Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Proposed Boycott and Finding Friends in the Darnest Places

Okay this is kinda funny. And I warn you its a little on the edgy side.

Today I got an e-mail from a friend who asked me about the local effects of the proposed boycott of those businesses and individuals who supported Prop 8 in my community. I told him honestly I didn't anticipate to much of a backlash as I'm from a pretty conservative area. He asked me if I had seen the local list. This guy isn't LDS and he's out and all that. I said no, so he sent me a link.

Against my better judgment, I was directed to a classified weblist, you can figure out which one it was, it belongs to Criag. The link was listed under man for man in my area. The post was "Prop 8."

I read the list. It had the names, home addresses and phone numbers as well as businesses owned by my former stake president, various counsilers, lots of friends, people from the neighboring stakes and such. Bishops, regular members and people who I would never have guessed would have contributed. The donations ranged from a couple $5,000 ones to $200. Then I saw it. My best friends mom who is also a pretty good friend of mine was there.

This was a moment I couldn't resist. I quickly called her. She owns a car lot. She had made a contribution, I figured she had as I almost broke my neck helping her hang a big sign on her lot.

The conversation went like this.

"Hay, do you know your name is on a gay men's hook-up site?" There was silence. Then "What???" I started to laugh. A coworker who is also LDS and who was reading the list, also started to laugh. "Yeah, on (this list that belongs to Craig that I won't name) your name and address and phone number is listed under men seeking men.

"What are you talking about?" I told her to check her e-mail. She did and a few seconds later she started to laugh and then she must have clicked out of that post and on to an other and I'm only assuming the next post had a picture, because she suddenly said "YUCK!" and then said she logged off.

Two seconds later she came over to my office. Her lot is across the street and my coworker and I were laughing. "Oh my heck, I can't wait to tell your husband about the sites I find you on," said. She counters with, "Why were you on that site." Then we both started to laugh. "So I'm on the DIShonrable List huh?" she joked. There was a link on the post to a larger list that bore that title with more names.

Then it occurred to both of us. And this would be really, really funny if it wasn't really, really disturbing. "You know this is probably the only time in history that the names, addresses and phone numbers of the stake president and bishop will ever be listed on a gay hook-up site." LOL! Then we laughed some more.

I realize that this is an invasion of privacy, I also understand that its public info that you can get from the Sec of States office. She told me that for a few minutes she was outraged. Then she figured what the heck, she was doing what she felt was right, she was following the Prophets urging and if this is one of the dirty tricks the adversary wants to play so be it. In all reality it's pretty darn funny.

Monday, November 17, 2008

For the Record: The Church and the IRS

The First Amendment guarantees (1) the free exercise religion, and (2) the right of free speech. In its limited political involvement on moral issues, the Church acts within the protection of the First Amendment.

Under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, tax-exempt organizations such at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are allowed to be involved in political issues and maintain their tax exemption as long as (1) their involvement is not a substantial part of their total activities, and (2) they do not participate or intervene in political campaigns on behalf of or in oppositions to any candidate for public office.

The Church clearly meets the requirements for tax-exempt organizations. Its involvement with political issues is rare and does not involve a significant fraction of its total activities and assets when one considers the substantial resources committed by the church to missionary work, temple and meeting house building and maintenance, family history, education, etc. Further, the Church maintains strict neutrality regarding political candidates.

This should lay to rest any assertions that the Church's efforts in support of traditional marriage are in violation of the IRS Tax Code.

Friday, November 14, 2008

First Presidency Urges Respect, Civility in Public Discourse

SALT LAKE CITY - Five months ago, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a letter to members of the Church in California, encouraging them to join the millions of other Californians from many religious denominations, ethnic groups and political persuasions in a broad coalition to defend marriage as it has been defined for millennia.

During the election campaign, both sides of the argument on Proposition 8 had ample opportunities to express their viewpoint. The result was conclusively in favor of traditional marriage. More than 40 states in the United States have now voted to protect traditional marriage, either directly or through their elected representatives.

