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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 30, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 05
Mormons ask for truce in culture war
Section One
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Mormons ask for truce in culture war

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Mormon Church will support legal protections for LGBT people in return for broad religious exemptions, LDS leaders said in a January 27 press conference.

In 2009, Mormons backed a nondiscrimination ordinance protecting Gays and Lesbians in Salt Lake City. The Church is now willing to support similar measures elsewhere, including laws protecting LGBT persons from unfair bias in housing, unemployment and public transportation, LDS spokespeople said.

'We are suggesting a new way forward in which those with different views on these complex issues can together seek solutions that will be fair to everyone,' said Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, one of the church's top tiers of leadership.

The Mormons are not alone in calling for broad religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws. The Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention have also claimed that protections for LGBT Americans interfere with their 'religious freedom.'

'When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser,' said Elder Dallin Oaks, also a member of the church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

'Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender.'

Oaks said the recent Houston court case in which Lesbian Mayor Annise Parker subpoenaed sermon notes from pastors who opposed an equal rights ordinance was an example of LGBT advocates overstepping proper bounds.

'It is one of today's great ironies that some people who have fought so hard for LGBT rights now try to deny the rights of others to disagree with their public policy proposals,' said Oaks.

'What kinds of religious rights are we talking about?' asked Elder Jeffrey Holland, yet another of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

The most fundamental would be the right of faith communities to preach their beliefs from the pulpit, teach them in church classrooms, and freely select their own leaders and ministers, Holland said.

But he also added that service providers - in his examples, physicians and pharmacists - should be free to refuse services to LGBT customers.

'These are serious issues,' Holland added, 'and they require serious minds engaged in thoughtful, courteous discourse.'

Mormon spokespeople cautioned that their offer to support some protections for LGBT Americans does not change church doctrine including its opposition to same-sex marriage.

'This commandment and doctrine [against marriage equality] comes from sacred scripture and we are not at liberty to change it,' said Sister Neill Marriott, a leader in the LDS women's organization.

'But, God is loving and merciful,' Marriott continued. 'It's for this reason that the church has publicly favored laws and ordinances that protect LGBT people from discrimination in housing and employment.'

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