Friday, November 14, 2008

Kevin Hamilton's Post Prop-8 Letter

Many of you undoubtedly have seen this letter from Kevin Hamilton in light of Proposition 8 passing. Our church has sent out a statement basically saying "Hey, we were just exercising our right to vote and voice our opinions. What's your problem?"


Here's the letter and my responses to each point:

In the aftermath of the recent election, we may find ourselves oddly on the defensive regarding our support for the Yes on Proposition 8 cause. Our young people have been especially subject to mean spirited comments by high school friends and teachers. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We did nothing wrong. In fact, we did everything that a civic minded American can and should do. I have put together a few facts that help me to appreciate our position better. For example:

1. Mormons make up less than 2% of the population of California. There are approximately 800,000 LDS out of a total population of approximately 34 million.

2. Mormon voters were less than 5% of the yes vote. If one estimates that 250,000 LDS are registered voters (the rest being children), then LDS voters made up 4.6% of the Yes vote and 2.4% of the total Proposition 8 vote.

And yet the members of our church donated nearly half the money to the cause.

People aren’t angry at us because we make up the majority of the people in California who voted yes – they’re angry because we bankrolled it. Money talks in politics, as we all know. You could say that without the LDS so greatly invested, this proposition would have lost.

3. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) donated no money to the Yes on 8 campaign. Individual members of the Church were encouraged to support the Yes on 8 efforts and, exercising their constitutional right to free speech, donated whatever they felt like donating.

Actually the Church did, well within their legal limits (something like a little over $2000), but they did donate.

Encouraged? When the Prophet says jump, we ask how high. That's how it is. We follow the prophet or risk being unworthy of many, many blessings like going to the temple. Yes, some people understand the principle of praying to know for yourself, but most consider this a matter of belief vs. non belief.

Encouraged? Some people were called into their leader's offices and were asked specifically if they would be willing to give more.

Flyers were placed in the foyers of ward buildings. Sign up sheets were passed around. Announcements and discussions took up the majority of some class times. Donations were “encouraged” over the pulpit. Some people were strongly encouraged – bishops and leaders alike. I’m glad I wasn’t a leader. Makes me wonder if I would’ve been released from my calling.

That makes some wonder about the tax-exemption thing. I don't think it'll happen. I think the Church flirted with the line, but nothing will happen.

4. The No on 8 campaign raised more money than the Yes on 8 campaign. Unofficial estimates put No on 8 at $38 million and Yes on 8 at $32 million, making it the most expensive non-presidential election in the country.


5. Advertising messages for the Yes on 8 campaign are based on case law and real-life situations. The No on 8 supporters have insisted that the Yes on 8 messaging is based on lies. Every Yes on 8 claim is supported.

And yet…not. I’ve got all sorts of evidence to the contrary. If they weren’t outright lies, they were half-truths meant to deceive and scare people. If you know law, you know loopholes, and that nothing is cut and dry. Context is everything. Look it up.

6. The majority of our friends and neighbors voted Yes on 8. Los Angeles County voted in favor of Yes on 8. Ventura County voted in favor of Yes on 8.

Not as many of our "friends and neighbors" voted as they did back in 2000. About nine percent less. That's a lot of people.

And uh, LA County was 50/50. 16,000 votes separated Yes from No. In a county of millions, that doesn’t hold much clout.

7. African Americans overwhelmingly supported Yes on 8. Exit polls show that 70% of Black voters chose Yes on 8. This was interesting because the majority of these voters voted for President-elect Obama. No on 8 supporters had assumed that Obama voters would vote No on 8.

What does this mean? “It’s not our fault it passed! Go after the blacks! Go after the Hispanics! The Catholics! Just not us, we don’t deserve it!”

You voted for it. You called people, knocked on doors, gave up your life savings in some instances for it. So stand up for it. Be not ashamed. You expressed your right to an opinion, to a vote, to get others to vote - these people are expressing their right to be pissed off. As long as they're peaceful, who cares. And they do want to be peaceful about it - you just always have your idiots on either side.

8. The majority of Latino voters voted Yes on 8. Exit polls show that the majority of Latinos supported Yes on 8 and cited religious beliefs (assumed to be primarily Catholic).

See response to 7

9. The Yes on 8 coalition was a broad spectrum of religious organizations. Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants, Orthodox Jews, Muslims – all supported Yes on 8. It is estimated that there are 10 million Catholics and 10 million Protestants in California. Mormons were a tiny fraction of the population represented by Yes on 8 coalition members.

