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Posts for March, 2011

Play About Mormon Shock Therapy “Cure” Opens In October

Jim Burroway

March 30th, 2011

ABC News has just released this fascinating report about playwright John Cameron’s experiences with a Mormon-sponsored program in the 1970s to try to cure him of his homosexuality through the use of electric shock therapy. That program, at Brigham Young University, was the basis for a doctoral dissertationby Max Ford McBride. Cameron was a very devout Mormon, and even though he had never acted on his sexual attractions at the time, he was desperate to get rid of his feelings. He saw McBride as his savior:

A mercury-filled tube was placed around the base of the penis and the students were shown alternating slides of men and women in various stages of undress.

When participants responded to images of men with an erection, the closed electric circuit was broken and they received three-second electrical shocks at 10-second intervals. Each session lasted an hour. Participants set their own pain levels.

Cameron said his shame was so deep that he selected the highest level.

“Max (the study’s author) didn’t do it, we did it,” he said. “I was always turning it up to get the most pain because I was desperate.”

This line really jumped out at me:

McBride’s alleged response ended up in Cameron’s play: “No one is a homosexual. Homosexuality doesn’t exist. It’s just a symptom of a deeper problem you are not willing to deal with.”

This line — there is no such thing as a homosexual — remains fundamental dogma of the ex-gay movement to this very day.

Cameron was one of thirteen subjects for McBride’s study. McBride today is a psychologist in Provo, Utah. Cameron wrote a play, “14,” about his experiences. The play, which includes portions of McBride’s dissertation, will be performed at the University of Colorado in Boulder in October. The play debuted at University of Iowa in 2007, and was performed at Kent State University in 2009.

Mormon Reorientation group fraudulently misquotes Collins

Timothy Kincaid

February 25th, 2011

How very infuriating it must be to have anti-gay activists misquote you and claim that you agree with notions that you find abhorrent. But such has become the plight of Francis Collins, onetime director of the Human Genome Project.

In April 2007, A. Dean Byrd, a devout Mormon who was at that time the incoming president of NARTH, wrote an article titled Homosexuality Is Not Hardwired,” Concludes Dr. Francis S. Collins, Head Of The Human Genome Project. It claimed:

Estimates of heritability are based upon careful analyses of studies conducted with identical twins. Such studies are important and lead to the conclusion that heredity is important in many of these traits. It is important however, to note that even in such studies with identical twins, that heritability is not to be confused as inevitability.

As Dr. Collins would agree, environment can influence gene expression, and free will determines the response to whatever predispositions might be present.

But Dr. Collins did not agree. Nor was he pleased by the political advocacy of those who misquoted a statement from an appendix to his book and wrote to Ex-Gay Watch to say so:

It troubles me greatly to learn that anything I have written would cause anguish for you or others who are seeking answers to the basis of homosexuality. The words quoted by NARTH all come from the Appendix to my book “The Language of God” (pp. 260-263), but have been juxtaposed in a way that suggests a somewhat different conclusion that I intended. I would urge anyone who is concerned about the meaning to refer back to the original text.

The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.

Your note indicated that your real interest is in the truth. And this is about all that we really know. No one has yet identified an actual gene that contributes to the hereditary component (the reports about a gene on the X chromosome from the 1990s have not held up), but it is likely that such genes will be found in the next few years.

You would think that having been publicly refuted would be reason enough not to continue to distort the work of others. And, indeed, for people of integrity, it would be so.

But Dean Byrd and his associates have little integrity and no interest in honest portrayals of science. So here they are back again.

In today’s Salt Lake Tribune, members of the Foundation for Attraction Research (an organization founded by Byrd), are trotting out their distortions of Collins’ work to claim that his conclusions were that “homosexuality, like other traits, emerges from some combination of nature and nurture,” and to imply that Collins endorses their reorientation theories.

But they didn’t stop at defaming the character and scholarship of Collins, they also implied that Dr. Robert Spitzer endorsed their views.

Spitzer offers the following: “Like most psychiatrists, I thought that homosexual behavior could only be resisted, and that no one could change their [sic] sexual orientation. I now believe that to be false. Some people can and do change.”

It should also be observed that the type, degree, and potential for change vary with each individual, and many debates about change could be avoided by a more nuanced discussion about it.

Setting aside for the moment the methodology and the documented fraud involved with the effort to fool Dr. Spitzer, it is telling that Byrd’s associates chose to delete what Spitzer actually had to say about the “type, degree, and potential for change.” (NY Times)

But after enduring an avalanche of criticism from peers who said he had given too much credence to the accounts of his subjects, many of whom were leaders of ex-gay ministries, Dr. Spitzer now says many advocates of sexual reorientation have misrepresented his views.

“Although I suspect change occurs, I suspect it’s very rare,” he said. “Is it 1 percent, 2 percent? I don’t think it’s 10 percent.”

But you wouldn’t know that from this Mormon opinion piece.

Because Dennis V. Dahle, John P. Livingstone and M. Gawain Wells set out not to present scientific discovery or empirical evidence of their position, but rather to deceive the public. The observations of Collins and the opinions of Spitzer – had they been portrayed honestly – would have refuted the claims of the Foundation for Attraction Research. So instead Dahle, Livingsone, and Wells followed in the footsteps of Byrd and hijacked the reputations of honorable men to attach them to their dishonorable goals.

