Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Freedom of Speech

by Stephanie Black

With the election in less than a week, yard signs are all over the place, as people endorse various candidates and express support or opposition to various propositions. What a blessing to live in a country where we can freely express our political opinions without fear of repercussion.

At least that’s the country I thought I lived in.

Apparently, some people can’t stand letting others express opposing opinions. Ask the people who get their “Yes on 8” signs stolen out of their yards (even if you don’t live in California, I don’t doubt that you’ve heard of Proposition 8). Are the thieves so insecure in their ability to make a strong case for their convictions that their only resort is petty theft? They creep onto someone else’s property and snatch their sign to . . . what? Ensure that no one else will (gasp!) see that someone thinks differently than they do? They must be so proud of themselves. “I stole a yard sign! Three cheers for freedom of speech—as long as it’s my speech!” What are they trying to prove? If you disagree with the message of the sign, post an opposing sign in your own yard. Post ten signs, put signs on your car and your T-shirt, write a blog, write letters to the editor, knock on doors and talk to voters, hand out flyers, passionately defend your opinion. But breaking the law in an effort to shut down someone else’s right to disagree with you is not only morally bankrupt, it’s pathetic.

And it gets far worse than yard-sign-theft, as Julie Wright blogged about yesterday. The things she mentions are sickening. What country is this again? Fortunately, we personally haven’t had any repercussions because of our support of Prop 8. But my good friend and her children were out holding up signs on a street corner not far away and got egged. Nice. At least it wasn’t rocks (which I hear happened in a neighboring city). You can bet the egg and rock throwers are proud of how open-minded and tolerant they are. Can’t they see the irony in their thug behavior? Probably not.

The issue of same-sex marriage is an issue on which voters are deeply divided, but the instant at which we step away from the ability to discuss things rationally and civilly and start using theft or violence or intimidation to try to shut down people who disagree with us, that’s the point at which our country has lost something very fundamental and precious. I’m sure that the vast majority of people, no matter what their convictions on this issue, oppose this kind of thug behavior, but I’m saddened and sickened by the small minority who think that freedom of speech applies only if you agree with them.

Personally, I believe I have the right to say this: I believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, a central part of His plan for his children. Forming eternal families is at the core of the reason we are here on earth. I believe that strong families are the bedrock of society. I don't believe something as fundamental and far-reaching as the definition of marriage should be changed by the votes of four judges. This is not just a matter of adding a ceremonial stamp of approval to civil unions. This is a matter that can ultimately affect everyone, their children, their freedom of worship.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. But I do expect that every citizen of the United States would support my right to state my convictions--without fear.


At 10/29/2008 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, on all accounts.


At 10/29/2008 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can believe anything you want. You can teach your children anything you want. However, you cannot deny equal rights under the law. It is a waste of taxpayer money for you to argue against equal rights and as a taxpayer, I resent that waste. The irony of you calling this religious freedom is appalling. You are cramming your religious beliefs down my throat and it is simply wrong for you to do that.

At 10/29/2008 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea of marriage has been changed over time. Divorce used to not be allowed. That changed. Interracial marriage was illegal. That changed. Women used to belong to men in marriage. That changed. Marriage has changed over time; laws concerning marriage have changed over time. Judges have made decisions concerning marriage in this country. In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional. If I had been alive prior to 1967, I would not have been allowed to marry my husband because of anti-miscegenation laws. Interracial marriage was also considered a sin by many people back then.

In other words, " something as fundamental and far-reaching as the definition of marriage" has already been changed. Several times. I don't agree with the sign-stealing or those kinds of things, but also in the 1960's people didn't agree with sit-ins in restaurants.

At 10/29/2008 3:56 PM, Blogger Bonnie said...

Well said, Stephanie.

At 10/29/2008 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very Well written! We live in America, where we have the freedom of speech and we are not taking away anyone's rights by voting Yes on 8.

At 10/29/2008 4:13 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

Well said. I don't live in California, but California is extremely influential in the rest of the nation. I hope and pray Prop 8 passes.

