The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will support civil rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people if religious freedom protections also are ensured, its leaders announced Tuesday (Jan. 27).
Southern Baptist leaders, however, said the Mormons’ approach to the conflict between sexual rights and religious liberty is naive and unhelpful, as well as unacceptable to proponents of LGBT rights.
In a Salt Lake City news conference, Mormon leaders described their stance as “fairness for all” — or a “balanced approach between religious and gay rights” that endorses protections in housing, employment and public transportation for LGBT people and, at the same time, safeguards the rights of religious institutions and people.
The Mormons’ newly announced support for LGBT rights legislation throughout the country followed its endorsement of a similar Salt Lake City ordinance in 2009. Mormon leaders said they were able to support the city measure because it adequately protected religious freedom.
This approach does not represent a change in doctrine but a desire “to encourage mutually respectful dialogue in what has become a highly polarized national debate,” Mormon leaders said. They included no mention of same-sex marriage in their comments, an apparent indication the Latter-day Saints will maintain their view of marriage as only between a man and a woman.
“I think the Latter-day Saints are well-intentioned but naive on where the reality stands today,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “I do not think, in most instances, sexual orientation ought to matter in housing or employment, but of course the proposals to address these concerns inevitably lead to targeted assaults on religious liberty.”
As he thought, the Mormons’ announcement of a revised position “was greeted with hostility from gay rights organizations and disappointment from social conservatives,” Moore said.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on his Wednesday (Jan. 28) podcast, “[A]lmost anyone who understands the scope and scale of today’s moral revolution will understand why such a proposal might be made. But if you’re looking at the landscape of America today, this appears to be a proposal that comes rather too late to be genuinely helpful. And perhaps the response to the proposal yesterday helps to make that point more than anything else.”
Mohler said, “[A]lmost immediately, it was clear that the leadership of the LGBT movement isn’t going to buy this kind of bargain.”
“[W]hat we’re looking at,” Mohler said, “is the LDS church basically asking for what almost anyone in the gay-rights movement would have been ready to grant as recently as two to three years ago — certainly five to 10 years ago.
“What we are now witnessing is a radical acceleration of the movement to redefine religious liberty so that [it] means almost nothing,” Mohler said, according to a transcript of the podcast.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press