Today the First Presidency issued this statement about the democratic process:

Since the people of California voted to reaffirm the sanctity of traditional marriage between a man and a woman on November 4, 2008, places of worship have been targeted by opponents of Proposition 8 with demonstrations and, in some cases, vandalism. People of faith have been intimidated for simply exercising their democratic rights. These are not actions that are worthy of the democratic ideals of our nation. The end of a free and fair election should not be the beginning of a hostile response in America.

The Church is keenly aware of the differences of opinion on this difficult and sensitive matter. The reasons for this principled stand in defense of marriage have already been articulated elsewhere. However, some of what we have seen since Californians voted to pass Proposition 8 has been deeply disappointing.

Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues. People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal. Efforts to force citizens out of public discussion should be deplored by people of goodwill everywhere.

We call upon those who have honest disagreements on this issue to urge restraint upon the extreme actions of a few that are further polarizing our communities and urge them to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other.


As all of you know, the protests from the No on 8 side will continue this weekend.

We have been counseled not to hold counter-demonstrations. The other side will be looking for confrontations and if they get them, guess how the attending media will spin villains and victims?

Stay away from the demonstrations and let the police handle things. Especially encourage our most passionate supporters to stay at home. The more the other side demonstrates, the more their temper tantrums help us.

Let's not do anything that detracts from their visual stupidity.

Keep things in perspective: We can paint over graffiti on our buildings and we can plant new flowers on our temple grounds, but it's more difficult to repair a reputation that has been tarnished because some member loses his temper.

Be patient and kind. Turn the other cheek. This too shall pass.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mormons and Prop 8: The facts

Mormons make up less than 2 percent of the population of California. There are approximately 800,000 LDS out of a total population of approximately 34 million. Mormon voters were less than 5% of the yes vote. If one estimates that 250,000 LDS are registered voters (the rest being children), then LDS voters made up 4.6 percent of the Yes vote and 2.4 percent of the total Proposition 8 vote.

The No on 8 campaign raised more money than the Yes on 8 campaign. Unofficial estimates put No on 8 at $38 million and Yes on 8 at $32 million, making it the most expensive non-presidential election in the country.

Advertising messages for the Yes on 8 campaign are based on case law and real-life situations. The No on 8 supporters have insisted that the Yes on 8 messaging is based on lies. Every Yes on 8 claim is supported.

African Americans overwhelmingly supported Yes on 8. Exit polls show that 70 percent of Black voters chose Yes on 8. This was interesting because the majority of these voters voted for President-elect Obama. No on 8 supporters had assumed that Obama voters would vote No on 8.

The majority of Latino voters voted Yes on 8. Exit polls show that the majority of Latinos supported Yes on 8 and cited religious beliefs (assumed to be primarily Catholic).

The Yes on 8 coalition was a broad spectrum of religious organizations. Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants, Orthodox Jews, Muslims - all supported Yes on 8. It is estimated that there are 10 million Catholics and 10 million Protestants in California. Mormons were a tiny fraction of the population represented by Yes on 8 coalition members.

Not all Mormons voted in favor of Proposition 8. Our faith accords that each person be allowed to choose for him or her self. Church leaders have asked members to treat other members with "civility, respect and love," despite their differing views.

The Church did not violate the principal of separation of church and state. This principle is derived from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ."

The phrase "separation of church and state," which does not appear in the Constitution itself, is generally traced to an 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson, although it has since been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court in recent years. The LDS Church is under no obligation to refrain from participating in the political process, to the extent permitted by law. U.S. election law is very clear that churches may not endorse candidates, but may support issues. The Church has always been very careful on this matter and occasionally (not often) chooses to support causes that it feels to be of a moral nature.

Supporters of Proposition 8 did exactly what the Constitution provides for all citizens: they exercised their First Amendment rights to speak out on an issue that concerned them, make contributions to a cause that they support, and then vote in the regular electoral process.