See response to 7.

10. Not all Mormons voted in favor of Proposition 8. Our faith accords that each person be allowed to choose for him or her self. Church leaders have asked members to treat other members with "civility, respect and love," despite their differing views.

And yet I’ve been chastised for going against the prophet, testimonies have been called into question, various idiots on some discussion boards have declared we should rip up our temple recommends, family and friends can’t really look me in the eye anymore, etc.

I don’t want to be told how to vote, what to think, what to do or I’ll be ex’d, lose my calling, etc. I don’t appreciate those regarding the proponents of 8 as the “moral majority.” I don’t like the Church calling those gay couples who want to marry “selfish.”

11. The Church did not violate the principal [sic] of separation of church and state. This principle is derived from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The phrase "separation of church and state", which does not appear in the Constitution itself, is generally traced to an 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson, although it has since been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court in recent years. The LDS Church is under no obligation to refrain from participating in the political process, to the extent permitted by law. U.S. election law is very clear that Churches may not endorse candidates, but may support issues. The Church as always been very careful on this matter and occasionally (not often) chooses to support causes that it feels to be of a moral nature.

Like Prohibition?

What about other causes of a moral nature?

You know what else grates me? A story on The View yesterday recounted about a boy with some problems who nobody wanted to adopt. Finally, a couple who specialized in working with kids like him stepped forward and put in papers to adopt him. His reaction? "Somebody wants me!"

It was a gay couple. You're going to tell me this is immoral and wrong? Tell that little boy that.

And can we quit implying that separation of church and state doesn't exist? No, the phrase verbatim doesn't exist in the Constitution, but the idea is absolutely there. We don't live in a theocracy, and I'd prefer to not live in one right now thankyouverymuch.

12. Supporters of Proposition 8 did exactly what the Constitution provides for all citizens: they exercised their First Amendment rights to speak out on an issue that concerned them, make contributions to a cause that they support, and then vote in the regular electoral process. For the most part, this seems to have been done in an open, fair, and civil way. Opponents of 8 have accused supporters of being bigots, liars, and worse. The fact is, we simply did what Americans do – we spoke up, we campaigned, and we voted.

They spoke out on an issue that concerned them? I know of a handful of people who wouldn’t have voted yes, donated, made phone calls, etc. if the Church hadn’t made an official plea for its members to do all it could to allow it to pass. Pretty sure there are many more.

And we’ve been just as awful to the No on 8 people, calling them selfish and abhorrent to God and that giving them the ability to marry would bring down society and the world as we know it. Yeah. They really should just have thicker skin than that.

Neither side was right in calling names. Don’t for a second think it was just the No side. We got in the mud, we got dirty, deal with it.

Hold your heads up high – you did a great job on this most important cause. We will have more opportunities in the future to participate in our democratic process. Let's remember the lessons learned and do an even better job next time.

These are my personal opinions and thoughts; any errors are mine and in no way reflect official Church policy or doctrine.

Kevin Hamilton

Thanks, Kev.

Share on Facebook



Katie said...

Thanks for posting this, Lisa. I actually read this before you took it back off, and it sparked a rather interesting discussion between my husband and I on the role that an individual prophet has on how the church is perceived.

Do you remember a few years ago when they were trying to pass a country-wide constitutional ammendment defining marriage between a man and a woman? At the time, I recall a statement from the Church being read in Sacrament meeting stating that we should support the ammendment. However, as I remember, there 1) was no direction on how this should be done, or encouragement to support time and money, and 2) any effort to pass around sign-up sheets or petitions in favor of the law in church meetings was frowned upon, at least here (in our buildings in Philadelphia).

Now, we have a very similar thing going on with Prop 8, except that 1) the direction to take is very clear ("devote your time and money to ensuring that the law pass"), and 2) as I understand it, not being in CA, there were sign-up sheets, etc., being passed around in the church buildings.

My husband remarked that he heard someone (a non-Mormon) say, shortly after Pres. Hinckley passed, that it was a shame that with all of the work Pres. Hinckley had done (towards building a positive image of the Mormon church within the global community) that we might be taking a step backward with Pres. Monson who, as this individual noted, was more like Pres. Kimball (i.e., much more in-your-face about trangressions, Gospel truths, how to do things, etc.) He remarked, would Pres. Hinckley have handled this situation the same way?

