Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Perfect Storm: Mormonism's PR disaster

One of our readers, who is a writer for Daily Kos, posted a link to his article regarding Mormonism. Among the material he offered was this gem of a report on how Mormonism is being hurt by their involvement in the Prop 8 campaign.

Watch it.

I have found it disturbing that some conservative gays are urging that demonstrations near Mormon temples end. This is the natural conservative tendency to give religion a pass on criticism no matter what it does or says. And there is no rational reason to exempt religion and religious institutions from rational criticism or protest. In the case of the Mormons there are positive reasons to get involved.

The Mormon church, as I have pointed out, is obsessed with public relations as part of their campaign to convert the world to polytheistic theories of Joseph Smith. The Mormon leadership intentionally planned this campaign in a way which was supposed to distance the church itself from the campaign and give them plausible deniability as to their involvement. It didn't work. There fingerprints were all over the campaign and anyone who followed the money found it kept going back to Mormon pockets.

Of course, protests will not change the abomination that took place in California on election day. But only a fool thinks the question was settled in that election. It is true the California Supreme Court may still be able to overturn this vote as improperly done -- and I think there is a strong case for that. But it is also possible that this will come up future votes as well. If the Court rules that a simple majority can strip people of rights then a simple majority can restore them also. And it is only a matter of time until that happens -- all the demographics are in favor of gay marriage. Old farts who opposed the measure are dying every die.

In addition more and more people have been changing their minds about the matter. The moral Armageddon that the Religious Right pushes with such hysterical fervor is almost entirely imaginary. Their dirty minds work overtime in predicting disasters that have no basis in reality. And with each year that goes by, with disaster striking, their credibility on the issue diminishes. I think they will have a hard time winning another vote on this issue. The smartest thing the gay community can do right now is file an initiative to overturn the ban and start collecting signatures at the rallies. Experts on petitioning I know say these protests are petitioners dream.

If this matter comes to another vote the Mormon leaders will have to decide how much they wish to risk in order to rally their obedient members into action. The more protests they face today the less likely they are to do this again in the near future. The reason that protests outside Mormon temples make sense now is a preventative measure -- to send a message to the Mormons that the real cost of their campaign isn't just the millions they send to hate campaigns but the negative publicity that they face as well. Protests today make it less likely that the Mormon cult will thrust itself into future anti gay campaigns.

PS: After I posted this I saw an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune which covers the same topic. This story covers the actions of Gregory and JaLynne Prince of Washington, DC, who are active in trying recruit people to Mormonism. They report that their daughter lost friends upset over Mormon involvement in the Prop 8 campaign and that their son, who is a Mormon missionary "has had a disproportionate number of potential converts cancel appointments." The Princes teach a class on Mormonism at Wesley Theological Seminary and report that students in their classes were dismayed by the Mormon Church's involvement. Mrs. Prince says she isn't taking sides on the issue but says "the way this [their antigay campaign] was done has hurt our people and the church's image."

Particularly odd is that this article quotes Gary Lawrence, a PR type, who worked for Prop 8 on their payroll and is an active Mormon. Lawrence says: "These protests will help us. It puts a spotlight on us." This article makes no mention of how Lawrence's own son now refuses to speak to his father and has resigned his membership in the cult over it's involvement in the Prop 8 campaign. Lawrence admits: "Those who know one Mormon have a worse opinion of us than those who don't know any Mormons." Mark Silk, professor of religion at Trinity College in Hartford says that the massive amounts of money the Mormons spent to push Prop 8 is also a negative for them. It said their funding "raises the specter not just of Mormon weirdness but also Mormon power as far as cash on the barrel."

The most bizarre aspect of this report is the quote from Scott Trotter, a spokesman for the sect. Trotter actually claimed: "All in all, 2008 has been a particularly good year for the church." His evidence for his assertion is that Mormons built some new temples, have 52,000 pesky missionaries going door to door and claim a record membership. Most of this higher membership is fraudulent. The American Religion Identification Survey found that in the U.S. Mormonism gained almost as many new members as it lost. But the church has a tendency to claim people as members who, if asked, would say they are no longer Mormons.

Dishonesty is often a part of Mormon PR tactics, they will claim membership figures 3 to 4 times greater than the number of people who actually identify as members of the church. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Mormons claim 850,000 members in Mexico while only 205,000 Mexicans claim to be Mormon. In New Zealand the church says it has 91,000 members but in the national census only 40,000 Kiws claim to be Mormon. The church says it has 177,000 members in the U.K. but local statistics show only 62,000 people see themselves as Mormons.