This has been done in an open, fair, and civil way. Opponents of 8 have accused supporters of being bigots, liars, and worse.

The fact is, we simply did what Americans do - we spoke up, we campaigned, and we voted.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Protesters, Prop 8 and comments

...I guess you're refusing to apologize for being a bigot. It is hateful and wrong. Mormons should know better, and we will make it painful until they do. I'm planning on protesting a lot. And making t-shirts with the garment symbols on them....

This was left as a comment on my last blog.

Another reader felt that while it's unfair to judge all gay people by the acts of a few stereotypical ones, its okay to judge all Mormons for the acts of one Utah resident who burned a flag of a neighbor who supported Obama. We don't know if that person is LDS. We are assuming this because they are from Utah. And even so apparently this is representative of ALL Mormons. He also goes on to talk about how the church should change its doctrines to make life easier for those who can't follow the commandments. I guess the concept here is if we water down and make the commandments easier then more people will follow them and be happy. Feeling happy is apparently more important then actually being happy. Of course he uses the emotional loaded word suicide which of course makes anyone who comments about this sound heartless.

My statement to the first comment is this. Go right ahead and do it. I don't care. Do you really think its going to further your cause or make Mormons feel sorry for you and change their minds?

At this point both sides have their extremes. The real issue here is that these protests are going to polarize the middle. The people who may feel that "okay its wrong but they have rights" when they begin to feel attacked when they see their sacred symbols attacked or they see their LDS neighbors who they know aren't bigots maligned, they are going to act. They are feeling pushed.

This bothers me personally because it will only lead to further stereotyping on both sides. This will lead to further conflict. And those of us in the middle will end up losing on both ends.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Be Not Ashamed: Some post Prop 8 thoughts

I have stayed silent for a few days now after the election for a number of reasons.

BUT I am now going to speak up for those of us who feel that our active support of Prop 8 equates to hate or intolerance at worst or blindly following the Prophet at best. I haven't really heard of much gloating from members of my ward or stake. Yes they are happy because the did work hard. But I don't think it can even be defined as gloating.

For those of us who feel that the Proclamation to the World is an inspired declaration, for those of us in CA who worked on this, happiness over the passage of Prop 8 feels like we have done what the Prophet has asked to try to stem the things that would bring to pass the things that prophets past and present have warned against. At least for now its a relief.

I do object to those who say that we shouldn't be well pleased with the results. Those who jump to this statement need to remember that participating in this hasn't been easy for any of us. For many of us this victory is representative of countless hours of work involving: knocking on doors, calling people, talking to people, placing signs etc. For those of us who struggle with Same Gender Attraction this was especially hard.

Those of us who struggle understand what our brothers and sisters who may choose not to live according to the gospel plan feel. But I want to make an observation. I am fairly sure that when Nephi and company found out that the city had been conquered and enslaved after they packed up and left, that they didn't gloat about their choice to follow God's "urging" to leave. I'm pretty sure that when Noah and his family brought up the gangplank on the ark amidst the jeering of their friends only to have to listen to them begging and pleading to let them in when the floods started. I'm sure they didn't stand on the deck of the ship saying "I told you so, too bad."

I'm sure they felt bad and they cried because of the choices of their beloved friends and neighbors who choose to use their agency in a way that was in opposition to what they had been urged to do. They loved them and felt bad that their choices had separated them from God. I'm sure they mourned them the same way we mourned the loss of a 1/3 of our brothers and sisters as a result of them following Satan in the war in heaven. But feeling bad about that didn't keep us from going forward with our choice to follow our Heavenly Father.

I'm not going to argue here rather choosing to follow the Prophet's call to action over this issue represented following the Prophet or not. The First Presidency in a letter and two apostles in a broadcast issues a clear call. But that is up to the individual, but what I am saying is that for those of us who did, we have nothing to apologize for. We did what we felt was right and we should never be ashamed of that. That doesn't mean we need to gloat over it. But we can walk away knowing that we did what we set out to do. For those who attended the broadcast as Elder Ballard and Elder Cook stressed we were engaged in the Lord's work. Those were his words, not mine.