Ironically, the premise of their opinion statement was that “true religion and true science, when they are found, are never at odds.” And what an unfair disservice they have done to fellow Mormons.

For if true religion and true science go hand in hand, then it is only a logical conclusion that the religion of con-men Dahle, Livingsone, and Wells surely must be as fraudulent as their “science”.

“I Am An Ex-Mormon”

Jim Burroway

February 15th, 2011

You may have seen the billboards and the commercials behind the “I’m A Mormon” campaign, designed to try to rehabilitate the image of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints following their massive efforts to strip LGBT Americans of their right to marry in California. Now there’s another grass-roots effort, called “I Am An Ex-Mormon,” which highlights those who have left the church, for a variety of reasons:

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I was born in Provo, Utah to Gerald and Carol Lynn Pearson. At the age of eight years old I was baptized an official, 5th generation, member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was twelve years old when I learned my dad, whom I adored, was gay; sixteen years old when he died of AIDS in our home; eighteen years old when my mother’s book “Goodbye, I Love You” was published by Random House; twenty five years old when I knowingly married a gay man myself in the Salt Lake City temple; thirty two years old when we divorced; thirty four when I walked away from the Mormon Church; and forty when I officially had my name removed from the church records.

…Early on in my life I became obsessed with obedience to the God that I was introduced to at church – the very same God that hated and condemned my father for being a homosexual and who was, in turn (and for good reason) hated by my dad. …I had to choose which father to obey, which father to love – a choice that broke me in two.

Another Utah county passes non-discrimination ordinance

Timothy Kincaid

December 22nd, 2010

Grand County, Utah, home to Moab and the Arches National Park, has now passed an ordinance that protects its 9,000 or so residents from sexual orientation and sexual identity discrimination in housing and employment. (SL Tribune)

That means one in four Utahns, living in 10 communities from Moab to Logan, are protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Advocates for the statutes hope that groundswell of support will push the Utah Legislature to protect all Utahns.

With this decision, Equality Utah has reached its goal of ten new municipalities banning discrimination.

Salt Lake County followed Salt Lake City’s lead, and Equality Utah launched an effort, dubbed “Ten in 2010,” to increase the list to 10 by the end of this year. Grand County expedited the ordinances to ensure passage before the new year.

They are hoping to capitalize on the momentum and encourage the state legislature to ban discrimination state wide. As yet, this seems to be more of a grand hope than an achievable goal. However, much depends on the public stances of the Mormon Church, whose support secured the bill in Salt Lake City

Mormon Church now LIKES the gays

Timothy Kincaid

December 21st, 2010

In 2008 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (The Mormons) declared war on the gay community. They probably didn’t intend to, and they certainly didn’t want it to be known, but nevertheless that year the Mormon leadership decided that it would throw the church’s weight and political influence into the battle to deny marriage equality in California.

And they won. Proposition 8 passed.

But this success has proven to be a pyrrhic victory, one that threatened to set back much of the church’s public image campaign. Having spent decades on a message that Mormons make good neighbors, suddenly they were painted as haters and destroyers of happiness.

And the church discovered – to what must have been their amazement – that people in California are more suspicious of Mormons than they are of gays. While they may not have favored marriage, they were disturbed at the idea of a California proposition being funded and controlled from Utah by a church that many still see as a cult.

And then the church took a series of missteps in public confrontation with gays. Efforts to paint gay people as deviants that had to be slapped down (how dare they kiss in this Mormon-owned park) only gained sympathy for gay folk in the public eye. And even members revolted when a leader declared that gay people must choose to be gay because Heavenly Father wouldn’t have made them that way.

I’ll admit that it has been amusing to see the panic and meltdown over gay issues since the church’s involvement in Prop 8 was exposed. But it has also been encouraging that there are obviously many in the Mormon Church who have been awakened by the scandal and who are seeking to act admirably.

And some are really seeking peace, a detente, and if not agreement then at least a cease fire. It shows up in some amusing ways. (ABC)

ABC 4 News has learned that the Church invited several prominent gay leaders to its Christmas concert this weekend, including Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black.

Black, a screenwriter, won an Oscar for the movie, “Milk.”

Saturday, at the LDS Church’s Christmas concert, he and a handful of Utah gay activists were VIP guests.

ABC 4 News is also being told that the Church has met previously with both Black and Bastian, one of the founders of WordPerfect.

This, reportedly, to get more information about gay issues.

I’m not ready to forgive the church for the damage they did in my state. It truly was an act of selfish bullying and it will take more than a Christmas concert invitation to a select few before I see this institution as other than a committed enemy of my civil rights and freedom.

But it does give me hope. Maybe the church has learned a lesson.

There is a strong likelihood that there will be a proposition on the 2012 ballot to reverse Proposition 8, and if the Mormon Church doesn’t want to pay for half of the advertising and 80-90% of the volunteers, then our chances are significantly increased.

Mormon Church Changes Apostle’s Speech In Response To Outcry

Jim Burroway

October 10th, 2010

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, it appears that the Mormon Church is trying to change history. The church’s web site changed the remarks that Mormon Apostle Boyd K. Packer made to the 180th Semiannual General Conference. The controversial speech he made at the conference and beamed via satellite to churches around the world, has been modified on the LDS web site:

Perhaps the most controversial paragraph in Packer’s text that he read Sunday said, “Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father.”

