Anti-Gay Violence and Church Belief

We seem to discuss issues of homosexuality ad nausum around here. Surprisingly, one particular subtopic that hasn’t really come up in the past is the real problem of anti-gay violence.


Reported cases of anti-gay violence affect thousands of people every year, and a high number of cases are believed to go unreported. One organization reports that 18 anti-gay murders and 700 assaults took place in 2003. And recent years have seen a number of high-profile anti-gay incidents, such as the murder of Matthew Shepard.

Links to Religion

Unfortunately, many times religious leaders do nothing to discourage anti-gay violence. In some cases, they may even encourage that kind of behavior. A few months ago, there was some discussion in the blogosphere in general about comments made by formerly (still?) influential preacher Jimmy Swaggart, who told a crowd he would kill any gay man who looked at him romantically. (Swaggart later apologized.)

That incident brings to mind Elder Packer’s controversial, somewhat ambiguous statements from thirty years ago wherein he (in response to an unspecified context) apparently endorses some instances of anti-gay violence. In his talk (which was published as a pamphlet), Elder Packer’s writes:

Now a warning! I am hesitant to even mention it, for it is not pleasant. It must be labeled as major transgression. But I will speak plainly. There are some circumstances in which young men may be tempted to handle one another, to have contact with one another physically in unusual ways. Latter-day Saint young men are not to do this.
Sometimes this begins in a moment of idle foolishness, when boys are just playing around. But it is not foolishness. It is remarkably dangerous. Such practices, however tempting, are perversion. When a young man is finding his way into manhood, such experiences can misdirect his normal desires and pervert him not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well.
It was intended that we use this power only with our partner in marriage. I repeat, very plainly, physical mischief with another man is forbidden. It is forbidden by the Lord.
There are some men who entice young meant to join them in these immoral acts. If you are ever approached to participate in anything like that, it is time to vigorously resist.
While I was in a mission on one occasion, a missionary said he had something to confess. I was very worried because he just could not get himself to tell me what he had done.
After patient encouragement he finally blurted out, “I hit my companion.”
“Oh, is that all,” I said in great relief.
“But I floored him,” he said.
After learning a little more, my response was “Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn’t be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way”
I am not recommending that course to you, but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself.

What did Elder Packer Mean?

As it is, the statement is ambiguous. It includes:
(1) Statements that men should “vigorously resist” homosexuality and “protect yourself.”
(2) The disturbing remark that “Somebody had to do it” — possibly implying that it is normal for gay men to be beaten up.
(3) The ambiguous mission story.

The key question, of course, is “what happened prior to the fight?”
(a) One possibility, which would make the elder’s behavior acceptable, is that his companion attempted to rape him or forcibly molest him. If that was indeed the background, then the missionary certainly had every right to defend himself from rape, using such force as was needed to do so.
(b) The other possibility is much more disturbing. It is the possibility that the second missionary “made a pass” at the first, or tried to (using Elder Packer’s words) “entice” him into participation in homosexuality, and that the first missionary reacted violently, with Elder Packer’s eventual approval.
This is a more problematic interpretation.

Since Elder Packer is an apostle of the church, I’m inclined to give him the more reasonable reading and assume that the missionary’s violent reaction was in response to a legitimate provocation — an attempt to rape or forcibly molest him. But I’m worried because it can easily be read the other way.

And I believe that some church members have that impression — that if a gay man hits on them, it is appropriate to assault that gay man in retaliation.

Legal Consequences of Violence

As an attorney, this impression (if it indeed exists) worries me. That kind of behavior — assault in response to a perceived slight — is clearly not legal.

If I’m sitting in my office and a gay co-worker drops by and unambiguously approaches me (for example, says “let’s go to a gay bar and hook up”), I have several options. Most obviously, I can say “thanks, but no thanks” and make clear that I’m not interested in that kind of activity. If I think it’s necessary (for instance, if I feel uncomfortable around that person), I might avoid that co-worker in the future. And if I feel that the behavior is coercive or harrassing, I might complain to a supervisor or perhaps file a harrassment claim.

One thing I would _not_ do, however, is immediately punch out my co-worker. It’s pretty simple — that’s assault. It’s a crime in all fifty states, and the mere fact that the assault victim may have made a pass at me would in no way excuse me from my criminal actions.

