The New York Times: “Mormon Church Agrees to Pay Campaign Finance Fine”

Jun 18, 2010

ny times



June 9, 2010, 5:47 PM

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Mormon Church has agreed to pay a fine of slightly more than $5,000 for failing to report some campaign staff contributions it made in support of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that outlawed same-sex marriage.

According to the Fair Political Practices Commission’s Web site, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “failed to timely report making late non-monetary contributions totaling $36,928.” The commission had requested the church pay $5,539 in fines, which it has done, and the commission will meet to vote on finalizing the penalty on Thursday in Sacramento.

In a statement, the church claimed that all the contributions it made in support of Proposition 8, “were reported to the appropriate authorities in California.” But it admitted that in the last two weeks of the highly contested campaign, it “mistakenly overlooked the daily reporting requirement for non-monetary contributions,” which would include things like staff time. The church’s statement called the reporting failure an “oversight” and thanked the commission for its “fairness and consideration” in dealing with the matter.

The commission began their investigation into the Mormon Church’s contributions after a complaint was filed by Fred Karger, founder of the group Californians Against Hate, asserting that the church failed to fully disclose the time and money it spent on Proposition 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote.

On Wednesday, Mr. Karger — who is openly gay and has expressed interest in running for the 2012 Republican nomination for president — sounded satisfied with the commission’s expected decision.

“The Mormon church has been leading the charge to create constitutional amendments to take away marriage equality from gay and lesbian people all over this country and they’ve been doing it dishonestly and in the dark of night,” said Mr. Karger, who referred to the situation as “Mormon-gate” when reached by phone. “I blew the whistle and they got caught for violating the law,” he said.

Associated Press: “Mormon Church Faces Fine Over Prop 8 Donations”

Jun 18, 2010





06/08/10 5:35 PM PDT


SAN FRANCISCO — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has agreed to pay a $5,538 fine to settle a complaint over its campaign contributions supporting California’s ban on same-sex marriages, the executive director of the state agency that regulates campaign finances said Tuesday.

Roman Porter, who directs the California Fair Political Practices Commission, said an investigation revealed the Mormon Church was tardy in revealing about $37,000 worth of work its staff performed on behalf of Proposition 8 in the final weeks before the November 2008 election.

The commission’s five appointed members are scheduled to consider the proposed settlement on Thursday. The investigation did not uncover evidence that the church failed to disclose any contributions but concluded that it failed to meet required deadlines for disclosing the value of 13 days of staff time devoted to the campaign.

“The proposed fine under consideration by the commission addresses all the issues within the complaint,” Porter said.

Its role in putting Proposition 8 on the ballot made the Mormon Church a target for much of the anger that gay rights supporters felt after California voters approved the ballot measure, which outlawed same-sex marriage five months after the state Supreme Court legalized it.

At the urging of church leaders, individual Mormons from around the country volunteered for and gave millions of dollars to the Yes on 8 campaign.

Porter’s finding came in response to a complaint filed by a gay rights activist after voters approved the gay marriage ban 19 months ago. At the time, the church said it had spent just $2,078 itself to support Proposition 8.

Fred Karger, the founder of Californians Against Hate, alleged the church ran out-of-state phone banks, produced commercials and provided other services without disclosing them as contributions to, the coalition of religious and conservative groups that sponsored the gay marriage ban.

In January 2009, nearly three months after the election, Mormon church officials filed an updated campaign spending report that added another $190,000 to what it previously declared. That total includes the $37,000 in donations Porter said were not reported in a timely way.

Karger said he was pleased Porter substantiated his broad claim that the church had misstated the value of its campaign support.

“My fervent hope is they will get out of this business and go help earthquake victims in Chile or something, but get out of peoples’ lives and denying their happiness,” he said.

Mormon Church spokeswoman Kim Farah directed The Associated Press to a statement on the church’s website that said the campaign violations were unintentional and stemmed from a misunderstanding about how often contributions needed to be reported.

“All institutional contributions made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the ProtectMarriage Coalition were reported to the appropriate authorities in California,” the statement said. “Claims that the Church misrepresented its contributions to the ProtectMarriage coalition are false.”

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner:

Edge: “8: The Mormon Proposition”

May 12, 2010


image 8: The Mormon Proposition

by Kilian Melloy

Thursday May 13, 2010

By now, you’ve heard the story–or at least some version of it: in 1996, when Hawaii was looking at the possibility of becoming the first state to allow marriage equality (Massachusetts took that honor eight years later), the leadership of the Mormon Church began to draw plans for how to influence the political process and deny gay and lesbian families access to marital parity.

