LDS Church to Discipline Member for Supporting Gay Marriage

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims to be "politically neutral."  It also claims that its members are free to vote according to their conscience and that there are no political tests for membership in the church.  Indeed, the LDS church encourages its members to "study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully, and then to vote for and actively support those you believe will most nearly carry out your ideas of good government." 

But now the LDS church is threatening to discipline a faithful member from Nebraska (Andrew Callahan, a high priest) for "conduct unbecoming a member" and for "apostasy."  His crime? Disagreeing with church leaders on a political issue--Proposition 8 in California, which the church supports.  Proposition 8 would take away the legal right that gays and lesbians currently enjoy under the California state constitution to marry.  You can read more about Callahan (who posts online under the name Flat Lander) at the Further Light and Knowledge discussion board here.

Callahan helped start a web site called Signing for Something.  The purpose of Signing for Something was to give Latter-day Saints who had followed the First Presidency's admonition to study the issues and engage in the political process to voice their opposition to Proposition 8 and encourage church leaders to reconsider using church resources in a state political campaign.  The idea was to let church leaders know that a significant number of LDS church members do not support enshrining ignorance and bigotry into the state constitution but rather believe in equal protection under the law, individual liberty,  and tolerance for those who may not share church members' religious beliefs.

With this site, Callahan joined a growing number of Latter-day Saints expressing their love and support for gay and lesbian Mormons.  Another site shedding light on the challenges faced by being Mormon and gay is the Mormons for Marriage site.  These sites, along with yet others such Understanding LDS Homosexuality show that a small but growing number of rank-and-file Mormons are willing not only to disagree with Mormon church leaders' homophobic statements and policies, but are willing to do so in a public manner.  That's a significant thing.  Disagreeing with the Brethren, though highly discouraged in Mormon circles, is generally not something that will result in church "discipline" (i.e, disfellowship or excommunication).  But open, vocal opposition to the Brethren, even on a purely political issue, is perhaps the quickest way to get an "invitation" to a "court of love" in the LDS church.  Absolute loyalty to the LDS church, evidenced by an uncritical, unblinking obedience to the male church hierarchy, is the highest value in Mormonism.  Callahan is now running afoul of it, and will likely pay the price by being excommunicated.  That Callahan has been threatened with church discipline for "conduct unbecoming a member" when all he was doing was getting involved in a political issue and exercising his conscience, is revealing of just how far LDS church leaders will go to ensure that their vision of perfect conformity and bland homogeneity is realized.

Update: since I first drafted this post, Callahan received word from his Stake President that no church court would be held "in his behalf" (the euphemisms in Mormonism are legion) until AFTER the election.  This merely confirms that the whole matter is political.  If his crimes were spiritual, why would the election timing affect their decision at all? The LDS church simply did not want the negative publicity that would swirl around Callahan's excommunication, should it occur before the election.  Now the church can wait to cut him off and hope the public relations nightmare can be contained. 


LDS Church Reiterates "No Criticism" Policy

The LDS church, in response to the article published in the Salt Lake Tribune about Peter and Mary Danzig, issued a press release yesterday reiterating the church's strict zero tolerance policy for members who criticize church leaders.  The full text of the press release appears after the jump.  The gist is that the church did no wrong and that Danzig was wrong to send the letter and express his views on the subject.  The doublespeak evident in the press release is interesting: members can question and dig and come to their own conclusions, but cannot express those views publicly if they differ from what church leaders think.  At the same time, the church says members were free to write their senators and express their views on the marriage amendment, but that the church didn't tell them what those views had to be.

The press release also erroneously ascribes an error to the Tribune's reporting by wrongly stating that the article said Danzig suffered official church discipline.  The article does not say that, but does use the generic term "discipline."  Danzig lost his place in the orchestra, was summoned numerous times for interrogations by church leaders, and was told he would be excommunicated.  For the church to say he wasn't "disciplined" is disingenuous. 

It appears that people can leave the church, but the church can't leave people alone.

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Welcome Salt Lake Tribune Readers

The Salt Lake Tribune published this morning in its online edition an article about Peter and Mary Danzig, the LDS couple harassed out of the church because of Peter's letter to the editor supporting BYU Professor Jeff Nielsen's opinion piece criticizing the LDS church's political stance on gay marriage. I blogged about this here and here.

The Tribune was kind enough to link here to Equality Time and to the full story written by Peter himself. So, to all Salt Lake Tribune readers, welcome! I hope you enjoy my blog. Feel free to comment.


Update: More on Church Harassment for Free Speech

The other day I posted the astonishing account of the harassment a faithful Mormon couple received at the hands of LDS church leaders in response to a letter to the editor the husband had written to the Salt Lake Tribune.  In that letter, he  expressed his displeasure at the termination of a BYU professor for publishing an opinion piece in support of gay marriage and opposing the LDS church's involvement in efforts to pass federal legislation on the matter.  One commenter here questioned the abbreviated version of the story written by the wife, and originally posted at postmormon.org.  The husband has since posted a more complete account at the postmormon site.  I find the story credible, and post it here so you can form your own opinion.  What follows is the story told in his own words:

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Free Speech? Sure, As Long As You Agree With the Brethren

You may remember that in June 2006, Brigham Young University decided not to renew the teaching contract of Jeff Nielsen, who had been teaching philosophy there.  Nielsen was apparently let go in retaliation for an opinion piece he had published in the Salt Lake Tribune in which he expressed his opposition to statements made by some church leaders on a political matter--a ballot initiative in California concerning marriage.  I blogged about it at the time, as did John Dehlin at Mormon Stories.  At the time, some faithful members of the church argued that it was a non-story--after all, Nielsen apparently suffered no ecclesiastical discipline for expressing his opinion; he simply lost his job at a private university where he lacked tenure.  (See comments to the blog post at Mormon Stories for examples of these arguments). 

But now there comes news of additional fallout from the Nielsen opinion piece.  It appears that an ordinary member (indeed, a temple-recommend-holding member of the Orchestra at Temple Square)  wrote a letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune expressing displeasure at the way Nielsen was treated.  For daring to speak his mind in public on a political matter in which he disagreed with the Brethren, this faithful man was basically harassed by church leadership right out of the church.  The jaw-dropping story from the wife of the man who wrote the letter (originally posted at Post-Mormon.org and used with permission here) after the jump:

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