It started on Thursday April 28th, when the U.S. Olympic Committee named Peter Vidmar, a two-time Olympic gold medalist gymnast, as one of two chef de missions (chiefs of mission) to act as liaisons during the Olympics and Paralympics in London in 2012. His job would have been to represent the U.S. delegations if issues arise between the USOC and the London Organizing Committee, the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and other Olympic entities. On the surface, it looked like a good call; upon appointment, Vidmar said "I'll give my very best efforts to ensure that every athlete selected to represent the U.S. in London has the experience that they've prepared for...For many of these athletes, this could be their first and only Olympic Games, and each deserves to have their best experience."
However, it turns out that Vidmar had actively supported California Proposition 8, which defined marriage as only between one man and one woman, and which passed in 2008. He even donated $2,000 to the campaign. The LDS Church encouraged its members to work for Prop 8's passage. And openly gay figure skater Johnny Weir jumped all over it, condemning the choice of Vidmar and saying that he wouldn’t want to be represented by someone who is anti-gay marriage. In response, Vidmar explained that his views on gay marriage would not influence how he treats any gay Olympian, saying “I fully respect the rights of everyone to have the relationships they want to have...I respect the rights of all our athletes, regardless of their race, their religion or their sexual orientation. I will cheer and do all I can, passionately, for every athlete on the U.S. Olympic team.”
Even though the U.S. Olympic Committee was unaware of Vidmar's position before it named him chief of mission, they stood behind him, saying “Peter is a tireless advocate for sport in this country and someone who has inspired many with his successes in the world of sport. That is why we chose him as our chef for the London Games. We respect Peter’s right to religious freedom, and we understand and respect he fact that many Americans do not share his views.”
Yet despite Vidmar's reassurances that he would treat every team member fairly and despite the Olympic Committee's continuing support, the gay rights lobby continued to attack Vidmar, to include Box Turtle Bulletin and Just Out. This shows that the gay rights lobby, which is by no means representative of the views of all gays, will not settle for mere tolerance; they demand affirmation and celebration of homosexuality. As a result, on May 6th, Vidmar threw in the towel and resigned from the position. Vidmar explained:
"I have dedicated my life to the Olympic movement and the ideals of excellence, friendship and respect. I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction from the amazing things that are happening in the Olympic movement in the United States. I simply cannot have my presence become a detriment to the U.S. Olympic family. I hope that by stepping aside, the athletes and their stories will rightly take center stage."
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun expressed respect for Vidmar's decision and indicated they will find a replacement. Another unofficial LDS blog discussing this story is Times And Seasons, where Kent Larsen asks if this is persecution or freedom. Larsen wrote "What disappoints me about the activists in this case is that this mixes two unrelated things: Vidmar’s personal beliefs, public as he made them in the campaign, and his ability to perform the duties of chef de mission. Perhaps I don’t understand the position very well, but I have a hard time understanding how the beliefs could adversely affect the position". But in the end, he doesn't characterize it as persecution. Mormon Chronicles also weighs in, documenting reaction from other Olympic figures.
I will take a different tack. While the gay rights activists who chose to interject politics into the Olympics are contemptible, I can't let Peter Vidmar off the hook. Despite enjoying the continued support of the Olympic Committee, Vidmar chose to throw in the towel and resign. Resigning out of political correctness merely empowers those who use pressure tactics; it further enshrines political correctness. When the Prophet Joseph Smith came under attack for his beliefs, did he resign as President of the LDS Church? Absolutely not, although unlike Vidmar, Joseph Smith faced tarring and feathering, false imprisonment, and ultimately assassination.
Peter Vidmar would have done well to follow the example of Joseph Smith.