Thursday, February 10, 2011

Civil rights activists, not who you think

Last week Dallin Oaks, one of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles (and therefore a "prophet, seer and revelator") at the head of the Mormon Church, gave a speech at Chapman University (a Christian college in Orange County with a law school) which dwelt on a common theme among those who would govern from faith:  the freedom of others is impinging on my freedom of religion.  Oaks was, tellingly, a judge on the Utah State Supreme Court (1980 to 1984) and the audience of 800 law students and others, also tellingly, applauded.  In the talk, Oaks called the workers supporting California's Proposition Eight, which ended same-sex marriages, the new civil rights workers.
In his speech and in an interview, Oaks said he didn't want to dwell on same-sex marriage. But the examples he cited of intrusions on religious liberty were almost all related to that debate.

But these arguments reveal more about the arguer than about the subject at hand.  Religious freedom is only under attack if you consider controlling society to be part of your religion.  As one writer from a Mormon background wrote about Oaks' presentation

... What are the evidences that religious freedom is under legal attack in the United States? He cited a few cases (some of the same ones used in scare-tactic ads from the now-discredited National Organization for Marriage) but none of them pertains to the rights of churches or private individuals (acting as private individuals) to create and maintain their own religious beliefs and practices.
... In his address, Oaks clarified that the major threat to religious freedom was actually “moral relativism.” But where some see the decadence of “moral relativism,” I see the advancement of religious pluralism and the erosion of a conservative religious prerogative to define public life.
Unfortunately, for some Californians these debates are not merely academic and have had real-world deleterious effects.  Time will tell if Humanists can keep these losses from mounting.


  1. The Mormons are one of the best organized institutions in America. They manage their money efficiently and make plenty of it. Their skill at public relations work is far ahead of other religions not to mention Humanists.

    Take the passage of Proposition 8. "Yes on 8" was an example of what Mormons can do. The "No on 8" campaign was amateurish and confused and ineffective. No surprise then that "No on 8" was blindsided and lost. The Mormons backed "Yes on 8" and easily won because they know how to design a winning campaign.

    Humanists would do well to study the Mormons way of influencing America. It is a waste of time to just sit around bemoaning Mormon success or the silliness of their weird theology. What's needed is to examine what they do and how and why, and commit ourselves to do better.

    Successful public relations work is based on careful and accurate analysis of who it is you need to reach and a meticulously devised strategy to reach them. You have to know what resources you can draw upon and design the most effective pathway to utilize those resources to get what you want.

    Merely retreating into vaguely idealistic posturing is a waste of time and in fact is counterproductive.

    At one time many of us were engaged with the defense of America's best interest from the undermining it by the treasonous Lyndon Johnson.

    Our military was abused and made a tool of the Catholic church trying to prevent the Vietnamese from gaining control over their own country. Cardinal Spellman and Joseph Kennedy couldn't accept letting the Buddhist majority govern. They used the US military to try to hang on to the Catholic Church foothold in the south.

    During those years we learned from experience how to influence the American people. We saw how futile it is to appeal to idealistic abstractions. People vote their pocketbooks.

    The "No on 8" campaign was pathetic, a loser from Day One. They talked about "fairness" and "justice" and "equality" - abstractions, not dollars.

    In order to win, what was needed was to show that preventing gays from achieving equality costs society money. If it's not, you figure out a strategy to see to it that it does. The dollar talks.

  2. I love that statement " Religious freedom is only under attack if you consider controlling society to be part of your religion. "

    I plan on using it. Who should I attribute it to?