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Guilt by Association

Just last Saturday I came out to one of my friends.  Naturally, since he was Mormon, he had many questions and did not accept this news easily.  What really startled me was this particular question he asked "How do you feel about the [mormoon] church that was burned down by gays and lesbians because [the mormon church] refused to perform same-sex marriages?"  My first thought was "I haven't heard anything about this." followed quickly by "Why are you asking me that?"  I still haven't checked the story to see what all the details are, if there is any truth to it.  But, according to this friend, a mormon chapel was burned down because some homosexual people were angry at the Church.

I felt rather offended that he would ask a question like that.  I suppose, in my own mind, he was thinking that since I am gay I therefore identify with everyone else who is gay and so therefore I would take the side of the arson, since it was allegedly performed by a group of gay people.  Now, I don't like the idea of guilt by association at all--it's really just the logical fallacy of overgeneralization.  However, I find it highly ironic that a mormon would be guilty of making this fallacy, since mormons are very quick to say "You can't judge the Church by some of the members in it who are not good examples of following the Savior."  Believe me, we say that all the time.  And I believe it too.  You shouldn't judge someone based on what organization they are  a part of, nor an organization based off of a small sampling of its membership.  In fact, now that I think about it, the thought that I would approve of such an act simply because I share the same sexual orientation as the alleged perpetrator is exactly the same as assuming that a straight person condones murder because some other straight person committed a murder.

So, how did I answer this question?  Well, I quite honestly told him that I felt it was a real tragedy.  I do not see any place for such hate in our world.  I feel like we are all sons and daughters of God and we should love each other.  I would certainly never burn down anyone else's property and I hope that no one else would burn down mine.  I told him that I felt bad about this story and that I did not feel like I was associated with the perpetrators, nor do I wish to be.  I stand for equal rights for all people, but I do not stand for criminal enforcement of the same.

Then, I went on to tell him that on the same token, there are things that the Mormon Church has done with which I do not wish to be associated.  During the campaign for Proposition 8 in California (back in 2008), the Church campaigned heavily in favor of this proposition.  I admit, in all honesty and with deepest regret, that at that time, I sided with the Church and I would have voted yes on the proposition if I had been a California citizen for the vote.  However, now I see the issue quite differently.  I believe that the Church has every right to deny its own members the privilege of marrying someone of the same sex, and they have every right to exact whatever punishment (within the bounds of the law of the land) they choose for any of its members who do enter a homosexual relationship.  Since the Church has that right--and exercises it quite frequently--I do not see why it feels the need to press any further than that.  The Church pushing Prop 8 on California seems to me like a child jealously telling another child not to play with their own toy.  I see no way in which the Church or any of its members are harmed by people outside of the Church choosing to enter homosexual marriages.  Therefore, I see no real motivation for the Church to ban people (outside of its own organization) from having the privilege.

Anyway, I really didn't mean for this to turn into another argument in favor of gay marriage.  I merely meant to make the point that I am ashamed to be associated with the Mormon Church's action in supporting Prop 8.  In my own mind, the action that the Church took in this situation is far more tragic--although, arguably more legal--than the case of arson which my friend asked me about.  Therefore my answer to this friend was that I do not wish to be associated with any hateful acts that anyone commits.  I do not wish to be associated with arson, even if it is committed by someone who has the same sexual orientation I have, nor do I wish to be associated with political bullying, even if it is committed by the church in which I am an active member.

And so, I ask you, my dear readers, not to associate me with any particular group of people, or any particular person in a group of which I am part, and to judge me by that.  I may be Mormon, but that does not mean that I am happy with everything the Mormon church does or teaches.  I may be gay, but that does not mean that I am happy with what every gay person does.  I may be a mathematician, but that does not mean that I am incapable of looking you in the eyes when I talk to you.  I will return the favor to you.  I will not judge you based on the church you belong to or the friends that you have.

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