In a speech yesterday Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an official of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, compared the alleged anti-Mormon backlash over the Church's support of Proposition 8 in California to the intimidation of Southern blacks during the civil rights movement.
"Equating the 1960s struggle for justice with the plight of a church that has been a vocal opponent of injustice is deeply offensive," said Reverend Byron Williams of the African American Ministers Leadership Council, a project of People For the American Way Foundation. "Elder Oaks and the LDS church poured millions of dollars into a campaign to ensure that some California families are granted second class citizenship. Any isolated cases of vandalism that the Mormon Church faced are entirely unacceptable, but comparing the treatment of the LDS Church after Prop 8 to the violence faced by anti-segregation activists diminishes the bravery and sacrifice of some of our nation's civil rights leaders. Elder Oaks should immediately apologize for his comments, as well as for the campaign for injustice he helped wage to pass Proposition 8."
During the campaign to pass Proposition 8, which prevented same-sex couples from receiving the protections of civil marriage, the "Yes on 8" campaign used dishonest tactics to imply that marriage equality would threaten religious liberty or endanger children. Despite the campaign's false claims, the LDS First Presidency called on Mormons to donate time and money to the campaign.
"The Mormon Church is rightly upset that it received such bad press after it weighed in so heavily to pass Proposition 8," said Michael B. Keegan, President of People For the American Way Foundation. "But they should have considered that before they launched a dishonest campaign to deny protections to loving, committed couples. Elder Oaks has a right to speak out on whatever issue he feels his religion calls him to address, but there are consequences to participating in a public debate. That's not religious intimidation-it's civic discourse. To compare people who voiced their disappointment in the Church to violent segregationists is profoundly offensive, and the Mormon Church should be doubly sensitive to the issue given its own disturbing and too recent history of racial discrimination. Elder Oaks should make a public apology for his comments."