The Church’s “Political Neutrality”
As we enter a new election cycle, here’s a link to the Church’s statement about the Church itself being “neutral” to matters of “party politics,” even as it encourages its membership to be responsible civic citizens and voters.
The caveats are that the Church does:
Request candidates for office — “not to imply that their candidacy or platforms are endorsed by the Church.” (Can someone please explain this to me?)
- Reserve the right as an institution to address, “in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church.”
In other words, the Church is not politically neutral at all, and the title of the article (“Political Neutrality”) is a misnomer. Instead the title might read something like, “Political Partisanship Neutrality.”
But even this seems unreasonable.
I remember when I first started out in politics, during my first election cycle where I could vote (2004), my Democratic precinct included in our platform support of same-sex marriage. In 2004, the national Democratic Party platform did not include same-sex marriage (John Kerry came out against it, but has recently flip-flopped), but it’s not hard to imagine a 2016 national Party platform including it (at the end of Obama’s second term). The Party was in 2004 averse to amending the US Constitution, though, and instead supported the rights of states to resolve the question.
Conversely, the Church supported (still supports?) amending the Constitution. (Just like all of those NOM-hooked GOP candidates.) So much for “Political Partisanship Neutrality.”
In 2008, during Prop 8, it was somewhat possible for the Church to label its actions to be neutral to party politics on a national level. But on levels more local than national, it was/is acting in a partisan way. For example, the Massachusetts Democratic Party platform includes
We affirm our commitment to the Massachusetts constitutional guarantee to same-sex marriage; and all of its rights, privileges and obligations; and reject any attempt to weaken or revoke those rights.
The Church has argued that certain issues stand “outside” the realm of partisanship, but this could be said of any issue, or host of issues. It’s a convenient “out” from acknowledging the fact that party politics isn’t just about putting individuals into places of influence, but is also about the issues themselves. A candidate is basically a host of issues with a skin casing. The Church should probably take a good hard look at its doctrine of “Political Neutrality” as we enter a new election cycle — beyond simply telling its GAs (and their spouses) to not engage in fundraising or campaigning.