Thursday, February 28, 2008

Weighing in part deux

I am intrigued with how the coverage of the Peter Danzig story is unfolding in the Mormon queerosphere. There is no shortage of people who support Peter Danzig and condemn the church. But, there is surprisingly little support for the church on this issue - even from those who normally are very supportive of the church. In fact, one might say the silence is deafening.

A fellow member of the family said, in a private email "The Danzig case has really sent a chill up my spine!" This has given me pause and caused me to wonder if, perhaps, a chill went up the collective spine of the entire Mormon queerosphere. I've come down on the side of the church on this issue; but, I'm feeling very much alone.

There are really two issues here intermingled together.
  • The dismissal of Jeffrey Nielson, a visiting lecturer of philosophy at BYU, because of his challenge to church opposition for gay marriage.
  • The treatment of Peter Danzig, a clinical psychologist and member of the temple square orchastra, for several letters he wrote opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment and the dismissal of Jeffrey Nielson.

Regarding Jeffrey Nielson: As I understand it, BYU instructors and employees contract themselves to not criticize the church as a condition of their employment. While many feel those terms are unjust, he did agree to them and was subsequently guilty of violating them. Similar terms are common among most large employers; I have similar contractual restrictions with my employer - you don't bite the hand the feeds you. So I'm not as bothered by him being dismissed for violating the terms of his employment. Whether or not I agree with those terms is irrelevant since he agreed to them.

I realize now that the case of Peter Danzig is not so cut and dry. I confess that my primary source of information prior writing my previous blog post was the article in the Salt Lake Tribune and the church's response on lds.org. I have since read his personal account and am now wondering if, perhaps, I might have been a bit hasty in my judgment.

In my previous blog post, I stated "this really isn't about gay marriage - it's about publicly denouncing church leadership." I still believe that. The question is: Did Peter Danzig publicly denounce church leadership? Of this I'm not so certain any more. Even if he did publicly denounce church leadership - if his account is to be believed then the actions by various church leaders is inexcusable - not so much in what was done, but in how he and his family were treated.

Something else is bothering me. in the response titled "Care for the Flock" in the newsroom on lds.org it states:

In his Tribune letter-to-the-editor, Mr. Danzig said he “was troubled that my church requested I violate my own conscience to write in support of an amendment I feel is contrary to the constitution and to the gospel of Christ." In reality Church leaders had asked members to write to their senators with their personal views regarding the federal amendment opposing same gender marriage, and did not request support or opposition to the amendment.

Now, that latter statement, highlighted in bold, may be true in the strictness sense. The Letter from First Presidency of the Church to church leaders in the United States may not have specifically instructed members of the church to oppose the amendment. However, other statements by the church have specifically requested such course of action. For example, the church handbook of instructions, which is the authoritative source regarding church policy, states:

"Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. The Church accordingly opposes same-gender marriages and any efforts to legalize such marriages. Church members are encouraged "to appeal to legislators, judges, and other government officials to preserve the purposes and sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and to reject all efforts to give legal authorization or other official approval or support to marriages between persons of the same gender."
"Church Handbook of Instructions", book 1 p.187

As indicated in my previous post, I was faced with opposing accounts and I favored the one presented by the church. However, when the church contradicts itself - how do I reconcile that?

Somebody help me here - I'm in a quandary. I truly do not know what to think anymore. I want to exonerate the church in this issue, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to do so.

Update: Results of the poll

7 comments:

Chris said...

Something else is bothering me. in the response titled "Care for the Flock" in the newsroom on lds.org it states:

In his Tribune letter-to-the-editor, Mr. Danzig said he “was troubled that my church requested I violate my own conscience to write in support of an amendment I feel is contrary to the constitution and to the gospel of Christ." In reality Church leaders had asked members to write to their senators with their personal views regarding the federal amendment opposing same gender marriage, and did not request support or opposition to the amendment.


This is pure spin from the Church, and it's not credible for the reasons you have identified. Frankly, it should make you uncomfortable to hear such double talk, especially when it is being used to discredit someone.

Beck said...

