Editorial: Mormon Church Should Lose Tax Exempt Status Over Prop 8 Support

This story was written by Editorial Board, The Daily Athenaeum
Carol Kirkman and Margaret Gonzalez, a couple from Lawndale, Calif., planned to get married Saturday.They werent worried about Proposition 8 passing, a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage in California.Kirkman told The Los Angeles Times, We didnt even think twice that this would pass.She said they had been planning the wedding for two months with confidence in our neighbors and family members that this would never pass.But instead of celebrating, Kirkman and Gonzalez spent the day protesting the passage of Prop 8 in downtown Los Angeles. The law passed with just 52 percent of the vote.How did this ban happen, especially in a blue state?Protect Marriage was the main organization behind the ban.It served as an intermediary between the various groups that worked to pass the measure. The Mormon Church was one of the groups that played a pivotal role with financial, institutional and volunteer support.Protect Marriage estimates that Mormons contributed as much as half of the nearly $40 million raised in support of the measure, according to The New York Times.Californians Against Hate, a nonprofit organization working to publicize the names of contributors to Prop 8, filed a complaint Thursday with Californias Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that the Church did not report non-monetary contributions in support of the measure.Jeff Flint, a strategist with Protect Marriage, estimates that Mormons made up at least 80 percent of the early volunteers who went door-to-door, according to The New York Times.The Church is currently tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.This status requires an organization to not be an action organization or a group that attempts to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities, according to the IRS Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations (Publication 1828).The IRS decides what constitutes substantial. According to Publication 1828, they look at various factors including time devoted and expenditures.To determine the extent of the Churchs efforts, they only need to read the last paragraph of the four-paragraph call to action that the Mormon First Presidency instructed leaders to read to congregations on June 29th.They read, We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.The full letter is available in the Newsroom at lds.org.First Presidency members are described on the Web site as special witnesses of Jesus Christ.The First Presidency is headed by the prophet who Mormons believe receives revelation from God.Mormons were persuaded to support Prop. 8 because they believed God expected it. When the prophet asks, they tend to listen.The Church didnt devote just substantial effort, it fully dedicated the Church to the effort.The Church prophet, Thomas Monson, made a mistake by allowing it to believe action was required.A request from the prophet surpasses substantial; it was the single biggest, most effective move the Church could have made.Monson wasnt trying to save the sacred institution of marriage. Mormons think that civil marriage is an earthly contract and celestial marriage performed in a church temple and is a sacred covenant according to an article in the church magazine Ensign.Temple marriages were not being threatened.So his move was not religious, it was political.As a result, the Mormon Church should be stripped of its tax-exempt status.Many Mormons have already decided to leave the Church because of its involvement in Prop 8. At signingforsomething.org, an individual shares her story.She said, I gave it my very best effort and sadly, nearly killed myself because of what I was taught. I almost believed that dath was better than acknowledging my same-sex attraction or shaming my family or my deceased mother.I really believed that my mother would be ashamed of me into eternity.
Sadly, that was taught to me by the priesthood leaders of the church.The priesthood, or authority granted to male members in the Church, makes leaders influential.They should have used this influencewisely.