A brave new definition of “free speech”

All of the levity over Mormon being the new black is a bit of a sideshow — obscuring the meat of what Elder Oaks is proposing:

Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights.

They shouldn’t be allowed to make that claim? And what do you (Oaks) think should be done to prevent them from being “allowed” to exercise their free speech on this point? Some sort of legal limitation on your critics’ rights to use their free speech to criticize you?

No joke or exaggeration, it sounds like that’s what he’s proposing:

But unless the guarantee of free exercise of religion gives a religious actor greater protection against government prohibitions than are already guaranteed to all actors by other provisions of the constitution (like freedom of speech), what is the special value of religious freedom? Surely the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion was intended to grant more freedom to religious action than to other kinds of action. Treating actions based on religious belief the same as actions based on other systems of belief should not be enough to satisfy the special place of religion in the United States Constitution.

Am I misreading this?

Otherwise, what “greater protection” for the “religious actor” do you think he’s requesting? Any specific examples?

(In order to keep the question open to reasonable discussion with believers, let’s try to keep criticism even of the CoJCoL-dS itself civil and constructive on this thread.)

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79 Comments

  1. 51
    chanson says:

    TT — I don’t think Oaks sees violence as a major issue, I think Oaks finds it convenient to pretend like non-violent protests were violent or threatening. By conflating non-violent protest with what black people suffered in the wake of the civil rights movement — treating real-life tragedies like just so much political rhetoric — I’d say Oaks isn’t terribly concerned about whether real people are the victims of actual violence.

    On to the points of disagreement:

    The targeting of Mormons individually or as a group is a necessary step to make the case for SSM.

    No, I agree with you on that. Of course criticizing the CoJCoL-dS is not a “necessary step” to make the case for SSM. By the same token, it wasn’t necessary for the CoJCoL-dS to tell its members to do something like 75% percent of the funding and footwork for Prop. 8, and it sure as hell isn’t necessary for their leaders to blame others for the tarnish they themselves put on their church’s image.

    On a meta-note, you’ve been a good sport and have shown an admirable ability to keep the discussion civil in the wake of massive disagreement. I hope the denizens of Main Street Plaza haven’t scared you off, and that we’ll see you in future discussions. :D

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  2. 52
    Seth R. says:

    LDS theology is in-part centered around the ultimate union of male and female as part-and-parcel of exaltation. It’s kind of a sticking point.

    So saying that we should accept gay marriage just because we accepted polygamy is just stupid. Polygamy (both polygyny and polyandry) is compatible with Mormon theology. Homosexual marriage is not.

    This is about theology. Not about who has a better history of accepting “weird stuff.”

    On the central post’s critique of Oak’s legal analysis, I’m not wading-in. I’ve got my own problems with his legal analysis. But I just wanted to throw out that this “well you guys were polygamists!” crap is just stupid.

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  3. 53
    chanson says:

    Ive got my own problems with his legal analysis.

    Oh, now I’m curious! I assume you’ve posted your analysis somewhere for us to read, right?

    (I totally understand if you don’t want to get your own points mired into the discussion here if your own analysis is not related.)

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  4. 54
    kuri says:

    So saying that we should accept gay marriage just because we accepted polygamy is just stupid.

    I don’t think I’ve heard many people say that Mormons should “accept” gay marriage. I think the argument is more along the lines that Mormons have no room to criticize alternative marriage arrangements after having fought so long and hard to legalize their own (and never repudiating the belief, only the practice), or that at least they should empathize.

    This is about theology.

    You’re one of the few Mormons who will admit that though. No official spokesperson ever says, “This is our theology, which we believe should have the force of law.”

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  5. 55
    aerin says:

    40 – I think some boycotts by religious groups should be acceptable. For example, the Quakers boycotted sugar in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century to protest slavery and the slave trade. Is anyone arguing that boycotting a service/product is wrong?