Anti-Gay Violence and Church Belief

This leads me, in a roundabout way, to the real question — what should we, as members of the church, think about anti-gay violence?

One possible position is that church members might condone such behavior. Church doctrine does state that homosexuality is a sin. However, I’m not inclined to accept that position myself. After all, church members do believe in upholding the laws, including laws prohibiting violence. In addition, while it is true that church doctrine holds that homosexuality is a sin, it is also true that most sinful behavior does not justify a violent response. We don’t go around punching people out for drinking alcohol, after all, or for smoking cigarettes. We don’t go around assaulting people who don’t pay tithing.

Church members may believe that anti-gay violence is justified if a gay person makes a sexual advance towards a straight person. However, that argument is also unconvincing. Church members may feel that an invitation to participate in gay sex is an invitation to sin, and is inappropriate. However, it is unusual that an invitation to sin is acceptably met with violence. If someone offers me a cigarette — also sinful behavior under church doctrine — am I justified in hitting him? If someone tells me “Kaimi, maybe you shouldn’t pay your tithing this month,” should I punch him out? And if not, then why would I be justified in punching a person for suggesting that I participate in homosexual behavior with him?

At the end of the day, I don’t think that most acts of anti-gay violence can be justified under church doctrine. As church members, we should see this kind of violence as the same sort of unsavory behavior as any other sort of violence. It is entirely possible, and eminently sensible, to refuse to move from the church’s stated doctrinal position that homosexual sex is sinful towards any sort of position that anti-gay violence is ever acceptable.

112 comments for “Anti-Gay Violence and Church Belief

  1. Kaimi, I appreciate the post but it boggles the mind to think that we would even have to discuss whether or not church doctrine condones anti-gay violence, notwithstanding the ambiguity of Elder Packer’s statement. For those who profess to follow the higher law, is there any question?

  2. The following quote is from “Same-Gender Attraction” by Dallin Oaks, published in the October 1995 Ensign.

    Our doctrines obviously condemn those who engage in so-called “gay bashing”—physical or verbal attacks on persons thought to be involved in homosexual or lesbian behavior.

    Whatever Elder Packer may have meant at the time, I think this trumps it.

  3. Chris,

    I agree that it should be beyond discussion. And yet, in my own experience and observation, many church members are willing to chalk up anti-gay violence as somehow acceptable. I think that the ambiguity of Elder Packer’s statement may contribute to this belief, but I’m not sure.

  4. I can’t remember the name of the pamphlet where Elder Packer recounts that story, but I remember that it is addressed to young men and I remember my dad telling me last year he found a bunch of them in his ward building and threw them all away. He is in a position to make choices about what is distributed to young men in his ward and is also a father of two gay sons.

    If you are in a similar position in your ward, I am not recommending that course … wait, yes I am.

  5. Kaimi, with all due respect, you are tilting at windmills here. The prophet has said repeatedly that the way to treat gay people — and all sinners — is with love. There is no room for interpretation here: the church policy is clearly “love the sinner but hate the sin.” Hitting a gay guy for supposedly making a pass at you is just plain wrong (and, as you say, illegal), but it is also basic common sense that a member of the church would not do this. It’s impossible to know what exactly happened between the two missionaries in Elder Packer’s story, but clearly it must have been pretty severe, especially given the context of the story.

    The thrust of this post seems to be that the church is perhaps telling its members it’s OK to break the law and start hitting people. I have never heard any church authority say anything of the sort. Again, you appear to be inventing controversy where none exists.

  6. Kaimi,

    My reaction to your lengthy post was the same as Chris’s. Seems like a lot of work for a non-controversial point. While I have seen my fair share of appalling conduct by church members towards gays, I have never heard any church member shrug off anti-gay violence as acceptable. I certainly hope that my experience is more representative than yours, but who knows.

  7. Kaimi, I understand–and that’s what boggles.

    Ana, the pamphlet is entitled To the One.

  8. Kiami,

    I doubt that most church members are even aware of Packer’s statement–but I agree that it is not uncommon to encounter boys or men who claim they would punch a gay man who made a pass at them (this topic comes up with unsurprising regularity). Whether most of them would actually do this in practice is a different matter–all but a handful would not–and of that handful, virtually none will ever find themselves the target of unwanted advances. In that sense, then, I think your post largely misses the point–the problem is not really violence against homosexuals, but rather the acceptance of imagined violence which, in my experience, is quite common.

