Utah's growing tourism industry and the star-studded Sundance Film Festival are being targeted for a boycott by bloggers, gay rights activists and others seeking to punish the Mormon church for its aggressive promotion of California's ban on gay marriage.In their fight to attain the rights they think they have, the gay marriage advocates have forgotten two very important actual rights: freedom of speech and religious liberty.
It could be a heavy price to pay. Tourism brings in $6 billion a year to Utah, with world-class skiing, a spectacular red rock country and the film festival founded by Robert Redford, among other popular tourist draws.
"At a fundamental level, the Utah Mormons crossed the line on this one," said gay rights activist John Aravosis, an influential blogger in Washington, D.C.
"They just took marriage away from 20,000 couples and made their children bastards," he said. "You don't do that and get away with it."
Enshrined in the First Amendment, free speech and religious liberty are a cornerstone to the foundation to our republic. Our ancestors fled religious persecution in England and soon after the mother country was at war with itself over religious and political matters. The Founding Fathers saw the stability of allowing people to believe in whatever faith they wished and it has done us well for 230 years. Free speech is inherent in the protection of religious freedoms.
Mormons weren't the only religious group involved with the pro-Prop 8 campaign, but their singling out is an example of what may happen when fanatical advocates get full reign on their causes. The calls for the revocation of the LDS's tax exempt status is based on a very lazy invocation of the separation of church and state. The advocates believe that because the Church encouraged its members to support Prop 8 means that the church violated that wildly cited, but rarely understood principle of our government. The separation of church and state is to prevent the church from becoming the state, as it so often did in medieval and Elizabethan times in Europe. The principle has nothing to do with preventing the faithful from getting in to political campaigns or from churches from encouraging their members to. The Mormons weren't stupid with their call. As far as I know, no church money ever went into Prop 8 coffers; even the leadership refused to donate. Mormon investment into Yes on Prop 8 was by individuals who had every legal right to donate or not to donate. There were even LDS members who were against Prop 8 and made sure the church knew it. If gay marriage advocates in their current form get their way in a court-friendly state, the tax exempt status of churches and the religious freedoms of its members may be in jeopardy.
I'm an atheist, but I am also an American. My views on God (or lack of a god) are irrelevant when it comes to violations of religious liberty and free speech by political zealots. I'd just as soon defend gays against the LDS if the LDS was attempting to silence them through the legal system. What people need to understand is that gay marriage is not a civil rights issues, as there is no civil right being violated as it was during Jim Crow. Marriage is a privilege regulated by the state as the state deems necessary for the public good. It is not having your right to vote blocked by a poll tax, or having cops force you out of a public area because you are black. This issues is an issue for each state to decide on its own and through its voting populace. Anything else would just fan the flames of the gay marriage zealotry and force the traditionalist and religious factions to entrench further.
That's the last thing we need.the last thing we need.
Cross-posted at Generation Patriot