Now the word “temptations” has replaced “tendencies” and the question about God’s motives has been removed entirely.

Spokesperson Scott Trotter said that “President Packer has simply clarified his intent.” Unfortunately, it is unclear how much that “clarification” is being disseminated among the millions around the world who heard his speech. Gary Watts, a former member of the LDS Church member with a lesbian daughter and gay son, isn’t buying it. “They’re trying to edit it and soften it and make it better, but it’s not going to work. [The speech has] gone viral. Everyone knows what he said.”

Mormon leader addresses the Great Conundrum

Timothy Kincaid

October 8th, 2010

Boyd Packer is the president and the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). On Sunday, speaking to the 180th Semiannual General Conference in Salt Lake City (which was broadcast around the world), he preached a sermon which was dedicated to anti-gay doctrine and political activism.

Coming on the tail of a series of news reports about anti-gay bullying resulting in child suicide, this shocked and angered those who seek to protect vulnerable children from a culture of contempt. Last night, thousands of protesters surrounded the Mormon Temple in symbolic illustration of the deaths that result from such incautious words.

Public outrage over the comments included demands that the church retract and denounce the sermon. In a most peculiar decision, the church decided instead to sanitize the sermon to make it less obviously objectionable when media came looking for quotes, and released a statement that Packer’s statements were “based on principles of truth, respect and love for all of God’s children.”

I do not fault a religious leader for espousing their religious beliefs, even those which I find to be contrary to everything I think is moral and true. However, as Packer’s talk was laden with terms such as “evil” and “wickedness” and “perversion” and as Packer declared that civil equality for gay couples would lead to the end of civilization, his entire sermon is foul and objectionable.

But amidst the animus and condescension, Boyd did illustrate what I call the Great Conundrum. In May I wrote about this paradox:

For millenia, church teaching has been that God is good and applying his rules leads to happiness. God has said that homosexuality is forbidden and abomination to him. This is evident in Scripture and it is abundantly clear that homosexuality is not to be tolerated. Those who are homosexual are vile and willful sinners who choose to defy God.

However, we currently know the homosexuality is a naturally occurring attribute of a person. One’s attractions are not selected and are based in part on genetics. Other contributors may include other biological or perhaps even social factors, but conscious choice is seldom involved at all and no manner of effort seems effective in changing homosexuality into heterosexuality.

Therefore, God has – through genetics and other factors under the control of his divine hand – created a group of humans which he condemns for being the way He created them. He rejects and punishes them (and endorses the human punishment of them) for the sin of existing, a sin over which they had no free will.

This is not conceivable to modern Christians. This is contrary to how they view the nature of God. And so, Christians are faced with the following options: Either

  • The writers of the Scripture got it wrong, or
  • Your understanding of Scripture is incorrect, or
  • Modern understanding about homosexuality is wrong, or
  • God is a bully.

And I discussed the various ways in which a conservative Christian can resolve such a puzzle. Boyd Packer chose what I called “Response 3: Denying evidence.”

Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, he is our Father.

Paul promised that “God . . . will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” You can, if you will, break the habits and conquer an addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church.

Boyd’s logic goes like this: Inborn tendencies come from God. God is good. Homosexuality is bad. Therefore, homosexuality did not come from God and is not inborn. Science, research, personal witness, and any evidence that contradicts this formula must be ignored.

No doubt this conclusions-based logic will continue for some time to satisfy faithful Mormons who are seeking justification for their anti-gay attitudes or activism. It will provide cover for the church’s continuing attack on the civil liberties of gay people.

But in time, denying empirical evidence will only serve to weaken Packer’s influence and image and come to harm his church.

Thousands Surround Salt Lake Temple

Jim Burroway

October 8th, 2010

An estimated 4,500 people surrounded the two blocks downtown that make up the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints last night to protest a recent anti-gay statement by LDS Apostle Boyd K. Packer.

Paker spoke at the Mormon Church’s 180th Semiannual General Conference spoke out against same-sex marriage and called homosexuality “impure and unnatural”:

“There are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God’s laws and nature,” Boyd K. Packer, president of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles, said in a strongly worded sermon about the dangers of pornography and same-sex marriage. “A law against nature would be impossible to enforce. Do you think a vote to repeal the law of gravity would do any good?”

Those comments, coming on the heels of at least five suicides in September, drew sharp condemnations inside and outside the church:

Tonight, we are symbolic of all the children who have been killed by messages like Boyd K. Packer’s,” said organizer and Salt Lake City blogger Eric Ethington. “When you hear nothing from [church leaders] but that you are nothing but evil and you need to change the unchangeable nature of yourself, that is only a message kids can take for so long.”

More, more, more amicus

Timothy Kincaid

September 24th, 2010

Three more amicus briefs were filed today in addition to those of Ed Whelan and Liberty Counsel.

The American Center for Law and Justice (Jay Sekulow) wrote:

II. MORALITY IS A LEGITIMATE BASIS FOR LEGISLATION.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558(2003), did not abolish the legitimacy of morality as a state interest. Indeed, to have done so would have been both revolutionary and destructive, as morality has long been recognized as a basis for law, and countless laws today rest upon morality. The district court therefore erred in dismissing moral considerations out of hand.

Something called The Hausvater Project, which appears to be related to the parochial schools of the conservative Lutheran Church Missouri Synod filed to support “the right of parents to determine their children’s education”. This one flummoxed me; I have no idea what they are talking about.

