Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gay Marriage and Immigration -- Some Thoughts

Let me make a bold statement -- I do not speak for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on anything. What I do here is totally on me. This blog represents no one but me. I am an agent unto myself, and I take full responsibility for what I think and what I write. If you disagree, I would love to discuss it with you. If you support my conclusions, then come join with me in expressing those opinions more courageously than you have heretofore done, and help spread the love.

In a bipartisan vote in favor of extending marriage rights to gay couples, the New York State Senate passed the bill after provisions protecting churches who opposed the measure were written into the language of the final version. It is significant to some proponents of the LGBT community that the legislature in New York is under Republican Party control. It signals progress to them that other "red" states may soon take up their cause.

New York becomes the sixth state where gay couples can wed, doubling the number of Americans living in a state with legal gay marriage.

It appears the legal ramifications of what is being done to promote the LGBT agenda will continue to be defined by votes in various jurisdictions throughout the country, with many predicting this New York vote will spur momentum in other states to follow suit.

There are many who say, "What's the big deal? If they want to get married, who are we to get in their way?" It is not likely lightning bolts will strike dead gay couples on the courthouse steps when they step out of the shadows to legalize their domestic relationships. The world will not suddenly come to screeching halt because of it, nor will the stock market collapse, the moon be turned to blood, and earthquakes and plagues suddenly break out in response.

Instead, the reality is that life will continue. Oh, except that life is created between a man and woman and it's called procreation and gays and lesbians have no ability to create the life. But I digress. I've written about all of that before. If you are confused about the associated underlying gospel doctrine, please click the link. Study it as passionately as you tend to give heed to the prevailing winds of false doctrine that swirl around your head. Do not let the political winds that blow at gale force turn you away from the foundation of truth that has already been laid for you. God would not have you believe a false doctrine in this benighted world when He has given you light and truth in unfailing doses of brilliant illumination.

I have been thinking this morning in the wake of this news what it really means for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose leaders stand shoulder to shoulder with other religions in opposition. The Church's opposition in California to the Prop 8 ballot initiative seeking to legalize gay marriage there in recent years is an example of what can be forecast into the future on this issue. New York may the be latest fatality in the onward spread of LGBT thinking, but the Church's opposition will not abate.

On the immigration front here in Utah, we have seen as recently as last week a referendum of sorts on the Church's benign and humanitarian stance. Critics of the position of the Church have openly stated they prefer to uphold the platform of the national GOP and the state GOP that opposes any and all attempts short of 100% enforcement of border security. They criticize the Church for not screaming at the federal government to do its job. The delegates I saw in action at last week's state GOP convention who were determined to send a message were predominantly members of the Church. It seems they are more interested in upholding and sustaining the platform of the Republican Party than they are of the stated position of the leaders of their Church.

They adamantly cite the 12th Article of Faith:  “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” They contend the Church can't have it both ways, picking and choosing which laws they obey, honor and sustain. It's as if they want to hold the Church accountable for the federal government's inability or unwillingness to carry out its constitutional duties. If the Church makes a determination on the grounds of the federal government's failure to act to enforce immigration laws, that is something completely different than asserting the Church is not adhering to the tenets of the 12th Article of Faith.

It seems the members of the Church will have to be tested yet again in these times over this question: Will they come out in support of popular issues like gay marriage and immigration enforcement in opposition to the public positions the Church's leaders have taken, or will they align their thinking, writing and speaking with their leaders?

I have answered that question for myself. I will stand with the Brethren. Scroll down the comment page until you see the post by "goatesnotes" -- that would be me.

I have cited my reasons in past posts, but some of it bears repeating this morning in the wake of this latest challenge to the stated positions the Church has taken. Some ask, "Why does the Church get involved in these controversies? Why don't they just mind their own business and let people do what they want? Don't they believe in free agency?"

In matters involving morality, the Church has an obligation and duty to its members to lead out and give direction. The Church will never violate the exercise of moral agency, but it will offer guidance and direction while leaving the final decision in the hands of the individual. In both controversies, the LGBT agenda and immigration, the Church is doing nothing more than restating the time-honored Christian traditions of what constitutes the true definition of marriage between a man and a woman, and advocating the need for humanitarian considerations in our treatment of immigrants without regard to their legal status.