When my bishop asked me to serve as our wards Zip Code Coordinator I admit that I had to struggle with it. On one hand it was something I knew I could do. I've had experience organizing past involvement in local, state and national campaigns. I love doing it. I could do this. Then he told me that he understands I struggle and that was the main reason he wanted my help because he felt that I could help with this and have the correct understanding of why we are doing this. I prayed about this and felt that it was the right thing to do.

The first thing I did was order enough copies of "The Lord Loveth His Children" and everyone of my volunteers received one when they came on board. I will say that none of my organizational meetings were homophobic, I will say that at least in none of the priesthood meetings I attended were stupid things said and if they were they were shot down by the majority. This was a fantastic opportunity to teach correct principles. From day one I made sure everyone involved knew what this was about and what it wasn't about.

I have lost friends over this. I've had longtime friends tell me that I was hateful, intolerant, ignorant and homophobic. I've been called sick. I've had people remove me from Myspace and Facebook. I've had friends send me letters and text messages telling me to never talk to them again. Within my own family my little brother is currently not speaking to my dad. I've had my faith, my church and my beliefs challenged. I have several good friends who were so emotionally disturbed by protesters at the Oakland Temple that they came home in tears. Yes, I've had my yard signs stolen, and my car keyed over my bumper sticker. Ironicly these are all the actions of so called tolerant people. As I write this I am watching a broadcast on the news about riots in front of the LA Temple and plans for a similar protest on Temple Square.

Yes we need to be more loving and more understanding. But we don't have to be ashamed of it. We don't have to apologize for what we believe in order to make those who choose to sin feel more loved or accepted. We don't have to accept the sin in order to love the sinner. I don't have to go to gay clubs to show my gay friends that I accept them as people. I don't have to attend gay pride parades to demonstrate that I accept their choices. I don't have to have an online presence on or connextions to show that while I don't choose to engage in the lifestyle, I am okay with those who do. I don't have to surround myself with immorality in order to prove that I'm tolerant.

Standing for something means taking a stand and this sometimes means having to walk away from things that would influence me to make bad choices. Being tolerant never means having to put myself in spiritually hazardous situations.

I refuse to apologize for standing up for what I think is right. I refuse to apologize for making the difficult choice to follow the Prophet. I refuse to apologize for my faith and my beliefs. I am not ashamed nor do I feel that I need to hide it. If 5,000 people can rally and riot in front of the LA Temple, climb all over the walls, engage in inappropriate and publicly sexual behavior in order to "punish" by shocking Mormons on their own terf. Perhaps those who are good friends with these people should tell them that they need to also question their actions.

Tolerance goes two ways. I can accept if my friends feel a need to live their lives in a way that goes against what I believe. BUT I also expect them to accept my beliefs and accept my opinions as well. Real tolerance goes both ways. I think thats a concept that has been forgotten in this whole deal.

I want to leave a few thoughts here.

* This evening I saw a news broadcast that put all the blame on the passage of this on the shoulders of the Mormon Church. One guy is urged all gay people to not stay at Marriot Hotels. Another was saying how they need to do everything they can to discredit Mitt Romney so as to cripple his chances to run for president. One guy was saying that they should get the list of names off the mormonsforprop8 site and blacklist businesses and shame them out of their elected offices and whatnot. Apparently the 2.5 percent of the Mormon Church population about 750,000 are the ones to blame here. To be honest I only wish for our missionary efforts we were this influential.

* Remember that while we worked on a broad based, grass roots organization, many of those who worked along side us have no use for Mormons in general. We are still a cult. We had a huge bus rally in my area that was planned at the Baptist Church. At first the Church wasn't even contacted to participated. We seemed to have been viewed as a necessary evil in the end when we received an invite. Oddly about 75 percent of the large crowd of 700 people were LDS.

