Time for the Movement to Spread Its Protests Around 13 November 2008Posted by Todd in Democratic Theory, Gay Rights, Inequality & Stratification, Religion.
Tags: Prop 8 protests
Just a quick thought: Although I’m supportive of the many protests of the Mormon church over the past week, and I think they are totally justified given the church’s prominent role in the Yes on 8 campaign, I think it’s time to expand our scope. We need to continue the peaceful, but pointed protesting, at other churches who were deeply involved in this issue, and we need to include churches across race lines as well. If the exit polling was correct, the religious vote generally, which in this case included Catholic and evangelical churches, voted roughly 80% in favor. Spread the love, my people! I also thought of suggesting the protests move to retirement communities, but for some reason that thought just made me giggle.
Free Speech 101: Mormon Edition 9 November 2008Posted by Todd in 2008 Elections, Democratic Theory, Gay Rights, Mormonism/LDS Church.
Tags: Proposition 8
Please read Chanson’s great post at Mainstreet Plaza explaining to Mormons why protesting at their temples does not violate their rights. My favorite paragraph:
But seriously folks, free expression 101: your right of free speech doesn’t guarantee you protection from having other people tell you that what you freely said was wrong. You know it, and I know you know it, so please cut the B.S.
Here’s my post from a couple years ago on American Christianity’s basic misunderstanding of free speech, “Free Speech, and Insulting Religion.”
Clarification on Mormons and Prop 8 9 November 2008Posted by Todd in Christianity, Democratic Theory, Gay Rights, Mormonism/LDS Church, Religion.
Tags: Proposition 8, tax-exemption
Just to clarify: I’m completely supportive and in favor of the ongoing protests and civil disobedience to bring to light the wrong-headed, unscientific beliefs in fairy tales, and the undemocratic efforts of the Mormon church and its adherents to enshrine their *religious* beliefs regarding homosexuality and marriage into the *secular* Constitution of California. In fact, I’m especially thrilled by the prospect of protestors disrupting Mormons’ efforts to marry in their temples. The irony is rich, no?
And especially in reference to my post about the Mormon church’s tax-exempt status, I’m in favor of all churches losing their tax exempt status. There is no reason at all that churches should be able to keep their finances secret and that they should be able to control billions of dollars in assets without contributing back to the society. And they certainly should be paying taxes if they are going to step into the public sphere to make their particular biases and bigotries enforced by law.
Unlike Seth, the Mormon commenter to the previous post, I see no difference between the protests in Salt Lake City and in Los Angeles. Both were direct responses to the Church’s efforts to impose its religion on the people of California; both were lawful; and both were filled with the frustration of a people denied. The protestors in Salt Lake City gathered at one of the gates to Temple Square and chanted “You’re Sexist! You’re Racist! And you’re Homophobic!” The protestors in Los Angeles bore signs that read, “You have two wives. I want one husband!” I marched in the protest in San Francisco on Friday night and felt the power of a people galvanized against those who would make them second class citizens. Separate is never equal, and this is but one stop along the route to full equality under the law for the gay and lesbian citizens of Californa. Next stop: The United States.
Tags: gay marriage, Non-Profit Tax Exemption, Proposition 8
I’ve been getting a lot of people directing me to the Mormons Stole Our Rights web site, starting a campaign to take away the LDS Church’s tax-exempt status for the participation in the Proposition 8 battle. This is the wrong approach. Let me explain:
I’m especially pissed at the Mormons for two reasons: 1) it was the religion of my childhood and I feel betrayed and shunned all over again; 2) because they financed at least 1/2 of the campaign and provided the lion’s share of the ground forces for prop 8. So I get the rage and the need to strike back.
However, I’m a stickler for free speech and free expression: As the law now stands, the Mormon church did NOT break the law; neither did the catholic church; nor the evangelical churches who campaigned (and who held that horrifying rally in San Diego a few days before the election).
There is a legal problem here that we realistically need to account for if we are to hold the LDS Church accountable (as well as the Catholics and all those Evangelical churches): The Mormon church did not break any law. It’s within their rights according to the IRS code to advocate publicly and spend money to advocate for political issues. Like all churches/non-profits, they are only barred from campaigning for candidates. The website “Mormons Stole Our Rights” is wrong on the legal facts (it ignores subsection (h) of the tax code they site) and this will lose in any court in America. Ask any tax attorney and they’ll spell it out for you. Even more problematically, the Mormon church itself donated exactly ZERO funds to this campaign anyway and asked its members to donate money; this is also completely within its rights as the law now stands.
