A full-page ad placed in the New York Times today by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty says that rallies in response to the pasage of California's Proposition 8, "seem never to have been demonstrations in the first place, but more nearly mobs, seeking not to persuade but to intimidate."
"When thugs send white powder to terrorize any place of worship, especially those of a religiousminority, responsioble voices need to speak clearly: Religious wars are wrong; they are also dangerous," the ad stated.
The Becket Fund is a Washington, DC-based organizations that describes itself as "a nonprofit, nonpartisan, interfaith, legal and educational institute dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions."
Earlier this year, the Fund awarded its Canterbury Medal — an award to the person who has "most resolutely refused to render to Ceasar that which is God's" — to former Mass. Gov. and Mrs. Mitt Romney.
In a press release today, the Human Rights Campaign called the ad "untruthful."
"Today, members of the Human Rights Campaign's Religion Council responded forcefully to a full-page ad in the New York Times that implies there is an organized attempt to foment mob intimidation and violence toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints due to its actions dehumanizing lesbian and gay people in the recent election campaign, particularly in California around passage of Proposition 8, which stripped gay families of the right to a civil marriage," the statement began.
"When did the LDS Church become the victim? It’s hard to believe, but that is exactly what it is trying to convince the public of. It is continuing to spend an excess of dollars in an attempt to mislead the public and transform its image. But the truth is that this is the same church that conducted a national broadcast to every temple, calling on members to organize and write checks to the Prop 8 campaign. The same church that donated more than half of the $40 million behind Prop 8, even though California Mormons represent just 2 percent of the state's population. Yes, it’s the same church."
Leaders of several religious and gay organizations likewaise responded harshly against the ad.
"Several signatories to the ad are generals in the culture wars," said Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Church (Epsicopal), Pasadena, Calif. "They lied about gay people in the campaign, and now they are lying again when they say we are in favor of mob intimidation and violence. I personally talked legitimately angry demonstrators in California out of such action and every credible LGBT organization called for peaceful resistance to the Prop 8 travesty. Many of the leaders cited in this ad preach hate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, then look the other way when LGBT people are the victims of hate crimes. This ad is an act of individual and corporate hypocrisy."
Bishop John Selders of Amistad United Church of Christ in Hartford, Conn. said, "As an African-American, I've heard this before. A few frustrated members of a minority group respond in anger to a new indignity and the oppressor calls them anarchists. Satan, sometimes called the Father of Lies, is at work when powerful people seek to dehumanize those who are less powerful."
"Calls for tolerance of certain religious viewpoints rings hollow in a world where religion often stands by tolerating violence perpetrated on God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children," was Rev. Dr. Erin Swenson's reply. Dr. Swenson is a Presbyterian minister and psychotherapist in Atlanta.
Rev. Dr. Ken Stone of Chicago Theological Seminary said, "While I agree that violence and anti-religious bigotry need to be combated, we must also demand an end to the violence undertaken by those religious institutions that not only encourage but also fund bigotry against lesbians and gay men. Where will the Becket Fund be when we call for endorsements of hate crimes and employment protection legislation for LGBT people?"
Rev. Dr. Mary A. Tolbert of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the Pacific School of Religion stated, "The 'No Mob Veto' ad would be more convincing as a statement of concern for civil debate over the well-organized and well-funded participation of the LDS church in the passage of Prop 8 had it not itself ended with a clear threat of intimidation toward anyone criticizing that church's role in the election. As the Christian gospels demonstrate in Jesus' action of overturning the tables of money-lenders in the temple, sometimes speaking the truth to entrenched and wealthy religious leaders requires a dramatic stroke. To protest the enormous financial involvement of a religious body in stripping equal rights from California LGBT people, their families, and their children is in no way anti-religious bigotry; it is instead, like the example of Jesus in the temple, an attempt to speak the truth to those rooted in power and wealth whose actions serve to deprive other human beings of the equal respect and dignity all of God's children deserve."
Rev. Rebecca Voelkel of the Institute for Welcoming Resources of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force summed up: "As a Christian, I was taught not to 'bear false witness.' One of the deepest tragedies of the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign in California was its bearing false witness– more plainly stated, its lies– about the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. This ad is one more example. In response to the passage of Proposition 8, faithful, honorable, patriotic Americans from every walk of life and of many sexual orientations and gender identities gathered to say no to lies and yes to love, truth and the American way. To name these overwhelmingly peaceful gatherings as mobs dishonors me, my family, members of my church and so many others who participated in them. As a Christian, my religious tradition also admonishes me to speak the truth in love. Therefore, I prayerfully ask those who have run this ad and others like it, to stop your false witness. Instead, and especially in these times, our country and our world need all of us, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, pagans and all people of faith, to work on behalf of the dignity of all human beings."
HRC, on a page titled "Demand the Truth ," calls on people to write letters to the editor of the New York Times, emails to the Becket Fund, and go to the NoMobRule.org Web site to add letters of personal experience about the passage of Proposition 8.