Bravo Miss California

OK, So I’ve been hearing about this Miss California controversy for days now, and it has upset me enough that I’ve been moved to speak up.  Basically, my problem with the recent media coverage is that it has not given Miss California’s answer the credit it deserves.  Everyone is debating one way or another about the final phrase of her response: “In my family I think that I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman.”  However, they completely ignore the first part of what she said: “I think its great that Americans are able to choose one or the other.  We live in a land where you can choose same sex marriage or opposite marriage.”

So taking her quotation as a whole, it seems quite clear to me that what Miss California said was basically: “People should be able to choose whether to support or practice gay marriage, but I personally do not believe in it.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that is a fantastic answer – one that should be praised from people on both sides of the issue.  She respected the gay rights activists’ point of view, but did not compromise her own opinion.  I mean what more do her opponents want?  That she not only agree that  gays should be allowed to marry, but also fully support the practice in contrary to her own upbringing and religious beliefs?

Miss California’s answer respected gay marriage activists while maintaining her own opinion, and her opponents should give her the same courtesy.

UPDATE: So, after watching a little more of Miss California, it seems like she may not be quite as open-minded as I initially gave her credit for.  But even if her initial answer to the pageant question doesn’t reflect her true views, I still think that it demonstrates a good attitude towards the issue.

We cannot think of a better friend and ally

Obama buys maple cookies

Obama buys maple cookies

Yesterday, President Obama found himself in a place that Theresa and I often find ourselves wishing we were: Canada.  In general, Canadians love Obama (even more than we love our Prime Minister and more than Americans love Obama, actually), and I count myself among my fellow countrymen who were excited about Obama’s first foreign visit as President.  The visit, of course, focused on important policy discussions on such weighty topics as the war in Afghanistan, trade matters and the environment, but the aspect of the trip that had a greater impact on me, as well as many other Canadians I would venture to guess, was Obama’s unscheduled, yet admittedly orchestrated, pitstops.  One these outings, Obama consumed the Canadian pastry known as a ‘beaver-tail” at a local bakery, purchased souvenirs (a keychain and snow globe) for his daughters from a merchant, and bought a batch of maple cookies for his family.  Sure, Obama was pandering to the Canadian masses with these publicity stunts, but at least he is trying.  His predecessor didn’t even visit Canada for the first four years of his presidency, and when he did he did little to counteract his negative reputation north of the 49.  Also, the fact that Obama buys tacky souvenirs for his kids and brings cookies home to his family makes him seem more like a, to use a popular phrase, “Joe- sixpack” than trying to act as stupid as most politicians seem to think we are.

Net Neutrality Update

It seems like the fight to save Net Neutrality has lost some important supporters:

Google Wants Its Own Fast Track To The Internet (Wall Street Journal)

UPDATE: According to Google’s Public Policy Blog and Lawrence Lessig’s Blog, neither have not shifted positions on Net Neutrality, and Obama is as committed as ever to the principle.  They both claim that the WSJ piece is mistaken and baseless.  Thanks Tom for the heads up.

Personally, I am just glad the Obama is thinking about the issue, and is listening to some intelligent advisors.

Faith and Proposition 8

My first post on Prop 8 concerned the backlash the Mormon Church is facing over their support for the measure.  A secondary issue in this debate, which I hinted at and which was further explored  by Craig the Grey in the comments, is whether the Church should have encouraged its members to support Prop 8 the way that it did.  When I first heard the Prop 8 letter in a Palo Alto sacrament meeting, I was shocked and a little upset that the Church would so openly encourage its members to politically fight against gay marriage.  In this post, I would like to deconstruct the message I heard that day and determine what about it upset me.  To do so, I would like to separate the Church’s stance on Prop 8 into two aspects: religion and politics.

First, religion.  One aspect of the message contained in the Church’s Prop 8 letter is that the Church believes marriage the union between a man and a woman.  This doctrine is essential to the Church, and its reiteration in the Prop 8 letter came as no surprise.  I personally agree with the Church on this point: celestial marriage is the sealing of a man and a woman.  But even if you disagree with this doctrine, there is little basis for denying that the Church is well within its rights to hold and preach the belief (as incorrect or hateful as you may believe it to be).  I also find the method in which the church presented its beliefs in the Prop 8 letter uncontroversial.  In no way did the First Presidency command members to or force them in any way: it simple did as it always does by laying out the Church’s definition of celestial marriage and urging its members to agree.  This is no different than when the missionaries present the Book of Mormon and urge people to read it; the investigator can choose whether to heed the missionaries’ admonishment, and the church-goer listening to the Prop 8 letter can choose whether to agree with the Church’s stance on marriage or not.  So, in terms of the Church’s belief in celestial marriage, I have no objection to the Prop 8 letter.

Second, politics.  Although I agree with the Church’s views on celestial marriage, I have yet to decide whether or not secular marriages should include same-sex couples.  Because the constitution is a secular legal document, I do not find it inconsistent at all to believe that temple weddings should only be available to heterosexual couples, yet also accept the constitutionality of secular gay marriages.  In other words, I feel that civil and temple marriages are separate entities, and my beliefs about one should not necessarily  control my opinion of the other.  So hearing the First Presidency’s Prop 8 letter, urging members to support the political campaign against gay marriage did not completely coincide with my particular worldview on the issue.  This is what bothered me: because I feel that constitutional issues are not religious, I was shocked to hear the bishop discuss politics over the pulpit.