* With the election of Obama, this nations seems to have thrown out the conservative view point. Other races indicate that the influence of the Religious Right is decreasing. Yet Prop 8 in CA, Prop 207 in AZ, Measure 2 in FL and a similar measure in AR all passed. For the record 7 in 10 black males voted for Prop 8 in CA. This is something to think about.

* There was a lot of attacks on the church for using so called scare tactics and half truths. A lot of which translated into "I don't like the facts presented and refuse to accept them." But at the eleventh hour a commercial depicting two Mormon Elders invading a home was aired and the same people who cried foul about the Yes on 8's tactics are now seeing justifications for this new ad. Either that or they claimed that it wasn't really part of what the mainstream No on 8 crowd agreed on.

* One final observation. Did anyone notice just how not gay or at least non-sterotypical the lesbian couple looked in that ad. To be honest the two Mormon Elders appeared more gay looking then the couple. This brings up a point. In any of the ads for No on 8 how much homosexuality was depicted? None. It was all about civil rights and texts and attacks on the facts used by the Yes on 8 side. The clear and simple fact was that the No on 8 people knew that to publicly own their cause would present an image problem. They knew that pictures same gender affection by in large makes people uncomfortable. While most people want to think of themselves as tolerant, they also don't want to see things that make them feel uncomfortable. Judging by the votes in CA, FL, AR, and AZ this seems to ring true.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Church Responds to Same-Sex

SALT LAKE CITY - Since Proposition 8 was placed on the ballot in June of this year, the citizens of California have considered the arguments for and against same-sex marriage. After extensive debate between those of different persuasions, voters have chosen to amend the California State Constitution to state that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Voters in Arizona and Florida took the same course and amended their constitutions to establish that marriage will continue to be between a man and a woman.

Such an emotionally charged issue concerning the most personal and cherished aspects of life — family, identity, intimacy and equality — stirs fervent and deep feelings.

Most likely, the election results for these constitutional amendments will not mean an end to the debate over same-sex marriage in this country.

We hope that now and in the future all parties involved in this issue will be well informed and act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different position. No one on any side of the question should be vilified, intimidated, harassed or subject to erroneous information.

It is important to understand that this issue for the Church has always been about the sacred and divine institution of marriage — a union between a man and a woman.

Allegations of bigotry or persecution made against the Church were and are simply wrong. The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians. Even more, the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.

Some, however, have mistakenly asserted that churches should not ever be involved in politics when moral issues are involved. In fact, churches and religious organizations are well within their constitutional rights to speak out and be engaged in the many moral and ethical problems facing society. While the Church does not endorse candidates or platforms, it does reserve the right to speak out on important issues.

Before it accepted the invitation to join broad-based coalitions for the amendments, the Church knew that some of its members would choose not to support its position. Voting choices by Latter-day Saints, like all other people, are influenced by their own unique experiences and circumstances. As we move forward from the election, Church members need to be understanding and accepting of each other and work together for a better society.

Even though the democratic process can be demanding and difficult, Latter-day Saints are profoundly grateful for and respect the ideals of a true democracy.

The Church expresses deep appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the many Latter-day Saints and others who supported the coalitions in efforts regarding these amendments.

Monday, November 3, 2008

No on 8 ad shows Mormon Missionaries as home invaders

File this under can they sink any lower?

After months of accusing the Yes on 8 people of using "so called scare tactics" it looks like our tolerant friends have shown their true colors. This ad will appear in CA in the Morning.

It is true that the Church has joined a broad-based coalition in defense of traditional marriage. Church spokesman Scott Trotter said in response to this hateful attack "While we feel this is important to all of society, we have always emphasized that respect be given to those who feel differently on this issue. It is unfortunate that some who oppose this proposition have not given the Church this same courtesy."

