Tuesday a church elder representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as Mormons, announced a new policy, even a new attitude towards the LGBT Community. Praise and criticism immediately followed from other religious organizations.
The announcement that the church’s policy will now respect the beliefs, behavior, and values of those who have different views, without renouncing its own.
Surprising? Probably, but it shouldn’t be. Any religious organization which claims that its beliefs are based on the teachings of Jesus Christ must agree with the Mormon Church. If your priest, minister, or pastor does not believe that Christ would practice tolerance, respect, and the choice not to judge others, he or she has never read the Bible.
The church has not stipulated exactly how they will find common ground between gay rights and religious freedom, and it has not altered its doctrine that God designates marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
This may not appear to be a major change. Looking more closely, this announcement could affect political action in several states.
In the west Utah, Idaho, Arizona and Nevada are heavily influenced by the Mormon Church. How these four states vote on social issues will likely be influenced by the church’s decision. In Utah, a state whose government is controlled by the church, elation was the dominant emotion after years of attempts to pass anti-discrimination laws failed.
The church’s efforts to establish middle ground offered its supports for both sides of the gay rights issue. Although it stated its strong stand against discrimination aimed at the LGBT community, it also defended the right for those who oppose gay marriage purely based on religious beliefs to voice their opposition.
The right to marriage is not and should not be based on religious views. If an individual is a devout member of a certain faith, and that faith denounces any union which is not between a man and a woman, that person should follow that doctrine. However, that personal belief is not transmutable to persons who do not belong to that faith. This is a legal and moral issue. In the United States of America, no individual or group of individuals should be singled out for their beliefs or lifestyle. Doing so is discrimination and a denial of equal protection under the law of the land.
Equality Utah, a gay rights organization was excited about the church’s decision they said that ‘today we are seeing the fruits of civility and respect.’ The church was adamant that it will continue to oppose gay marriage.
Major criticism came quickly from both sides; the Southern Baptist Convention and the Human Rights Campaign. A Baptist minister said the statement was described as a good intention, but that they were acting in a naïve manner. It was also called deeply flawed by the HRC, a gay rights advocate. The church’s statement was strongly in favor of religious rights. One case scenario offers the possibility that a deeply religious doctor could refuse treatment to an openly gay man or woman.
Will the change in attitude by the Mormon Church create a huge change in the battle between religious views and gay rights? It will take time. The youth of our nation is moving away from organized religion. As one generation dies off and a newer more forward-thinking group replaces it, attitudes towards social change will be less adamant.
The rights of the LGBT community should not be an issue based on religious views; it is a first amendment issue. If our Constitution is truly meant to include all people, they are a part of all of us.
Different views, beliefs, and lifestyles are demonstrative of what it means to be an American. Basically this new policy by the Mormon Church is an admission that they exist and must be recognized and given the same human rights as any other group.
Commentary by James Turnage