Parents have a fundamental right to determine their children’s education, protected under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process clause. California citizens voting in favor of Prop. 8 (“Prop. 8 Supporters”) had, and on their behalf the defendant-intervenors-appellants (“Prop. 8 Proponents”) in this case continue to have, good reason to regard Prop. 8 as a safeguard of that fundamental constitutional right. Since the safeguarding of a constitutional right properly serves the state’s interest, the district court erred in concluding that Prop. 8 serves no legitimate or compelling state interest. Moreover, parents’ fundamental right to determine their children’s education should take priority over the competing claims of plaintiffs-appellees Kristin Perry et al./same-sex couples (“Prop. 8 Opponents”) who plea for Equal Protection and Due Process rights to same-sex marriage.

It seems that they are arguing that because the Proposition 8 campaign played on the fears of parents (“I learned in class that a prince could marry another prince, and I can marry a princess!”) that therefore it is based in the constitutional right of parents to make sure that public schools condemn the things which they condemn. Or something like that.

Which is an odd argument coming from an organization of parochial schools.

The second part of their argument was that allowing gay people to marry would have a “chilling impact” on the religious freedoms of those who want to stop them. If governments actually treat gay people as full citizens and if schools refer to them as such, then it greatly reduces the impact of those who preach from pulpits that they are not.

Far from furthering a state interest, such religious organizations would be in opposition to a state interest, at least insofar as one accepts the district court’s own identifications of the state’s interest and the religious groups’ motivations. This is not small potatoes.

And if Judge Walker’s decision is left intact it would lead to “nothing short of the abolition of parochial schools and homeschooling.” And then they really go bat-poop crazy. It’s all a plan on the part of the homosexuals to destroy family and society; first they redefine marriage and then they’ll take away our children.

A tremendous burden falls now to this court as to whether those asserting the freedom to chose a spouse of the same sex can secure that socially constructed status apart from denying, with increasing tenacity, the fundamental right of a man and a woman to direct the education of the children whom nature calls their own. The social engineers of incremental strategies favoring same-sex marriage have themselves answered the question in the negative. Whatever disappointment a reversal of the district court’s decision may bring to the particular homosexual couples who originated the complaint, at least they will be liberated from serving as pawns in a larger scheme that ultimately would constrain not only their neighbors’ liberties, but also their own.

And finally we have the amicus brief of

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The California Catholic Conference
The National Association of Evangelicals
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons)
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
The Calvary Chapel Fellowship of Ministries of California
The Christian and Missionary Alliance
Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc.
The Council of Korean Churches in Southern California
Southern California Korean Ministers Association
Holy Movement for America

Believe me, other than all being in the broad category of “Christian” and being devoted to the condemnation of gay people and bringing harm to their lives, these folks have nothing in common. It takes a powerful amount of joint purpose, in this case their religious-based animus towards gay people, to get them in the same room.

And I do find it interesting just who is not present in this joint statement. This, more than most any other document, draws the line between combatants over the religious direction of the nation.

We write separately to answer the district court’s distortion and condemnation of our beliefs as irrational and illegitimate and to defend the constitutional right of citizens and associations of faith to participate fully in the democratic process. Contrary to the aspersions cast by the decision below, our beliefs about marriage are not based on hatred or bigotry. Our support for traditional marriage has vastly more to do with a rich tapestry of affirmative teachings about marriage and family than with doctrines directed at the issue of homosexuality. To be sure, our religious beliefs hold that all sexual acts outside traditional marriage are contrary to God’s will. But our faiths also entreat us to love and embrace those who reject our beliefs, not to hate or mistreat them. Bigotry is contrary to our most basic religious convictions.

A bit ironic when you consider that the purpose of this brief is not to love and embrace those who reject their beliefs, but rather to force by law those beliefs which they cannot persuade through preaching.

Faith communities and religious organizations have a long and vibrant history of upholding marriage as the union of a man and a woman for reasons that have little or nothing to do with homosexuality. Indeed, their support for traditional marriage precedes by centuries the very notion of homosexuality as a recognized sexual orientation (see ER106), not to mention the recent movement for same-sex marriage. Many of this nation’s prominent faith traditions have rich religious narratives that describe and extol the personal, familial, and social virtues of traditional marriage while mentioning homosexuality barely, if at all.

Except, of course, that every single denomination listed decries homosexuality as sinful, rebellious, or evil. Without exception.

The gist of their argument is that it is unfair of Judge Walker to take a side in the religious culture war, that they have the right to try and vote their religious beliefs into law, and besides they loooooove the homosexual, they just want to grant special privilege to those who follow their beliefs.

LDS Statement on Prop 8

Jim Burroway

August 4th, 2010

The LDS Church regrets that the proposition for which they payed so dearly has been overturned:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regrets today’s decision.  California voters have twice been given the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage in their state and both times have determined that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We agree.  Marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of society.  

“We recognize that this decision represents only the opening of a vigorous debate in the courts over the rights of the people to define and protect this most fundamental institution—marriage.
 
“There is no doubt that today’s ruling will add to the marriage debate in this country, and we urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion.”

Latest twist in the observant gay Mormon debate

Timothy Kincaid

June 24th, 2010

Last September we discussed an interesting debate taking place within the Mormon faith over the role and response of same-sex attracted Mormons.