Because I have already addressed the LGBT issues in the past, this morning I'll flesh out the immigration debate in more detail.

Winston Churchill
In a radio broadcast in 1939, Winston Churchill, speaking about Russia said: "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest."

If we were to attempt to unravel the riddle of the current state of immigration in this country, perhaps that is where we must start -- the national interest of the politicians we have elected to represent our individual interests. This much is certain: the federal government has failed to secure our borders in the aftermath of 9/11 and continues to dither without any forward progress toward addressing the practical realities of the presence of some 12 million undocumented residents who are here illegally. Why is that true?

The cynic would say, and who would contradict, it's because they represent a block of voters that must be wooed. Why has there been little but token effort to secure our borders? Why has comprehensive immigration reform legislation at the federal level been blocked again and again? It seems as if a false choice has been erected -- amnesty or deportation -- so why can't we take a vote, pass laws and come to some agreement? Why do we permit identity theft, document fraud, employers who hire illegals knowingly, and give access to our schools, our health care and other services knowingly without any political will to enforce the laws we already have on the books both in the states and at the federal level?

The simple answer is we seem to lack the political willpower in the halls of Congress in Washington D.C. to do anything about it. The federal government has abdicated one of its few expressed powers granted to it in the Constitution -- to secure the national interest -- and many of its elected representatives have breached their oath of office to defend us from all enemies foreign and domestic.

So, if that case can be made that the federal government has been derelict in its duty and it has a perceived political benefit in doing so (wooing potential voters with a wink and a nod with a free pass over their true identities), what comes next? At that point is civil disobedience justified and to what extent? Can a state pass a law requesting a waiver from the federal government to collect taxes so the revenues generated under the bill can be utilized to take enforcement steps against crime within the borders of its state? Shall federalism -- the argument over which powers are the states' and which the federal government's -- finally be defined by such a course of action? Stay tuned, that's what this is all about.

Arizona responded with a harsh enforcement law designed to put teeth into the growing problem it faced along its borders. Not wanting to repeat the same mistake in Utah, a coalition came together around a document entitled the "Utah Compact." It laid out five basic principles, beliefs really, about how legislators should go about putting together legislation attempting to address the immigration issue:


FEDERAL SOLUTIONS Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries — not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders. We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.

LAW ENFORCEMENT  We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement’s professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.

FAMILIES  Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children.

ECONOMY  Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Utah’s immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.

A FREE SOCIETY  Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.

Out of that modest beginning came Utah's HB116, an attempt to pass legislation at the state level designed to go as far as a state could in taking on the practical realities of dealing with an immigrant population, taking into account their illegal status, and providing a path forward for them that respected the humanitarian needs of those affected.

Yes, the legislators were warned in advance that on its face it was unconstitutional because it was asking for a waiver from the federal government to allow it to collect taxes normally passed along to the feds, but pass it did and it was done knowingly. It was based in large measure on the need to preserve families that were being broken up because of the absence of federal guidance and hit-and-miss enforcement that left everyone grappling with what to do -- arrest and deport, ignore and co-exist, embrace or reject. But at a deeper level, it sought to define where we draw the line on enforcement -- go after the criminals, not the hard-working law-abiding aliens who are honestly seeking a better life in America.

The Church buttressed the legislation that was signed into law by the governor with a restatement of its long-held position on the matter. In part, the Church reaffirmed: "What to do with the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now residing in various states within the United States is the biggest challenge in the immigration debate. The bedrock moral issue for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is how we treat each other as children of God."

And therein, a simple statement of belief based upon a moral principle -- how we treat each other as children of the same Father in Heaven -- has the Church set its statement before us to accept or reject. It troubles me that perhaps some of us have gotten our priorities out of sync. It seems about half of us Republican Mormons in Utah are more interested in what the Party thinks than what the Brethren do.

If it came to a showdown, and you were standing before your precinct to be elected as a state delegate, how would you respond? Would you swear an oath of allegiance to the state Republican Party platform to get elected, or would you stand on the moral principles as outlined by the Church in seeking a humanitarian approach to a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma?

I have enough confidence in the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to believe they are aided by revelation in their attempts to unravel even the peskiest Gordian knots of gay marriage and immigration.

How about you?

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