Monday, November 10, 2008
(photo by Qiyamah A. Rahman - Charlotte, NC 2006)
We were not successful on all fronts in the recent elections: Below is one account of what happened in California regarding Proposition 8:
Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah
On May 16, 2008, the California Supreme Court affirmed that the state constitution, AS IT WAS WRITTEN BY THE FOUNDERS OF THIS STATE MORE THAN 150 YEARS PRIOR, provided official government recognition of all marriages between all couples, regardless of gender.
On November 4, 2008, Proposition 8 amended this constitution to explicitly deny this right to same-sex couples. Nowhere else in either California's constitution or the Federal Constitution are a specific class of rights restricted, to any minority group, for any reason.
Why did this proposition pass? Was it because Californians genuinely believed that granting rights to a minority group undermine the fabric of society? No.
Was it because Californians failed to recognize the similarity of Proposition 8 with the bans on interracial marriage last century, once considered "controversial" but now universally recognized as wrong? No.
Was it because Californians no longer saw their constitution as a foundational document that is amended carefully, but a document as pliable as putty and subject to the whims of a narrow majority? No.
How, then, did Proposition 8 become law?
THE MORMON CHURCH.
This measure was losing resoundingly just before the election.
For the past six months, Mormon volunteers, directed by the Church, misled Californians about the effects of the Supreme Court ruling by tapping into a war chest of Mormon cash and contributing up to 70% of Prop 8 financing.
Mormon votes did not steal our rights. Mormon money did.
They told us we would lose the right to participate in our children's education. Lies.
They told us the California state public school curriculum would be modified to teach sex education to kindergarteners. Lies.
They told us churches would lose the right to free speech. Lies.
If this is the way Mormons treat gays and lesbians of California, let us ask:
How has America treated Mormons?
The Mormon church began in 1830 in New York. The first Mormons were persecuted by the American majority, and were compelled to emigrate to Utah where they could live unmolested, much like gays and lesbians who lived in the urban ghettos last century. Mormons had alternative views of what family meant, and were excluded and marginalized from the political process. In their arguments against the majority, Mormon Prophet Brigham Young wrote:
Marriage is a civil contract. You might as well make a law to say how many children a man shall have, as to make a law to say how many wives he shall have. (Journal of Discourses, 11:268-9)
Much has improved for the Mormon people since then. Today, Mormons have powerful representation in the Senate, and ran a nationally viable candidate for the United States Presidency in 2008.
The Mormon story is possible because our country is a tolerant and forgiving place. America believes in the rights of its citizens to determine their own fates, and grants rights to individual communities to determine their own norms and values. The Mormon people have been able to flourish because of this country's generous spirit.
But now, history has reversed, and it is the Mormons who have become the oppressor.
The Mormons began with the Boy Scouts of America, originally a children's club meant to introduce boys and girls to the natural beauty of America. Mormons took financial control of the Boy Scouts by sponsoring 28% of national scout troops. Gays and lesbians are barred from participating in this group not just in Mormon troops, but nationwide, thereby turning our children into a political football.
Some Mormons send their own gay teenage children to "conversion camps," where these children are forced to endure shock therapy and given psychotropic drugs. The emotional stress of such experience drives many to contemplate suicide. The Mormon Church has yet to repudiate these activities.
Now the Mormon Church has set its target on gay and lesbian adults of California. They have started by amending our constitution to deny equal protection to gays and lesbians.
Ask the Jews about how freedoms are lost. The concentration camps were not built in a national referendum. They were the product of a systemic reduction of freedoms, year after year, one at a time.
We as citizens of California, Americans, and persons of various beliefs and faiths will not allow this to happen.
Are all Mormons against rights for gays?
Absolutely not. So far, 300 Mormons and 1 Mormon celebrity have stood up against their church to support gay rights. We respect the challenge of standing up to a majority, especially when those 301 stand in the face of more than 13.1M Mormons worldwide. You can see stories of these courageous Mormons at Mormons for Marriage.
To the rest of those silent Mormon protesters, one can offer the words of Elie Wiesel:
"I swore to never be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides, Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim, silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
How can we stop this agenda?
To restore the right stolen from us, we must correct the amendment to California's constitution. To do this requires another statewide proposition. Yet how will we avoid another election season of deception, when the Mormon Church can use vast tax-free money into advancing their platform?
Strip the Mormon church of its status as a religious organization.
According to IRS law,
Section 501(c)(3) describes corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literacy, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in section (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distribution of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.
From IRS Publication 1828 Page 5,
Substantial Lobbying Activity
In general, no organization, including a church, may qualify for IRC section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). An IRC section 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.
Was the letter of the law violated?
We have spoken with experts on this matter, and the answer is unclear. The Mormon Church is not only a 501(c)(3), it is also a church, which grants them special rights. They are still prohibited from direct involvement in campaigns for a specific political office as well direct lobbying of legislators.
Was the spirit of the law violated?
Read this email from a mormon church coordinator:
...As mentioned in the broadcast, the coalition approached the Church about getting involved. With a mere difference of 400,000 votes, I am certain had the Church not been involved this proposition would not have passed...
Because it is already illegal for churches to support candidates or lobby, we must close this loophole and make it illegal for churches to support propositions, which are for all intents and purposes identical to legislation.
We must clarify our tax law to prohibit this behavior.
The United Kingdom has taken preliminary steps to strip the church of its tax-exempt status.
Through Prop 8, the Mormon Church has shown its true colors as a political group with specific social ends. Political speech is fair and legal here; such speech under the guise of religion is not. The playing field must be leveled. Though many religious groups were involved in Prop 8, the Mormon Church made this a far more substantial part of its activities than any other.
