Mormons Being Given Political Advice From the Pulpit

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2008

The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) sent a letter on Friday to all Mormon churches in California with instructions to read the leader during Sunday services on June 29. This letter (PDF: 1,08KB/2 pages) offers the church’s full support to amend the constitution to forcibly divorce more than 2,000 married California couples, and asks its members to “do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time.”

Meanwhile, Focus On the Family reportedly has already donated $250,000 to try to break up these families in November.

cowboy

June 22nd, 2008

And don’t underestimate the power of this letter. This is not going to be easy to counter. It may take more than just money. It will take some smart campaigning.

The Mormons have every right to ask its members to do this. They have every right to be a political force but we have the fundamental right to hold them responsible for this action when sometime in the future…and we know it will be sometime in the future…this we be equated to the civil-rights movement and the Mormons will have to issue another “revelation” that they were wrong in their treatment of gays.

homer

June 22nd, 2008

I wonder how much money the Mormon church is donating to stop the polygamous marriages in their renegade sects? My guess, not a penny.

Richard Rush

June 22nd, 2008

I hope that some people explore whether this letter crosses the line with respect to the Mormon Church’s tax-exempt status. I just sent a copy of the PDF file to Americans United for Separation of Church and State (http://www.au.org) (I’m a member).

I know that churches may speak out on “issues of the day” but this letter endorses a specific ballot question. This seems very much like endorsing a specific human candidate, which would violate their tax-exempt status.

werdna

June 22nd, 2008

Churches are prohibited from getting involved in political campaigns involving a candidate, but they have a bit more latitude with initiatives. They can get involved in lobbying–which the IRS defines as “attempting to influence legislation” and which includes legislation that the public votes on directly like this initiative–but it can’t be a “substantial” part of the church’s work. All the delightful details can be found here.

I think we can be pretty sure the LDS Elders ran this one by their lawyers first.

Devlin Bach

June 22nd, 2008

Would aomeone be so kind as to state the best institutions to donate funds who are campaigning for the passing of the initiative?

Nick Literski

June 22nd, 2008

The Human Rights Campaign is partnering with Equality California in collecting donations to fight the proposed California amendment at http://www.hrc.org. You can also donate directly to Equality California.

werdna

June 23rd, 2008

Here’s a direct link to HRC’s California Marriage PAC donation page (the link in Nick’s post has an extra period at the end). This is Equality California’s Stop the Initiative donation page.

You can also register your wedding at the Equality California website so people can donate to the campaign as a wedding gift. That’s what we’ve done, even though we really need a nice new coffee maker.

KipEsquire

June 23rd, 2008

RR:

The tax-exemption restriction only applies to endorsement of candidates, not initiatives or referenda.

Rightly or wrongly, there is no violation here.

Todd

June 23rd, 2008

I am sad because I realized my father will most likely be reading this letter in his ward this next weekend.

Richard Rush

June 23rd, 2008

I received an email reply from Americans United regarding my question about the LDS letter, and they said essentially the same thing as KipEsquire and werdna in their comments. I should have been more knowledgeable on the distinction between endorsing a human candidate vs. a specific ballot question.

Luis

June 23rd, 2008

Well, looks like my IRS Stimulus check has arrived just in time for me to donate most of it to Equality For All, http://www.equalityforall.com/home.php

My partner and I are getting married on Friday, June 27th and we need to use the remainder of these proceeds for our wedding. I’m sure EQFA can understand! :-)

I can only imagine how much $$$ will be spent by BOTH sides on this amendment. To think that this money could be spent to help those in dire need, instead the extreme religious right is using their wealth to deny LGBT persons their civil rights!

Joel

June 24th, 2008

“To think that this money could be spent to help those in dire need, instead the extreme religious right is using their wealth to deny LGBT persons their civil rights!”

Oddly enough this sentence is relative and any religion can say the same thing but “instead the gay activists and misguided allies are using their wealth to support an abominable agenda.”

Im glad the notion of separation of church and state is more alive than not.

TxWhtBoy

June 27th, 2008

Uh, um, isn’t that a direct violation of the US Tax Code for 501C3 and nonprofits? I know Churches are specifically barred from electioneering. That duck is not just walking like….it’s quacking from my angle. Californians should call the IRS everyday until the IRS publicly responds.

cowboy

June 29th, 2008

Todd,

I would hope some people I know as friends and neighbors here would walk out in their Sacrament Meeting today…but I don’t think I will hold my breath.

It would be a tremendous act of courage if they did.

**Side note: there is a call to protest the reading of this letter in today’s Sacrament Meeting. This protest may be somewhat futile but it certainly has made a colorful tidbit in the news here lately.

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