  9. I remember listening to that talk, but I don’t think that I ever read the pamphlet. My recollection is that Elder Packer was making the point that sexual transgression is much more serious than hitting someone. Perhaps the lines E. Packer spoke after the “Oh, thank goodness” were missed in the congregation’s reaction to that line.

    In any event, I suspect that a poke in the nose would have been considered the moral equivalent of the slap on the cheek that followed a misplaced pass at a young lady. I don’t think anybody in 1976 was losing much sleep over that one.

    Is the slap “anti-heterosexual violence”?

    We’ve come a long way since pistols at 20 paces.

  10. BTW Kiami,

    You should be ashamed at so naked an attempt to get on T&S’s “greatest hits” list.

  11. Geoff B:

    I can’t speak for Kaimi, but perhaps part of his larger point speaks to this comment you made:

    It’s impossible to know what exactly happened between the two missionaries in Elder Packer’s story, but clearly it must have been pretty severe, especially given the context of the story.

    It may well have been severe, but the Packer comment appears in a pamphlet that addresses the dangers of homosexuality generally. I can see why Kaimi may be concerned that the comment would lead some to think violence is acceptable as a general reaction to homosexuality. I’ll give Elder Packer the benefit of the doubt, but I also won’t be handing out this particular pamphlet.

  12. Lest any of you misunderstand me, I wasn’t suggesting that we should return to the days when an insult led across the Hudson to the wilds of Weehawken.

    When the pamphlet was first published, it was entitled To Young Men Only. Has its name changed?

  13. > However, it is unusual that an invitation to sin is acceptably met with violence.

    Now, I must admit my information on this comes from old movies, but it seems that it used to be acceptable for a woman to slap a man for making overly forward sexual invitations, but not for offering a cigarette or alcoholic drink. So I think there’s a long-standing distinction between an invitation to sexual sin and other invitations to sin.

  14. The real damage done by that statement is probably not in actual anti-gay violence encouraged, but in the hostility perceived by young men who read it while struggling with their feelings of same-sex attraction. Is it any wonder so many choose to espouse the world’s view of their temptations rather than the Church’s?

  15. The more relevant question (since it’s so much more likely that we, and our children, will encounter it than a homosexual pass) is, how do we teach them to avoid the common use of “gay” to describe anything they don’t like. There’s no suggestion in their use of the term that the thing or person they call “gay” is in homosexual. Instead, it’s a general term of disapprobation.

  16. I’m inclined to give Elder Packer the benefit of the doubt. Nothing he says here is necessarily incompatible with the position that unwanted sexual advances should be resisted by the least violent means possible. I take the gist of the passage to be: (1) those of you who think homosexual behavior is a minor sin are wrong. It is major; (2) It is in fact major enough that in some circumstances, the details of which I won’t go into right now, you would even be justified in using violence to prevent it.

    My main reasons for ignoring the inuendo and construing the story narrowly are that there is much Church teaching against violence, and that recent talks and articles by the likes of Elder Oaks [cited above] and President Hinckley have consistently coupled condemnation of homosexual behavior with calls for charitable treatment of individuals so disposed. I take the Church’s refusal to officially disavow Elder Packer’s statement as an unwillingness to state, in effect, “we used to be in favor of antigay violence but we aren’t anymore.” Rather, Elder Packer’s statements should be interpreted with the presumption that they do not contradict the Church’s past and present teachings on violence. So, this passage doesn’t challenge my conviction that LDS teaching condemns antigay violence.

    Query: would people who are disturbed by Elder Packer’s comments be equally disturbed if the topic was fornication in general and the anecdote concerned a sister missionariy resisting advances by an elder?

  17. Mark, kids still do the same thing with the word “retarded,” (horrible!) and it’s a lot easier to get through to them on that front than on the topic of homosexuality. I taught about people with disabilities in Young Women a few weeks ago and it seemed quite successful. Maybe youth would more readily accept instruction not to use “gay” as a term of general disapproval if it were paired with teaching about how to refer to individuals with developmental disabilities in a more sensitive way.

    Just an idea.

