A Utah-based group that made headlines across the state for running an anti-gay ad in the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune in February has again attempted to take out ads in both papers—this time blaming gays for an episode of an HBO drama depicting an LDS temple ceremony.
Only this time, editors of both papers refused to run the ad.
Once concerned primarily with protecting the rights of children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants, America Forever (run by Sandra Rodrigues and her brother Jonas Filho) has in recent years turned its attention to the issue of homosexuality, particularly in Utah. In February, the group placed a full page, full-color ad in the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News urging Utahns to reject the Common Ground Initiative, four bills by gay rights organization Equality Utah that sought to give gay and transgender Utahns more legal protections. The advertisement also criticized Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. for publicly stating his support of civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. The February advertisement accused Equality Utah of attempting to use LDS Church statements that said the church didn’t object to non-marital rights for gay people “as a shield to numb the public conscience of their religious duty and rights.” It also compared gays to “druggies and hookers” and called them “anti-species” because gay sex is not procreative.
Many Utahns criticized the newspapers for permitting the advertisement to run. Additionally, several legislators – including many who voted against the Common Ground bills — also called the advertisements inappropriate.
In their March advertisement, America Forever shifted from criticizing pieces of legislation to blaming gays for an episode of HBO’s drama Big Love that featured a depiction of an LDS temple endowment ceremony — a ceremony that Mormons consider to be off-limits for non-members. Big Love follows the lives of members of polygamist sect that has broken away from mainstream Mormonism.
Because Big Love’s co-creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer are gay, America Forever called the episode a deliberate attempt to be “disrespectful” to Mormons.
“This is persecution and retaliation against the LDS Church for its Stance [sic] on Proposition 8 in California!” read the ad, referring to a controversial ballot measure seeking to re-ban gay marriage which the LDS Church supported. The ad also compared the airing of the episode to “burn[ing] a cross on the church’s lawn.”
Despite these criticisms, the Big Love ad stated that America Forever is not an anti-gay group.
“America Forever is a non-hateful group with its only intent being of exposing the homosexual movement for what it really is,” the ad read. “There are many homosexuals that are your family and friends, and are good people. There is no intent to harm anyone. We do know that many of them are not aware of what this movement is doing. We feel that the faster this movement is exposed the les victims there will be!”
Although advertisements for the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune are handled separately by a company named MediaOne, Tribune editor Nancy Conway and Deseret News publisher Jim Wahl both agreed not to run the ad in their publications, according to Tribune columnist Paul Rolly. Rolly reported that Conway compared the advertisement to hate speech and Wahl said he did not want to promote something “detrimental to the community and [that] causes pain.”
America Forever then sent unsolicited faxes of the ad to several Utah businesses — including some colleges and universities—complete with accusations that the newspapers had “stifled our free speech.”
“[T]oday we are wondering where is the freedom of the press?” the fax read.
According to Rolly, it was a gesture that upset many of the recipients.
“Several businesses have sent copies of the fax they received from America Forever and have let me know of their displeasure at receiving its blustering against their will,” he wrote.