In the last two years, Nathan Kitchen has revealed to his five children that he is gay, gone through a divorce from his wife and grappled with how to stay in a religion that does not condone his lifestyle. Now comes the toughest task: telling his children that he could be kicked out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints if he marries a man, and warning his two youngest, 11 and 15, that they might be barred from serving a mission under new church rules.
“It’s almost like they now have to choose between a gay father and a church that they love,” said Mr. Kitchen, a 47-year-old dentist from Gilbert, Ariz. “This is almost too much to bear.” The changes to the Mormon handbook — disseminated last week to church leaders around the world — say that being in a same-sex marriage warrants ousting from the religion and that children of gay parents must wait until they are 18 and disavow homosexual relationships to be baptized.
The revisions set off a wave of anger, confusion and sadness for a growing faction of L.G.B.T.-supportive Mormons who were buoyed in recent years by church leaders’ calls for more love and understanding for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members. Mormon officials said the goal of the handbook changes was to provide clarity to lay leaders who run congregations. The religion has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages, a church spokesman, Eric Hawkins, said.
My Comments. . .
For too long the media and many Christians have suggested that this is merely a matter of practice and not a doctrinal one. Whether you like the Mormons or not, they have made it clear that this is not merely a matter of practice but of essential teaching. They have made consequences that affect not only the person who enters a same sex marriage but the families of those individuals. I am sure that they will be demonized and it is probably a PR fiasco but I personally hope that they do not back down. I do not agree with Mormons on much but I cannot but appreciate that they have stood their ground in shifting sand that suggests many Evangelicals are backing away from their public opposition and trying to find a means of accommodation that will deflect the heat from them -- especially the larger mega churches.
Churches that oppose same sex marriage are in grave danger of being shut out of the public square and of being labelled as hate speakers. It is not without irony that the same voices who pleaded for toleration are among the most intolerant of those who disagree with the pro-GLBT agenda. It is clear that they do not want toleration but insist upon full agreement and full compliance or those who disagree cannot speak to the issue in public. This is the further narrowing of religious freedom into a freedom of worship only. Could it be that those who disagree with same sex marriage will be able to say what they want behind the closed doors of their own congregations gathered for worship but will find the world outside that refuge no longer tolerant of their views nor willing to listen to anyone who has the gall to disagree with them? Only the SCOTUS can intervene and restore what our bill of rights mean and guarantee the freedom of religion and freedom of speech that was the bedrock of the American identity but the court has proven largely sympathetic to the cause and may be looking for a way to weasel through a compromise which dilutes the essential freedoms our constitution supposedly guarantees to churches and to religious expression -- even within the public square!