“Have you donated money or time to the Morman church?” #campaignchronicles

I will write a number of posts about anti-Mormon sentiment from the left and other Democrats that I experienced while on the campaign trail. (I will be writing about anti-Democrat sentiment from conservative Mormons as well).

During my Congressional campaign I sent out fundraising emails on a regular basis. Here is a response I got to a message I sent out last June:

Dear Chris –
Thanks for including me on your emailing list.
Before making decisions regarding your candidacy, I need answers to a couple of questions that are important to me.
1. What are your positions on same-sex marriage in general and on DOMA specifically; and,
2. Have you donated money or time to the Morman church?
I look forward to your reply.
Many thanks,

[George]

No, his name is not George. I have decided to not use his real name in order to focus on the issue rather have this be an attack on the specific person.

I must say that I was pretty thrown off by this message. I somewhat expected to get something like it at some point, but when it actually showed up in my inbox it shock me up a bit.

Once I settled down, I was ready to play this game.

LDS Tabernacle in Afton, WY.

I responded:

George,

Thanks for the questions.

1. I agree with the conservative political theorist and journalist Andrew Sullivan on the issue of gay marriage. If people want to enter committed legal marriages, such marriage are good for the couple in a question and the community as a whole. So, I favor the legalization of gay marriage.

As for DOMA, I think it is a mess. Article iV of the Constitution states that “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.”

By precedent, we have treated marriage laws as applying to this section of Article IV. For Congress to say that both the federal government and other states can opt-out of recognizing certain records is in tension with Article IV. In addition, targeting gay couples and gay relationships specifically violates the 14th amendment.

2. I am an active member of the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints. The Mormons! I have donated 10 percent of my income in tithing for most of my life. We also try to donate what we can to Church funds that go to service organization and the needy. I served two years as a full-time missionary. I worked with the Vietnamese-speaking community of Orange County, CA. I have since served many years as a Sunday School I have also spent a number of years in leadership roles with the local men’s service group.

Yes, I have donated time and money to the Mormon Church.

Chris Henrichsen

I am leaving in my typos and those of George.

George responded later that same afternoon:

Chris –

Many thanks for your timely reply. I am truly impressed that you would quickly take the time to provide such in-depth and thoughtful answers to my perhaps impertinent questions.

As you must have guessed, I believe the ability to marry whom one loves, regardless of gender, is a basic civil right that must accrue to every American. It is gratifying that you agree with this.

What I need to consider now is whether your apparently sincere assertion of support for legalization of gay marriage should trump your significant funding of the organization that was dispositive of the outcome of the Prop 8 election in California — an initiative that prohibited recognition of gay marriage.

At least in my world, it is difficult to support someone whose church outranks his principles. I don’t know.

Many thanks, again, for your honest reply.

Sincerely,

[George]

My response to George:

“At least in my world, it is difficult to support someone whose church outranks his principles. I don’t know.”

Sigh. I have instructed my staff to remove you from my email list. I invite you to instead vote for Cynthia Lummis.

I never heard back from George. Though I did hear from a county party official in his county that he was pretty upset when I told him to vote for Cynthia Lummis. Trust me, the responses went through many drafts from a short “Go to “…to…well….you know.

Surely my response was not the most kind or prudent.

Thing is, I was not expecting to win the election. The hope had been to establish a foundation for future runs (that has changed and I will address that at length later).

However, I was not going to have my integrity challenged. Especially on this issue. During the campaign, I met with numerous gay rights groups. They were some of my favorite groups to meet with. I publicly stated my support for gay rights and gay marriage in many venues.

I was also insulted that George felt he needed to inform me about Prop.8. I remembered Prop. 8 all too well. It was a painful episode for me.

Maybe I could have shared my experiences with Prop. 8.

Maybe I could have shared some of my philosophical musings on homosexuality.

Instead, I decided that my initial response to George was sufficient. If he doubted my integrity…well…Cynthia Lummis could have his vote.

 

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Chris Henrichsen has moved Approaching Justice off of Patheos. Find his latest posts and the new Approaching Justice. Thanks!

  • Steve Taysom

    I think your response was perfect.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Thanks, Steve. Sometime I just ask myself: “How would Taysom respond?”

  • eric.w

    I don’t think you could have answered it any better. Really enjoy reading these chronicles of the campaign.