    The first thing (and one of the only things) I ever asked my husband to change about himself was to stop using “gay” in that way. That was the night we became engaged. He stopped immediately and without relapse. Maybe I’m good for him, after all!

  18. Nathan M.S., the problem with that pamphlet is that the context is not clear, and our culture is still hateful enough toward people with SSA that it can easily be misconstrued by almost any audience. I can pretty much guarantee you that most 14-year-old boys reading that pamphlet are not thinking about the larger context of Chuch teachings against violence. They’re thinking, “Yeah, I’d want to hit him, too!” or they’re thinking, “Elder Packer wants to knock me out.” They might not be right or logical in thinking either of those things, but the ambiguity is dangerous.

    Force would be okay, in the situation of either homosexual or heterosexual advances, if the advances carried a threat of force. If it was just an advance, the violence would not be okay, in spite of what we might learn from old movies. The pamphlet doesn’t say whether that is the case. That’s the problem.

  19. Kaimi,

    Not once have I heard a Mormon say that it’s ok to beat people to a bloody pulp, so long as they’re gay. Why didn’t you know that the church speaks strongly against gay violence? What’s the origin of the imaginary Mormons and Mormon policies you do battle with in your head?

    I always assumed the Elder Packer story involved inappropriate touching. The two cases of sex abuse (both, fortunately, very mild) I know of within scouting groups both involved boys awaking to find another person’s hand on their genitals. In neither case did the boy slug the perpetrator, but anyone who says it would be wrong to slug the jerk in that situation (whether the victim is male or female) is dumb.

    Finally, I hope you followed the news last fall when it was acknowledged that the Mathew Shepherd killing had nothing to do with anti-gay sentiment. The “gay rage” excuse was invented by the killers’ defense attorney (who hoped the theory would find sympathizers in the jury, which it did not), then fueled into a crisis by the gay-rights movement and others anxious to paint their opponents as violent homophobes. One of the killers was bisexual himself and had had sex with at least two men. The links are on Andrew Sullivan’s website.

  20. I remember teaching a first discussion while a very new missionary. The man whom we were teaching asked us, in English, if we were “pansies.” My first impulse was to say something unkind, but my wise senior companion simply asked, “What do you mean?” When the guy explained, my companion simply said “No.”

    Ah, how a soft answer turns away wrath!

  21. Is anti-gay violence different from non-gay violence? Are gays ever involved in violent behaviour towards other gays and non-gays? What is the fascination these days with isolating a particular group because they feel unjustly treated?
    What would be your reaction if you saw someone molesting your child – be male on male, male on female, female on male, teacher on student etc?
    Have gays attained such special status that we can only discuss violence as it pertains to them?
    How much gay violence does the press report (since Kaimi qouted statistics on gay assaults and deaths)(also see Matt’s blog on the abortion issue)? Is it any worse than violence in general. I am sure that at least as many deaths and assaults occur because someone caught someone else in bed with their spouse or glanced sideways at them at some bar.
    I find the narrow discussion that gays are different and therefore we must isolate everything about them somewhat disturbing.
    Right now, they are pushing not only for the rights of marriage, but they are insisting that their lifestyle be taught in elementary and junior high schools as normal.
    When we get to the point where we molly-coddle minority groups, where do the rights of the majority have any meaning or power? Majority rights, after all, have to be inclusive, whereas minority rights do not.

  22. This is an interesting discussion in light of Utah’s inability to get any meaningful hate crimes legislation passed if sexual orientation is included in the list of protected groups.
    No, I am not suggesting that the Church controls the legislature and blah blah blah. But given that the overwhelming majority of our legislators here are LDS, is the insistence on refusing protection a tacit approval of anti-gay violence, or at least a somehow agreed-upon willingness to look the other way?

  23. Given that the Elder was so reluctant to admit to his offense – punching a companion – I think I would assume that there is a lot more to the story. It’s pretty hard to imagine any Elder or Sister who would be so ashamed of such a transgression that it would take much persistance to coax a confession. Hitting a companion is not normally justifiable behavior, but neither is it an offense so rare or unusual that it invokes shame, nor does it carry the possibility of being sent home. Furthermore, Elder Packer was relieved that the Elder had not committed a more serious transgression.

