Does “Mormon” really spell “un-American”?

   Posted by: Rob Bowman   in ethics, Mormonism

NOTE: This is a special blog entry from Joel B. Groat, the Coordinator for International Ministries for the Institute for Religious Research.

Fox News ran a story last week with the headline, “Tom Hanks Says Mormon Supporters of Proposition 8 ‘Un-American’”. The article quotes Hanks as saying, “the truth is a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop-8 happen. There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American, and I am one of them.” Now Tom is one of my favorite actors, right up there with Jimmy Stewart, but is he listening to himself? American people were given the opportunity to express themselves democratically on an important social issue, members of the Mormon Church among them. They cared enough to put their money where their hearts were, but now that is somehow socially unacceptable behavior?

Fox News asked Bill McKeever, director of Mormon Research Ministry, to comment on Hanks’ statement and McKeever went right to the heart of the issue stating, “Personally, I find it un-American to tell people that they shouldn’t vote their conscience. … I may not agree with Mormon theology, but I certainly defend their right to express their opinion.”

That’s a point as Christians we dare not miss. It’s true that Mormon teaching about gods, temples, and Jesus is distinct from and at odds with traditional Christian teaching based on the Bible. It’s true that many Mormons closely follow the teachings of present and past presidents of the Latter-day Saint Church on social issues. After all, they revere these men as prophets, seers, and revelators—spiritual leaders without whom they could not know truth. But when they’re right, they’re right. Those of us who are evangelical Christians, who agree that the government should not sanction same-sex marriage, happen to agree with the Mormons on this point. We would no more criticize the Mormons’ involvement in Prop 8 than we would the involvement of evangelicals, Catholics, and others who share the same values when it comes to the definition of marriage.

Liberals complain that Mormons (and others) who oppose same-sex marriage do so on religious grounds, which liberals claim is a violation of the “separation of church and state.” This is probably the reason that Hanks considers the Mormons’ involvement to be “un-American.” But don’t many celebrities have their own spiritual mentors and avatars that they follow and whose views regarding social issues they then try to get enacted into law? If a New Ager or liberal Protestant minister teaches that gay marriage is a good thing that should be embraced, does this mean that Hanks is violating church—state separation by advocating laws that reflect this religious view?

Yes, Mormons, Jews, and Christians—in fact, a majority of Californians who voted—took a stance that Hanks and others disapprove.  But that’s their right, isn’t it? Let’s not confuse the issues. Supporting the traditional view of marriage is not “discriminatory,” and I find it hard to imagine anything more American than the freedom to take our personal convictions into the voting booth. Calling it “un-American” when Mormons do it—now I don’t know, but somehow that seems, well, un-American.

Postscript: Tom Hanks has apologized for his use of the term “un-American,” agreeing that Mormons and others with whom he disagrees have the right to express their different views with their votes.

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 23rd, 2009 at 12:34 pm and is filed under ethics, Mormonism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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