    I think this is tricky – but if there was a prominent donor (say the person I purchased insurance from), and I decide to switch carriers/providers, I think I absolutely have the right to do so. I agree (partially??) with TT that it’s not fair to claim that ALL mormons supported prop.8 or donated funds to prop. 8. In fact, I’m sure there were some mormons (some in the bloggernacle) who spoke out against prop. 8.

    I don’t see the violence claim (by Oaks) though. Writing on a temple gate in lipstick is not violence. Violence is being attacked by dogs at a peaceful protest. Or having a bomb placed at your church.

    I respect Oaks’ right to his opinion, but I also respect the right to counter his claims.

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  6. 56
    aerin says:

    And as chanson pointed out, any graffiti was denounced by leaders of the gay rights movement.

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  7. 57
    Holly says:

    Seth R @ 52

    Polygamy (both polygyny and polyandry) is compatible with Mormon theology.

    Polyandry is compatible with Mormon practice, since Joseph Smith convinced people to engage in wife-swapping, and since he also married off to other men some of the young single women he married first, to avoid scandal.

    But how is it compatible with Mormon theology, given that Mormon women still cannot be sealed to more than one man at a time, and that Mormon scripture and doctrine still affirming the divine truthfulness of statements like this from D&C 132:63:

    But if one of either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she hath committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they [the virgins] are given unto him [the husband] to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, blah blah blah

    ?

    And yeah, Kuri is right: No one here seems to be saying that Mormons should accept gay marriage because they once accepted polygamy; instead, people are pointing out that Mormons’ defense of “traditional” marriage is pretty damn hypocritical.

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  8. 58
    LdChino says:

    Rev. Eric Lee, President/CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, someone who has been under pressure from some of his fellow African-American SCLC peers, for his stalwart support of marriage equality, speaking about some painful lessons learned in the fight against Proposition 8:

    “We did a less than adequate job in framing how marriage equality is a justice issue, and allowed the right-wing and the influence of the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church to frame the issue of marriage equality almost exclusively as a religious issue,” Lee said. “That’s a very difficult place to have a civil dialogue. It’s a safe place for people who do not want to reason.”

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  9. 59

    Seth, there’s no such thing as LDS theology, at least not as some abstract, unchangeable Platonic ideal. It’s what LDS members believe it is, and that has historically proven highly labile. So arguing that the LDS church can’t accept homosexuality because of its theology is laughable.

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  10. 60
    Elaine says:

    kuri wrote:

    ‘No official spokesperson ever says, This is our theology, which we believe should have the force of law.’

    Well, of course they don’t. If church officials ever did that, then they wouldn’t be able to chance stuff to suit their mood and what point they are trying to make at a particular time.

    Although I think Jonathan probably has a point about there being no such thing as LDS theology, since a set of shifting beliefs that the leadership won’t own up to officially for the reason stated above does not equal theology.

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  11. 61
    Elaine says:

    Rats. “Chance”, in paragraph 2, above, should clearly be “change”. Apparently I can’t type tonight. :)

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  12. 62

    You got me thinking, Seth. How can the LDS culture change its stance on homosexuality without appearing to itself to have changed anything essential to the LDS gospel?

    I have a couple thoughts, but I think the most likely is that they will shift from emphasizing sealing “marriages between a man and wife” to sealing “families”. They will claim that, “It was always really about families. We’re not sure why God chose to exclude homosexuals and their families for so long (it was probably a policy and the ideas of fallible men, not a doctrine), but we’re so grateful for Official Declaration 4 that allowed everyone the blessings of the temple in 2025 because no one should be denied Exaltation based on how they were born.”

    Anyone want to place a long bet? :)

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  13. 63
    chanson says:

    Anyone want to place a long bet? :)

    That’s a cool idea!

    I doubt it will change as early as 2025, though. I think it will take them more than fifteen years for things to cool down and all the memories to become fond again.

    Probably more like 2050, or later.

