California's battle to define marriage as between a man and a woman is getting personal and nasty - especially for Mormons on both sides of the political debate.
Opponents of Proposition 8, a ballot measure to thwart gay marriage, have picketed LDS services in Northern California and threatened to protest outside the Oakland LDS Temple. Others are keeping track of every dollar donated by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and argue that Mormons are carrying the effort's financial load.
Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate claims that 59,000 Mormons have contributed more than $19.15 million, which is 77 percent of the $24.89 million raised by the entire Yes on 8 campaign.
"It is a staggering amount of money and an even more staggering percentage of the overall campaign receipts," Karger said, adding it dwarfs the efforts of the other partners in the Coalition to Protect Marriage.
Pam and Rick Patterson, a middle-class Mormon couple in Folsom, Calif., with five sons between 3 and 12, recently raided their savings account to donate $50,000 to the cause, The Sacramento Bee reported.
This week Dante Atkins, writing at Daily Kos, a politically liberal Web site, published a link to a list of Mormon donors and encouraged people to "use OpenSecrets to see if these donors have contributed to . . . shall we say . . . less than honorable causes, or if any one of these big donors has done something otherwise egregious."
To LDS blogger Lowell Brown, that is tantamount to religious intimidation.
"If you are a Mormon and you donate to Prop 8, thousands of strangers will try to smear you, in the hope of intimidating you and others into not exercising your right to freedom of speech," Brown, whose wife is the deputy communications director for the Yes On 8 Campaign, wrote in a recent post at article6blog.com.
Yet Prop. 8 leaders are trying the same tactic. They threatened to "out" businesses that have given money to the state's largest gay-rights group, saying in essence, "Give us money or we'll publicly identify you as opponents of traditional unions," according to an Associated Press story on Thursday.
John Schroeder, a Presbyterian elder and Brown's co-blogger, argues that Proposition 8 opponents are trying to divide the Coalition to Protect Marriage, a broad-based group of California families, community leaders, religious leaders, pro-family organizations and individuals from all walks of life. It has brought together more than 100 churches, including dozens of Baptist, Catholic, Assemblies of God, Evangelical and Lutheran groups as well as fundamentalist para-church organizations such as Focus on the Family, Eagle Forum, Creation Research, and Traditional Values Coalition.
"Because [Mormon candidate] Mitt Romney's religion was used effectively against him, if I were opposing Prop 8, one of the tactics I would use would be to divide those united for it along religious lines," Schroeder wrote. "By singling out Mormons for these attacks, I would emphasize their distinctiveness from orthodox forms of Christianity, and drive the wedge a little deeper."
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whom many Mormons blame for Romney's defeat in the Republican primaries, taped some robocalls for the initiative.
"Creedal Christians cannot readily rise to defense of Mormons in these attacks, lest they be accused [of] 'defending the heretics,' " Schroeder wrote.
For Mormon opponents, that's precisely the point - this Proposition 8 coalition includes people and organizations that deny Mormonism is a Christian faith or call the 13 million-member church a "cult."
For example, among the Proposition 8 videos being circulated is "Homosexuals Brainwashing Our Children in Elementary Schools." It was produced by Mass Resistance, which features on its Web site an article titled "The Mitt Romney Deception."
"I am so grieved to see whom my church has chosen as friends in this campaign to pass Proposition 8," said Carol Lynn Pearson, a longtime advocate for gay Mormons. "We have gotten into bed with some of the most extreme of the 'Religious Right,' some of whom are well known as hate mongers."
This was not a "mutually affectionate liaison," Pearson said, sharing quotes from her own diary. "We have been raped by organizations that hate the Mormons but love our money and our energy . . . and now are we pregnant with their fear and their hate? Much of the rhetoric we use they have put in our mouths, words based more in fear than in fact."
» Californians on Nov. 4 will vote on Proposition 8, which if passed, would amend the state's constitution to define legal marriage as between a man and a woman.
» The LDS Church in a statement this summer urged members to support the ballot measure; the church since has encouraged active campaigning by members in California and until this week, Californians living in Utah and other states.
» Californians Against Hate, a group opposed to Proposition 8, claims that 59,000 Mormons have contributed more than $19.15 million to the Yes on 8 campaign.