How the Mormons Punked the Press

01/28/2015 03:51 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during a news conference at the Conference
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during a news conference at the Conference Center, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Mormon church leaders are making a national appeal for a "balanced approach" in the clash between gay rights and religious freedom. The church is promising to support some housing and job protections for gays and lesbians in exchange for legal protections for believers who object to the behavior of others. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Mormon church punked the national press yesterday by calling a press conference purportedly about their support of some basic rights for LGBTQ people. The press conference was, in fact, mostly about defending Mormons' right to discriminate.

Major news organizations led with headlines claiming the Mormon church had come out in favor of LGBTQ rights.

The New York Times: "Mormon Leaders Call for Measures Protecting Gay Rights."

ABC: "Mormon Leaders Call for Measures Protecting Gay Rights.

CNN: "Mormon church backs LGBT rights -- with one condition."

But if you go to the Mormon church's own website, what you'll find is a news release titled "Mormon Leaders Call for Laws That Protect Religious Freedom." The Mormon church's latest maneuver is not about gay rights. It is primarily about giving believers the right to discriminate.

The new Mormon position is like that candy with a razor blade inside that your mom warned you about on Halloween. While calling for LGBTQ people to be protected from those who hate them for non-religious reasons (and who are those people, anyway?), they have hidden their real agenda, which is to legalize such discrimination by anyone who claims their prejudice is backed by faith.

Today's press conference took place in a twilight zone where parents are in danger of being jailed for teaching their kids about Jesus, and where believers can't "share their views openly in the public square." Oh, please. Show me the Mormons who have been jailed for sharing their views. There are none. And if you can point to one instance of the government preventing good Mormons from practicing their religion in their homes, we'll eat our hat. 

One of three speakers at the press conference was Dallin Oaks. He has long been the Mormon church's lead antagonist of gay people. A few years ago Mr. Oaks was asked what a parent should say to their own gay child if he asked, "Can I bring my partner to our home to visit?" Mr. Oaks said, "I can imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, 'Yes, come, but don't expect to stay overnight. Don't expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don't expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your 'partnership.'" It is galling that the LDS church would use him as a mediator with the LGBTQ community.

The key moment in Mr. Oaks' speech comes when he claims, "Churches should stand on at least as strong a footing as any other entity when they enter the public sphere to participate in public policy debates." At least as strong? Why does Mr. Oaks think that religions should enjoy more influence than other entities? He wants special privileges and special rights for churches and for religious people. The painful irony? He is demanding something gay people have long been accused of seeking: special rights. The LGBTQ movement only demands equal rights. We want to be treated fairly. It is the religious people in this country who demand special treatment, who receive special treatment, and it is profoundly inappropriate.

If these Mormon leaders were true disciples of Jesus, they would hold a press conference tomorrow and complain about the Pharisees in their ranks. They would apologize for the hatred and intolerance that their church has shown gay people for decades. They would apologize in tears, remembering all the LGBTQ Mormons who have taken their lives because of the bigotry their church fostered. And they would unconditionally endorse legislation that protects gay people from discrimination, especially from religious people. 

Don't believe for one second that the LDS church this morning showed compassion or humanity. They're just trying to codify their right to discriminate against LGBTQ people.