Harry Truman famously said, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."
President-Prophet Thomas Monson, the leader of the Mormon Church, clearly does not read history. If he did, he'd know that he and his apostles could not stand behind the stone walls and parapets of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, shoveling cash and lies into California without consequences. The Mormon Church's members have contributed some $22 million into Prop 8, a vicious campaign here in California seeking to strip fundamental marriage rights from same-sex couples, making them permanent second-class citizens.
President-Prophet Monson seems to like "separate but equal," but seems a little touchy when he is called on leading such a campaign. Over the last two weeks, the Courage Campaign Issues Committee has tried to get President-Prophet Monson to stop breaking the Ten Commandments (in this case, number nine, "thou shall not bear false witness") and blackmail. As I wrote last week, the Church has been party to both in countenancing television ads that lie and in allowing a leading Mormon to write letters attempting to blackmail donors to the "No on 8" Campaign.
Joined by Rev. Eric Lee, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of California and backed by 17,000 signers, we tried to deliver a letter to the President-Prophet last week via one of his temples here in Los Angeles asking him to denounce these tactics. We were denied. So we then worked with friends in Salt Lake City -- former Mormons who were kicked out of President-Prophet Monson's Church for being gay -- to deliver the letter to the Mormon Church's Utah headquarters. As the local NBC affiliate, among others, reported, the letter was received.
In the meantime, Dante and David Atkins, brothers and netroots activists, created an ad that shows the effect the Mormon Church seeks to have on people's lives in California which the Courage Campaign Issues Committee is running on CNN and MSNBC in select markets of California on Election Day. You can watch the ad here:
On Daily Kos yesterday, Dante Atkins also provided a smoking gun memo showing that the Mormon Church has planned for more than a decade to hide behind others in its attempt to suppress civil rights.
Finally, after months of hiding, the Church issued a statement about our ad.
The Church has joined a broad-based coalition in defense of traditional marriage. 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."
Then, late Monday, the Yes on 8 "coalition" -- which is really a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Mormon Church with token investors from other right wing outposts -- issued a statement decrying the ad as "bigotry and intolerance." Obviously, President-Prophet Monson got upset that his hands got dirty, so he ordered his minions in California to jump out in front and take a bullet for him. They did and quickly.
The Mormon Church and its very junior partners in California owe all of us an apology. They seek to use the constitution to strip fundamental rights -- in this case of same-sex couples to marry -- away from millions of people. They lie in television ads. They blackmail. And then they invoke their religion to say that they are allowed to lie and hurt people, but not if they are caught.
It's simply too much.
When will President -Prophet Monson and his apostles finally stand for love, diversity and grace rather than hatred, exclusivity and self-righteousness? The Mormon Church, above all others in this nation, should understand the dangers of bigotry. My plea for this Election Day is that the Mormon Church will learn from its errors and lead for equality.
Thirty years ago, the Mormon Church at last decided that it was okay for African Americans to join its priesthood. Maybe, as we see real change in Washington, the Church will understand that it's time now to welcome all people into its vision of America and thereby join America as well.