Some, like NARTH past president Dean Byrd, argued that Mormons must strive for reorientation in order not to “limit the atonement.” But Ty Mansfield, a same-sex attracted observant Mormon, argued that orientation is unlikely to change and that he shouldn’t be expected to take up an impossible task.

But now there appears to be a new twist. Mansfield appears to have married on May 22 to a lovely young woman (that was the scheduled date, I assume it happened). And, in what must be a first, someone put up a website called “Danielle Don’t Do It” to try and change Danielle’s mind. It seems that they deduced from Mansfield’s writings that their love was lacking in romantic and sexual attraction.

I’m not sure what to think about this. Some men do find this sort of arrangement to be adequate and it certainly seems to be expected within Mormon circles. But last weekend I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Amity Pierce Buxton, founder of the Straight Spouse Network, who detailed the pain and trauma that can result from a straight woman marrying a gay man.

But I guess Danielle went into this marriage with her eyes open.

Another Utah City enacts non-discrimination policy

Timothy Kincaid

June 3rd, 2010

Following in the footsteps of Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County (unincorporated areas), Park City, and Logan, Utah’s second largest city, West Valley, has now voted to ban discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation. (SL Trib)

The West Valley City Council, in a 5-1 vote, approved Tuesday an anti-discrimination ordinance similar to those recently passed in other Utah cities.

About 60 people attended the meeting at City Hall. Rep. Janice Fisher, D-West Valley City, and about seven others spoke in favor of the proposal to protect gay and transgender residents from housing and employment discrimination. No one spoke publicly against it.

It does appear that opposition to employment and housing discrimination against LGBT people may be becoming part of Mormon values.

Logan, UT (and Mormon Church?) support non-discrimination laws

Timothy Kincaid

May 19th, 2010

Congratulations to residents of Logan, Utah, whose city council on Tuesday night banned employers and landlords from discriminating against gays, lesbians or transgender people (SL Tribune)

Modeled after anti-discrimination laws recently adopted in Salt Lake City, Logan’s housing and employment ordinances passed with four votes and one abstention, by Councilman Dean Quayle. A crowd, which filled the City Council Chambers halls and an overflow room, was mostly subdued throughout a one-hour public hearing. Following the tally though, the crowd erupted in applause and rewarded the council with a standing ovation.

On Tuesday night, Monson defended his support of the ordinances and clarified the stance of the area’s largest church after calling the LDS headquarters in Salt Lake City on Monday.

“The [LDS] church supports nondiscrimination ordinances, period. Certainly, I was told that this applies to Logan as much as any other place in the world,” Monson said Tuesday before calling for the vote. “They do and I do and I agree that this is not the answer for everything … But it is a step in the right direction and it is long overdue in my thinking.”

It looks like the church may be on a “see, we don’t hate you” campaign. And if so… I welcome it.

Mormon/Boy Scout sexual abuse problem

Timothy Kincaid

March 19th, 2010

mormonscoutAcross the country boys bond in scouting, enjoying the experience of nature, learning social values, and earning recognition for doing good deeds. And the Boy Scouts of America provide a memorable and often rewarding experience for boys – provided that these boys are not same-sex attracted or skeptical about the Abrahamic God.

But for fourteen percent of Scouts, their experience could be more accurately described as religious training in the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the “Mormons”). Unlike a scouting group hosted by the local Methodist Church which meets in their basement, for the Mormons scouting is a part of the church, an official teaching mechanism that places theology as a higher priority than socialization. It serves not only for inculcating the beliefs of the church, but as an outreach tool.

Elder Robert Backman was recognized by the Boy Scouts of America in 1986 for his efforts in incorporating Scouting into the LDS Church’s Young Men organization. He is quoted in the Aaronic Priesthood Boy Scout Guide:

As you know, we are vitally concerned about our youth and feel that with the proper attention we can save many more than we are doing at the present time. I am convinced that Scouting is a mighty activity arm to hold these boys close while they learn to appreciate the honor of holding the priesthood of God.

If we do all else and lose the young man, we have failed in our sacred stewardship. We must not allow a separation of priesthood, Scouting, or athletics.

Every phase of the Scouting program should help young men and their leaders understand that Scouting activities are carried out to accomplish priesthood purposes.

For Mormons, family is a valued concept. But part of the definition of “family” is the concept of church brotherhood and the expectation that Mormons will raise their children to be integrated into the faith at a young age. Scouting is more of an expectation or obligation than an optional club.

And evidence is arising that the Boy Scouts of America may have taken steps to hide evidence of sexual abuse. And they may have done so for decades. (No. County Times)

The “perversion files,” a nickname the Boy Scouts are said to have used for the documents, have rarely been seen by the public, but that could all change in the coming weeks in an Oregon courtroom.

The lawyer for a man who was molested in the 1980s by a Scout leader has obtained about 1,000 Boy Scouts sex files and is expected to release some of them at a trial that began Wednesday. The lawyer says the files show how the Boy Scouts have covered up abuse for decades.

And it further appears that the Mormon Church may have played a roll in giving some predators access to children.

The lawsuit also named the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because the Mormons acted as a charter organization, or sponsor, for the local Boy Scouts troop that included the victim. But the church has settled its portion of the case.

The Mormon bishop who also served as head of the Scout troop, Gordon McEwen, confronted Dykes after receiving a report of abuse by the mother of one boy in the troop in January 1983.

