The ironies of the LDS Church weaponizing religious freedom

As someone who has had a long and successful career in politics and public policy largely built upon weaponizing every idea from values to ethics to morals to faith and beyond, I know the weaponization of an idea when I hear it.

My most recent example is the speech by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Dallin H. Oaks, delivered recently at the University of Virginia on the occasion of the 2021 Joseph Smith Lecture. If you ever want to listen to a classic presentation on how to weaponize religious freedom, you should take a moment to review Oaks’ speech. read more

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Did My Church Have Me Fired? A Theory.

Writing about leaving a state you’ve resided in for 20 years, through my career’s apex and raising our children through their most formative years, is difficult. We loved Utah and then we did not. There are personal reasons – emotional, spiritual, mental, and even heartbreaking. There are professional reasons – intellectual, relevancy, efficacy, expectations, and even betrayals. These reasons and more finally persuaded me to leave behind dear family and friends. My wife too, grandmother to 17 of 20 grandchildren living close by, was done with Utah. read more

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Unworthy: Missing Chapter #4

Excited to move to Utah to begin my education at Brigham Young University (BYU), I received a rather annoying piece of advice. “Whatever you see or hear, just remember, the Church is true.” I was astonished, even took some umbrage, at the thought that my BYU experience – more so my new life in Zion – would be anything but uplifting.

That was 1980. I graduated in 1984. In between was an eye-opening broadside to my “Gospel sensibilities.” My BYU experience matched my academic GPA – conspicuously average. Nearly every interesting thing I did, I did on my own. The Harold B. Lee Library was my playground, especially the 4th floor containing everything political and the “special collections” room wherein treasures of LDS history awaited. read more

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Unworthy: Missing Chapter #3

I think he’s an asshole.

My SIL is not wrong. Nor is he alone in his opinion. Most of the book prior to these chapters is a testament to this reality. But Unworthy also explains why — the sources of my expressing ass-holier-than-thou thoughts. Even so, I’m not quite sure all of my new understanding and “scary” self-awareness would have changed anything between my SIL and me.

I do not begrudge my SIL’s venting. Nor do I begrudge him his pain. Believing his narrative, as he does, would demand the tone and form of his attack. I get it. I do. And his adamant desire to sever ties with me is a natural conclusion to his narrative. Hey, look, I have written too many “fuck you” letters in my life, personal and professional, to not understand his to me. read more

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Unworthy: Missing Chapter #2

 

I don’t care if this makes you sad. Almost everything about you makes me sad. I think you’re small. I think you’re a bigot. I think you’re a bully. I’m certain you’re an ideologue…It’s hard not to be impressed by [your] utter lack of self-awareness…

 Well, I guess this is what you call burning an already rickety-ass bridge. I told you many years ago that me and my family would be just fine without you in our lives. That remains true today.

The Imposter is made for moments like these. Regardless of how I apply every bit of context to my SIL’s words, they hurt, they successfully made me feel less-than, and they immediately began to work on my memories. I racked my brain. What beyond my early letter to him could make him feel this way, communicate it now after 20 years, and leave him in a position unable to forgive anything? read more

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Unworthy: Missing Chapter #1

You didn’t know who Candace Owens was? never heard of her? and sent me her video in defense of your position? Lol, Jesus Paul, how am I supposed to take you seriously?

The setting is Wednesday, June 3, 2020. It’s 3:39 pm. A friend just sent Sally a video of a young black woman opining about the new wave of aggrandizement, as she sees it, over George Floyd, the black man horrifically murdered by Minneapolis police officers. An hour or two had passed before I viewed the video and, in between receiving the video and watching it, I posted to Facebook an opinion, stating matter-of-factly, that systemic racism does not exist in America. read more

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Fairness for All is a failed strategy to protect religious freedom

The contention between religious freedom and gay rights is and always has been binary. The “Utah Compromise” of 2015 was a mirage and its illusory light distantly refracting for dull visionaries now gives hope to an identical federal proposal by U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart. But it too will disappoint.

Here is why: Can you imagine Martin Luther King Jr. settling for a “Southern Compromise” wherein blacks gain all civil rights except among certain segments of society? Regarding the Utah Compromise, if everyone is being honest, the LGBT community got hoodwinked for a hug at the state Capitol — a disappointing accomplishment as viewed by astute national LGBT advocates who well understood the problems of legalized discrimination. read more

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Impeachment inquiry is a moral and constitutional obligation

We now know that Trump extorted Ukraine, a U.S. ally with critical strategic value in a tumultuous region, in an attempt to gain an edge on a domestic political opponent. While the president and his supporters have attempted to hide behind false claims about the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation, this time around Congress has an opportunity and duty to uncover the truth as the American public looks on.

As we continue to hear testimony from distinguished career diplomats and decorated armed service members, the search for the truth must be the top priority of Congress. Presidential invitations to foreign nations to dig for dirt on American political candidates cannot be tolerated by voters, let alone by Congress. Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s math was shockingly clear: two-plus-two equals four. read more

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I, swear

Over a business lunch just off Capitol Hill in Austin, Texas, a new colleague seemed shocked to know I was a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “You’re a Mormon?” he asked with not a small amount of incredulity. My mind raced to discern why he was surprised. And then it hit me, “Ah. I get it. I swear. Right?” He nodded affirmatively.

My new colleague was not being overly sensitive. My swearing is reflective of unfiltered quality over quantity. I’m good at it. A damn or a hell would not have set off his perception alarms about my faith. He knew the strong expletives I used were intentional. Swearing is behavioral and I own it. read more

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Bill Dannemeyer, RIP

For six years on Capitol Hill, I worked for Congressman William E. Dannemeyer. It was the first real job of my 35-year political career. Now “Mr. D” is laid to rest after his own tireless career as a lawyer, judge, California state assemblyman (as a Democrat), U.S. congressman (as a Republican) and saint or sinner depending upon your worldview.

The numerous obituaries I’ve read nearly all sound the same: indefatigable, unapologetic, principled, laser focused, relentless, scrappy, combative and confrontational. These same obituaries are filled with other descriptors: homophobic, bigot, despicable, horrible and as his congressional nemesis for many years, Henry Waxman, called him “a mean and hateful person.” Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen dubbed him “the Renaissance man of bigotry” in 1990 and The Advocate, the gay flagship magazine, later included him on its list of “the 50 biggest homophobes of the last 50 years.” read more

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