In Wake of Prop 8, Some Call for Taxes on Mormon Church
In the waning days of the campaigns in California over Proposition 8, defenders of marriage equality produced an advertisement that showed the struggle in terms of religion intruding on the realm of civil law by seeking to revoke civil rights.
The ad showed two Mormon missionaries acting as enforcers of religious morality, charging into the home of two married woman, snatching the wedding rings from their fingers, and rummaging through their belongings, finally locating and destroying their marriage license.
"We have rights!" the women protested, to answering laughter and a smug reply of, "Not if we can help it."
As the Mormon youths left the house, they wondered aloud what rights they should go after next.
Though the Mormon church, joined by other right-wing denominations, spoke out against the ad, calling it an example of anti-Christian bigotry, from the viewpoint of some gays and lesbians the outcome of Proposition 8 was not much different than a home invasion by religious conservatives. The anti-gay ballot measure has a huge--how huge and how broad is not yet certain--effect on the private domestic matters of gay and lesbian families. Moreover, putting the right to certain sorts of private relationships to a popular vote in and of itself feels to many gay and lesbian families like a horrific violation.
And the Mormon church and its followers, having reportedly bankrolled the campaign to rescind marriage rights for gay and lesbian families to the extent of having provided four out of five dollars spent on pushing the anti-family constitutional amendment, have come in for sharp criticism... even a petition to yank the church's tax-free status.
In a Nov. 7 Huffington Post article titled Mormons Stole Our Rights, writer Mario Ruiz posited that the Mormon church and its membership were more accountable than other anti-gay religious and conservative groups.
Wrote Ruiz, "Given their history, Mormons know about being targeted for being different. Yet in a full-on offensive, the LDS Church mobilized in favor of California's Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that bans gay marriage."
Added Ruiz, "And now that the initiative has passed, apparently Mormons want to play nice; an LDS Church leader called Wednesday for members to heal rifts caused by the campaign by treating each other with 'civility, with respect and with love.'
"Not. So. Fast."
Ruiz went on to suggest that gay families may boycott Utah as a vacation destination, but then suggested further action, writing, "Yet somehow an economic boycott doesn't feel direct enough; those who team up against gay people must learn that there are consequences."
Announced Ruiz, "That's why we are seeking to strip the Mormon church of its status as a religious organization."
Ruiz's set out his argument, writing, "According to IRS law, 'no organization, including a church, may qualify for IRC section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying).'"
The article included a link to a petition to rescind the Mormon church's tax-exempt status.
The petition outlined a history of marriage equality in California, up to the amendment of the state's constitution via popular vote, noting that, "Nowhere else in either California's constitution or the Federal Constitution are a specific class of rights restricted, to any minority group, for any reason."
The petition's text claims that the Mormon church and its membership, through its support of a campaign against marriage equality, "misled Californians about the effects of the Supreme Court ruling.
"They told us we would lose the right to participate in our children's education. Lies," continued the petition's text.
"They told us the California state public school curriculum would be modified to teach sex education to kindergartners. Lies.
"They told us churches would lose the right to free speech. Lies.
"If this is the way Mormons treat gays and lesbians of California, let us ask:
"How has America treated Mormons?"
The petition outlined a history of the Mormon church: its founding, the persecution of early Mormons, and some of the beliefs that Mormons promulgated that led to the level of persecution they suffered.
"Mormons had alternative views of what family meant, and were excluded and marginalized from the political process. In their arguments against the majority, Mormon Prophet Brigham Young wrote:
"'Marriage is a civil contract. You might as well make a law to say how many children a man shall have, as to make a law to say how many wives he shall have.' (Journal of Discourses, 11:268-9)"
The petition noted, "Much has improved for the Mormon people since then. Today, Mormons have powerful representation in the Senate, and ran a nationally viable candidate for the United States Presidency in 2008.
"The Mormon story is possible because our country is a tolerant and forgiving place. America believes in the rights of its citizens to determine their own fates, and grants rights to individual communities to determine their own norms and values. The Mormon people have been able to flourish because of this country's generous spirit.