In a video deposition played for the jury, the bishop said Dykes admitted abusing 17 boys. But McEwen said he contacted the parents of all 17 boys and the boys themselves, and none would confirm any abuse.

Dykes was arrested in 1983 and pleaded guilty to attempted sexual abuse, received probation and was ordered to stay away from children.

Clark told the jury Dykes continued with his scouting activities until he was arrested in July 1984 during a routine traffic stop while he was driving a van full of Scouts on a camping trip.

It has yet to be determined whether Mormons are a significant segment of the thousands of Boy Scout sexual abuse cases. But this is not the first time that the Church has been accused of enabling predators.

SF Appeal, November 2009,

The three men, who are brothers now aged 39, 41 and 43, claim that William E. Knox, 65, a Mormon church and Boy Scouts leader, molested them repeatedly in Sunnyvale between 1977 and 1987.

A brother identified as John Doe 2, who now lives in Georgia, said, “I’m a victim and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. It was devastating to me. I’ve been abused hundreds of times over several years.”

The brother alleged, “During the abuse, I told the church leadership responsible to protect me and they did nothing to protect me.”

The Idaho Falls Post Register chronicles a story of abuse at an LDS scouting camp in the 1990′s which boggles the mind.

1988 Brad Stowell, 16, admits to Blackfoot police, his mother and his LDS bishop that he molested a 6-year-old neighbor. He is sent to LDS Social Services counseling.

1988 Stowell is hired to teach first aid at Camp Little Lemhi. He has testified he started preying on campers that summer.

1991 Richard J. Scarborough reports to the national Boy Scouts of America that a child molester has been hired to work at Camp Little Lemhi.
January 1994 Richard Scarborough writes to the LDS church president, complaining that local church leaders are ignoring his warning about the pedophile in the LDS Scout troop.

January 1995 Carol Scarborough tells Camp Little Lemhi program director Jim Summers that Brad Stowell molested a neighbor boy.

1995 Camp Little Lemhi director Richard Snow hires Stowell as aquatics director.

It continues in horrifying detail until Stowell is arrested in 1997 after repeated abuse.

And such abuse will continue for as long as the Scouts (and the Mormons and the Catholics and a whole host of other) continue to focus on and exclude gay people while ignoring the true source of the problem. They fear and expel gay men who are attracted to other adult men while ignoring the married, church going, men who secretly prey on available children of both sexes.

Now advocates for victims of child abuse are eagerly awaiting what the newly opened files will tell them. I’m certain that the Scouts are worried. I wonder if the LDS Church has reason to be concerned.

Sen. Hatch “clarifies” that he meant the opposite of what he said about DADT

Timothy Kincaid

February 4th, 2010

Senator Hatch (Mormon – UT), is now uncomfortable with having told Andrea Mitchell that he had an open mind on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Perhaps his church informed him that his position was in opposition to changing the policy or perhaps the Republican Party clarified for him exactly what he thinks, but whatever the reason, Senator Hatch wishes the public to know that his vote will be in opposition to the change irrespective of the requests of the Pentagon, the position of the Commander in Chief, the findings of the study, or the wishes of the populace.

His church’s paper, the Deseret News, helped set the record straight.

“It’s deeply regrettable that liberal groups are misconstruing my position on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ for activist purposes. I certainly do not support repealing this policy,” Hatch’s statement on Thursday said.

I guess little ol’ “liberal” me must have misconstrued his position when I posted the video and typed out this words verbatim. I suppose I should have realized that he meant exactly the opposite of what he said. Sen. Orrin Hatch is not “at least open to the idea” of being “willing to vote for the change.”

Or, to put it in politician-speak:

“What I said was that I want to see Adm. Mullen’s report. This is a controversial issue with inflamed passions on both sides,” Hatch said.

“Over the years, the views of the military officers and experts, whom I respect, have said that repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would make life for our troops more difficult — especially as our armed forces wage a global war on terrorism,” Hatch said.

He added, “I always try to be fair and stand by what’s right and that is why I look forward to reviewing the admiral’s report.”

Somehow “I look forward to reviewing” seems a bit disingenuous when coupled with “I do not support” and “experts, whom I trust”. One gets the sense that the ‘review’ will be a search for items to criticize rather than an impassioned desire to do what is right and correct.

I’m uncertain whether this is an indication that the Republican Party wishes to present a unified front in opposition to the change. But if that is the case, it will only serve to further entrench the party as recalcitrant, obstructionist, and hopelessly in servitude to a tiny fraction of socially ultra-conservative activists.

Polls have shown that a majority of the public, a majority of Republicans and a majority of conservatives all favor doing away with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But it seems that Sen. Orrin Hatch no longer dances to the tune of conservative Republicans; he now only dances when the subset of social extremists play.

Sadly for Senator Hatch, it must be increasingly difficult to look in the mirror and say, “I just plain do not believe in prejudice of any kind” or “I just want to do what is right”.

Prop 8 Trial: Mormons Sought “Plausible Deniability”

Jim Burroway

January 20th, 2010

And when you seek “plausible deniability,” we know that’s code for denying what is true. In this case, it was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ extremely heavy and essential involvement in their successful efforts to strip LGBT Californians of their right to marry.

