Saturday, February 07, 2015

Sexual politics in Utah just got real

In the Feb 06 2015 Salt Lake Tribune, Paul Mero submits a remarkable article correlating with the recent Church news conference.  It stands out in honesty and candor like few other related comments I have seen.  I have copied the entirety here because I think it merits serious reflection.  I think the Salt Lake Tribune does not seek to promote or provide balanced discussion in the public square, and is not a worthwhile venue to publish such an article.
In light of the local euphoria over the recent statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding religious freedom and nondiscrimination, fully anticipating this euphoria to be temporary once the reality of what was actually said starts to sink in, I was reminded of the Hans Christian Andersen classic The Emperor's New Clothes.

You remember the story. Con men convince an arrogant and narcissistic king that they can make him a suit of clothes so special, so enlightened, that no mere common person would be able to see the suit. Of course, the king's sycophants weren't about to admit that they too were unable to see the clothing for fear of being marginalized as "hopelessly stupid." Once on public display, it took the innocence of a small child to reveal the obvious — the king "isn't wearing anything at all."
In its collective wisdom and painful honesty, the LDS Church, like the observant child in the classic story, just lifted all pretense from the serious debate over religious freedom and nondiscrimination. They said, for all intents and purposes, the emperor has no clothes. Sexual politics in Utah just got real.

With characteristic humility the LDS Church spokesmen told the truth: Resolving inherent legal conflicts between religious freedom and nondiscrimination will be very difficult. And I would add probably impossible to the liking of all opinions.
The legal conflict between religious freedom and nondiscrimination is inherent because those who cherish religious freedom view it much differently than those who cherish nondiscrimination and vice versa. Seasoned gay advocates know what I mean, as do seasoned defenders of religious freedom. Even as the LDS Church spokesmen uttered their words, seasoned observers knew that, far from drawing closer connections between the two issues, the divide had just grown wider.

The good news for sincere seekers of sound public policy is that the LDS Church's statements create an environment of honest dialogue. There is no more room for gay activists to imply LDS Church support for "activist sinners" (as opposed to repentant sinners) where none really exists. Nor is there room for social conservatives, like me, to imply that sexual politics can be simply ignored any longer.

The truth, now facing the Utah Legislature, is that nondiscrimination is forever linked with religious freedom in Utah. The delusion of Sens. Steve Urquhart and Jim Dabakis, that nondiscrimination is an absolute and independent civil right, has been laid to rest now by the LDS Church. More precisely, nondiscrimination is forever tied to the huge exception of individual conscience. In other words, there is no true religious freedom unless it applies equally to both religious institutions and their adherents.

Another delusion was settled, at least for the time being, by the statements of the LDS Church. Sexual politics is not viewed in the same pantheon of rights such as historic civil rights about race or sex. Despite sincere outreach to people with same-sex attraction issues, the LDS Church and most of Utah view homosexuality in terms of behavior. Race and sex (maleness and femaleness) are viewed as innate. For better or worse, homosexuality is largely viewed as something people do, not as something people are. This is precisely why the LDS Church cannot doctrinally satisfy gay activists who yearn to have their sexual relationships viewed as "worthy." And this is precisely why gay activists no doubt cringed when Elder Dallin H. Oaks punctuated during the Trib Talk interview that lifelong "chastity is not unique" to the human experience. His conclusion is unacceptable to gay activists — go ahead and "be gay" just don't engage in sexual relations outside of legal marriage defined as between a man and woman.

I appreciate this candor. It's refreshing even if it might make a prudent nondiscrimination bill more difficult to craft. Only one nondiscrimination bill with a clear provision for individual conscience can satisfy the constraints just imposed in principle by the LDS Church. Perhaps clever legislative attorneys can accomplish what LDS Church leaders, in the wisdom of Solomon, won't even attempt to address in the law. Good luck to all.

Paul Mero lives in Sandy, Utah, and can be reached at

I am uncertain about why Mr. Mero chose to publish this article in the Salt Lake Tribune.  It will certainly not be well received, or ever be thoughfully considered in that venue.  In fact it probably serves only to provoke more angry and threatening responses from the gentle readers of that journal.

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