Just a week after he was named chef de mission of the U.S. Olympic Team for 2012, Peter Vidmar has resigned because of objections to his beliefs—specifically his opposition to same-sex marriage. Vidmar, an LDS Church member and a member of the gold-medal winning 1984 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. He is also the highest scoring gymnast in Olympic history. But in 2008 Vidmar publicly campaigned for Proposition 8 in California.
Initial reports from hearings in the Prop 8 case today paraphrase an internal campaign document (see below for update) with the following language: With respect to Prop. 8 campaign, key talking points will come from campaign, but cautious, strategic, not to take the lead so as to provide plausible deniability or respectable distance so as not to show that church is directly involved. The proceedings are not being televised (over plaintiffs objections), and the case remains in early stages. Today’s arguments only examined the admissibility of documents; and this is not a direct quote from the document as far as I can tell, rather it’s a summary of the document by one trial attendee who writes for an anti-Prop-8 website. We’ll see whether the underlying document ends up becoming public, and if so exactly what language it contains. (The document was apparently in the possession of Mark Jannson, a ProtectMarriage.com executive committee member.) In the mean time, however, the early summary is not favorable for the church. “Plausible deniability” – ouch. UPDATE: The transcript has been posted, and it is clear that this language does not come from a church or campaign document. Rather, plaintiffs’ expert witness characterizes one internal campaign letter’s purpose as “there was this cautious strategic not-to-take-the-lead notion so as to provide a — I don’t know, plausible deniability or respectable distance between the church organization per se and the actual campaign.” The full transcript is available…
When people talk about Prop 8 or gay-Mormon relations generally, a common theme is that a smaller, less powerful group is the victim of an unfair attack from a larger and more powerful aggressor. This theme is used repeatedly on both sides of the debate. It was a central theme in Elder Oaks’ recent talk about religious liberty. And it was immediately raised in criticisms of that talk, with church critic Fred Karger telling the Associated Press, “They are trying to be the victim here. They’re not. They’re the perpetrators.” It’s clear that this basic framing is employed by both sides in the argument. This raises the question — who is the bully here? Whose ox is being gored? Interestingly *both* the LDS and gay communities have plausible evidence to support the claims that they are the victim group.
Lots of movement on the SSM front today (and this week in general). Today, Vermont’s legislature passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage. Also, Washington D.C.’s city council passed a bill recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages. Meanwhile, last week the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that same-sex couples had a right to marry under the state constitution. And the California court will rule on the Prop 8 appeal in the next two months. (I don’t think the appeal will succeed.) There is no official statement that I’m aware of about these recent developments (the Newsroom is silent so far; the most recent releases on Prop 8 or SSM are two month old discussions of Prop 8 filings). Will the church weigh in on these new developments with official statements or California-like campaigns? One thing is for certain — the last word on the topic is not yet in, and there will probably be lots of news in this area within the next few years.
Some years ago I had the idea that Mormonism needs an “anti-defamation league”–a group that reviews news coverage and other public actions and publicly condemns those actions that clearly defame Mormons and Mormonism. But I’ve since decided that this is probably not a very workable idea.
OK, now that we’re looking at the Mormon of the Year, I’d also like to look at what the big news stories were for the year. In a lot of ways its been a very busy news year, with, by my count, three big stories dominating: Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy The confusion of the LDS Church with the FLDS Church in the news The Mormon role in the successful effort to pass Proposition 8. But there were also smaller, important stories that happened during the year, especially if you include in News about Mormonism news about people who are Mormon.