Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans weren’t the only ones displeased with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ involvement in efforts to pass Proposition 8, the controversial measure which re-banned gay marriage in California.
It seems a lot of Mormons are mad, too. And many of them are resigning their church memberships.
Two days after a narrow margin of California voters passed the constitutional amendment on Nov. 4, Andrew Callahan, owner of the anti-Prop. 8 Web site SigningForSomething.org, put up a page giving LDS people information on resigning their membership. Since then he said nearly 700 people have posted their intent to resign, or actual letters of resignation. “Maybe 140 or 180” of these he added, said they resigned over the church’s opposition to gay marriage before the election. Approximately 500 have stated their intent after the amendment’s passage.
“There are cases where some families — in some cases entire extended families — are leaving the church,” he said. “Some people are very, very angry.”
Once an LDS high priest, Callahan is one such angry person. Shortly after the LDS Church began encouraging members to donate money and volunteer their time to ensuring Proposition 8’s passage, Callahan and other like-minded Mormons set up SigningForSomething.org in protest.
“This just reminded me so much of the racial bigotry that Mormon leaders have historically been so famous for,” he said at the time. “Our past leaders insisted that racial bigotry against blacks was God’s divine idea, now current ones are promoting this same kind of bigoted nonsense about gays and lesbians.”
Callahan’s Web site, and his letters to LDS officials urging them to rethink their stance on Prop. 8, soon attracted the ire of church leadership. At first, Callahan said leaders just told bishops to ignore him. And when Callahan persisted, he said his bishop asked him to resign his membership. When he refused to do so, Callahan said his bishop told him he would face a disciplinary hearing on Sept. 26.
On the day the hearing was to take place, however, Callahan said he received an email from his stake president Weldon Sleight, stating that the hearing had been postponed “given this politically charged election season.”
Although the email (which Callahan has posted to his Web site) suggested moving the hearing to November, Callahan said he has yet to hear anything about a new date from church officials. His letters to Sleight on the subject, he added, go unanswered.
“Not even an ‘I got your letter’ or ‘we haven’t made a decision,’” Callahan said.
Callahan, however, has been receiving scores of letters from Mormons across the country who say they are intending on resigning long before a bishop asks them to.
“I have never been ashamed to be affiliated with the LDS church, even though I have long since been inactive and do not adhere to their doctrine. I am ashamed now,” wrote Robert Shingleton of Cottonwood Heights, Utah. “Now, I want no part of the LDS religion and I will not have my name associated with the LDS church [sic].”
“I can personally attest to the fact that families are being torn asunder due to the First Presidency Message in support of Proposition 8 and urging members to do whatever they can in seeking the passage of such a measure,” wrote David San Filippo of Port Hueneme, Calif. in a resignation letter posted to standingforsomething.org on Nov. 18. “I cannot sit idly by and watch an organization to which I belong help strip my fellow Americans of their rights in the name of Christ. To do so would be in direct violation of what He taught and revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
“I disagree with those who say the church does more good than bad and that it teaches good morals,” wrote Seth Anderson of Tempe, Ariz. on Nov. 17. “The church fails as a moral guide. The standard of good and moral in the church is what ‘God’ says which is what the ‘prophet’ [sic] says, which changes from time to time, thereby providing no moral criterion by which to live.”
In addition to these and other former Mormons posting to his Web site, Callahan said he knows several families where all or almost all members are resigning their membership. Indeed, three of Callahan’s four children are leaving.
As for himself, Callahan said he will not resign unless his wife does.
“I’ll let them excommunicate me,” he said. “Maybe I’m just being cantankerous, but I refuse to do it just because they asked me to do it.”
“I really think that the church just completely, to quote our President, ‘misunderstimated’ the backlash,” he said. “In some ways they have to be sorry that they won. I think people are justified in speaking out against them because they have done a horrible thing. … They purposefully, intentionally and willfully trod on people’s rights. That’s a bad thing to do and that’s gonna get people angry with you.”