I hope that you will join us today and show that we won't stand for this kind of stuff in California. We will send a message that judges can't overturn our votes. Please Vote YES on Prop 8.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Thurston Paper: Mischaracterized in 'No on 8' Press Release

LDS Lawyer's Commentary Mischaracterized in 'No on 8' Press Release

ORANGE COUNTY- A press release dated October 19 from a public relations firm representing 'No on 8' is inaccurate and misleading," says Morris A. Thurston, an LDS lawyer who was erroneously cited as having "debunked" new California Prop 8 ads.

More than a month ago, Thurston wrote a commentary on a document titled "Six Consequences ... if Prop 8 Fails." That document, unsigned and anonymous, had not been approved by the LDS Church, although it was being circulated by some local church members. "It contained certain misstatements about the consequences of Prop 8's failure," Thurston said, "so I wrote my commentary to correct these errors. To the best of my knowledge, the church has since discouraged its members from using anonymous documents such as this. It has never been posted on the official LDS Church website."

"The 'No on 8' press release is inaccurate in a number of respects," said Thurston.

"First, the release implies that I have 'debunked' a new television ad recently released by the Prop 8 campaign and that my commentary 'clearly states the Prop. 8 ads are based entirely on claims that are not true.' This is incorrect. I have never contended that all claims in television ads released by Prop 8 supporters are untrue or misleading and I have not seen the new ad.

"Second, the release says that I have 'confirmed that Prop 8 has nothing to do with education.' This is also untrue. My commentary merely stated what the Los Angeles Times confirmed in its editorial published today -- that Prop 8 will not require teachers to promote gay marriage or to make any value judgment regarding the morality of same-sex marriage compared to traditional marriage.

"Third, the release links my commentary to a claim that 'the Mormon Church has asked its members to fund a campaign based on these lies.' I have never contended that the LDS Church or its leaders have lied in this campaign. In fact, I took pains to point out that the church had not authored or approved the 'Six Consequences' document that my commentary discussed.

"Finally, the release refers to me as a 'professor at BYU Law School.' I am not a full professor, as the release implies, but an 'adjunct' (or part-time) professor. An early draft of my commentary listed my adjunct professorship among my qualifications, but I subsequently removed that reference from the authorized version of the commentary. The 'No on 8' campaign has posted an unauthorized early draft. I want to emphasize that I removed the reference to my BYU Law School affiliation on my own volition and that I have not been asked by the LDS Church or the Law School to do so. I removed it because I considered it irrelevant. What I teach at BYU Law School has nothing to do with equal rights, religious freedom or California education law. In writing my commentary I was doing so as a lawyer who has spent considerable time researching the issues, not as a law professor.

"The primary reason I wrote my commentary was to help keep the campaign honest. I am an active member of the LDS Church and a strong supporter of equal rights for gays and lesbians. It is regrettable that the 'No on 8' campaign has issued a release that mischaracterizes my commentary and my views. I assume that the mistakes were inadvertent and that steps will promptly be taken to remove the website posting."
SOURCE Morris A. Thurston

Stoning Mormons for standing up for their values

Large crowds of Anti-Prop 8 demonstrators have been protesting outside of The Oakland CA Temple and other CA temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the past few weeks.

Stoning Mormons for standing up for their values by funding Prop. 8
Dennis Wyatt
Managing Editor
Mantica Bulletin

The scariest thing about Proposition 8 isn't what passage or failure to pass the measure will do. It is the unrelenting attack on Mormons for having the courage to not just espouse their beliefs and values but to put their money where their principles are.

Mormons - unlike Catholics and others who are contributing to the campaign to pass Proposition 8 on Tuesday's California ballot - are getting the Full Monty.

One such effort is the web site ran by those opposing Proposition 8 who are against the concept of marriage being strictly between a man and a woman. The site lists the name and hometown of every Mormon who has contributed to the Yes on 8 campaign.

