops are private citizens and their actions have no say on the top down policy coming from Salt Lake City or anywhere else.
The bishop soon after allowing the e-mail to be sent out, put out another e-mail commenting on the fact that this e-mail was not meant to suggest any compulsion or official policy on the part of the church.
From: Chris Church
Date: March 4, 2009 1:58:47 PM CST
Subject: Church Position on Legislation
Members of the Church may take any action they wish concerning legislation but the Church does not take any position in relation to these issues.
Moreover, a statement was issued today by LDS public affairs ( an official church source) that made it clear that the LDS church has taken no position on the Illinois legislation and that this e-mail was not a sign of official policy.
As is widely known, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of traditional marriage. The Church has not taken a position on any legislation currently being considered by the Illinois State Legislature. The Church did not send an e-mail to its members in regards to House Bill 2234, although a false report to the contrary has been circulated. An e-mail was sent from a local Illinois Church leader to his congregation - one of 129 congregations in the state -- who was free to express his own views.
Because of all of this, the rhetoric of even illustrious and renowned organizations such as Human Rights Watch has been rather disturbing.
“It is irrefutably clear that the LDS Church is fighting an antigay crusade throughout the nation, targeting any form of equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community,” said Bruce Bastian, a member of HRC's board of directors and a former member of the LDS Church. “Church leaders want nothing more than to do their hateful work in secrecy, but the time has come to shine a light on their insidious efforts. If the LDS Church won't tell the truth, we will.”
(quoted from the advocate article cited earlier)
Truly, an organization like HRC should know better than to throw around words such as an antigay "crusade." In this case, such language is completely out of proportion and based on a distorted understanding of the position of a bishop as well as the perceived official nature of this e-mail.
If a well known group with a great reputation such as Human Rights Watch overreacted so strongly, some of the commons on blog posts were utterly disgusting and offensive. Some of the comments attempted to suggest that the church should be kicked out of the state of illinois once again. For a member or anyone who knows the history of the Mormon church, nothing but slaughter and oppression, this suggestion is akin to suggesting to a Jew that maybe he should be kicked out of spain or forced out of their communities by pogroms . It is absolutely inappropriate and we should be better than that.
Sure, some members of the church are bigoted and oppose civil union legislation in Illinois. Yet, this does not equal official policy and such messaging is not supported by the leadership of the church. I am reminded of the attempts by conservatives to smear democrats and Obama because of the DailyKos diaries that unrelated members posted. This kind of thinking is absurd no matter what the cause or issue involved.There is no Mormon conspiracy against civil union in illinois or anything else of the sort. Those fighting for rights should get the facts straight before they become needlessly bigoted in response.
For Reference here's the full text of the e-mail that was sent out
From: Kristy Combs
Date: March 3, 2009 12:27:59 PM CST
Subject: Civil Union bill scheduled for a hearing Thursday - calls needed
This message has been authorized for sending by Bishop Church.
The Civil Union Bill (HB 2234) has been scheduled for a hearing in the Youth and Family Committee this week on Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. in Springfield. If the bill is voted out of committee, it becomes eligible for a vote before the full Illinois House of Representatives. This bill will legalize civil unions in the state of Illinois, and will treat such civil unions with the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections and benefits as are afforded within marriage. In other words, civil unions will be different in name only from marriage. As has already been seen in Massachusetts, this will empower the public schools to begin teaching this lifestyle to our young children regardless of parental requests otherwise. It will also create grounds for rewriting all social mores; the current push in Massachusetts is to recognize and legalize all transgender rights (An individual in Massachusetts can now change their drivers license to the gender they believe themselves to be, regardless of actual gender, which means that confused men and women are now legally entering one another’s bathrooms and locker rooms. What kind of a safety issue is this for our children?). Furthermore, while the bill legalizes civil unions, it will be used in the courts to show discrimination and will ultimately lead to court mandated same-sex marriages.
To help defeat this bill, please call your state representative and state senator and ask that they support traditional marriage and vote against the civil unions bill. If you are unsure who your legislators are, please see the link at the end of this email.
Also, please take a moment and call the following members of the Youth and Family Committee to encourage them to vote no on this bill. We need 4 votes to keep it from passing out of the committee. And - as always, please pass this on to all who believe in protecting our families and our children. If you are interested in attending the hearing, it will be held on Thursday, March 5th at 9:00 a.m. in Springfield in Room 122B of the Capitol Building (I can give you directions to the Capitol Building if needed).
Members of the Youth and Family Committee:
Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) (Greg Harris is also the sponsor of this bill, but he needs to hear your opposition to this bill)
Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (D-Chicago)
Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago)
Rep. William D. Burns (D-Chicago)
Rep. Michael P. McAuliffe (R-Chicago)
Rep. Al Riley (D-Matteson)
Rep. Dave Winters (R-Rockford)
Directions for identifying your legislators:
You can use the following link to identify your state legislators and their contact information:http://www.elections.il.gov/ DistrictLocator/ SelectSearchType.aspx? NavLink=1 (and enter your 9 digit zip code). If this link doesn’t work, you can use the general link www.ilga.gov and then click on ” legislator lookup” near the bottom of the page, then click on “by zip+4″. Type in your zip code, and you’ll see a list of your legislators. You want your state senator and state representative as they will be the ones voting on the bill.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Sister Combs.