A full-page New York Times ad has sparked a war of words between gay groups and their allies and conservative religious leaders. The ad, sponsored by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asserts that gays and lesbians have engaged in a pattern of mob violence against Mormons after the passage of Proposition 8 in California; gays meanwhile have pushed back, asserting that the church is not the victim.
The ad, headlined “No Mob Veto,” claims that since Prop. 8 passed, angry gays have engaged in mob-like and threatening actions, some disguised as demonstrations, over the vote to ban same-gender marriage in California.
“The violence and intimidation being directed against the LDS or ‘Mormon’ church, and other religious organizations — and even against individual believers — simply because they supported Proposition 8 is an outrage that must stop,” reads the ad, which was signed by 13 men, representing evangelical Christian, Jewish, Roman Catholic and other groups.
The Mormon Church poured an estimated $20 million into the campaign to pass Proposition 8. After the measure passed, the Temple of the Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City received a scare when white powder was discovered at the temple; it was subsequently determined not to be a known toxin. In the ad, the sponsors alluded to the incident, referring to “thugs” intending to “terrorize” a place of worship.
The assertions drew instant response from gay groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, urging supporters to write letters of protest to the New York Times and to the Becket Fund.
“The factual inaccuracies made by the Becket Fund in this grossly misleading ad have no place in The New York Times or any credible media outlet,” said Neil G. Giuliano, president of GLAAD, in a statement. “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and allies across the country have worked to make our voices heard in the face of laws that strip away vital protections for members of our community.
“The peaceful marches and rallies that have occurred since the passage of Prop 8 have given us an opportunity to become more visible and make our voices heard, and it is unacceptable for media platforms, particularly ones as respected as The New York Times, to provide space for groups to make misleading and false attacks that would only seek to silence us.”
In addition, well-known gay activist Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out took out his own ad with the headline, “Lies in the name of the Lord,” and including a depiction of Pinocchio and a Bible.
In Colorado the only reported potentially related action targeting Mormons involved a Book of Mormon that was reportedly set on fire and left burning on the doorstep of he Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Arapahoe County a week after the election. Members of the church said they believed the incident was a response to the Mormons’ support of Prop. 8. No injuries were reported and no suspects were apprehended. The police were investigating it as a hate crime.
Rev. Wes Mullins of the Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church in Colorado Springs notes that many gays and lesbians were hurt by the passage of Proposition 8 and anti-gay measures in several other states.
“While it doesn’t surprise me that some people are saying damaging things about the church, as a pastor I don’t think that’s the message of God and I certainly don’t condone that,” he says. At the same time, Mullins underscored the message delivered by the HRC.
“This is an example of blaming the victim instead of focusing on the real issue — it’s about making it about the religious right and victimhood,” Mullins says.