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  14. 64
    Holly says:

    I have a couple thoughts, but I think the most likely is that they will shift from emphasizing sealing marriages between a man and wife to sealing families. They will claim that, It was always really about families. Were not sure why God chose to exclude homosexuals and their families for so long (it was probably a policy and the ideas of fallible men, not a doctrine), but were so grateful for Official Declaration 4 that allowed everyone the blessings of the temple in 2025 because no one should be denied Exaltation based on how they were born.

    I had a thought very like this when I was going to sleep last night. I was thinking about oddly-constituted Mormon family, and the fact that if ten women were all married to the same man, and he died, the family would essentially be dissolved as a legal unit, though perhaps not as an emotional one. It would be much better for that family if all the women were married TO EACH OTHER, so that even if the sole husband was gone, the wives wouldn’t just have sister-wives, they’d have wives, period, and legal recourse in dividing up assets if they didn’t get along, and legal recognition of their love if they did.

    And while the assumption in Mormondom would probably be that they wouldn’t sleep together, why shouldn’t they, really? Why shouldn’t the husband and his wives have the occasional menage-a-trois (or cinq or dix)? And why shouldn’t they carry on in the bedroom without him?

    And if they can carry on without him after he dies, why can’t they just carry on without him from start to finish?

    I’m not laying odds that this WILL happen, mind you–I’m just pointing out that in Mormon doctrine and practice, there are ways to argue that support for same-sex marriages has always been present.

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  15. 65
    chanson says:

    Holly — That’s an interesting idea, and it isn’t purely theoretical. Have a look at Connell O’Donovan’s book on homosexuality in church history:

    Indeed at least one Mormon woman went so far as to request that her husband marry polygamously after she fell in love with another woman, so that the two women could openly live together. Sarah Louisa Bouton married Joseph Felt in 1866 as his first wife but according to a 1919 biography, around 1874, Louie (the masculinized nickname she preferred) met and “fell in love with” a young woman in her local LDS congregation named Alma Elizabeth (Lizzie) Mineer.[10] After discovering her intense passion for Lizzie Mineer, a childless Louie encouraged Joseph to marry the young woman as a plural wife, explaining “that some day they would be privileged to share their happiness with some little ones.” Joseph married Lizzie Mineer in 1876. But Lizzie’s new responsibilities of bearing and raising children evidently proved too great a strain for her and Louie’s relationship. Five years later Louie Felt fell in love with “another beautiful Latter-day Saint girl” named Lizzie Liddell, and again Joseph obligingly married her for Louie’s sake. Thus Louie “opened her home and shared her love” with this second Lizzie.[11]

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  16. 66
    Holly says:

    that’s AWESOME! thanks, chanson!

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  17. 67

    [...] going to say that this was provoked by Oaks’s talk at BYU-Idaho, but I will say — as I said before — that he missed an opportunity to call for fair play on all sides. So I’ll say what [...]

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  18. 68
    Parker says:

    I have listen (read) carefully at a variety of places comments about Elder Oak’s address to the BYUIdaho students. I think he got it right–well, nearly right. What he meant to say, I’m sure, was that he was referring to the Southern white’s perception of the Civil Rights movement. There is where the real similarity lies between the Church and what happened in the South during that time.

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  19. 69
    chanson says:

    Parker — Sorry, I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying that the church is like the white people of the South during the Civil Rights movement?

    That actually makes sense, eg. the Mormons don’t get why others are angry at them for defending what they see as tradition, but what others see as bigotry.

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  20. 70
    Parker says:

    Chanson, that is exactly what I meant. Thanks for making it clear.

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  21. 71
    chanson says:

    Parker — I’ve been thinking about this ever since I read your comment (about an hour ago), and I think that’s a really interesting point, and a fruitful parallel to consider.

