In November 2015, the Church of Jesus Christ put out a policy, later described as “will of the lord” by a Church leader, that prohibited children of same-sex couples from receiving the same ordinances as other children in the Church. I cried. It seemed harsh, unfair, and exclusionary, particularly to the children who have no control over the choices of their parents. Initially, I thought it couldn’t get any worse and I took a hard look at my membership in the Church. It hasn’t gotten better.
When considering the November policy change, it may seem like a minor issue for the Church to put out an opinion on a Hate Crimes bill in the Utah senate, but I see it as another and even more drastic way to discriminate against the LGBT community. The Church has made clear, through actions and doctrine, that it doesn’t see LGBT individuals as worthy of the same marriage equality as their heterosexual counterparts. But would the Church really oppose legislation that would prevent those individuals, and all individuals, from receiving judicial justice?
Turns out it would. The Church’s statement regarding the new Hate Crimes legislation, known as Senate Bill 107, was short and vague, mentioning only that it didn’t want to “harm the balance” that was struck with last year’s fair housing for LGBT bill (which was really just a small concession by the Church so it could continue its discriminatory policies at Church-owned entities). But based on that single statement, we have no choice but to assume that the Church believes that because the LGBT community received fair housing legislation, they shouldn’t receive any additional freedoms without the Church collecting something in return. Quid pro quo. This is not about the Church trying to protect religious freedom for all religions in order to uphold the constitution, this is about the Church being able to continue discriminating, legally, against LGBT individuals under the guise of “religious freedom,” because the proposed Hate Crimes legislation would protect more than just LGBT individuals, it would protect Jews, Blacks, Muslims, even White people who could be discriminated against for the lightness of their skin, or Mormons who are persecuted by non-Mormons for their religion. So why doesn’t the Church support the bill?
Because according to Derek Monson, Director of Public Policy for the Sutherland Institute, hate crimes aren’t an issue for the Church. That’s right, because Mormons aren’t affected by hate crimes in Utah, at least as much as they’re affected when they’re asked to treat LGBT individuals like everyone else. Mormon Senator Todd Weiler agrees with the Church and Derek Monson, he said, “If they get hate crimes this year, what are they going to be coming back next year for, then the year after that?” As if prosecuting a perpetrator for targeting your community with a hate crime is some kind of gift, or a privilege, or a concession rather than a basic element of democracy and justice. What are they going to ask for next? Protection against discrimination in the workplace? Heaven forbid they want the freedom to adopt a child!
You may still be wondering how this could be worse than the policy change in November. In my view, at least the people that were affected by the policy change were in some sense choosing to be Mormon. Though there are a lot of elements that are out of their control, they could essentially leave the Church and choose not to be subject to its policies (though I understand the argument that children aren’t always able to make such decisions). But when the Church makes a statement about a piece of legislation, a statement that affects how probably nearly 50 percent of Utahns vote, they are taking the choice away from not only their members, but also from people that have no connection to Mormonism, people that just happen to live in a mostly Mormon state.
If the prophet receives a visitation from God and is told that the passage of a certain piece of legislation would lead to the utter destruction of mankind, then I would certainly want to hear about it. I think everyone would. In fact, I bet Thomas S. Monson (or one of his more able-bodied apostles) would stand at the pulpit, bang his fist and loudly declare that he had seen God and had been revealed His will. He would certainly encourage us all to vote a certain way if he had such certainty and truly had God at his back. However, we didn’t hear anything from Thomas S. Monson, nor from one of the apostles. No one mentioned the will of God or a revelation. We just got a walled off statement that expected to receive a certain level of credibility because of the Institution from which it came.
As much as the Church wants it to be, the world is not Mormon. Not even Utah is Mormon. And even if it was, people need to vote with their own discernment. No one should be making decisions, especially decisions that have such profound ramifications for the equality of Utah’s citizenry, based on a string of words, disconnected from any person, and without any specificity or explanation.