I think that there are two possible answers to this question. The first answer is, Does it matter? The Lord called Pres. Monson to lead the Mormon church now for a reason. Perhaps he was chosen at this time because the Lord knew this would be an issue and wanted someone more in-your-face at the helm. (This was my hypothesis).

The second possibility, the one my husband raised, was that perhaps the Prophet was given some general council from the Lord, i.e., something like "redefining the definition of marriage so that it is not between a man and a woman will erode society." Afterwards, how each Prophet responded to this council differed. Pres. Hinckley chose to give his church members broad council ("Support this legislation") while Pres. Monson chose to give more precise council ("Propose this legislation by giving of your time and money, and sign this sign-up sheets").

We also took the time tonight to watch some of the advertisements for and against Prop 8 that were being shown in CA. Not being in CA, and more importantly, not having a TV, we missed alot of this. It was very interesting to me the kind of propaganda that was being used, on both sides. It seems that while the goal may have been a righteous one, from the church's perspective (and I have to think that it was, because I believe that Pres. Monson is guided in any churchwide statement he issues), I have to wonder at the campaign tactics used. Really, church money went into these things? Its quite upsetting, really. And as my husband pointed out, its not like the Mormon church leaders (i.e., the First Presidency) were in charge on scripting and/or filming and/or ok-ing these ads.

Frankly, I don't like how the campaign was done AT ALL. A much more honest campaign would have been a TV commercial stating, "The Lord has called a Prophet in our day, and that Prophet is Pres. Monson. He has received revelation that allowing same-sex marriages to occur will erode society and cause calamities and evils to occur. Please vote "Yes" on Prop. 8." However, this was NOT the approach that was taken, because the church could not take an open stance on this issue w/o violating separation of church and state.

Anyway, my end conclusion was that while I personally would have voted "Yes" on Prop. 8 (because the Prophet asked us to), and probably would have told my friends what I stated above in quotes (that the Prophet has foretold of disasters if same-sex marriages occur), I would not have donated money or time to the dishonest and manipulative campaign tactics that were used.

Anyway, just my 2 cents.

Lisa said...

I've heard similar discussions regarding "Would President Hinkley have dealt with it in this manner?" And yes, I wondered if perhaps I'd be more willing to follow under his direction.

Then I remembered that's not how it works.

The campaign was atrocious, and yes, sign up sheets were passed around in Sunday School, Priesthood, and Relief Society. Donation sheets sat out in the foyers and announced in Sacrament meeting (passed out as well). I heard stories of bishops and stake presidents calling specific couples in to ask them to donate to the cause (due to their ability to pay more than others). My husband and I didn't attend church much during these weeks, but yes: it was preached over the pulpit, it was mentioned in prayers, etc. It was a weekly ordeal that really wore us down.

I can understand the reasoning for those who voted yes because the prophet asked them to. I didn't because every time I thought to, I had a "stupor of thought" and had an unimaginable peace come over me when I decided, finally (after months) to vote no.

And yeah, I do remember the US Constitutional amendment. Don't think that has gone away - that'll come up again soon enough. Trust me, that'll be tons more difficult to pass given the process is hardly as easy - it's not just a matter of a 50% + 1 vote. It's a gigantic process I'm sure most of you are aware of. 2/3 of Congress must pass, then the 3/4 of the states must ratify it - there's at least four steps involved, but that's the gist.

And while the Church didn't script or 'ok' the ads, their money and unfaltering support was behind it. They didn't speak out against it. They perpetuated it.

I really don't understand why we had to become part of a coalition in the first place. Seems odd. I guess it's a PR move to get other churches to see that we're not so bad after all, but *shrug* Whatever.

Anyway, I hesitate anymore in posting about Prop 8, but it's certainly not a done deal. It'll come up. I'll be talking about it because it really does rub me the wrong way...and my thoughts aren't exactly the Church's thoughts anymore, but that doesn't mean I'm not open to suggestion and being wrong.

Thanks for the great comment, Katie. I do appreciate it.

Senator Hamilton said...

More people voted to ban gay marriage in total this time around.

4,000,000 in voted yes in 2000
7,000,000 in 2008 (because of the higher turn out)

So overall it could be said that there are more gay haters now then 8 years ago.

Lisa said...

Touché, "Senator."

Of course it's still conjecture and speaks little to what you're trying to say. Yes, more people came out; yes, more people voted yes than eight years ago...

Yet apparently enough people came out to vote no to make the divide more narrow than proponents would like.

2010 will be an interesting year.