During this afternoon’s session in the suit to overturn California’s Proposition 8, Dr. Gary Segura of the Stanford Center for Democracy read some key memorandums from LDS leaders to the Prop 8 campaign. According to Prop8TrialTracker:

S: Reads document from Jansen who says since first Presidency of LDS church wrote letter, what will be our role? “As you know from the First Presidency this campaign is entirely under the direction of the priesthood…”

“What is the next step in this campaign? I understand all grassroots organizing efforts in OC will be led by Gary Lawrence, who will report directly to the Protect Marriage.com Coalition leaders. He has also been hired…

That was interrupted by objections from the Prop 8 defense team. And while they argue, let’s review some background. Gary Lawrence was the State Grass Roots Area Director for Prop 8. He also said that to get a sens of what the war in heaven was like (in which Satan was expelled), you need to look no further than the Prop 8 campaign. “That battlefield is now California and the parallels between that pre-mortal conflict and the battle over the definition of marriage are striking,” he wrote. Part of the Prop 8 defense in the trial is that their campaign wasn’t driven by animus against gay people. Comparing the battle to cast gays out of marriage with the battle to cast Satan out of heaven looks like, well, animus to me, don’t you think?

There’s more!…

Mormon Documents May End Up In Prop 8 Trial

Jim Burroway

January 12th, 2010

Salt Lake City’s ABC affiliate KTVX reports that documents from the LDS Church concerning their efforts at passing California’s Proposition 8 may well end up in the Prop 8 trial after all:

Again, according to our sources, the San Francisco City Attorney, Dennis Herrera, requested, perhaps, as many as 1,500 copied documents about the LDS Church’s opposition to gay marriage. The documents reportedly deal with the LDS Church’s earlier efforts to defeat gay marriage movements in other states, efforts going back a number of years. Herrera, coincidentally, has been admitted as co-counsel in the California federal case to over-turn the ban on gay marriage.

Will LDS’s Incremental Approach To LGBT Issues Someday Lead To Bigger Changes?

Jim Burroway

November 14th, 2009

At least that’s how I interpret the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has placed a statement endorsing specific pro-LGBT legislation on their online LDS Newsroom:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has declared its support of nondiscrimination regulations that would extend protection in matters of housing and employment in Salt Lake City to those with same-sex attraction.

The Church said the Salt Lake City Council’s new nondiscrimination ordinance “is fair and reasonable” and balances fair housing and employment rights with the religious rights of the community.

It doesn’t get any bigger than this. Can you imagine the Vatican placing a similar statement on their web site or publishing it in L’Osservatore Romano?

The Church had released a similar statement last August offering support for limited LGBT civil rights measures, but that occurred at the same time that it was pumping millions into the fight to strip California’s LGBT citizens the right to marry. At the time, the statement was seen as nothing more than a fig-leaf to try to shield the Church from charges of bigotry. But Utah’s LGBT advocates took the Church at their word and pushed for the Common Ground Initiative, a series of LGBT protections put before Utah’s Mormon-dominated legislature that were modeled on the Mormon statement. The Common Ground initiative however was utterly crushed by Mormon legislators and never even made it out of committee.

This time, the Mormon hierarchy chose to put a tiny fraction of its influence officially behind the Salt Lake City non-discrimination ordinance. The tiny fraction was all that was needed though, because its implications go far beyond a city council vote that few believed was in doubt even without support from the Church. LDS spokesperson Michael Otterson’s statement before the Salt Lake City council — which the Mormon web site describes as “representing the position of the Church’s leadership” — puts the church fully on record for the first time in support of a specific piece of pro-LGBT legislation. This is huge in and of itself. What’s more, one high-ranking LDS leader, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has already hinted that the Church may very well support at least parts of the Common Ground Initiative when it is brought back to the state legislature.

If the Church follows through, this will truly be a historic step. More importantly, decades from now we may look back on this as a significant turning point for LGBT Mormons. That’s because Mormonism is very different from other popular religions in America in that it is the only major religion which reserves the authority to change a portion of its canonized texts according to ongoing revelations. And there is recent precedent for just such adjustments in their doctrines. Not long ago, Blacks were regarded as being under the curse of Ham, and thus denied full participation in the Church. Mormon scriptures still declare (2 Nephi 5:21):

For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

Having black skin was a mark of a curse. And according to the Book of Mormon, when the curse is lifted from a group of black-skinned people, their skins became white (3 Nephi 2:14-16):

And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites; And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites; And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites, and were called Nephites.

According to long-held Mormon doctrine, black skin was the mark of a curse that individuals acquired due to unfaithfulness in their pre-existence. And because they displayed the mark of that curse on their skins, Blacks were not permitted to enter into celestial marriages or the Priesthood. This also meant that their role in the celestial kingdom would be a lesser role — as eternal servants.

This teaching came under fire in the 1950s and 1960s during the civil rights struggle. Sports teams began boycotting Brigham Young University and the NAACP held protest marches in Salt Lake City, but the Church held steadfast to its teachings, saying that “it is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord.” When a few Mormons themselves began opposing their Church’s racial teachings, many were excommunicated or denied entry into the temple for important ceremonies. (Sound familiar?) But all that finally changed in 1978 when, acting on a brand new revelation, the LDS Church added an entry into the open canon of its scripture known as Doctrine and Covenants which finally granted Blacks full participation in the life of the Church.

And guess what? Nobody’s skin color changed.

