Monday, April 23, 2012

Low-Level LDS Public Affairs Officials Engage In Meeting With Extremist Gay Rights Group Soulforce In Salt Lake City

The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News report that a number of low-level officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met with representatives of an extremist gay rights group, Soulforce, on April 23rd, 2012. Meeting with Soulforce 2012 Equality Ride was LDS legislative lobbyist Bill Evans, public affairs representative John Taylor, former TV reporter Ruth Todd, and LDS attorney Alexander Dushku, who helped write briefs defending the church’s position on California’s Proposition 8.

Soulforce issued four demands to the LDS Church:

-- Repudiate Evergreen International, which continues to use reparative therapy in its treatment of gays (note that the Tribune showed its own pro-gay bias by enclosing "reparative" in quotes). But the real reasons gay rights lobbyists fear reparative therapy is that it might eventually work consistently, and it would cut into their numbers and influence. Gay rights lobbies want to deny gays the freedom to seek reparative therapy should they so desire.
-- Stop funding groups that are fighting civil marriage equality across the country. But the LDS Church is entitled to spend its money however it wishes, and funds for its political activism do not come from tithing.
-- Encourage LDS Business College to correlate its policies on homosexuality with current official LDS teachings. This actually makes some sense.
-- Add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the Church's policies for church employees. According to Jason Conner, co-director of the Equality Ride and director of programs for Soulforce, this proposal received considerable attention during the meeting. I really don't consider this any of Soulforce's business, since the LDS Church is a private employer.

At least three of these demands are absolutely unacceptable as far as I'm concerned. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a private organization that is free to prescribe and practice the dictates of its own conscience. Why any LDS officials wasted time dealing with Soulforce is incomprehensible. At least no General Authorities got involved.

After the meeting, Jason Conner said, "We are disappointed that leaders of the church didn't sit at the table with us, but the people we met with were great. They listened to our concerns. We talked about some very important things."

Soulforce describes itself as being committed to freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people from religious and political oppression through relentless nonviolent resistance. And therein lies the problem -- "relentless". They have an unsavory reputation for civil disobedience; most recently, they invaded the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University even though the school did not give them permission to come on campus. On April 20th, four of their activists were arrested for trespassing on the campus of Colorado Christian University. Soulforce also invaded the campus of Brigham Young University-Provo in 2006. On April 10th, five of their activists were issued citations, and on April 11th, 24 more people were arrested in a so-called "die-in". Robyn Murphy, an apostate ex-Mormon who was Soulforce's national media director at the time, rejoiced, saying "We want to get arrested. Our whole purpose is to bring attention to this dialogue about gay and lesbians. By standing up and speaking, we are ultimately making a buzz. If it gets them talking that's what we're aiming for." In 2007, Soulforce once again invaded the BYU campus, and this time, two of their activists got arrested.

In June 2008, Dr. Michael L. Brown published five reasons on AFTAH why Christian leaders should refuse to meet with Soulforce delegations:

-- Soulforce leaders use these meetings for their own purposes, putting their particular spin on the meeting for the media.
-- Soulforce sets its own agenda, and Christian leaders are under no obligation to go along with that agenda.
-- Since the Soulforce leaders claim to be Christians, welcoming them could be in violation of injunctions such as 1 Cor 5:9-13 and 2 John 10-11.
-- Despite the ongoing requests for dialogue, it can be doubted whether Soulforce is truly interested in hearing what our side has to say.
-- We are damned if we do meet and damned if we don’t, since if we do meet, we are accused of softening our stance against homosexual practice; if we don’t meet, we are painted as bigots. Why then even entertain Soulforce’s request to meet?

It's one thing for the LDS Church to meet with responsible gay rights groups like Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and Affirmation. It's another thing to break bread with insurgent crud like Soulforce. Meeting with Soulforce is like casting pearls before swine. The LDS Church needs to better protect our brand by being more selective about who they meet with.

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