    Now I’ve got that Neil Young song “Southern Man” stuck in my head. I don’t know whether he himself is Southern, but still the song seems to say something both about Southern whites and about how Southern whites are seen by others (I think during the civil rights era and later):

    Southern man
    better keep your head
    Don’t forget
    what your good book said
    Southern change
    gonna come at last
    Now your crosses
    are burning fast
    Southern man

    I saw cotton
    and I saw black
    Tall white mansions
    and little shacks.
    Southern man
    when will you
    pay them back?
    I heard screamin’
    and bullwhips cracking
    How long? How long?

    Southern man
    better keep your head
    Don’t forget
    what your good book said
    Southern change
    gonna come at last
    Now your crosses
    are burning fast
    Southern man

    “Lily Belle,
    your hair is golden brown
    I’ve seen your black man
    comin’ round
    Swear by God
    I’m gonna cut him down!”
    I heard screamin’
    and bullwhips cracking
    How long? How long?

    Do you think someone in today’s gay rights movement might write something similar about “Mormon man”?

    On a related note, I’m currently reading Jonathan Kozol’s The Shame of the Nation which is a book about how America’s schools are currently racially segregated at approximately 1950′s levels, despite the progress we’re supposed to have made since then. And some of the worst offenders are the big Northern cities like New York!!

    So we’ll probably be having more discussion about how the situation for gay people in America is and is not like the situation for black people.

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  22. 72
    Mr. Rights says:

    Oaks is not suggesting that religious free speech deserves extra protection versus the free speech rights of non religious persons.

    He is simply saying that actors who exercise their religious free speech deserve protection from persecution. That wasn’t so complicated was it?

    Proponents of the gay rights movements should be able to back their arguments with respectable logic. Insults, Vandalism, and personal attacks are not only childish put show a lack of critical thinking and maturity.

    Secondly, the main reasons that Religious believers oppose the passing of such legislature is that it opens the door for the state to dictate what they can and can not do in their religion. Ex. California may force a church to perform a marriage it does not believe in and impose penalties if it will not concede.

    This is the gradual taking over of religious freedom by the state. I’m sure many Mormon’s would be open to voting for gay rights if their personal religious beliefs were not at stake.

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  23. 73

    [...] in a weak effort to defend the clearly ridiculous statements of Dallin Oaks that have led to a well-deserved uproar over the last week, the LDS Church linked to this report [...]

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  24. 74
    chanson says:

    That wasnt so complicated was it?

    Mr. Rights, I agree that it’s very simple to just take his talk entirely at face value. However, I think there’s a little more to it than that, as I explained in my comments here and on the discussion of the recent vandalism of a humanist billboard in Idaho.

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  25. 75
    chanson says:

    On a related note, Im currently reading Jonathan Kozols The Shame of the Nation which is a book about how Americas schools are currently racially segregated at approximately 1950s levels, despite the progress were supposed to have made since then. And some of the worst offenders are the big Northern cities like New York!!

    So well probably be having more discussion about how the situation for gay people in America is and is not like the situation for black people.

    p.s. to anyone still following this discussion: I wrote up the promised book report on my blog here.

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  26. 76
    LdChino says:

    Im sure many Mormons would be open to voting for gay rights if their personal religious beliefs were not at stake.

    Your chosen moniker sums up the real problem quite neatly, doesn’t it, Mr. Right?

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  27. 77

    [...] This week we’ve seen a bit of the overlap between Outer Blogness and the rest of the media! First off, it turns out that Emily Pearson was involved in the production of 8: The Mormon Proposition (and she recommends this article about it). Also in the media spotlight (or rather microphone), The Girl Who participated in an NPR segment about objectivity in Utah media, especially regarding the Oaks fiasco. [...]

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  28. 78

    [...] (That’s why the one type of action by the CoJCoL-dS that really angers me is when they stoop to rhetorical games to try to shut up their critics, cf. here and here.) [...]

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  29. 79

    [...] done with all of the righteous indignation I can handle for this week, what with that scary little lecture we had earlier. Fortunately, we’ve also had a bunch of positive ideas and feel-good stories [...]

       0 likes

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