Posted October 20, 2008 11:40 AM (EST)

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Mormon Power Grab: It’s Tearing Families Apart
By Fred Karger

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose followers are more widely-known as Mormons, has swooped into two election battles against gay marriage this year. The Mormon Church is exercising its might in both California and Arizona like never before. If passed on November 4, Proposition 8 in California would immediately eliminate the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry. In Arizona, Proposition 102 would write this discrimination into their Constitution by defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. In both states, the Mormon Church has hijacked these campaigns.

On June 20th, three days after same-sex marriage became legal in California, the top leadership in the Church, known as the First Presidency, sent a letter to be read to all Mormons to “do all you can to pass Proposition 8.” The Wall Street Journal reported on September 20th, that church members were told “their souls would be in jeopardy” if they do not donate money. Mormons are already required to give 10% of their income to the church, so these donations dig further into the savings accounts of its followers.

Despite tough economic times, an amazing 59,000 Mormon families have succumbed to substantial pressure from church elders, and have given huge amounts of money to California’s Yes on 8 campaign. These Mormon families have given a staggering $18.6 million since June 1st and the total grows daily. This represents 77% of all money raised and 88% of all individual money raised (not including funds from the big out of state organizations). In Arizona where a gay marriage ban is back on the ballot after losing just two years ago, Mormon families have contributed nearly all of the $6.9 million to the Yes on 102 campaign. What is going on here?

Blog reports are popping up indicating Church elders are calling certain members and arranging one-on-one visits to discuss a prearranged “suggested donation amounts.” The Wall Street Journal reported that one conference call arranged by the Church had between 40 and 60 participants. A Church elder told everyone on the call that he should give $25,000 to Yes on 8. Analysis of the California Secretary of State website shows that worked. There have been 81 contributions of $25,000, and dozens more of between $26,000 and $$500,000.

Not all members are convinced this is the best idea. Andrew Callahan stood up to the church’s call for donations, saying it struck of discrimination, and he refused to donate. This incredible display of coercion explains why many members are scared to say no. Callahan’s case is going to be reviewed AFTER the election.

An article by Daniel Scarpinato in the September 17th Arizona Daily Star details a growing opinion that this battle represents Mormon attempts to clean up its battered image. With court cases continuing to link Mormon fringe groups and polygamy, this could be a crafty attempt to resuscitate their image, at the expense of gays and lesbians.

Last week in Salt Lake City, a group of 40 Mormons who support gay marriage delivered protest letters and bundles of carnations to church headquarters in an appeal to end the church’s support of the ballot initiatives to ban same-sex marriage.

These courageous protesters were there to “out” the Mormon Church for forcing so many Mormon families to give vast sums from their savings to these two ballot propositions. Because of this Church mandate, families are being torn apart.

How many of these tens of thousands of Mormon families, who have contributed the $18.6 million, have gays and lesbians in their immediate family? How many parents are forced to give thousands of dollars publicly at the expense of their gay son or lesbian daughter? What about a gay brother or sister in the family? Or an aunt or uncle or cousin or brother-in-law who is gay? What permanent damage does this cause these innocent victims of the Mormon Church’s power grab? How many families will be irreparably damaged by their actions?

In its quest to show the Catholics, Christians, Evangelicals and other religions that it has the money and power to take over these hateful campaigns, they are hurting more than just those from whom they wish to take away equality. They are tearing apart the very families they claim they are there to help.