At 10/29/2008 4:27 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

I don't think that Stephanie is arguing pro or con on Prop 8 here. Although her views are clear, she is arguing that whatever your stance, you have the right to express it without being attacked or robbed.

I would be as outraged by someone throwing eggs or rocks at people holding up anti-Prop 8 signs. This is a hotly debated issue, and people will be divided on it. But people of all positions, religions, races, and sexual orientations should be able to agree that freedom of speech is a key to our nation.

If you want to shut me up today because I disagree with you, what's to keep someone else from shutting you up down the road?

As one of the bloggers on this site, I'd also like to thank everyone who has posted for the civility of their comments.

At 10/29/2008 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff- Of course Stephanie is arguing pro-Prop 8--that is why she gave her personal opinion. That is why she also only talked about the "thug-behavior" of those on her side of the issue. There is also "thug-behavior" going on among the pro-Prop 8 people. That is why I'm commenting anoymously here because of my fear of being judged as a bad member of the LDS church because of my beliefs on this issue. I've already been told I'm not a good member of the Church because of my political beliefs. People have been excommunicated for publicly stating their beliefs on the issue. So, believe me there's fear on the other side too.

At 10/29/2008 5:12 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...


I understand your concerns. I've lived in many parts of CA, my whole life, and in Utah County the last seven years. So I know about getting weird looks, or worse, on both sides of the political fence. Also, I'm probably a liberal among Mormons, but definitely a conservative among authors. Odd huh?

Setting that aside, (and ignoring the excommunication issue/non-issue) I think you are confusing unbiased reporting with stating a point. Stephanie is arguing for freedom of speech. She is stating her views through the eyes of someone who is clearly pro-Prop 8. Nowhere does she claim to be unbiased in her reporting.

But if you look at her opening and closing paragraphs (see I did learn something in English 101) her thesis is freedom of speech, not Prop 8 is right. In fact, she clearly states, that her position of being for Prop 8, is her personal position--which she has a right to.

Of course writing about such a controversial issue is going to generate comments on both sides of the issue. But I defy anyone to convince me that an issue is so important you should be able to attack those who disagree with you.

At 10/29/2008 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one is saying that someone should attack anyone for their beliefs. I'm just trying to say (badly, maybe) that it's happening on both sides, and by reading Stephanie's post, you don't get that idea.

At 10/29/2008 5:38 PM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

Part of the covenant of being a member of the LDS church is to sustain the prophet. He's spoken on the issue. All the prophets have.

Its not a big deal. So you disagree. Fine. You've expressed that and their are plenty of others over at Sunstone blog who also respectfully disagree with the prophet. That's their democratic right. It is not their covenant right.

The theocratic position of the church is protected by our democracy, but it is not informed by it. There are no rights in a theocracy. Only commandments and blessings. In a theocracy there is plenty of room to disagree, council together, voice opinions, present arguments, provide feedback, but once deliberations have been made, when the prophetic words have been laid out clearly, when the direction has been given, and given in no uncertain terms, the discussion is over.

In other religious movements when the pope, pastor or priest speak the political posturing and debates begin. In the LDS church, when the prophet speaks, the debate is over. That's likely why the prophet rarely speaks on public issues. That's also why this issue deserves our very utmost support of the First Presidency. They have provided revealed direction on this public issue. It is time to be one. And if we can not be one, there is the sunstone blog.

Marriage is about family. Bringing children into the world. Raising them. Protecting them. Taking responsibility for them. Loving them. Whatever you want to call unions between gay people, it is not marriage. Visitation rights. Insurance claims. Taxation benefits. End of life issues. All those can be worked out for same gender attracted folks. But a constitutional definition for marriage is what will define the family in the public square, in legislation, and in court rulings for years to come. It protects the sacred nature of bringing children into the world. Raising them. Educating them. Providing the best start possible for them. It has little, if anything to do with sexuality.

It’s about time we had a constitutional definition for family. This is it. Proposition 8. A definition for marriage.

