An advertisement that characterizes
grassroots demonstrations against the passage of Proposition 8 as mob
“intimidation” has been labeled “untruthful” by gay activists
The full-page ad appearing in Friday's
New York Times was sponsored by The Becket Fund for Religious
Liberty, a nonprofit group dedicated to “protecting the free
expression of all religious traditions”.
“[W]e're united in this: The violence
and intimidation being directed against the LDS or 'Mormon' church,
and other religious organizations – and even against individual
believers – simply because they supported Proposition 8 is an
outrage that must stop,” the ad reads.
The advertisement calls the
demonstrations against Proposition 8 – the California
constitutional amendment approved by a slim majority on Nov. 4 that
restricts marriage to heterosexual partners – as “mobs, seeking
not to persuade but to intimidate.”
It calls for an end to anti-religious
propaganda: “It has no place in civilized society.”
And vows to work against demonstrators
by “exposing and publicly shaming anyone who resorts to the
rhetoric of anti-religious bigotry – against any faith, on any side
of any cause, for any reason.”
Passage of Proposition 8 sparked a
wildfire of protest the day after Election Day. California's gay
marriage ban was the 30th to pass muster with voters, but
it was the first to yank back the right of gays and lesbians to
marry. Gays had been marrying at a rapid rate since the California
Supreme Court overturned a 2000 voter-approved gay marriage ban in
Anger over the notion that it is fair
or democratic to revoke rights granted by the constitution and upheld
by the California Supreme Court had been percolating on the Internet
since it was announced that the measure would be on the Nov. ballot.
And as gay groups traced Mormon giving, which nearly single-handedly
bankrolled the anti-gay campaign, on websites such as
californiansagainsthate.com, the Mormon church increasingly became a
lightning rod for that resentment.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's
largest gay and lesbian rights organization, responded by calling the
ad “untruthful” and an effort by the Mormon church to mislead
people into believing it was being victimized.
Clergy members belonging to HRC's
Religion Council voiced similar concerns.
“Several signatories to the ad are
generals in the culture wars,” said Rev. Susan Russell of All
Saints Church (Episcopal) in Pasadena, California. “They lied
about gay people in the campaign, and now they are lying again when
they say we are in favor of mob intimidation and violence. ... Many
of the leaders cited in this ad preach hate against lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender people, then look the other way when LGBT
[lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people are the victims of
hate crimes. This ad is an act of individual and corporate
Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre of Iliff
School of Theology in Denver called the ad a “shameful act.” “I
am always struck that those in power, those who manipulate the truth
to maintain oppressive structures, present themselves to the public
as the ones being persecuted. Make no mistake, the Becket Fund for
Religious Liberty is a powerful organization with an agenda of
imposing a narrow religious view upon the rest of America. As we
Hispanics say, 'que vergüenza'
(what a shameful act).”
Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) expressed gratitude for the ad.
“This was a thoughtful and generous
gesture at a time when the right of free expression of people of
faith has come under attack,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a statement.
A let up in demonstrations against the
gay marriage ban seems unlikely. At least not until the California
Supreme Court weighs in on a challenge to the validity of the
amendment, which won't happen until at least March.
A Saturday protest march in San Diego
organized by labor union Unite Here drew attention to two large and
early donors to the anti-gay initiative: Doug Manchester, owner of
the Manchester Hyatt hotel, and Terry Caster, owner of A-1 Self
Storage, who together donated nearly $425,000 to ban gay marriage in
California (Caster's family contributions included).
“To protest the enormous financial
involvement of a religious body in stripping equal rights from
California LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people,
their families, and their children is in no way anti-religious
bigotry; it is instead, like the example of Jesus in the temple, an
attempt to speak the truth to those rooted in power and wealth whose
actions serve to deprive other human beings of the equal respect and
dignity all of God's children deserve,” said Rev. Mary A. Tolbert
of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the Pacific School of