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
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