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.
I find myself each year on this date suffering a latent anxiety. Seeing the date on the calendar evokes a visceral response that I try, for the most part unsuccessfully, to suppress. I wake up wondering if this morning will be like that morning, and I shudder. I am forced to think about things I don't like to think about. But more on that another day. For today, I will just post this video that will help us all remember that day we'd rather like to forget.
This article in today's Deseret News is just the latest to discuss the subject of how Mitt Romney's Mormonism is a recurring theme in his quest for the Presidency. This morning I was watching the local Fox News affiliate and they had Chris Wallace on talking about the number of questions Romney received about his personal religious views in a recent debate. And a video clip of Romney debating with a conservative radio talk-show host in Iowa has been one of the more popular clips of the week on YouTube. The question people are asking is this: to what extent is Romney's Mormon faith fair game?