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Mormons Protest the Resignation of Anti-Gay Theater Director

Timothy Kincaid

November 12th, 2008

Scott Eckern, the Artistic Director of the California Musical Theater in Sacramento, has not had a good week. On Friday, Jeremy at GoodAsYou noted that Eckern had given $1,000 to the campaign to eliminate marriage rights of – let’s be real – a large percentage of people in Eckern’s business.

This did not sit well with Marc Shaiman, the composer of Hairspray, whose show ended the company’s summer season. He called Eckern and told him:

“The idea that your donation came from a salary that for a short amount of time was drawn from profits from a show I wrote upsets me terribly and I would never allow anything I write to play there and will encourage my colleagues to consider doing the same.”

Several others in the theater world were equally horrified. The theater company found themselves faced with a resentful performers, a black-list from creators, and ill will from much of their audience. I think it’s no secret that those who delight in musical theater – gay or straight – are not likely to have voted in mass for Proposition 8.

Eckern did the honorable (and only possible) thing and resigned his position:

“I am disappointed that my personal convictions have cost me the opportunity to do what I love the most which is to continue enriching the Sacramento arts and theatre community,” he said.

His Mormon Church supported his decision.

I may be a bit cynical but I’m inclined to think that the evidence shows that what he really loved the most was adhering to the anti-gay doctrines of his church. Otherwise he’d still be doing all that enriching.

Well the story isn’t over. Protestors have come out to support him.

“This is a witch-hunt,” said Lance Christensen, who says he’s a regular patron of the theater and took off work to show his support for Eckern. “This man has devoted 25 years of his life to theater in Sacramento.”

Something struck me as a bit – shall we say – untheaterish about this crowd. And guess, what. At least some of them have a little extra something in common with Eckern which they didn’t disclose to the reporter.

Take Lance Christensen, for example. Well it turns out that Lance is an alumnus of Pepperdine and BYU and his linkedin “groups” includes the LDS Church. Oh, and that job he took time from? That would be Director of Legislation for the extremely homophobic California State Senator Tom McClintock.

And then there’s that sign in one picture at the Sacramento Bee saying “We love the Eckern Family”. Gosh, most folks never get a chance to know wife and kids of the Artistic Director at their local musical theater.

Hmmmm. Funny coincidence.

UPDATE:

The Chicago Sun-Times indirectly confirms that the “pro-Eckern” rally was not theater-goers but just his friends from church:

“This is not fair – a lot of people wanted this passed, not just Mormons,” said Lynnette Black of Sacramento who rallied in support of Eckern in front of Music Circus last week. “We (church members) worked hard and within the law. It’s very hard to see this attitude toward Mormons.” [emphasis added]

Wouldn’t it be nice if they just told the truth about who they were and why they were there?

Comments

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Lucas
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

I support this “witch hunt” all those who donated to the yes campaign should be made public and we should have nothing to do with any of their businesses.

Stefano A
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

I suppose it’s completely lost on Lance Christensen how Mark Jansson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a signing member of the letter sent in an attempt to shake-down No on 8 businesses who donated.

Stefano A
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

Despite his earlier apologies and professed better understanding of the discrimination, this indicates he still has no grasp of the real offense. He didn’t apply his personal convictions to the running of his own life, or the promotion that in terms of his church there was no call the church had to recognize and provide same sex marriage. No! He imposed those convictions into law. Big difference! And now these people say we should see him as the victim here?

I have now had many conversations with friends and colleagues and I now have a better idea of what the discrimination issues are . . . and I am deeply saddened that my acting upon my religious convictions has been devastating to those I love and admire . . . I am deeply sorry for any harm or injury I have caused.

Lynn David
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

“At no time does it involve itself in political issues or ever impinge on the rights of its employees to engage in political activities of their choice.”

So why is CMT unfair? Eh….

Dave
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

Perhaps the photo you should focus on is the one of Nathan Morris holding a sign that reads:

NO NEW HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST!

What would you think if CMT had specialized in religious theater and Eckern had made a donation to N on 8 which then angered Mormon and other religious writers, actors, and viewers?

What if that anger then prompted him to resign and a Prop 8 supporter wrote ‘what Eckern really loved the most was adhering to the anti-Christian doctrines of the secular humanist left. Otherwise he’d still be doing all that enriching.’

What would you say then? Would you be pleased, or outraged?

Willie Hewes
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

He made his choice.

I think it’s entirely reasonable for the gay community in California to use the public information about who donated to the campaign to make decisions about who they want to do business with or be friends with.

This isn’t about people’s religious beliefs or their opinions, this isn’t “let’s agree to disagree”. This issue had been settled. The Cali Supreme court decided that Domestic Partnerships were not good enough, and that only full marriage equality would do. That was legal fact, not a matter of opinion anymore.

