Friday, September 10, 2010


Why is BYU made of FAIL‽

From a student article in BYU's Daily Universe:

Defending Proposition 8—It’s time to admit the reasons


Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the recent United States District Court case that overturned Proposition 8, highlighted a disturbing inconsistency in the pro-Prop. 8 camp.

The arguments put forth so aggressively by the Protect Marriage coalition and by LDS church leaders at all levels of church organization during the campaign were noticeably absent from the proceedings of the trial. This discrepancy between the arguments in favor of Proposition 8 presented to voters and the arguments presented in court shows that at some point, proponents of Prop. 8 stopped believing in their purported rational and non-religious arguments for the amendment.

Claims that defeat of Prop. 8 would force religious organizations to recognize homosexual marriages and perform such marriages in their privately owned facilities, including LDS temples, were never mentioned in court. Similarly, the defense was unable to find a single expert witness willing to testify that state-recognized homosexual marriage would lead to forcing religious adoption agencies to allow homosexual parents to adopt children or that children would be required to learn about homosexual marriage in school.

Four of the proponents’ six expert witnesses who may have been planning on testifying to these points withdrew as witnesses on the first day of the trial. Why did they go and why did no one step up to replace them? Perhaps it is because they knew that their arguments would suffer much the same fate as those of David Blankenhorn and Kenneth Miller, the two expert witnesses who did agree to testify.

Judge Vaughn Walker, who heard the case, spent 11 pages of his 138-page decision meticulously tearing down every argument advanced by Blankenhorn before concluding that his testimony was “unreliable and entitled to essentially no weight.” Miller suffered similar censure after it was shown that he was unfamiliar with even basic sources on the subject in which he sought to testify as an expert.

The court was left with lopsided, persuasive testimony leading to the conclusion that Proposition 8 was not in the interest of the state and was discriminatory against gays and lesbians. Walker’s decision is a must-read for anyone who is yet to be convinced of this opinion. The question remains that if proponents of Prop. 8 were both unwilling and unable to support even one rational argument in favor of the amendment in court, why did they seek to present their arguments as rational during the campaign?

It is time for LDS supporters of Prop. 8 to be honest about their reasons for supporting the amendment. It’s not about adoption rights, or the first amendment or tradition. These arguments were not found worthy of the standards for finding facts set up by our judicial system. The real reason is that a man who most of us believe is a prophet of God told us to support the amendment. We must accept this explanation, along with all its consequences for good or ill on our own relationship with God and his children here on earth. Maybe then we will stop thoughtlessly spouting reasons that are offensive to gays and lesbians and indefensible to those not of our faith.
A few hours after the article was published, it was removed from the site. The explanation?

The Daily Universe made an independent decision to remove the student viewpoint titled “Defending Proposition 8” after being alerted by various readers that the content of the editorial was offensive. The publication of this viewpoint was not intended to offend, but after further review we recognized that it contained offensive content. This is consistent with policy that The Daily Universe has, on rare occasions, exercised in the past.
"Independent decision," huh? The lady doth protest too much, methinks. The fact they even felt the need to emphasize that the decision was "independent" strongly suggests that it was anything but. As Morris Thurston wrote elsewhere: "It seems obvious that it was taken down not because a few students objected to it, but because people in authority objected to it."

My request (and many requests by others) for some clarification as to what was deemed "offensive" has gone, most unsurprisingly, unanswered. BYU journalism students should take note, though: Deseret News has just had a massive lay-off, cutting their staff in half, so it's very possible that BYU journalists may actually be forced to find work at real newspapers (God forbid!) where the overarching editorial style is not Pollyanna's Glad Game, where fact is valued over positive thinking, and rationality is more important than being faith-promoting.

Finally, this whole debacle illustrates precisely why I hate it when Mormons and Mormon institutions try to dissemble––the dishonesty doesn't bother me, it's the fact that they're just so damn bad at it.

[And, yeah, I did use an interrobang in the first sentence––thanks for noticing!]