I am glad that we all agree that scapegoating is wrong and unchristian. Since Dan brought up political philosophy, let me declare myself an Edmund Burke, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer style conservative. In the United States, of course, that makes me a rabid liberal. But that says a lot more about the ideological decay of conservatism in America than about me.
Deconstructor's quotes do establish that LDS leaders are blaming gays for the decline of the family and western civilization. That goes beyond criticizing the behavior of gays and blames them for consequences, which do not pertain to their actions. Therefore this rhetoric is scapegoating gays and lesbians.
We know the effects that this rhetoric has on gays. Worse, the general authorities have been informed of the effect of their words. I refer you, for example, to the letter of David Eccles Hardy
to Boyd Packer. Hardy relates how one of his children responded with three suicide attempts to LDS doctrine regarding homosexuality. That is an all too common story. It is sad that our children cannot be safe at Church because the leadership will not afford them the opportunity to reconcile their nature with their faith.
Regardless of the consequences, the words of LDS leaders are sufficient to demonstrate that homosexuals are the targets of scapegoating.
Anne: Unfortunately, it is not true that the racism, which many LDS leaders have engaged in, merely parallels that of anyone else. It took us a generation longer to desegregate the priesthood than mainstream society. When the United States Supreme Court integrated the schools, Mormons were among the court's most vocal critics.
I agree with you that this dynamic is natural for an organization that is more conservative than the mainstream. If we hold people like Brigham Young, Mark Petersen, or Neal Maxwell to the prophetic standard that they themselves claim, then we need to conclude that being late in matters of humanity is not a good sign.
I am pleased that Gordon Hinckley rejected racism during the last General Conference. Better late than never. However, we ought to remember that the first American efforts
to abolish slavery dates back to 1688. By contrast, Brigham Young taught that God created Africans to become slaves and that this would always be so. Young also preached that the punishment for a white woman's and a black man's sexual relationship was death on the spot. Mormon leaders continued to preach against interracial marriage
throughout the decades. Even when the priesthood became available to Africans, LDS leaders issued warnings about interracial marriage.
Again a sexual practice was blamed associated with negative consequences for our civilization. That's scapegoating. Therefore the evidence sustains my claim that there is a tradition of scapegoating among LDS leaders.
Notice, at its core racism is about intermarriage. We all belong to the same species and can procreate. Racists deny that. The prohibition of intermarriage establishes racial categories.
Clark makes an interesting point about threat perception. Culpability requires intent. Therefore people who believe that they are doing the right thing may not be culpable. On the other hand, we need to remember the relational content of scapegoating. There are not only perpetrators but real people get hurt. At some point, we have to take responsibility for our beliefs and their consequences. In criminal law, error doctrine defines limits. An erroneous assumption must be reasonable to be exculpatory.
Religious freedom means that we can believe anything but we cannot rely on such beliefs to regulate the lifes of people other than ourselves. Public policy ought to grounded in reason, especially when it becomes a matter of coercion.
Even if we ignore everything we know about the lynching, suicide, and other suffering of homosexuals, it is unreasonable to proclaim that they brought about the fall of Rome.
Likewise, the gender roles, which Mormon theology deploys against gays do not withstand reasoned enquiry. Historically and anthropologically, it is clear that they only capture a slither of the human experience. Rather there has been a wide variety of family models and gender roles that have successfully reared children.
Therefore it is reckless to invoke that kind of theology to agitate against the right of a vulnerable minority.
We know today that skin pigmentation is intrinsically irrelevant with respect to a person's humanity. Many people figured that out centuries ago. I remind you of the role that Frederick Douglas played in that regard. Therefore Mark Petersen could have known better.
We also know that homosexuality is a natural feature of the human condition. While the inquiry into the causes of homosexuality continues, same sex attraction has been observed across a wide variety of species ranging from primates all the way to birds and reptiles. If we want our faith to remain relevant to contemporary public life then we have an interest in accommadating this fact in our theology.
Homosexuality does not intrinsically hurt anyone. Sex can hurt people. Homosexuality can hurt people the same way heterosexuality hurts us.
When we refuse to acknowledge the humanity of homosexuals then we only have ourselves to blame. Therefore we cannot escape responsibility when we blame our gay and brothers and lesbian sisters for bringing down civilization.