To get around that by amending the constitution so that it explicitly discriminates is hateful and wrong. Regardless of your opinions on gay marriage, this is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and it sets a dangerous precedent.

Also note his apology: “I am deeply saddened that my acting upon my religious convictions has been devastating to those I love and admire . . . I am deeply sorry for any harm or injury I have caused.”

In other words: I am sorry you hurt. NOT: I am sorry for what I did, it was wrong. He doesn’t get it, good riddance.

Dave
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

“This issue had been settled.”

The constitution of Calfornia can be amended, whic settles a matter for more finally than any court ruling. And the court ruling you reference had its validity questioned by quite a few.

Is punishing people for engaging in a fight at the ballot not hateful? You bet it is. And far more hateful than reserving marriage for heterosexual couples in a state where homosexual couples can still legally wed.

The left is forever justifying its hatred by projecting it onto anyone and everyone who disagrees.

Stefano A
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

What would you think if CMT had specialized in religious theater and Eckern had made a donation to N on 8 which then angered Mormon and other religious writers, actors, and viewers?

Oh, you mean like the Mormon signed and Yes on 8 letter that was sent to No on 8 business contributors to try to shake them down? Or the boycott of McDonalds because one of their employees joined an LGBT organization that had nothing at all to do with any decision on the part of McDonalds?

First of all, in the Eckern example, I’d think they were cracked. As Prop 8 isn’t anti-religion. It did nothing to deprive any religious institution or person of faith of any right. And if he felt because of his personal convictions he would no longer be a good figure head for that religious institution because he wasn’t willing to deprive people of their rights, I’d imagine he’d resign.

Stefano A
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

Although, in reality, in your scenario, I doubt if he’d have been given a choice. I imagine he’d have been kicked out the door by the board of the organization in the same way people get excommunicated from their church if they don’t “toe the line”.

The same way some religious organizations have the right (when they’re not recieving public funds or providing a public service) to refuse to hire someone who isn’t of their faith.

Stefano A
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

Or the same way that Mormons who disagreed with the LDS position are banned from being sponsored to enter the temple, or hauled up before a religious tribunal.

Or the way the priest was stripped of his duties.

a. mcewen
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

Sorry Dave,

but there is nothing unethical about what was done. You can throw around semantic words like “tolerance” and “hatred” till the cows come home but just like Eckern had the right to give his donation, those who aren’t happy with it have the right to protest about it.

johnson
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

I would imagine the people protesting were members of his LDS ward. Please tell me, how is this different from the case of the Professor at BYU who voiced his support for gay marriage rights and was promptly and summarily fired from his post a few years ago? Point: If you work for an organization, know it’s demographics, and don’t piss them off. Hypocrites.

Tavdy
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

The constitution of Calfornia can be amended, whic settles a matter for more finally than any court ruling. And the court ruling you reference had its validity questioned by quite a few. – Dave

Not if the amendment is itself incompatible with the rest of the constitution and/or wasn’t submitted to the correct degree of scrutiny prior to being placed on the ballot – both of which appear to be the case here. And in both cases, the decision will be made by the courts – not by the California Assembly, Senate or electorate.

If we followed your line of logic, interracial marriage would still be illegal and Blacks would still be denied the vote in many US states. Both of these were overturned by court decisions that would have been defeated at the ballot box.

Tina-cious.com
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

We didn’t start this witch hunt… but we damn sure are gonna finish it.

If they didn’t want a backlash then they shouldn’t have played an instrumental part in stripping our hard-fought rights away.

They made their bed… now they have to lie in it.

Ben in Oakland
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

Did anyone actually demand his resignation? Or did a number of theatre goers and donors just say “no” to his continued tenure.

I would never have demanded his job, but i certainly would have let the hteatre know how displeased I was with his donation.

And frankly, like so many of these people, them an is an idiot. how oculd he not guess how this might affect the many gay people involved in theatre? I would not owrk under him, myself.

Pomo
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

“I am disappointed that my personal convictions have cost me the opportunity to do what I love the most…”

You know what SCOTT, I’m freakin disappointed that my sexuality cost me an opportunity to do what I love the most, teaching.

I was one of the most well liked teachers at my religious school. I was a coach and my players nearly rioted when I left. I had never donated money or time to a pro-gay cause. I was fired simply because of my sexuality. Fired, not resigned.

So excuse me if I feel little compassion for you for getting backlash for a CHOICE you made…

cowboy
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

I think we have seen two good examples of blind obedience here: the owner of El Coyote and the director of CMT. Both are Mormons who bought into the logic that supporting Proposition 8 was merely a statement of their belief and it would not change a thing for gays.

