An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘politics and religion’

Exploiting Religious Conservatives

The PBS program, Religion and Newsweekly has an interesting segment on judicial decisions this week. An organization called The Family Leader founded and headed by Bob Vanden Plaats, a political activist who has run (and lost) for several offices in his home state of Iowa. Plaats’ organization succeeded in getting three members of the Iowa State  Supreme Court defeated in the 2010 election. The 9-member court ruled unanimously in 2009 that Iowa’s law banning same-sex marriage violated the state constitution.

The Family Leader and other groups targeting judges nationwide are attacking judges ruling on gay marriage and other social issues. The results, according to the non-partisan Center for American Progress, are that between 2000 and 2010, judges who received the most campaign funding from such groups ruled in favor of big business 71% of the time.

I may be a cynic, but it looks to me like corporate interests are using gay marriage (as they have abortion) to exploit socially conservative religious groups in order to get their own people in office. And that raises a question: What is their about religious conservatives which allows them to be exploited so easily? Does unquestioning obedience to church leaders play a part?

Mormon Values and Politics

Mormons who are convinced the Republican party has values that mirror those of their Church, should take a look at this analysis  of official Church statements on the issues of: The ideal society, giving to the poor, abortion, marriage, immigration, and freedom of religion.

Of course, legitimate differences of opinion exist within the Church on how to interpret scriptures and the statements of leaders. Certainly, each member has a right and responsibility to make his own decisions on these issues.

Too often, however, Mormons automatically assume the Republican Party reflects Church values on every issue. For example, I’ve met many Mormons who believe the Republican Party stance on abortion is identical to that of the Church.       Not true. The current Republican Platform does not permit abortions to protect the life and health of the mother, for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or for a severely impaired fetus that will likely not survive birth. These are all exceptions the LDS Church considers valid.

A person who wants her vote to reflect her religious values should do the research and be aware of what her church teaches and how well candidates’ rhetoric matches those teachings.

Politics and Religion

A beneficent God would have thrown an Iron Curtain or at least a bamboo screen between church and state in America this week. I knew where the week was headed on Tuesday morning when George glanced at the SL Trib headlines and yelled, “Harry Reid’s going to be excommunicated!” George relishes drama. But Reid’s statement (in a private meeting) that the resources of the Church “could have been put to better use,” does raise eyebrows about a Church that has not known what to make of Reid, the highest ranking Mormon ever in US government,  even before he criticized the Prop 8 involvement.

Had Reid been a Republican, he would have replaced the Osmonds as the preferred LDS celebrity success story the moment he became Senate Majority Leader. Mormons have never been shy about recognizing achievements of fellow Saints. Ezra Taft Benson and Esther Peterson, who served in Eisenhower’s Cabinet 50 years ago, are still used as symbols of Mormon success in public office. Stewart Udall who served in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations merits no mention. Besides being a liberal Democrat, Udall was a Jack Mormon.

But Reid is a devout Mormon, a convert. He arranged for last summer’s meeting  of Pres. Monson and Dallin Oaks with President Obama— an important PR photo op for the Church. A Virginia source tells me he arranged for LDS missionaries to serve as waiters at a dinner meeting of UN delegates from around the world. He publicly identified the missionaries as representatives of his church and urged UN delegates to allow them to work in their countries. Reid even dresses in the undertaker-conservative suits and talks in the slow measured cadence of a General Authority. The reticence of Church leaders and rank and file Mormons to claim Reid as their own smacks of politics.  

Reid’s gentle criticism of the Church involvement in Prop 8 will not affect his standing in a Mormon community which quietly hopes he will go away. And while Oaks’ recent BYU-Idaho address was likely not specifically aimed at Reid, the apostle’s over-the-top analogy likening backlash against Church involvement in Prop 8 to persecution of African-Americans during the Civil Rights struggle kept the religious/political pot boiling. Current Church leaders need a gentle reminder, the kind which Pres. Hinckley mastered, to put Prop 8 behind us and move forward on less divisive issues. As the old saying goes, “Mixing religion and politics is like mixing ice cream and manure. It doesn’t hurt the manure, but it sure makes a mess of the ice cream.”

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