The more legally sound approach is to begin a campaign consisting of one of the two of the following:
a) demand that churches not be considered special kinds of non-profits and that their finances must be made public, just like non-religious non-profits must.
b) remove nonprofit status from all religious organizations. Make them all pay taxes on the money they use to advocate for issues, just like all private citizens must (we have to pay taxes on the money we donate to political causes). Religions have only had nonprofit status since the 1950s. This isn’t enshrined anywhere in stone.
There is also a third issue to consider:
c) another way to go might be to see if it could be made illegal for California propositions to be funded by out of state interests (see prop 10 as another example); I suspect that may come into conflict with the interstate commerce clause, however, and would require federal legislation.
In some ways, this nascent campaign seems to seek to punish the Mormons for expressing their beliefs and campaigning for them. That is, on its face, anti-democratic and the precise wrong way to go about addressing our the role of the LDS Church in this past election. I’m all in favor of the protests at the Mormon temples, the intense criticism in the public sphere that Mormonism has been getting over this issue, etc. That is what free speech is for: Engaging against wrong-headed and harmful speech and countering it. But rather than seeking to punish an individual or organization for doing what is most fundamental to a democracy, we should be seeking to change people’s minds and convincing the majority of Californians that they are wrong ethically and democratically to enshrine a second class citenzhip for homosexuals in their constitution.
Let’s face it: The No on 8 campaign was completely unprepared for this battle, and the homos of California were complacent and assumed that there was no way this could pass. By the time No on 8 made the staffing change in the campaign, it was too little too late. There is much work to be done to overcome the homophobia and no institutionalized inequality in our Constitution. I fear that this specific line of attack is the wrong one, unless done very carefully and with full understanding and respect for the law and for the right to free speech and expression.
Morality and the Brain 4 August 2008Posted by Todd in Cognitive Science, Cultural Sociology & Anthropology, Ethics.
Some new research into our innate moral capacity (the ability to think morally is innate, not the rules; although there are some foundational presumptions human brains tend to make, relating to reciprocal altruism, but that’s not what I’m posting about here). In western philosophy, there are basically two kinds of moral arguments, deontological and utilitarian. This is an oversimplification that people who are studying the cognition of morality make to be able to categorize what they are observing. In most simple terms, deontological arguments function on principles or categorical imperatives, and in day-to-day life are made emotionally, without conscious rational thinking. Utilitarian arguments focus on maximizing good outcomes, and in day-to-day life people are able to give their rational arguments for their position, that is, they do invoke their conscious problem-solving brain. Cognitive scientists have thought for about 10 years now that humans use both systems to make their moral judgments, but had until now thought that the two systems worked in tandem or in competition with each other. Some new experiments seem to indicate that the two work independently of each other and do not overlap in brain processes. Very cool. Here’s the article from Scientific American, “Thinking about Morality”.
“Gay Marriage” in California 22 May 2008Posted by Todd in Commentary, Democratic Theory, Gay Rights.
Tags: California Supreme Court, gay marriage, judicial activism, marriage equality
I’ve been meaning to post about last week’s decision for, well, about a week now, but haven’t really had the time to breathe with all these blue books needing graded. I’ll try to come back to this early next week when grades are submitted. For the time being, run, don’t walk, to read Glenn Greenwald’s two analyses of the legal issues. I especially appreciated his day-of explanation of what makes an “activist court” and why this is not judicial activism. I wish some of the law professors I’ve been hearing on the radio over the past week would do some reading in democratic theory and even the Federalist Papers, for god’s sake.
A Whole New Blog 18 April 2008Posted by Todd in Blog.
I’ve decided to separate my blogging life into two parts, one of them more formal and intellectual, focusing on my academic and intellectual work, and the other more broad ranging and personal. Todd’s Hammer is going to become what I’d always conceived of it to be, which is a space for me to work on my ideas and perhaps create dialogue with friends and colleagues about them, whenever possible. So I’m removing all of the personal, jokey, real-life kinds of posts to another blog, and I’m narrowing the focus of the Hammer.
For friends and family, I will cross-post everything from the Hammer to the personal blog so you’ll only have to keep track of one blog. I’m keeping the new blog somewhat private, so please email me directly, if you haven’t already gotten the new blog URL.