Excommunicate the Church?

I caught this newspaper article in my Google News alert about a grassroots campaign by Mormons to call the leadership of the religion to task for its involvement in Prop. 8. Intrigued by the possibility, I followed the link to the website: http://www.excommunicatethechurch.com. From what I can gather, this is one person trying to start a movement. I certainly don’t mean to make light of his efforts, but the newspaper article makes it seem as though Jason Beckett has the First Presidency running scared with hordes of angry Mormons at his beck and call (Chino, I need a graphic here!).

Um, yeah, as a scholar of Mormonism who pays attention to these things, my sense is that there is no such movement. If anybody got the Church’s attention as a result of Prop. 8, my guess is that it was Signing for Something (which certainly would have been worthy of some Brodie Award if they had existed in 2008). So, any thoughts on this grass-ROOT (no “s”) effort? Anyone heard anything about it?


I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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12 Responses

  1. Madam Curie says:

    The website is very nicely done, however.

    Question for those who may know the answer to this: What is the difference between the LDS Church losing their tax-exempt status for their role in Prop 8 and other political movements, and whether the UU Church loses its tax-exempt status for supporting equality measures? Just curious. A friend recently mentioned that he has a hard time dealing with the thought of the Mormon Church losing that status, because of what it would mean for UU.

  2. Chino Blanco says:

    All discussion of the LDS church losing its tax-exempt status b/c of this issue is a waste of time, imho.

  3. Urban Koda says:

    From what I understand, the laws which govern the tax-exempt status of a church state something to the effect, that as long as the political support is not a major function of the organization, then some political involvement is acceptable. Perhaps this is why the Church is building the City Creek mall – Since I’m sure the financial investment in Prop 8 pales in comparison.

    Ultimately I think it’s an issue of integrity. In the case of the UU, their support of equal rights goes hand in hand with their seven basic principles. I doubt any of their membership feel uneasy about their involvement in the campaign for equal rights.

    With the LDS Church, however, it stands as in direct opposition to many of their teachings, particularly the whole war in heaven thing… You know, the part about forcing people to make the right choices. And with respect to the feelings of the membership… Do we need to look further than your feelings, mine, or those of others on this site?

  4. 501(c)(3) Rules Pertaining To Political Activity:
    1. A religious organization is allowed to hold general voter education or registration activities as long as the organization does not show a preference to an individual candidate and/or political party.
    2. A religious organization is prohibited from campaigning in any way for or against an individual candidate or political party.
    3. A religious organization is prohibited from donating funds to a candidate or political party.
    4. Pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders can endorse a candidate or political party as an individual but not as a representative of their religious entity. Endorsements cannot be made at an official gathering or organizational publication.
    5. The organization is allowed to play a minor role in campaigning, lobbying or other efforts involved in trying to get certain legislation passed.

    This is how the Church went about it. Individual church leaders told their wards about the proposition (“voter education”). LDS doctrine happens to be against gay marriage, so individual leaders expressed their opinions. Individual citizens donated and went to work.

    Did the Church itself donate to Prop 8? Even if it did, a popular referendum is neither a candidate nor a political party, so there is wiggle room in terms of a “minor role in trying to get certain legislation passed.” Of course, the question asked ten-thousand times is whether the LDS’s role is “minor.” I’m convinced it’s not, but since the language is not black and white in terms of what can and can’t be done with regard to non-partisan and non-candidacy politics, the Church did a good job of wiggling through this to fight the fight another day.

  5. Chino Blanco says:

    By the way, I apologize for not coming up with a graphic to accompany this post. The “hordes of angry Mormons” visual is easy enough (plenty of pitchfork-and-torch-wielding-mob images out there ready for repurposing), but the “First Presidency running” graphic is one I’d have to create ex nihilo.

    Has anyone here ever seen these guys photographed when they weren’t stock-still in seated formation? Holland pounding a pulpit doesn’t count. I’m talking horizontal movement while upright, you know, PWA (“perambulating while anointed”).

    At this point, if I could find a stock image of that crew simply enjoying a “brisk walk” … I’d run with it and you’d have your graphic.

    That said, if ProfXM is open to tweaking the metaphor (e.g., “Beckett brings the heat, waxworks at risk of melting”), I think I’m up to the task. Ha!

    On a slightly more serious note …

    I didn’t mean to dismiss the tax-exemption issue out of hand. At the same time, I think it’s a good example of the challenge that the OP is calling our attention to here, i.e., the reality that online movements depend so often on one person taking a first step in a new direction. Signing for Something, in my view, was a glorious success. The site Revoke LDS Church 501(c)(3) Status? Not so much.

    The thing is, when it comes to online activism, it often feels like working at an off-campus student newspaper, where there is no reliable assignment desk. Stories and projects simply land in editorial laps, most survive to bask in the light of day, frequently adding to the publisher’s and readership’s enjoyment of what was always already billed as an exciting-because-it-could-get-bumpy ride.