    So, what might have caused the missionary to feel great shame without having committed any sin, but still be justified in socking his companion? Perhaps the companion was groping the missionary in his sleep, when he awoke, realized what was happening, and socked him. This would not necessarily carry a overt threat of force, but in my mind certainly justifies a bloodied nose. Likewise, if a Sister missionary were riding a bus or a train, and some guy tried to reach up her skirt, a slap to the face or a kick to the shins would not at all be out of line.

  24. Mighty Richard,

    Utah’s laws forbid assault regardless of the victim’s sexuality. Violence against gays is already illegal. It’s always been illegal.

  25. But again, I think the larger point is that Elder Packer’s comment is presented in a pamphlet where the specific context is not clear. I know a gay Latter-day Saint whose feelings of self loathing and marginalization where intensified when he read this pamphlet as a young man. He had done nothing wrong, but he felt as though he had after reading this.

    If Elder Packer’s talk or this pamphlet had been written specifically about protecting oneself from sexual violence of any sort, no one would take issue with that. The concern is that given the ambiguous context, the comment seems broad and can a) be used to justify violence against homosexuals and b) create a sense of fear and marginalization for same-sex attracted Latter-day Saints who read it.

  26. Matt Evans,

    In 1992 I sat in a seminary class at American Fork High and listened to my teacher note that homosexuality was punishable by death in many Muslim countries and that it was strange that less civilized parts of the world understood right and wrong better than Americans. The gay rights movement had not pentrated my consciousness at that time, but this didn’t seem right to me and I challenged him by asking “whatever happened to love thy neighbor”. Rather than engage me he dropped the subject, the class moved on and nothing more was said.

    I have heard many Mormons (I’m thinking of specific names and faces as I write) say it is OK to punch a gay man for making a pass at them. So we aren’t talking about imaginary people–although I believe you when you write that you haven’t encountered them. Perhaps the fact that I lived in a semi-rural area growing up contributed to my experiences?

    I have to get a document out, but I will write additional thoughts later–but I do want to make the point that I don’t have any idea if Mormon’s are more likely to make the kind of statements I reference above than the average American.

  27. Perhaps a definition of “forcible molestation” and a “pass” would be helpful. The example Matt Evans used seems more aggressive than a pass, but not forcible molestation. My bet is that the situation was more than “Hey Elder, wanna…”

    Also the speech, from which the pamphet was made, was given several decades ago–which was before our society became so sensitive about these issues. So it may not be totally fair to retroactively judge it.

  28. Yes… even though I offered a possible context that explain’s both the missionary’s and Elder Packer’s behavior, I do not dispute that the message in that pamphlet was poorly handled.

  29. Mathew,

    Thanks for your specific examples. Do you think it would be permissible for my married wife to hit a guy who makes a pass at her with the knowledge that she’s married? I don’t think it’s wrong for a woman to hit a man in that circumstance, even if the guy doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with crossing her lines, because she has a higher standard than he does.

    The world would be better if men thought thrice before hitting on women they know are married, and when a married woman hits a man in that circumstance, she helps bring about that better world.

  30. As a missionary my companion and I were approached on a nearly nightly basis by groups of gay men revealing themselves to us and making all sorts of strange offers. I think it was mostly meant in jest as they got a good laugh out of it. My companion and I would avert our eyes and quickly walk past them. I guess I am a victim of some form of sexual harrassment.

    Things escalated later when this group of men discovered that another companionship was living nearby the area they would hang out. They became more and more agressive. One night the missionary awoke to find a mans face ourside his open window, only inches away. This man had climbed a seven foot wall and was sitting there making suggestive comments to the missionary in his sleep. The missionary didn’t take this very well. He got up, grabbed a nearby broom, broke off the handle to use as a weapon, and chased the man around the yard until he finally jumped back over the wall. They reported the incident to the president that morning and were out of the area by noon. The president was glad that the missionary hadn’t caught the man since the result would have been ugly and it would have involved the police. Calling the police in the first place wasn’t an option since there was no phone in the apartment. The president interviewed the elder and found out that much like my companionship he had encountered this group of men regularly on the street. Instead of ignoring them he had responded, and the interactions had become more and more heated until the night in question.

    I have no idea if these examples contribute to the discussion.

