Excerpts of LDS apostle under fire for civil-rights analogy by Rosemary Winters and Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune
LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks on Tuesday likened the post-Proposition 8 backlash against Mormons to the persecution blacks endured during the civil-rights struggle.
"Were four little Mormon girls blown up in the church at Sunday school? Were there burning crosses planted on local bishops' lawns? Were people lynched and their genitals stuffed in their mouths?" asked University of Utah historian Colleen McDannell. "By comparing these two things, it diminishes the real violence that African-Americans experienced in the '60s, when they were struggling for equal rights. There is no equivalence between the two."
Oaks, in a strongly worded defense of the church's efforts opposing same-sex
"In their effect," Oaks said, "they are like the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation."
Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP's Salt Lake branch, said there is "no comparison."
"I don't see where the LDS Church has been denied any of their rights," she said. "What the gay and lesbian communities are fighting for, that is a civil-rights issue."
In an interview posted on the LDS Church's Web site after the speech, Oaks called his analogy a "good one," but acknowledged that intimidation of Mormons in the wake of Prop 8 has not been "as serious as what happened in the South."
Peter Danzig, a former Mormon and a spokesman for Foundation for Reconciliation, which aims to foster understanding between Latter-day Saints and the gay community, said he agrees on the importance of religious freedom. But he found it "astonishing" that Oaks failed to mention faiths that "honor" gay marriage. He also disagreed with Oaks' characterization of gay-rights advocates as largely atheists.
"Many activists are deeply religious people," he said.
Douglas Laycock, a religious-liberty expert at the University of Michigan Law School, said he is not aware of all the Prop 8 fallout.
"I know there were some bad incidents of people being threatened," Laycock said. "To the extent that that kind of thing went on, it shouldn't have. It does intimidate the exercise of free-speech rights."
America's free-speech clause "is pretty robust, but we have had censorship of free speech on same-sex issues in public schools and in colleges and universities," said Laycock, editor of the 2008 volume, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts .
U.S. courts have not yet treated as unconstitutional sermons calling homosexual sex a sin, he said. "But Canada and Sweden have, so it's not unimaginable."