Leave the Nuance; Take the Talking Points

The LDS Church earlier today announced support for both a non-discrimination law for sexual orientation in housing and employment and support for greater protections for religious liberty. The reaction from proponents of a non-discrimination ordinance was swift: a near-complete dismissal of any need to protect the free exercise of religion while gladly taking the endorsement of non-discrimination. In many cases, freedom of religion was completely misrepresented as the freedom of belief, but not of exercise. This lays the groundwork for why I remain deeply suspicious and skeptical of any such proposed legislation.

The irony here runs very deep. Many of the same people who are lauding LDS Church support of anti-discrimination laws are more than happy to threaten their tax-exempt status should they take an opposite position. The reality is that there is little interest in finding common ground, but rather selectively using appeals to authority to demand that political opponents unconditionally submit to their public policy proposals. The “compromise” being proposed is to demand that you do it their way.

What the LDS Church is proposing is an actual compromise: provide protections while still allowing sincere free exercise of religion. By stating rather flatly that the LDS Church itself does not support “persecution and retaliation of any kind, including persecution based on […] sexual orientation”, a line has been drawn that members of the LDS Church, who comprise a majority in Utah, don’t have much cover (if any) to claim an exemption. The concern trolling that any respect given to individual conscience is effectively gutting any law is completely unfounded.

What’s likely to happen now is that the proponents of an anti-discrimination ordinance will ignore the giant asterisk that the LDS Church attached to their endorsement and push forward on a one-sided bill. If it gets defeated, anyone who didn’t support it will, again, be subject to petty name-calling and now have their faith called into question. It speaks volumes to the sincerity (or rather lack thereof) of any calls to meet in the middle.

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