  31. Will anyone try to address Larry’s very good questions above? Will anybody update the out-dated information on Matthew Shepard, whose beating, it now turns out, most likely nothing to do with his sexual orientation? (And even if it did, why does the media only seem to care when gays are beaten up, as Larry points out above). And, most importantly, will anybody show the same compassion to the 45 million lives that have been snuffed out since 1973 that they show to the few thousand homosexuals who have had to suffer bloody noses and black eyes? I’m just wondering.

    In case there are doubts about Matthew Shepard, please see this link:

  32. And, most importantly, will anybody show the same compassion to the 45 million lives that have been snuffed out since 1973 that they show to the few thousand homosexuals who have had to suffer bloody noses and black eyes?

    Gee, that’s not a loaded question.

    Why do these two things have to be mutually exclusive, at least in this particular community?

  33. “Utah’s laws forbidding assault do not turn on the victim’s sexuality. Violence against gays is already illegal. It’s always been illegal.”

    Matt, of course assault is illegal, no matter the sexual orientation of the victim. I was referring specifically to so-called ‘hate crimes’ legislation, which would toughen penalties in cases where it could be proven that an assault occurred BECAUSE the victim is gay, or BECAUSE the victim is asian, or BECAUSE the victim is Mormon. I believe it has been before the Utah legislature four times, and continues to be struck down based on the inclusion of sexual orientation in the list of protected groups.

    It’s pretty clear that most legislators feel that this type of legislation is appropriate, but not as it would apply to the gay/lesbian community.

    Race: check
    Color: check
    Gender: check
    Religion: check
    Age: check
    Sexual Orientation: nope

    In effect, your punishment will be greater if you beat a black man for being black, or a Jew for being a Jew, but the redneck kids who go ‘gay bashing’…eh, well…

    Assuming that hate crimes legislation exists, what is the reason for *not* including sexual orientation on the list?

  34. Hope this isn’t too much of a threadjack, but I didn’t want to let Matt Evans’ assertions “debunking” the Matthew Shepard case to go unopposed. A recent 20/20 piece did try to paint the Shepard murder as merely a drug-fueled robbery gone wrong, but their reporting has been roundly challenged a lot of places. I understand that the lead investigators in the case all disagree with 20/20’s findings, and still agree that Shepard was targeted because he was gay. This motivation for the killings was established immediately after the arrest and continued after the verdict, with the imprisoned killers still claiming biblical justification for their actions. The 20/20 report did a poor job of convincing me that the “gay panic” defense could have possibly been lawyer-concocted, especially since most of their evidence relied upon a late change of heart by the killers themselves.

  35. On the Matthew Shepherd case, 20/20 ran a news story (11/26) which disputed the claim that Shepherd was attacked because he was gay.
    Take it for what you will.

    As far as anti-gay attitudes in the church, they weren’t nearly as visious as what was in high school. Having been called a ‘fag’ for 5+ years (and not even being gay to earn it), I’m somewhat sympathetic to gay people wanting social acceptance. Unfortunately, the ‘gay movement’ has been dominated by the wrong type of people, namely those who champion promiscuity and an in-your-face attitude. That type of leadership has engendered a culture that encourages destructive behavior, and I’m willing to bet has a higher death toll (in western civilization) than anti-gay violence can produce.

  36. Good grief! When I first saw Kaimi’s post I questioned whether discussing anti-gay sentiment would be worthwhile, since it had seemed to me to have been extinguished long ago or tempered with a profound love for the sinner. Good to see that Kaimi’s post is far from moot.

  37. Chris, it’s a matter of priorities. There is only so much time. People have to choose the causes that are most important to them. It’s been pointed out repeatedly above that we all agree (Mormons, that is) that nobody should be hitting gay people (or hitting anybody, for that matter). So, that issue is settled. Now, what are we going to do about the genocide taking place in our country? Nothing? And why do some people believe that a few black eyes and hurt feelings are more important than genocide? Wilfried has posted quite eloquently on the horror of Auschwitz. Would it not be relevant to point out that there is an Auschwitz going on in our own country while some people are really, really concerned about an issue that has already been settled?

  38. Geoff, your conflation of abortion with murder is contrary to LDS doctrine, not to mention completely off-topic.

  39. Geoff, I don’t think you’ll find anything resembling a consensus that legal abortion is genocide, even among Mormons. Furthermore, I don’t think you’ll find consensus on the best way to reduce the rates of abortion in the country. Indeed, I read some rather fascinating statistics a few months back that the rates of abortion in the US over the past two decades have only declined during the Administration of one president–the “pro-choice” Bill Clinton.

