Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You're the one

The coverage from the LATimes on the CA Prop 8 debate is, well, like a debate. Take this, for example, inexplicably stuck in the Books section:
As of Friday, supporters of Proposition 8 had raised $27.5 million, with about 19% of the money coming from outside California. Opponents have raised $31.2 million, with 34% of the money coming from outside the state.

Although many initiatives are largely funded by parties with an economic interest in them, Proposition 8 contributors by and large have nothing to gain financially from the measure's passage or defeat.

Many donors, like Havranek, cite religious beliefs, and Mormons have emerged as the largest source of money to the Yes-on-8 effort, contributing about 40% of its war chest, according to the campaign. Church leaders have urged members to contribute.

Primary contributors to the opposition have included celebrities, liberal groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, public employee unions and gay philanthropists.

Not exactly, but nearly "Some say Earth is flat; others disagree." While the article mentions supporters' and opponents' passion, there's nothing that examines the deep pockets and the politics behind them.

The Salt Lake Tribune does a much better job, delving into the dynamics of the Mormon Church and its deep investment into changing existing California law:
The LDS Church's campaign to pass Proposition 8 represents its most vigorous and widespread political involvement since the late 1970s, when it helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. It even departs from earlier efforts on behalf of traditional marriage, in which members felt more free to decide their level of involvement.

This time, LDS leaders have tapped every resource, including the church's built-in phone trees, e-mail lists and members' willingness to volunteer and donate money. Many California members consider it a directive from God and have pressured others to participate. Some leaders and members see it as a test of faith and loyalty.

Those who disagree with the campaign say they feel unwelcome in wards that have divided along political lines. Some are avoiding services until after the election; others have reluctantly resigned. Even some who favor the ballot measure are troubled by their church's zeal in the matter.

. . . The LDS First Presidency announced its support for Proposition 8 in a letter read in every Mormon congregation. Since then, California LDS leaders have prompted members to sign up volunteers, raise money, pass out brochures produced by outsiders and distribute lawn signs and bumper stickers. Bishops have devoted whole Sunday school classes and the weekly Relief Society and priesthood meetings to outlining arguments against same-sex marriage. Some have pointedly asked members for hefty financial donations, based on tithing. Others have even asked members to stand or raise their hands to publicly indicate their support.

Gary Lawrence, writing in the online Meridian Magazine, compared opponents of Proposition 8 to those who sided with Lucifer against Jesus in the pre-mortal existence. Others have questioned such members' faith and religious commitment, accusing them of undermining the prophet.

. . . It's especially painful for Mormon gays.
"How is the church going to minister to them when such operations are guaranteed to alienate them and their families?" Thurston asked. "Most of the gay members were orthodox Latter-day Saints in their teens and many went on missions. But eventually they found there was no place in the church for them and they went elsewhere."

The LATimes article focuses instead on the Christian Evangelical influence:
From his base in Tupelo, Miss., Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Assn., said his group gave $500,000 to the Yes-on-8 campaign for moral reasons.

"We believe in the Bible, and the Bible teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman," he said. "That is how the human race continues."

Wildmon said he fears that if the initiative doesn't pass, children will be taught about same-sex marriage in schools. And he worries that other things might follow.

Wildmon raises a silly straw man, trying to stoke fear that marriage might mean multiple partners or other idiocy. Tim is the son of Donald Wildmon, famous for attacks on popular cultural icons ranging from Three's Company to noted XXX porn distributor Blockbuster Video (irony intended).

As a side note, Wildmon's organization, American Family Association or AFA, announced a boycott of Hallmark Cards for their decision to sell same-sex wedding cards, so this is nothing new for them.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the increasingly fervent Mormon campaign:
The top leadership of the Mormon Church, known as the First Presidency, issued a letter in June calling on Mormons to "do all you can" to support Proposition 8.

Mormon donors said they weren't coerced. "Nobody twisted my arm," said Richard Piquet, a Southern California accountant who gave $25,000 in support of Proposition 8. He said Mormon Church leaders called donating "a matter of personal conscience." Some Mormons who declined to donate said their local church leaders had made highly charged appeals, such as saying that their souls would be in jeopardy if they didn't give. Church spokesmen said any such incident wouldn't reflect Mormon Church policy.

. . . The battle has drawn in money from around the country. The Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic group, has given more than $1.25 million to support Proposition 8. Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization composed mainly of evangelical Protestants, has given more than $400,000. The Yes on 8 campaign has received "more proportionally from the Latter-day Saints Church than from any other faith," said Mr. Schubert, 35% to 40% of the total.

The Mormon Church encouraged its members to send their donations to a separate post-office box set up by a church member, said Messrs. Schubert and L. Whitney Clayton, a senior Mormon Church official involved in the campaign. Mr. Clayton said the church didn't keep track of how much individual Mormons donated, just the cumulative total. He said members bundled the donations and forwarded them to the campaign.

A Web site run by individual Mormons, Mormonsfor8.com, has tracked all donations to the Yes on 8 campaign of $1,000 or more listed on the California secretary of state's Web site. The site's founder, Nadine Hansen, said they have identified more than $5.3 million given by Mormons but believe that donations from church members may account for far more than 40% of the total raised.

Of course, the hypocrisy of the Mormon position is in the co-opting by the largely right-wing evangelical Christian movement, which has often voiced concern and even disdain for both Mormonism, and Catholicism. I personally have heard senior staff at major Evangelical churches in So. California call Mormonism a "cult", and "not Christian".

Sometimes the enemy of my enemy isn't my friend. Freom the WSJ article:
The prominence of Mormon donors in the Proposition 8 fight has also led to alliances with evangelical Protestant groups and other Christian religions, some of which have deep theological differences with Mormons.

Jim Garlow, pastor of the evangelical Protestant Skyline Church near San Diego and a leading supporter of Proposition 8, said, "I would not, in all candor, have been meeting them or talking with them had it not been for" the marriage campaign. Rev. Garlow said he had developed a "friendship" with the Mormons he met, although he feels the theological differences remain "unbridgeable."

But he noted how Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants have formed tight bonds through their joint work against abortion, and he said a similar process might occur with Mormons.

Asked if working on Proposition 8 might improve the standing of Mormons in the eyes of evangelicals, Mr. Whitney said, "That's just not been on our radar."

Somehow I'm not surprised. The pro-8 forces are united, not by a common belief in goodness and salvation, but a base hatred for what they all do not accept. Sadly, this may prove to be not only Gays, but each other. This short-sightedness and intolerance is sad, pitiful, and must be defeated.

And where is the traditional media in reporting this? The LATimes reports this like an ordinary bond initiative: Some say Yes, some Say No. Sad, that the newspaper of record in So. California doesn't seem to realize the importance of Prop. 8.

One thing they do point out is the presence of Erik Prince in this particular fight. Remember him? The odious CEO of Blackwater Worldwide, responsible for deaths and atrocities in Iraq:
Another major proponent is Elsa Prince, a contributor to Republican causes and candidates including McCain. Prince, of Holland, Mich., gave $450,000 to support Proposition 8. She's the mother of Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater Worldwide, the private firm that provides security in Iraq.

Mother and son sit on the board of a family foundation that donated $8 million in 2006-07 to Christian groups involved in the Yes-on-8 effort, including $300,000 to Focus on the Family, on whose board she sits. Focus on the Family gave $450,000 to Proposition 8 and $1.35 million to the 22 same-sex marriage ban campaigns in 2004 and 2006.

Swell. Support segregation and discrimination, get a US government contract.