Religious bigotry covered in politeness is still bigotry
Bigotry is alive and well supported by all Abrahamic sects.
Utah Governor Spencer Cox rightly reprimanded the “F–k the Mormons!” chant shouted by some University of Oregon fans during Oregon’s recent football game against Brigham Young University.
“Religious bigotry is alive and celebrated in Oregon,” Cox tweeted.
The chant was indeed unfortunate and was widely rejected. But here’s the thing:
An even deeper fanaticism is alive and celebrated in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And in the governor’s office and house. Regularly, it is financially backed and supported by millions of practicing Mormons and members of other Abrahamic sects.
Yet, too often, non-believers are told to accept and even respect such fanaticism, simply because it is religious.
Not so, you say? This is.
To begin with, the Mormon church denied black people the priesthood and entry into the temple.
It’s not just an old, irrelevant story.
The church has never repudiated its racist ban. Even decades after his arrest, then-prophet Gordon Hinckley was still preaching his righteousness. The Book of Mormon still proclaims that black skin is a curse from Jesus to mark a filthy people.
Clearly, the current Mormon prophet Russell Nelson practiced racial segregation. Like all Mormon prophets down to Brigham Young. Just like millions of church members still living today.
Banning black people from the temple is racist, as is banning them from a school, a lunch counter or a water fountain.
Under almost any guise other than religion, to be an unapologetic racial segregationist – past or present – would be nearly disqualifying for many important public positions. But it’s a standard and acceptable personal story for many Utah politicians, business leaders, and leaders of Utah’s public and private educational institutions. Because: Religion.
Likewise, the Mormon Church has fought vigorously – sometimes illegally – against same-sex civil marriage.
The official and public justifications of the church? That Jesus himself ordered gay lovers to be killed, along with scriptural preaching that gays and lesbians are “worthy of death.” Yes really.
After the Supreme Court decision upholding same-sex marriage rights, new official Mormon policy decreed that those in same-sex marriages were apostates and excluded their children from full participation in Mormon rites. In truth, this petty bigotry was the revealed mind and will of the Lord. So says the prophet.
Still, most Mormons stayed. And paid.
Plus, of course, there’s Mormon patriarchal sexism. Such sexism is often illegal in the public domain. Well Named. But every tithing Mormon supports him financially as far as his religion is concerned. Because: Priorities.
If you are truly concerned about sectarian hate speech, consult the Bible, including the words of the Lord. It is not just the Book of Mormon that is a manual of holy hatred. The Bible is too.
Yet the Bible figures prominently and widely in places of worship, both progressive and fundamentalist. It is used to swear in court witnesses and government officials, including Presidents of the United States. And, of course, it’s a popular accessory, as shown by then-President Donald Trump.
Imagine a president posing publicly with “Mein Kampf”. Most people would rightly be put off. But when it’s the Bible, it’s to be admired. Or apologists preach that the Good Book is twisted. It’s not.
So look on the bright side. At least the Oregon students weren’t chanting, “Thou shalt not allow a Mormon to live,” or that they better be drowned with a grindstone around their necks. Or threatening: “I will rub your face with dung, even the dung of your solemn feasts. Or shout that Mormons in mixed relationships are “filled with…wickedness” and “worthy of death.”
The anti-Mormon chanting of some Oregon students was inappropriate. But at least it wasn’t the publicly revered official writings or the practice of a multi-billion dollar society with millions of members.
Mormons’ continued involvement and support for tithing speaks louder than polite empty words. Or their newspaper columns.
The key question is not whether bigotry is expressed with profanity or rather with superficial politeness. Dung covered in nuggets is still dung underneath. And religious bigotry covered in politeness is still bigotry.
So, Guv and his friends. Are you really against religious bigotry?
So take the beam out of your own eye. And do to others what you would have them do to you.
Gregory A. Clark lives and teaches in Salt Lake City. As an unholy, divinely labeled ‘fool’, ‘dog’ and ‘pig’, he blushes after his solemn feasts and cautiously watches the millstone-carrying villagers.