In spite of their Church’s admonition to study the issues they obligingly (probably because of peer pressure in their local Wards) sent money to the Yes Proposition 8.

I asked my Sister (a devout Mormon) about this issue and she said that Joseph Smith (fonder of the Mormons) had always said to question even the dictates of the Prophet.

I know THE LETTTER read from the pulpits in every Mormon Ward and Stake Center had a major factor in what the Saints should do (especially since it came from the First Presidency) but, still, the members should have studied the issue a little bit more.

Blind obedience is not good for any church or group.

Duncan
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

None of you have answered Dave’s question: what would you feel in such a situation?
Also, you should stop justifying atrocities by mentioning previous ones done against you. It just leads to an endless cycle of revenge.
And Mr Hewes, don’t confuse natural and positive law.
I think a far more fitting punishment for Mr Eckern would be to bring him into contact with the people he hurt and let him understand what marriage means to them. As it is, he’ll probably be feeling sorry for himself.

werdna
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

Duncan-First off, Stefano did respond to Dave’s question, he wrote “I’d think they were cracked”. If Dave’s question had been more salient it might’ve generated more replies. To be more relevant the question should’ve been something like this:

“What would you think if CMT had specialized in religious theater and Eckern had made a donation to a campaign which sought to rescind basic rights of religious people which then angered Mormon and other religious writers, actors, and viewers?”

Because that’s the parallel–except that in the case of virtually any other minority besides LGBT folks that kind of campaign would be unthinkable in this day and age. And the answer would be the same as in this case, he’d need to accept the consequences of publicly opposing the rights of people he works with.

I do think it’s sad that someone who was clearly devoted to something positive like CMT has found himself in a position where he felt that it was best to resign. I don’t blame the LGBT folks and our supporters who were angry with Eckern, how else are we supposed to feel when someone declares their opposition to our rights and dignity as equal citizens? I put the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the people who fostered discrimination and divisiveness by putting Prop 8 on the ballot and, in particular, the LDS leadership which exercised so much coercive pressure on the members of the church.

Mike
November 14th, 2008 | LINK

OK……so what we have here is a minority that feels it was mistreated due to the result of a vote of the general population. So, rather than protest to the government and the general population, this slighted minority group decides to protest, blacklist, and do harm to another minority group.

Am I the only one that sees the hypocrisy here??? Is the first group not exhibiting the exact same behavior toward the second group that the first group claims was exhibited to them due to the election results?

Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to organize parades/protests in public downtown areas, making the case to the general population who by majority voted yes on Prop 8? One minority group that feels that its rights were taken away that in turn attacks another minority group and seeks to take away their rights will not develop compassion for the first group among the general population.

jOHN
November 14th, 2008 | LINK

Mike, do you honestly think that a protest in a downtown area would make the LDS think twice about what they do or who they harm?

I think that the attention being placed on the LDS will make other groups of people think much more about their actions against another group then a protest at City Hall. I generally think City Halls does realize that Prop. 8 was an attack on civil liberties and it would be like preaching to the choir.

North Dallas Thirty
November 15th, 2008 | LINK

I don’t blame the LGBT folks and our supporters who were angry with Eckern, how else are we supposed to feel when someone declares their opposition to our rights and dignity as equal citizens?

Well, you could react as you have in the past.

Example 1.

Example 2.

And the most recent example:

As a Christian — he is a member of the United Church of Christ — Mr. Obama believes that marriage is a sacred union, a blessing from God, and one that is intended for a man and a woman exclusively, according to these supporters and Obama campaign advisers.

In that case, you endorse them, you support them, and you send them millions of dollars.

Or does this have something to do with a person being of the “wrong” skin color, political affiliation, and religious belief?

Harry
November 15th, 2008 | LINK

funny thing – in a democracy where majority rules, and the majority most definitely made their position known in the voting booth, the minority cries and moans and seeks to overturn the majority rule…now that is criminal!
Get a grip – if you don’t like it then leave…or shut up.
i am sure canada will welcome you!

Timothy Kincaid
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Update above

Timothy Kincaid
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Harry,

We do not live in “a democracy”. We live in a constitutional democratic republic. We do not have mob rule here.

Louie
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Ah yes, it seems that Civics 101 is no longer taught in our American public school system. Either that or a whole lot of people are skipping these classes.

Our country is not and has never been “majority rules”. That may have been fine while fighting amongst friends in the school cafeteria, but this is not how the real, civilized world operates.

Even the CIA World Factbook defines the United States of America as having a “Constitution-based federal republic; strong democratic tradition” type of government.

In addition, I looked up every other country listed in the CIA World Factbook and I couldn’t find a single one having a “majority rules” type of democracy.

Perhaps some of us a reading from a different text book.

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