"But now, history has reversed, and it is the Mormons who have become the oppressor," the petition's text continued.
The petition then gave a historical account of how the Mormon church co-opted the Boy Scouts of America, "originally a children's club meant to introduce boys and girls to the natural beauty of America.
"Mormons took financial control of the Boy Scouts by donating more than 28% of their global operating budget per year.
"Gays and lesbians are barred from participating in this group not just in Mormon troops, but nationwide, thereby turning our children into a political football."
The petition noted that, "Some Mormons send their own gay teenage children to 'conversion camps,' where these children are forced to endure shock therapy and given psychotropic drugs."
Claimed the petition, "The emotional stress of such experience drives many to contemplate suicide.
"The Mormon Church has yet to repudiate these activities."
Added the petition, "Now the Mormon Church has set its target on gay and lesbian adults of California. They have started by amending our constitution to deny equal protection to gays and lesbians."
The petition noted that the Mormon opposition to civil marriage rights for gay and lesbian families is not universal: "So far, 300 Mormons and 1 Mormon celebrity have stood up against their church to support gay rights.
"We respect the challenge of standing up to a majority, especially when those 301 stand in the face of more than 13.1 [million] Mormons worldwide."
The petition then quoted from the work of concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel, who wrote, "I swore to never be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.
"We must always take sides, Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim, silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
The petition set out a campaign to regain marriage freedoms in California, beginning with a pre-emptive strike against the ability of the Mormon church to unduly interfere in civil rights questions.
"Strip the Mormon church of its status as a religious organization," the petition suggested.
The petition then quoted once again from IRS law: "Section 501(c)(3) describes corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literacy, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in section (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distribution of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."
Another quote followed:
"From IRS Publication 1828 Page 5,
"Substantial Lobbying Activity
"In general, no organization, including a church, may qualify for IRC section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). An IRC section 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status."
The petition acknowledged that as yet it is unclear whether the Mormon church violated these laws, but declared that the spirit of the laws had "absolutely" been broken, citing as evidence a passage from an email purportedly sent by a Mormon "coordinator:"
"...As mentioned in the broadcast, the coalition approached the Church about getting involved. With a mere difference of 400,000 votes, I am certain had the Church not been involved this proposition would not have passed..."
The petition also identified as crucial the changing of existing law so as to "make it illegal for churches to support propositions, which are for all intents and purposes identical to legislation.
"We must clarify our tax law to prohibit this behavior," the petition argued, noting that, "The United Kingdom has taken preliminary steps to strip the church of its tax-exempt status."
The petition summed up its argument, declaring, "Through Prop 8, the Mormon Church has shown its true colors as a political group with specific social ends.
"Political speech is fair and legal here; such speech under the guise of religion is not.
"The playing field must be leveled. Though many religious groups were involved in Prop 8, the Mormon Church made this a far more substantial part of its activities than any other."
Added the petition, "Ultimately all religious groups are subject to the same laws--Catholics, Jews, Muslims, etc. The Mormon church, however, has shown itself to be most egregious in pressing a political agenda while registered as a church. We are starting with the biggest to affect the most change."
Others had already begun a similar push. A Nov. 6 rally to register the Mormon church as a political action committee (PAC) was announced at the site Roseanne World.
The rally was to take place at the location of the Mormon Temple at 10777 Santa Monica Blvd., in Los Angeles.
Read text at the site, "The Mormon church's president sent a letter to all congregants asking them to get involved in the campaign to pass 8."
Added the text, "They also sent canvassers into swing districts.
"They have crossed the line between church and state and it will be the issue of gay marriage which they so fiercely oppose (as they oppose women's rights and the rights of child sex abuse victims with their fake pro-family... legislations) that will reclassify this 'church' as the political action committee that it is, and therefore make it ineligible for tax exempt status!"
The text at the site also claimed that the Roman Catholic church is, in essence, a political action committee due to its level of direct involvement in the political process.