BYU Law Professor explains why Prop 8 was an unfortunate example of Mormon fundamentalism

BYU Freedom Fundamentalism Law Proposition 8

Frederick Mark Gedicks
Brigham Young University – J. Reuben Clark Law School
William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Vol. 18, pp. 901-914, 2010
God of Our Fathers, Gods for Ourselves: Fundamentalism and Postmodern Belief:

” … there is also an ethical reason for wariness. One should pause at imposing absolute truth on those to whom the validity of that truth cannot be demonstrated unless they already believe it — indeed, absolute truth whose universality or validity may sometimes be in question even among those who claim to believe it. As Learned Hand once famously declared, “The spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not too sure that it is right.” This is the best safeguard of religious freedom in a pluralist democracy, a constant and present and humble reticence at imposing one’s own truth as the truth for all.”

h/t Times & Seasons Notes from All Over

God of Our Fathers, Gods for Ourselves: Fundamentalism and Postmodern Belief

6 thoughts on “BYU Law Professor explains why Prop 8 was an unfortunate example of Mormon fundamentalism

  1. Interesting article, but nowhere does he say Mormon support of Prop 8 is due to fundamentalism, or a Mormon refusal to live in a postmodern world. He has stated in this article that Mormon leaders made a mistake in foregrounding theological reasons for supporting Prop 8 over secular ones, since in a pluralist society, theology will be attacked just like anything else. But Mormonism practically wrote the book on postmodernity in trying historicize the Book of Mormon. =p

    The fact that “God is dead” in postmodernity is not just a one-way street where believers have to make room for other people’s beliefs. It’s also a space where secular citizens are aware that they live in postsecular society where “God is not dead” (as evidenced by your annoyance with religious dogmatics). While Mormon leaders are currently talking about the “attack on religious freedom” when it comes to the same-sex marriage debate, they’re not making this argument from a fundamentalist perspective, but from a postmodern, pluralist standpoint in which they feel they should have a say on whether there is same-sex marriage in this country as citizens who vote. Unfortunately for them, they are running out of secular ways to argue against same-sex marriage without distortion of the facts (e.g., children raised by same-sex parents turn out swell, not messed up).

    I personally think it’s better to attack the secular arguments Mormons give for no same-sex marriage as opposed to the religious belief, even though the Church sets itself up for its belief being attacked, too. “Eternal gender” doesn’t fly in the courtroom and Mormons know that. And we ought to know they know that rather than paint them as fundamentalists. (Not that there aren’t also Mormon fundamentalists.)

  2. I thought these two grafs from Section III were pretty clear:

    Another response to postmodernity is fundamentalist withdrawal. Withdrawal is motivated by an unwillingness to make the compromises to one’s belief that God is not dead that are necessitated by a postmodern society. Amish, polygamist Mormon, and ultra-orthodox Jewish communities are examples of withdrawal, and illustrate as well that it is not a common response to postmodernity.

    More common is the response of another kind of believer, who likewise rejects the death of God and the limits of the postmodern condition, but declines to retreat in the face of its challenges. These believers affirm the God of our fathers, the God who is (still) actively involved in the fight between truth and falsity, good and evil, right and wrong. They consequently affirm that one’s job as a believer in this God is to fight that fight with him, by enacting his truths into law and aligning the government with them. These, too, are fundamentalists, those who not only maintain that they have the only truth–an unremarkable claim that many religions make, including my own–but that they know this truth and the God that guarantees it with such reliability that they are impelled to structure society around it.

  3. To say that all Mormon support of Prop 8 was about structuring society and government around Mormonism (aka fundamentalist) is to stereotype Mormons. Clearly, the author does not consider himself a fundamentalist, but how much do want to bet that he supported Prop 8 for theological reasons, given that he is, you know, a Mormon?

  4. I hope that didn’t come off as brusque, but I don’t think my title overstates Gedicks.

    That said, I absolutely agree with you that “its better to attack the secular arguments Mormons give for no same-sex marriage.”

    Because they pretty much don’t have any left. As David Boies told Karen Ocamb recently, describing Ted Olson’s closing in the Prop 8 trial:

    One of the things Ted made very clear was that they had one theory at the time of the ballot, they had another theory after the ballot passed, they had another theory when they started the trial, theyve got another theory now. And what that really says is that they dont have a theory. They dont have a rational basis. All they have is a willingness to seize on whatever arguments they can come up with for this objective.

    The objective is driving the arguments. The arguments arent driving the objective.

  5. Gay-Rights Activists Cautiously Optimistic About Prop. 8 Challenge

    Sounds about right:

    1) “If this case is decided on the strength of the arguments, our side wins, hands-down, all the way up to the US Supreme Court.”

    2) There is no stopping a ballot initiative in 2012, no matter how close the trial is to being completed.

    It will be an interesting challenge to finally contest this issue with an affirmative proposition. If it all comes together, it’ll be fun to plan ahead so me and the family can be in California during the peak months. I’m tired of downloading other people’s reporting. For once, I’d like to be able to set my own assignments, grab my own camera, and file my own reports.

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