Reed Cowan’s documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition examines the history of the religion’s anti-gay activities and the tactics that the church used. Activist Fred Karger is featured, explaining how he came to possess high-level sensitive documents, internal memos from the Mormon leadership that show, step by step, how the Mormon church sought to manipulate the political process while remaining behind the scenes. After Hawaiian voters added language to the state’s constitution that effectively singled out and denied legal equality to gay and lesbian families, the church’s attention shifted to California–long before marriage equality became, briefly, a reality there.

When California gay and lesbian couples started marrying, the Mormons among them faced rage and shunning from their families, but their men at the top ranks of their faith had bigger plans that extended well beyond matters of doctrinal purity for the church’s membership; with those plans in place–and an obedient membership standing by to pour immense sums of money into California from around the nation–the church was able, in a short time, to demonize gays, panic voters, and strip marriage rights from couples of all faiths, and no faith.

The process of calculation and manipulation the Mormon leadership engaged in didn’t just involve the fabrication of alarming–but false–claims about marriage equality destroying religious freedom and turning children gay; interviewees in The Mormon Proposition recount how Mormon leaders visited families belonging to the faith and announced how much those families were expected to pony up for the battle in California. The threat implicit in those visits was that families that didn’t pull out their checkbooks and fork over the sum demanded of them would face banishment from the church–in effect, exile not just from the faith, but from the ranks of the faithful as well, a loss of family and friends. Families lost their savings, the film tells us, and drained their childrens’ college accounts, all in order to yank existing rights out of the hands of people who, by and large, did not belong to their church and had no stake in the afterlife in which we’re told Mormons believe: a realm where spirit-men marry multiple wives and populate entire planets with limitless ranks of spirit-children.

A bit of Cowan’s film leaked last year, when footage of an interview with anti-gay Utah state senator Chris Buttars hit the headlines. Buttars compared gays to terrorists and called them “the biggest threat going down” to America’s national security. That episode has become part of the film itself, along with the aftermath–Utah’s state lawmakers closing ranks around Buttars and praising him as “a stalwart” with whom many of those legislators agreed.

But the documentary looks beyond the immediate effects of the vote on Proposition 8, the anti-gay ballot initiative that was narrowly approved by California voters in November of 2008 and that rescinded the existing rights of a minority at the majority’s behest. The fight was nasty–and involved the exploitation, in commercials, of other people’s children, a shocking twist that horrified California parents–but it’s only a glimpse at what Mormons are willing to do–and have done–to gays. Cowan delves deeper and deeper into the corrosive realm of Mormonism’s anti-gay lore and politics, uncovering a trail of broken lives, homeless youths, and teen suicide: the legacy of a faith that has, we are told by a weeping victim, tortured and sexually assaulted gays by strapping them naked to chairs and shocking their genitals while showing them pictures of naked men. (And that’s an improvement over the old-school Mormon method of dealing with gays; according to this film, they used to lobotomize Mormon queers.) The rage and anguish the viewer might feel reaches a crescendo when one homeless youth, shown sharing a run-down dwelling and a filthy mattress with several others, proclaims matter-of-factly that, “There is no hope” for gay Mormon kids.

This documentary answers crucial questions: why and how can a church so blatantly intrude on the democratic process and still maintain its tax-exempt status, thereby making anyone who pays taxes complicit in faith-based bigotry? What motivates Mormons to assault gays in all the ways–physical, emotional, psychological, legislative, social–that they do? Why did Evangelicals and Catholics join forces with Mormons to subvert the ballot initiative process and, for the first time in our nation’s history, strip existing rights from a minority at the ballot box?

But in answering those questions, 8: The Mormon Proposition also serves as a record of vitriol and hatred so potent and so searing that after seeing the film, I wanted to vomit. That’s surely the intention behind the documentary: it uses all the rhetorical tricks of its genre to drive its message home in as forceful a way as possible, and in that respect the film feels like propaganda. But the documented facts in the film speak for themselves, and point to terrifying, and tragic, conclusions.

The Mormon Proposition tries to hand its audience an upbeat ending, but after last fall’s sequel to the California vote–the squashing of marriage equality in Maine, and the unholy national crusade against gay and lesbian families mounted by the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay group with deep, close ties to the Mormon church (Karger says that NOM is a “front” organization for the church’s activities), the film’s hopeful notes sound hollow. The Mormon leadership, including men who claim to speak personally to Jesus, view their church’s faithful as an “army” poised to do their bidding, and see GLBT Americans, and their families, as the enemy.

Mormons from across the country have proven themselves willing to follow their marching orders, to the detriment of their own children–a terrible irony for a faith so concerned about the sanctity of family. The extremes to which the Mormons (together with their Catholic and Evangelical allies) have gone, and may yet take us, will surely lead–as one interviewee laments–to still more sorrow and loss all around, and all in the name of righteousness.

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.