Californians will vote on future propositions to correct this flawed amendment next year, and every year, until we achieve our rights under the state constitution. We must be assured that our advocacy organizations are on an equal legal and financial playing field as those of our opponents.
Ultimately all religious groups are subject to the same laws - Catholics, Jews, Muslims, etc. The Mormon church, however, has shown itself to be most egregious in pressing a political agenda while registered as a church. We are starting with the biggest to effect the most change.
What can I do now?
Sign this petition to support the legal effort to amend our tax laws such that the Mormon Church, and other transgressing churches, would lose tax-exempt status if they continue lobbying for state propositions. We intend to share this list with the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and other official legal organizations that will be pressing forward with this effort. Anyone can sign this petition.
Please sign your name below:
Sunday, 11/9: More than 300,000 hits & 150,000 signatures in our first 5 days! Perez, you are amay! Also thanks to Daily Kos, Huffington Post, the Stranger, Advocate, and Google.
Stop taxpayer subsidies of intolerance.
Restore basic rights to gay and lesbian Californians.
Click here for all the details.
Shirts & Stickers
No More Mr. Nice Gay @ Cafepress
Revoke LDS Church 501(c)(3) Status
Freedom from Religion Foundation - Separation of Church & State
If you are a Mormon: Mass Resignation Planned
The website Signing for Something will be collecting names of people resigning from the Mormon Church over Marriage Equality and/or Prop 8 related issues.
Visit http://signingforsomething.org/blog/ to find resources and information about resigning and to post your letter of resignation.
Questions? Comments? Email us at email@example.com
This website is a grassroots effort by a handful of concerned Bay Area Californians.
Junee' Barringer Hunt is a longtime friend of mine whose opinion I value and whose craft I honor and appreciate. Below are some of her thoughts about this historic moment:
Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah
The votes have been counted and Barack Hussein Obama is the 44th president of the United States. People came to vote, old young, black, white, brown, yellow, rich, poor and in the middle. We came, some blind, cripple, maybe even a little crazy, but no less determined. We have celebrated with confetti, good music, spirits, tears and a lot of thank you Lords. What's next for America, what's next for people of color world wide. Will the Obama brand be accepted: a black face sitting on the throne of U.S. power?
How do we insure that the election has more than just a historical and symbolic significance? What can humanity do to insure that we move beyond race and class politics toward a healing of America and the world that our children can safely inherit. The new era of Obama's leadership will call for a radical shift in paradigms, worldview and praxis. We will have to be both reflexive and forward thinking in order to enjoy even a modicum of success.
Where do we start the rebuilding process? Does it start with the economy, health care, foreign policy, especially as it relates to Afghanistan and Iraq. What does it mean to European Americans to have a man of mix race, African and Caucasian calling the shots? What will it mean to people of color to have a person who at least in hue looks more like them than any other president?
Throughout the presidential campaign the media suggested that America had suddenly become color blind. I have a funny feeling that now that Obama has been elected the lens of race will take center stage. What will happen now that the celebration is over and the real work begins? Will the still white male dominated Congress be able to get behind a black man; even a Harvard educated, mixed race, raised with mid-Western European values one ?
America is at the nadir of its existence on the world stage. How do we rise out of the ashes of eight years of GW? How do we begin to heal the scars and redirect our moral, social, and economic compass toward justice for all, rather than a few. What I know for sure is that now it is our time to raise the bar on ourselves and thus make our government including president elect Obama accountable. The fight will be long and hard, so much has been lost (i.e. our civil liberties, jobs, homes and our respect around the world). The brother has truly inherited a huge pot of dung. He will need all of the moral fiber, testicular fortitude and a continued belief in the audacity of hope he can muster.
As African Americans we must not get caught up in the caught up. We must not be naive enough to believe that one black man alone can change our destiny. We must seize the moment. Get involved in your local government, get knowledgeable about who your state's U.S. senators and representatives are. Become active in writing them to let them know the national public policy agenda you would like to see. It is the responsibility of every American citizen to frame the political debate. If the Obama administration is to represent a true participatory democracy, we must speak up and out on behalf of those who are voiceless or just plain unwilling. We must speak with one voice for radical k-12 education reform, jobs and living- wages for all who desire and are able to work . We must advocate for access to affordable quality health care for every child, woman and man. More importantly, we must demand that the young men and women in our arm forces are brought home safely and timely. No longer should we sacrifice our young in the name of oil under the guise of democracy.
We have made the ancestors proud with this historic moment. Now let's put our heads and hearts together and see what world we can make that is a worthy inheritance for our young and the beautiful ones not yet born. I challenge each of you as I challenge myself to make the historic election of Barack Hussein Obama more that just a symbol, but a true reflection of what can happen when humanity comes together with a common vision of hope and possibility. I commit to do and be more to insure that my grandsons, Jaden and Jeremiah inherit a future that insures them a quality education, affordable health care, a living wage and a planet that is sustainable, greener and healthier for all.
My prayers and meditations go out to the Obama family. The love that Barack and Michelle show for each other and their children speaks to the revolutionary power of love to uplift and to heal. I pray that God will keep them strong as a unit and that the Creator's circle of protection will guide them as they attempt to carryout the duties of the Commander and Chief. To paraphrase words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic speech, " Where Do We Go From Here", " the plant of freedom has grown another bud, but it still is not a flower." (16 August, 1967). There is much to do, let's get to work to insure that the bud of freedom, love and democracy is transformed into a beautiful flower of hope and prosperity for all humanity.
YES WE CAN, YES WE DID AND YES WE WILL!!!
Posted by AkaziaJ. at 8:36 AM
Junee' Barringer Hunt, M.P.A.