The site is used by the Daily Kos - it definitely isn't a conservative blog - as part of a campaign to look into the personal lives of those Mormons backing the measure. It has led to incidents such in San Jose where the Sundstrom family that exercised their right to donate to the campaign had two women parked in front of their home in a SUV that had "bigots live here" painted on the windshield.

In the early going, those adamantly opposed to Proposition 8 attacked all religious groups that had contributed money including the Catholic Church. But as the election draws closer, they are showing their true bias and denouncing only Mormons.

Anti-Prop. 8 groups have taken to calling for the denouncing of the church for supporting a measure that basically reflects their values. Gee, is anyone denouncing the opponents of Prop. 8 who fund that campaign for their actions reflecting their values?

There have been efforts afoot to have the IRS delve into the church's tax status.

The Mormons haven't crossed the line. Even so, separation of church and state in the context of this nation's founding wasn't to prevent churches from being active in politics but to keep the state from creating a church such as Henry VIII did when he created the Church of England because the Pope wouldn't change the tenets of the Catholic faith to fit his decrees.

Its not a good idea to have a government in control of secular and spiritual thoughts unless, of course, you loved the old USSR model. The only way those two can work in concert is to suppress the idea of individual freedoms. And when you're doing that, you can't just take away the right of religious freedom to make it work.

Even so, it's a free country. Those who oppose Proposition 8 are free to harass and do what they want as long as they don't cross the line. The goal of their campaign, obviously, is to make people fearful of expressing their views and doing so in the public arena that counts - elections.

Lecturing the Mormon Church, though, about the importance of the separation of church and state is like lecturing Jews about the dangers of totalitarian regimes.

The Mormons are historically the most persecuted religion in the United States.

What brought down the wrath of Congress to pass a law going after the Mormons? Yes, polygamy was part of it but when push came to shove it was the entire faith that irked the powers that be.

The Mormons had been chased from New York and Illinois.

The church's Relief Society - long before it was the fashion -campaigned for women's rights. In 1870, Utah became the first state to give women the right to vote. The Mormon faith blossomed with one important caveat - not all Mormons by far were polygamists.

Congress in 1882 passed the Edmunds Act to outlaw cohabitation with more than one woman. President Arthur sent federal agents to Utah. In clear violation of the U.S. constitutional law forbidding de facto laws, all Mormons who practiced polygamy were disenfranchised, stripped of the right to vote and many jailed. Idaho in 1885 put in effect a loyalty oath requiring all residents to swear they opposed polygamy or any organization that taught it in order to vote to effectively disenfranchise all Mormons even if they didn't practice polygamy.

Congress in 1887 passed the Edmunds-Tucker Act to break up the Mormon Church and seize all of its property. It required loyalty oaths from local officials, which kept even Mormons not practicing polygamy from holding office, and gave the government the say in what textbooks could be allowed in classrooms.

Many thousands of Mormons were imprisoned.

Congress sent the U.S. Army to attack the Mormons. Why? Because 140 non-Mormon settlers - many who had abused local Indians - were massacred by the Indians at Mountain Meadows. Newspapers urged the government to invade Utah on the false assumption the Mormons were behind the attack.

Yes, the Mormon Church excommunicates gays.

Mormons in the 19th century - and by many today - aren't cut slack for their faith and are painted with a wide brush. The church has never advocated the stoning of gays. And under Proposition 8, they are expressing their belief marriage is between a man and a woman. It is the church's right as to the status of the openly gay in their own church. It's call free association. It's called freedom of religion

Branding Mormons for the practice of polygamy that was abandoned over a hundred years ago by all but a handful of fringe former church members who believe they're the true Mormons makes them an easy target in the mind of some.

It is no different, however, than those who bash gays on old premises and prejudices.

Unless the highest court in this land or Congress itself makes it clear that it isn't the case, the issue of defining a marriage is a right reserved to the states.

Bashing the Mormons for doing what is clearly legal within the framework of the laws of this land - campaigning to protect a marriage as they define it - is just plain wrong.