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Calif. Group Launches ‘Mormongate’ Campaign

A California based group that opposed Proposition 8 has launched an ad campaign aimed at raising awareness of the LDS Church’s role in similar campaigns to ban gay marriage in the 1990s and also, apparently, in the National Organization for Marriage, which is currently advocating against same-sex marriage in several New England states.

The ‘Mormongate’ campaign’s Web site (Mormongate.com) proclaims: “The Mormons are coming! The Mormons are coming,” styled after a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s classic poem “The Ride of Paul Revere.” The Web site’s text further riffs on the poem, which imaginatively chronicles Revere’s historic ride to warn Boston of a British invasion during the Revolutionary War. The parody poem alleges that Mormons were behind the creation of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay group most famous for its much-mocked YouTube ad “A Gathering Storm,” which compares gay marriage to an encroaching cloudburst.

“National Organization for Marriage is the official name,” the site reads. “The Mormon hierarchy—they’re to blame./They started back in ’95,/’Hawaii’s Future Today,’ kicked off their drive/To hide their involvement, we have the proof,/The leaked Mormon documents tell the truth.”

These eleven leaked documents, which are linked below the poem, appear to be mostly correspondence between LDS leaders Neal A. Maxwell and Loren C. Dunn — respectively, a member of the church’s Quorum of 12 until his death in 2004, and a General Authority who died in 2001. In these letters, Dunn speaks of the church’s involvement in attempts to block the legalization of gay marriage in Hawaii. In each, Dunn mentions the creation and operations of Hawaii Future Today, a coalition of Mormons, Catholics and people of other religions who opposed same-sex marriage.

“The Church showed just how effective it could be beginning in Hawaii in the mid-nineties all the way through to California’s Proposition 8 in 2008,” reads the Web site. “They were involved to some degree with all 30 state elections outlawing same-sex marriage.”

In one document dated Nov. 21, 1995, Dunn supposedly lays out the organization of Hawaii’s Future Today for Maxwell. He mentions that the group will attempt to discredit a government-appointed commission that studied the issue of “same-gender marriage” and ruled in favor of legalizing it. The letter also mentions the possible creation of a media campaign and the coalition’s willingness to pursue a constitutional marriage amendment to keep the issue of same-sex marriage from coming up again.

In another, dated March 6, 1996, Dunn tells Maxwell that such a coalition is a good strategy against gay marriage supporters, because supporters will not have any individual to “single out” for threatening their civil rights.

“One reason I wanted us organized in Hawaii the way we are is because President Hinckley wanted it that way,” Dunn apparently wrote. “A coalition is hard to attack and particularly a young mother who was Chair of the State Board of Education (Chairman), a popular Catholic Priest [sic] with a Jewish-Buddhist background who is noted for his work with the socially disadvantaged (Vice-Chairman) and a businessman who is a trustee of the University of Hawaii, a University [sic] that is known for its diversity (Vice-Chairman).”

In correspondence dated March 21, Dunn supposedly discusses HLM’s finances. After updating Maxwell on the status of a constitutional amendment under consideration in the state’s legislature, Dunn mentioned the money needed to fund a media campaign.

“Two challenges,” he supposedly wrote. “(1) We have shielded previous donors from recognition because of how the funds were used in the preparation of this project, but in the worst case scenario, current donors might be ferreted out and, (2) the contribution is not tax deductible. The coalition is in need to $50,000, probably $10,000 now to get the media program going and $40,000 within the next week or so that will help pay for the lobbyist through the end of the session. The coalition continues to raise money locally but as expected, the majority needs to come from us. We have had so many things happen to get us this far that, in my opinion, we can’t afford to pass up this opportunity. A two-thirds majority in the Senate would put the amendment before the people which would probably settle the court case [which stated that an amendment would violate Hawaii’s equal protection clause] before it got started.”

When these documents came to light last March, the LDS Church declined to discuss them or to confirm or deny their authenticity.

These documents, alleges Californians Against Hate, shed light on how involved the LDS Church has been in past campaigns opposing gay marriage. And its past involvement, the organization contends, is relevant to the church’s support of Proposition 8 last year.

“The Church showed just how effective it could be beginning in Hawaii in the mid-nineties all the way through to California’s Proposition 8 in 2008,” the Web site reads. “They were involved to some degree with all 30 state elections outlawing same-sex marriage. … Nearly all of their activities are intended to be highly secretive. This strategy has served them well over the past 20 years …”

Mormongate.com also alleges that the church “appears to have created” the National Organization for Marriage in 2007 “to qualify California’s Proposition 8 for the November 2008 ballot.”

“As in Hawaii, [NOM] had a loyal Mormon on the Board of this new organization. Matthew S. Holland, son of Jeffrey R. Holland who is one of the 12 Mormon Apostles, and the former President of BYU, served in that capacity,” wrote Californians Against Hate president Fred Karger in a letter posted to his blog. “The younger Holland teaches political science at BYU.”

Matthew Holland, who was also named as a board member of NOM in an April 19 New York Times op-ed piece on the group, apparently resigned from the organization’s board earlier this month under unclear circumstances.

“(One of them [NOM’s board members], the son of one of the 12 apostles in the Mormon Church hierarchy, recently stepped down.),” the article read.

Californians Against Hate has cited the close working relationship between Matthew Holland and now-chariman of NOM’s board Robert George, a Princeton McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, as evidence that the two men founded NOM.

Last November, Californians Against Hate have also filed a complaint with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, alleging that the LDS Church did not fully report its non monetary contributions to campaigns to pass Prop. 8, such as the cost of staffing phone banks, creating television ads and lawn signs and getting volunteers to canvass California neighborhoods.

In January, church spokesman Scott Trotter said that these allegations were “false” and that the LDS Church had, in fact, “filed four reports with California authorities,” which were a “matter of public record.”

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