This latest move by the Mormon church to actively support the non-Discrimination ordinance should rightly be seen as a very small step. No, they’re not about to grant celestial marriage to LGBT Mormons anytime soon, just as they resisted allowing celestial marriages for African-Americans. Right now, there’s still every indication that the Church will continue to vigorously oppose marriage equality with every resource at its disposal. They will give us many new reasons to harbor deep well-earned anger and justified suspicions for many years to come as they continue to try to enshrine their particular religious beliefs into secular law at our expense. For that we must always be vigilant and hold the Church accountable.

All that said, this is still cause for hope. This is a Church that isn’t hamstrung by a closed canon, and it has a long history of receiving new revelations to correct grievous wrongs. What’s to keep the Church sometime in the future from receiving another revelation — this time one that reconsiders the place of its own LGBT sons and daughters in the life of the Church and the celestial kingdom?

Such a change certainly won’t come any time soon; it’s still likely decades away, at least. But that very possibility makes this latest step in favor of pro-LGBT legislation, as small as it is for our liking but as huge as it is for the Church, reason to rejoice.

Another Reason To Rejoice

Jim Burroway

November 14th, 2009

There’s another reason to rejoice over the LDS Church’s historic support for pro-LGBT legislation in Salt Lake City: it’s causing all sorts of angst among anti-gay extremists. The right-wing group America Forever, whose fundraising ventures included selling worthless ID’s to Mexican immigrants, is incredulous. They charged that the seemingly powerless Church “was placed in this position by the gays from Utah.” That’s right. Gays are more powerful in Utah than the Mormon Church.

Other denunciations were more conventional. The American Family Association of Michigan’s Gary Glenn sputtered that the Church’s position was “grossly ignorant.” The Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg charged that the Church was “bend[ing] over backwards to exhibit tolerance toward homosexuals in some way.” Peter LaBarbera wailed that the church’s stance may mark “the ‘official’ split of the American pro-family movement against homosexuality into two camps,” with only one camp holding fast to unadulterated, no-holds-barred, anti-gay warfare — the only stance he finds acceptable. LaBarbera also worries:

If churches back “gay rights” (and the LDS is hardly the first), is there some truth to the idea that those of us who remain opposed to ALL aspects of the “GLBT agenda” are “bigots” or somehow extreme in our worldview?

Increasingly, the answer to LaBarbara’s question is self-evident. If someone opposes ALL aspects (as LaBarbera emphatically stipulates) of recognizing the humanity of any people — whoever they may be — then yes, they are bigots and extremists. That’s pretty much the definition. There’s no other way to put it. And whenever a major denomination like the LDS church can frame a question like this through its actions with such stark clarity, we all benefit.

LDS Church Supports Salt Lake LGBT Protections

Jim Burroway

November 11th, 2009

 Yes, you read that right:

Hours after the LDS Church announced its support Tuesday night of proposed Salt Lake City ordinances aimed at protecting gay and transgender residents from discrimination in housing and employment, the City Council unanimously approved the measures.

“The church supports these ordinances,” spokesman Michael Otterson told the council, “because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage.”

The Mormon church has come under withering criticism over its overwhelming support in passing California’s Proposition 8, which stripped LGBT couples in that state the right to marry. The LDS’s massive efforts have led some to dub Prop 8 “The Mormon Amendment.” In addition to overall criticism, that campaign also proved to be highly divisive within the church itself.

Last year in the wake of that criticism, LDS leaders said that they had no problem with non-marriage related protections for LGBT people. In August 2008, the church issued a statement titled “The Divine Institution of Marriage” in which church leaders claimed to support “rights regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights.” That spawned the “Common Ground” initiative, which consisted of a set of LGBT protections based on the LDS statement. But the LDS church turned around and blocked every single proposal in the state legislature which they had earlier said they could support.

LGBT leaders in Salt Lake City hail last night’s vote as a historic step, and the result of several months of quiet, behind-the-scenes meetings with church leaders. But noting that four-fifths of Utah’s LGBT citizens live outside the city, they vow to reintroduce the Common Ground proposals in the state legislature again this year.

Why the sudden turnaround after the Common Ground initiative failed to even make it out of committee in the state legislature last year? There are a couple of possibilities. First, Salt Lake City is not a Mormon bastion as the rest of the state is. Many former LDS people who wrote in to BTB this morning believe that this ordinance would have passed without LDS support. After all, this is the same city that has already instituted a domestic partnership registry. So by coming out in support of this ordinance, the reasoning goes, the church is able to turn what would have been seen as a defeat into positive publicity.

Meanwhile, others speculate that Senate Majority Leader Harry Ried (D-NV) and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, both Mormons, may have played a hand. At any rate, the real test will be when the Common Ground initiative is brought back to the state legislature again next year.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the ordinances passed last night would:

  • Forbid housing and employment discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity in Salt Lake City.
  • Exempt religious organizations, businesses with fewer than 15 employees and some small landlords. (The exemptions mirror those in state and federal laws.)
  • “Not create any special rights or privileges,” the ordinances state, because “every person has a sexual orientation and a gender identity.”
  • Create a complaint and investigation process. The complaint could be resolved through mediation or a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Not create a “private right of action” to sue over alleged discrimination.
  • Require annual reports by the city’s Human Rights Commission on the effectiveness of the statutes.
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