California's Prop 8, seeking to ban same-sex marriage (currently legal in CA), has - predictably - become pretty nasty. It's tough to avoid, given the volatile subject matter. I'll admit it - it's tough for me to remind myself that supporters of a constitutional marriage amendment aren't, for the most part, bigots. It gets even tougher when prominent supporters openly revel in the "gay is creepy" message.
Now, according to New America Foundation fellow Joe Mathews, the No on 8 crowd has turned to bigotry, too, this time against the LDS Church, which has gotten unusually involved.
These attacks are despicable, and need to be denounced as such. Mathews is exactly right that attacks on the Church are bigoted and counterproductive. I wholeheartedly agree.
Politics, however, is a sport where you have to expect the worst from the opponent. Which is why I don't understand the decision of LDS President Thomas Monson to get directly involved in this fight. By putting the LDS Church at the center of the Yes on 8 fight, he opened the door to a lot of latent anti-Mormon bigotry that still floats around out there. (Mathews reports that only Islam is viewed less favorably than Mormonism.) Essentially, he gave anti-Mormon bigots an excuse to attack the Church.
And not the traditional bigots either. The people now hating on the Church aren't the far-right Huckabee evangelicals - they're liberal institutions like Big Orange and the Huffington Post, places where you expect more tolerance, not less. Instead of provoking already-established bigots (which is something you can't be concerned about), Monson's decision awakened latent anti-Mormon sentiment among the left that has been fading (especially since one of the left's heroes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is a devout Mormon).
This isn't to excuse the bigots - far from it. Everyone should know better than to preach intolerance of a religion, but liberals really should know better. And this isn't to blame Monson - he's following his principles, and that's commendable even if I disagree with him. And as we established in the comments section of my last post on the subject, the Church can and should do what it wants politically. It just seems to me that a large part of Mormonism involves outreach to the "gentiles,"* and getting the church directly involved in a political hurricane is counterproductive. A Mormon non-church organization - think Focus on the Family, only LDS-run - would have been just as effective in supporting Prop 8 but would have been able to deflect criticism of the LDS Church and religion far more easily.
So lefties, quit with the hate. And Monson - if you're trying to have your church accepted societally without compromising your principles, a little strategy is not a bad thing.
*In LDS parlance, "gentile" refers to anyone who isn't LDS. Jews have the same terminology, which led to one of my favorite political stories. Jewish businessman Simon Bamberger was running for Utah Governor in 1916 when some right-wing Mormons said that they could never vote for a "damned Gentile." Bamberger replied, "As a Jew, I've been called many a bad name, but this is the first time in my life that I've been called a 'damned Gentile'!" After this, the Mormon community embraced Bamberger, and he went on to win the election and become only the second Jew ever elected to a state governorship (Moses Alexander of Idaho was the first - bet you didn't expect those two states to be the first).
Update, 11/3/08: For even more superhappyfun bigotry on the part of Prop 8 opponents, check this out. One wonders if Steve Young (who opposes 8, as Mike pointed out in the comments section) likes having his money going to this dreck.
Honestly, I wasn't sure whether I should laugh at the absurd idea of Mormon missionaries ransacking a house and stealing valuables or cry at the absolutely insane bigotry at work here. I mean, I haven't seen anything this bad since "white hands" (at least the anti-atheist hate here in NC was a little more veiled). Were I a Californian, this ad would actually make me sorta want to vote for 8. Of course, as a staunch supporter of gay marriage, I wouldn't do that. But I would stand outside the Courage Campaign headquarters flipping them off for a while.
(Not that I have any readers in L.A., but if you're out there, our research department tells us that they are located at 7119 West Sunset Blvd., #195. Give 'em a finger for me.)