  • Jay

    I think it speaks positively of your integrity that you are willing to PUBLICLY take such a different stance than your church on some very important issues. It shows that even though your religious beliefs are so important to you, you aren’t controlled by the political stances of your church. You obviously have a mind of your own and you decide what YOU think is right and wrong. That’s exactly what we need. I supported you and voted for you, and I would gladly do so again if you ever decide to make another run!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Thanks, Jay!

  • Brian

    You are the perfect example of someone whose faith resonates and shines forth in who they are, but does not dominate or control who they are. For that, you have my admiration, Chris.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Brian, I am not sure if I can live up to that. :)

  • Christian Harrison

    Had I been your communications director, I might have encouraged you to reply thusly to George’s first e-mail:

    “Dear George,

    I appreciate your taking the time to reach out to me on issues that are important to you — if only more people did that!

    So. To your questions … 

    1. I agree with the conservative political theorist and journalist Andrew Sullivan on the issue of gay marriage: marriages are good for those married and the community as a whole. That’s why I favor the recognition of gay marriage.

    As for DOMA, I think it is a mess. Article IV of the Constitution states that “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State”.

    By precedent, we have treated marriage laws as applying to this section of Article IV. For Congress to say that both the federal government and other states can opt-out of recognizing certain records is in tension with Article IV. In addition, targeting gay couples and gay relationships specifically violates the 14th amendment.

    2. I am an active member of the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons!). Like other faithful members of the Church, I’ve donated 10 percent of my income in tithing for most of my life. Moreover, I donate what I can to the Church’s humanitarian efforts. I’ve also served two years as a full-time missionary and volunteer in my congregation.

    * * *

    I’d like to go out on a limb, now, to answer the question I see laying there, between the lines … how do I square the two? How do I financially support an organization that poured so much energy in to — and whose members (both in and out of California) contributed so much money to Prop 8?

    In a world of vast organizations working on many fronts, it’s difficult for our principles to exactly match our economic choices. Very difficult. Anyone who uses a computer owns a small piece of the horror which is electronic waste. Dressing in the morning almost guarantees that we engage in child labor (or worse).

    Of course, that’s not an excuse … but it certainly is context.

    As a Latter-day Saint, I see the incalculable good that the Church has wrought in my own life and the good it does in a real and immediate way in the communities it serves — here in Wyoming and abroad. So I choose to embrace that. Had I lived in California at the time of Prop 8, I would certainly have been asked to donate time and money to the Church’s Prop 8 efforts. And I would have declined. It wouldn’t have been easy — but it would have been the right thing to do.

    Sometimes good people do bad things.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Christian, if only I could have afforded you. There were many downfalls to being the candidate, campaign manager, finance director, and the communications director…all at the same time.

    • Lyndee

      Seems like you’ve had time to think about this; I love your response!

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    The Mormon votes supporting Prop 8 were a small minority. They were less than the margin of votes fopr Prop 8 over those against Prop 8. What put it over the top was strong support from supermajorities of Hispanic and black voters, voting their religious views. The total amount of money spent by Prop 8 supporters for advertisding was less than the amount spebnt by opponents. The opponents received lots of free publicity because of the famous names of many opponents, including those in the Hollywood entertainment industry, that was literally worth millions of dollars.

    Those who attack the LDS Church for participating in the campaign for Prop 8, and ignore the fact that the bulk of the votes for it came from racial miniority communities, are being dishonest, and they are condemning the process of democratic elections. The vandalism that opponents perpetrated on LDS buildings afterward, and the hatred against individual Mormons, is a profoundly anti-democratic position that threatens to chill the free exercise of speech and religious expression by threats of violence and ostracism. It is clear that many advocate os same-sex marriage intend to use legalization as a club to suppress religious freedom of any religion that does not endorse same-sex marriage. It is that totalitarian viewpoint that is the most troubling aspect of the same-sex marriage campaign to me. It is a viewpoint that gives homosexual behavior a privilege over and above the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and democratic self-government. The impatience of same-sex marriage advocates to try to impose their views on others, rather than persuade through a democratic process of free speech and elections, is the greatest danger of this issue, because it tries to enlist government power in suppressing the free thought of half of the populace. If the Supreme Court throws in with the lie that this innovation is somehow found within the Constitution, it will destroy the credibility and the power of the Court. People will discover that if they stand united they don’t have to obey the Court, and that will create unending mischief.


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