    And here’s the thing that this post has got me thinking about: it’s 2010. I need a new theme for this new year, and here’s what’s on my mind: I wanna talk about Romney. I wanna talk about Damon Linker’s “Big Test”. I wanna run a contest asking readers to vote on the top ten Mormon beliefs that disqualify TBM candidates a priori from running for higher office. But that’s just me. I don’t think I have anything more to say about marriage equality. Y’all have been my brain trust on LDS issues for a while now, pls be my assignment desk for a moment. Is Mitt a serious contender? Does his candidacy raise serious issues? Or should I be busying myself elsewhere?

    Long story short, I don’t want to be the guy who brings TheMormonTest.com online, only to see it pilloried in the pages of MSP. Does TMT.com sound worthy? Or does it sound as half-baked as the website under consideration in the OP?

    And, no, this is not me dogpiling on Excommunicate The Church, but merely seconding the OP’s suggestion that the only way that site makes sense is as a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun.

    And fun is OK, but the Prop 8 and Question 1 campaigns have been run. Next?

  6. Is Mitt a serious contender?

    In terms of running, I’m pretty sure he plans to.

    I’m also pretty sure evangelicals are no closer to endorsing a Mormon than they were a year ago, despite the loss of the presidency. They would support Huckabee again. (I doubt Palin would run if Huckabee does.) My understanding is that Romney has a good chance of getting the nomination due to a McCain vacuum. If Gingrich runs, it will end in either a Gingrich/Huckabee ticket, or a Romney/Huckabee ticket.

    In other words, I don’t see the GOP drawing different internal lines in the next few years and I don’t see any new faces. The party is still pretty fractured. I don’t see the right nominating an evangelical. I also don’t see Gingrich choosing Romney as VP because he would want the evangelical vote like McCain did. Hence, the above tickets.

    Just some ideas.

  7. Chino Blanco says:

    Interesting. Would either ticket have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning in a general election? In all seriousness, there’s not much point dedicating resources to messing with Romney’s OODA loop if his loss in the GE in 2012 is a foregone conclusion (which would be my forecast for a Romney/Huckabee ticket), never mind if he’s got no chance to even make it out of the primary (Gingrich/Huckabee? Srsly?).

    And all apologies. It’s New Year’s Eve for me and I’m in a voluble mood. Once the New Year officially kicks in tomorrow a.m., it’s not one day, it’s gonna be an entire week spent bouncing between relatives, so cut me some slack if this is borderline threadjack behavior.

  8. There’s no way of knowing right now. It really depends on where Obama is domestically. If he actually “freezes the budget” in 2011-12 and does not raise taxes, and there’s job growth, GOP has no chance. If Obama continues trying to get healthcare into his own “freeze,” then he’ll be perceived by independents as “out of touch” and “full of hot air” (which is also the case if he doesn’t get something), but still, the economy is more important. Americans don’t care about the working class (healthcare); they care about not being working class (jobs).

    As someone on the left, I personally think “freezing the budget,” but leaving a bloated military is meaningless. I’m also curious how one is supposed to freeze the budget and not raise taxes when the fourth largest expenditure after the military, SS and Medicare is interest paid on the deficit. Obama must have some expert accountants living in his desk.

    Foreign policy wise, Obama will be painted as “weak” regardless because the right doesn’t understand that Pax Americana is over. Still, he will have the edge as the incumbent. (Unless he’s where Carter was in 1980, the incumbent always has the edge in this regard. Even Bush II.)

  9. Hellmut says:

    Excommunicating the Church could be a successful Internet campaign. If you could assemble several hundred people in a place other than San Franciso to put the Church on trial for intolerance, that would make for a powerful media event.

    You could dramatize the complaints as an excommunication trial with prosecution and defense. You could have a lot of fun with the defense team costumes and characters.

    The Church could play the role of a co-dependent spouse that keeps getting abused by their evangelical cohabitants only to come back for more.

    One of the defense lawyers could be an ostentatiously rich guy who bought a big ring, a Rolls Royce, and rebuild a French castle in Hollywood, all paid by Mormon contributions to Prop 8.

    Another defense lawyer could be the pimp who prostituted the church. Of course, the devil himself would have to to make an appearance as well.

    Russell M. Nelson could be flitting across the stage with Christian sex toys. All the while, Thomas S. Monson could make appearances in Lederhosen and ponchos clumsily pandering to Mormonism’s international constituencies.

    You could have a lot of fun with that.

  10. profxm says:

    That made for some fun mental imagery, Hellmut. Disturbing, but fun!

  11. wayne says:

    Who gets to play the Devil? My dad once said to me that “Lucifer resides close to the church headquarters”. I’m not sure what he meant, but there is a Catholic Cathedral just down the street from Temple Square.

  12. chanson says:

    I totally second ProfXM’s comment.

    And I’ll add that I’m making a note of @9 to nominate it for a 2011 Brodie. 😉

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