This being said, The Church, as an organization in the Untied States, has a right to campaign for a political cause and urge its members to do likewise.  (As Craig commented, in doing so, the Church was acting less as a religion and more as a Political Action Committee).  Although the Church has remained rather neutral when it comes to politics, this is not the first time it has weighed in on specific political issues.  Knowing this, it should not come as a surprise that the Church put on its PAC hat and became involved in Proposition 8: gay marriage is an important issue that affects one of the Church’s core beliefs.  Again, I would like to stress that the letter read in Church did not command members to campaign or to vote for Prop 8 – it simply laid out its political position and urged us to support it.  As always, we had the choice whether or not to follow the Church’s advice or not, and because this particular suggestion was political rather than doctrinal (and because I separate celestial and constitutional marriage), I do not feel that a member who opposed  Prop 8 is a bad Mormon, or has done anything morally wrong.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to separate the actions the church makes as a religion and as a political entity; also, many members do not separate civil and religious marriage the way I do.  This seems to have caused contention in wards and pressure for members to support the proposition.  Because of these side effects, and because of the backlash that the it is facing for their efforts, the Church’s decision to support Prop 8 was a bold and risky one.

But even if it was a mistake for the Church to wade into this campaign, my faith in it has not faltered.  I am a member of the Mormon church, not the Mormon PAC.  If I were to abandon the Church because of one political misstep, then my testimony is shallow indeed.

Hate and Proposition 8

This has been a great election, but one aspect of last Tuesday has me a little upset: proposition 8.  When we were in California this summer, the bishop of our ward urged the members to support proposition 8, the ballot initiative that would amend the California Constitution to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.  To be perfectly honest, I was a little upset to be hearing this from over the pulpit.  In general, I would consider myself in favor of gay rights, and it would have been a very difficult decision for me to vote on prop 8 one way or another.  Since I am back in Virginia I did not have to make the choice, but after a lot of campaigning from both sides, California did.  Proposition 8 passed, and the protests that have followed prompted me to write this post.

It is not that I don’t think gay rights activists should protest – that’s their right.  My problem is how much they have been targeting the Mormon church in their efforts.  It is true that members of the church did contribute to the ‘yes on 8’ campaign, but the level of animosity that Prop 8 opponents have shown the church is uncalled for.

First and foremost, the Mormon efforts had little to do with the passage of Prop 8.  The measure passed because the majority of Californians voted for it, not because LDS people opposed it.  It is useful here to point out that Mormons make up only about 2% of California’s population, which is less than the propositions margin of victory (53.4 – 47.6).  But of even greater significance is that post election analysis showed that the proposition was mostly fueled by a large African-American turnout (and we all know the the Mormon Church is as white as they come).  So all those claims that Mormons bought the election are simply false.

Even so, protesters are angry that Mormon fought for Prop 8, and believe the church robbed them of their rights.  But campaigning for a position you believe in is not the same as taking away peoples’ rights: it is merely exercising your democratic right to express your opinion.  Gay rights activists are justified in disagreeing with the Mormon Church, but just as they have the right to campaign for their side of the debate, the Church has the right to do the same.  And what’s more, the LDS church was not the only religion that officially supported Prop 8: The Roman Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus,  the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, a group of evangelical christians, and the Saddleback Church, California’s largest congregation, all supported the measure.  What sets the Mormon Church apart from these other religions is that LDS people contributed more time and money to the cause.  So it seems like gay rights activists aren’t so much opposed to churches who do not believe in gay marriage, just to those who do anything about it.

Finally, The Mormon backlash has become a little too expansive.  For example, several groups have been calling for a boycott of Utah.  If you are like me and wonder how you boycott a state, the suggestion is to stop patronizing Utah tourist destinations (like ski resorts), the Sundance film festival, and anything else that can be identified as Utahian.  This is a horribly crude measure, because not everyone in Utah is Mormon, and even if they were, it was not Utah that passed prop 8, it was California.

Sure, gay right’s activists have the right to be upset.  And sure they have the right to protest against Prop 8.  But claiming that the Mormon Church stole their rights is not only completely inaccurate, but also completely discriminatory and hateful.  I agree with that guy in the above picture who wants to end hate, but this admonition  should cover feelings from both sides of the debate.

To see what the Church is up against, check out this ridiculous and horrifying ad:

YES WE DID!


Obama Is The Next President!!!  As Theresa said this morning: “Now we can stay in America.”  

And what is more, Obama was able to flip Virginia, and the Democrats took the Old Dominion’s second senate seat and may even win our congressional district (the race is still too close to call).

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Thanks everyone who came to our election party.  I think that most (all?) of our guests were ultimately disappointed in the results, but I’m glad they chose to share our first American election with us.  I think the biggest hit of the night was our tracking board, although it seems like Obama’s victory will be so large, our 350-point track will not be long enough.  The other big winner of the night was Theresa’s enchilada dip (the recipe can be found here).

Here are a few links:

The Globe and Mail’s coverage.  (Speaking of coverage… whooo!)

The John Stewart and Stephen Colbert election coverage.

Here is the full picture that the banner comes from, so that you can see McCain’s horse (click picture to enlarge):
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It’s election day, so get out and VOTE

…for Obama.

Here is a great piece from my favorite newspaper that you Americans probably wouldn’t see yourself; its about how the rest of the world is watching this election: “World Hopes for a ‘Less Arrogant’ America.”