"...Frankly, it should make you uncomfortable to hear such double talk, especially when it is being used to discredit someone."

It feels like double talk to me as well.

What I can't understand is why the Church made a public statement about a private discipline situation. I thought these things were not discussed outside of the parties involved and never before a forum like lds.org. "Setting the record straight" is not something that is done with these cases. To make it public makes the whole argument that much more "chilling" as it argues the Church IS trying to make this a hallmark case of some kind to send a signal to others, and make an "example" of Mr. Danzig.

From personal experience, I know that such things are NOT discussed with anyone. For the Church to feel like they have to give such a legal-beagle attorney rebuttal in a public forum seems like a "cover up" of some kind. It doesn't feel Christlike - it feels more tit-for-tat, like the business world of lawsuits.

The chill in the air is... how does this apply to the rest of us who may disagree with this particular political stance of the Church? Are we safe just because we don't work for the Church, BYU, or play in the Orchestra as you implied?

And what precedence does this set for future cases of a similar nature? And how may a not-so-benevolent church leader see this as an example-setting decision, not by local authorities, but by church headquarters, and take a more harsh stance on private thoughts and beliefs when called into question?

I support you on knowing what contract you sign when you are employed, and you "don't bite the hand that feeds you". If that was all this case was, it would have ended quietly. But it didn't end quietly and it seems to now be vindictive.

Abelard Enigma said...

To make it public makes the whole argument that much more "chilling" as it argues the Church IS trying to make this a hallmark case of some kind to send a signal to others, and make an "example" of Mr. Danzig.

I hadn't thought of it in those terms.

Brrrr, is it getting cold in here?

One of So Many said...

For me - As Red said to Scarlett "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."

I probably should, but I don't.

Peter said...

I think the reason that this sent a chill down the Mormon Queerosphere is because Danzig was pushed into a corner for publicly expressing disapproval over Church policies. We all, at one point or another, have written on our blogs similar frustrations. I think we feel threatened by what appears to be a dramatic over-reaction to things written in a public sphere. I think we associate with Peter, and wonder if our blogs will be the next source of attack.

Neal said...

Couple of thoughts:

1.) You have an account by the Tribune, Danzig's account, and a brief rebuttal by the Church. What you don't have is the account from Church leaders of what happened. You don't have their side of the story, and you probably never will because they can't divulge that information. The info the Church did offer up is extremely general in nature, and was prompted by reasons they clearly explain in their rebuttal.

2.) The Church Handbook may or may not have the most up-to-date policy. I think the current version is seven or eight years old. The Church regularly publishes bulletins and other official policy documents that supplement the handbook, and these would take precedence. If the Church has a newer policy statement on supporting Gay marriage, then that's the policy that should be referenced.

Bottom line for me on this - we don't really have both sides of the story. We have a Danzig-sided view of the story.

Peter:

I don't think you need to worry about general discussions on the Blogshpere, but there is a fine line between discussing and endoring or teaching. Many MoHo bloggers have crossed the line into teaching or endorsing doctrine contrary to that taught by the Church; and even more seriously, actively encouraging others to beleive and follow that doctrine. If you did that without the aid of the internet and its ease of anonymity, what would be the consequence? Just because its easy to publish on the web doesn't change the fact that you're PUBLISHING, and on a global scale to boot!

Neal

Abelard Enigma said...

You are right, I don't have all of the facts and never will; however, Danzig provided his version of the events to the church leaders involved and offered them the opportunity to make any corrections. I believe his bishop suggested a couple of minor corrections and the others declined.

The Church Handbook may or may not have the most up-to-date policy. I think the current version is seven or eight years old.

Actually, Book 1 of the church handbook was updated about 18 months ago - I was quoting from that latest version. We have received a couple of church bulletins which supercede this latest handbook - but none of them are related to this topic.

There is also the question of why the church felt a need to respond at all. This was a local matter in Salt Lake City which was generally unknown throughout the rest of the world. By posting it in the news section of the church web site they have brought international attention to it; and then to make misleading claims which can easily be easily refuted baffles me.