Vote early. Vote often. And vote yes on 8.

At 10/29/2008 5:47 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Jeff, thank you, and thank you to everyone who has commented. And I do want to make it absolutely clear that I would be just as appalled to hear of people stealing No on 8 signs, vandalizing the homes of people who oppose it, etc. That kind of behavior has no place on any side of a political debate, and it scares me that anyone, no matter what their convictions, would think it was justified.

At 10/29/2008 7:02 PM, Blogger McConkie Family said...

Very well stated. We all should have the right to say what we believe, no matter how others feel. Isn't that part of what this country is founded upon? You can disagree with me and I can with you, but we should be able to do it civilly. Otherwise we degrade ourselves and lose vision of what freedom is, not just for us, but for others.

At 10/30/2008 8:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice post, Stephanie.

I'm also impressed with the commenters here, who have left much more civil comments than those who left comments on my blog that touched on Prop 8.

I rejected the comments containing name-calling and verbal abuse--which means I couldn't print most of the ones who disagreed with me.

I have yet to see one "Yes on 8" person exhibiting the same type of appalling behavior I've heard coming from the other camp: vandalism, sign theft, egg-throwing, spitting (on children, no less), name-calling. Those on the "No on 8" side who object to these behaviors--and they do make you look bad--ought to be complaining about these folks just as loudly. Yet you're not.

If anyone on the No side has had eggs thrown at them, or a guy in a big red Satan costume come stand next to them and taunt them as they held up their "No on 8" signs, I for one would certainly like to hear about it.

Those in the No camp have claimed the same things are happening, but without submitting specific stories or concrete evidence.

Please--do share.

If you're LDS and "No on 8" and are being told you're not following the Prophet--simply put, you're not. That's not name-calling; that's stating a fact.
See to read and hear the official Church position on this issue.

Since my blog last week, I've been called everything so far from "bigot" to the unprintable "n" word (now that one surprised me...) by the No side.

Yet I have yet to see or read anywhere (and I've been reading up in many places) anyone on the Yes side using any derogatory words for homosexuality or homosexual behavior--and they do exist-- OR calling any names at all, other than perhaps "liberal" (which is not generally an offensive term, unless you're calling a right-wing conservative a "liberal" to intentionally upset them--which wouldn't be the case here--and I digress).

To the person who feels this way:
"You are cramming your religious beliefs down my throat and it is simply wrong for you to do that;"

I would like to reply that a person casting their individual vote according to their personal religious beliefs, and encouraging others to vote their conscience as well, is *not* in fact "cramming" any belief down anyone's "throat."

They are VOTING. As each of us in this wonderful country have the right to do, regardless of religion, race, creed, or sexual orientation. Isn't that a wonderful thing? I love democracy.

Forcing or bullying a religious person to change their vote--against their consciense--would be equally as wrong: yet that is *exactly* what you who object so vehemently are trying to do: Silence our religion. All in the "name" of equal rights.

Last I checked, religious freedom was guaranteed an equal right in this country by the Constitution. In fact, I believe it's the FIRST Amendment.

Fighting for the right to religious freedom is what gave birth to this great country we live in. And as for me and mine, I intend to keep fighting for it.

Linda Adams
LDS Author

At 11/01/2008 10:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Stephanie didn't mention "thug-like" behavior from those on the pro-8 side because she hasn't experienced it. Neither have I. A good friend of mine did however have her yes on 8 sign stolen by two young men that, when her neighbor caught them and called the police, sped off so recklessly that they ran into the neighbor's trees (ironically, a same sex couple) and were taken into custody. So this is about more than insults and signs. This post was about Stephanie's personal observation on people who apparently don't understand freedom of speech. If you have personally experienced any "thug-like" behavior from pro-8 advocates, then, by all means, please post it as your personal observations. It would further illustrate what Stephanie is stating. Why can't we just agree that freedom of speech on all sides should be respected and that theft, and assault are wrong, dangerous, illegal, immature and self-defeating and move on? Well said, Stephanie.


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