Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State plays movie reviewer in a column today, though what he’s really about is delegitimizing religious conservatives:
An interesting documentary is opening in some major cities this weekend, and if you get the chance, I’d suggest that you check it out.
Titled “8: The Mormon Proposition,” the film examines the role the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) played in helping pass Proposition 8 in California, which repealed marriage equality for same-sex couples.
It actually reversed a court decision that imposed a change in state laws that embodied a view of marriage that has prevailed for centuries, without input from the electorate. Not to put too fine a point on it.
Some statistics tell the story: Only about 2 percent of Californians are Mormons, but church members poured huge sums of money into the campaign – at least $22 million, including $3 million in the final week that came directly from Utah. Thanks to intervention by the church hierarchy, Mormons provided more than 70 percent of the budget of the pro-Prop 8 effort.
The money was used for an onslaught of ads and a well-coordinated ground campaign. As The New York Times put it, “The money financed a sophisticated media barrage that involved blogs, Twitter and YouTube videos, as well as scary (and, according to the movie, misleading) television ads, and an aggressive door-to-door campaign whose foot soldiers were instructed on how not to appear Mormon.”
Right. No young men in skinny black ties and white dress shirts riding bicycles, maybe because there’s as much anti-Mormon prejudice in California as anywhere else (lots of which has been heard from the political left since the Prop 8 campaign). As for the money and the “scary” ads, two points: first, the money spent by the two sides was almost equal; and second, according to a New York University study, the money spent by both sides was essentially wasted, changing few if any minds. So Boston’s complaint seems to basically be that Prop 8 supporters had the nerve to actually wage a campaign on behalf of their beliefs.
Religious groups have the right to speak out on social issues. But in this case, a wealthy, powerful (and mostly out-of-state) church poured unprecedented sums into an effort to write its theology into law and take away the rights of a group of people it does not like. To a lot of Americans, it just didn’t seem right. [Emphasis added.]
And this is the real point. What Boston really objects to is religious conservatives–Mormons, Roman Catholics, evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, you name it–having the gall to seek to persuade the public to reject the morality of secular and religious liberals. In the view of AU, the latter is the default, normative position of American society, and therefore any efforts to oppose it is somehow contrary to The Way Things Ought To Be. Boston admits that “religious groups” have a right o express themselves on moral issues, but objects in this case for ridiculous reasons (wealthy? powerful? out-of-state?).
Most importantly, he objects because Prop 8 support for the historical definition of marriage is supposedly “an effort to write its theology into law.” Leave aside the fact that the United Church of Christ and Episcopal Church were trying to do the same thing by opposing Prop 8, an effort that gets nothing but thumbs-up from AU. Simply consider this: if religious groups have the right to persuade the public on moral issues, what is supposed to be the basis for their positions other than theology? Yes, they also–maybe primarily–make arguments that all citizens, religious or not, can understand and buy into. But where else does Boston think that any religious group gets its moral positions–the back of cereal boxes? The Harvard Law Review? Playboy magazine?
Once again, we’ve got AU performing its self-appointed role as defender, not of the First Amendment, but of liberal public policy positions. But then, you knew that.