    Fight legal abortion all you want — and God bless you in the fight. But there might be other ways to prevent abortion.

    Oh, I’m wandering off topic here. My point — we can be concerned about violence against gays and abortion. Compassion is not a non-renewable resource.

  40. “And, most importantly, will anybody show the same compassion to the 45 million lives that have been snuffed out since 1973 that they show to the few thousand homosexuals who have had to suffer bloody noses and black eyes? ”

    Geoff B., putting “and” at the front of your sentences won’t keep them from containing non-sequiturs. And you can’t prove that 45 million people have died because of the Endangered Species Act.

  41. Matt,

    I don’t think it would be permissible for your wife to hit a man who made a pass at her. I also don’t think it would be permissible for me to hit a woman who made a pass at me. I also don’t think it would be permissible for me to hit a gay man who made a pass at me regardless of my marital status. In each of these cases there are better ways to deal with the situation than hitting the person. Words are much more effective and less likely to escalate the situation in ways that would cause someone to be seriously injured. To be honest, I’m surprised how low you set the bar to justify violence since I think you are a person of good will.

    Of course when writing about your wife perhaps you believe that her hitting the man would be something less than violence since she is presumably weaker and not likely to really hurt him?

    As I pointed out above, however, I think that it is a small subset of Mormons who would actually use violence against a gay man who made a pass at them (and you would find such a subset in any population of 12mm). The problem is that in some circles of the membership, it is acceptable to propose or imagine violence against gay men. This is obviously against what we believe and teach, but some percentage of us are willing to look the other way because we don’t particularly like the gay lifestyle.

    One response to Larry is this: Show me another group of people who we specifically marginalize through imagined acts of violence and I’ll show you another group of people we ought to be specifically speaking up for. For purposes of this topic, gays are special only to the extent that this happens. Since I don’t commonly hear boy scouts imagining what they would do if a woman made a pass at them (OK–I did hear this, but they weren’t imagining punching her), I don’t think it inappropriate to leave reference to them out of this thread.

  42. Geoff B.,

    The issue you raise has been aired frequently and passionately, by both sides, at T&S. Kaimi’s post dealt with another issue that many people care deeply about, and it is unfair of you to try to change the subject.

  43. I don’t think the issue Kaimi’s raising is whether or not statements since Elder Packer’s (which I and every other young man in my ward read — it’s by no means obscure) have sufficiently made the brethren’s anti-gay-violence position clear, but whether or not those subsequent admonitions have been fully taken to heart by all members of the church. After all, we do seem to be somewhat selective about what council we follow and the enthusiasm with which we follow it.

    I don’t think the issue is dismissable by any means. After all, one of Mathew Shepherd’s killers was LDS –albeit lapsed/inactive (and, after the incident, excommunicated).

  44. It seems to me that the “first cause” of anti-gay violence should be sought not primarily in the perpetrators’ hatred of homosexuality but rather in their (monstrously deformed) culture of heterosexuality. If Mormons are prone to anti-gay sentiment, they may be so because of the prevalence and power of a specifically heterosexual culture in so many aspects of LDS life; if this is the case, I would suspect that other subgroups who share LDS emphasis on a culture of heterosexuality would be equally prone to anti-gay violence.

    Note: I am NOT suggesting that LDS heterosexuality is “monstrously deformed”; on the contrary, I find it to be generally healthy and, indeed, ordained (in its essential features) of God. If I hadn’t married Mormon, I may not have married at all. But because the rituals and symbols of heterosexual marriage markets and sexual economies are so prevalent in Mormonism, so visible and accessible, they may be more likely to be perverted and misused than in other social contexts where heterosexuality is less strenuously visible. I think LaBute’s “bash” is very good on this dynamic.

  45. Also, Matt, I find your suggestion that a married woman should react with violence to a pass from a man to be highly problematic at best and illegal at worst. If I decked every young man who mistakenly asked me to dance when I was a chaperone at youth dances, I’d probably be behind bars for assault.

  46. Yes, can we all get back to gay-bashing, please?

    Mat: “I also don’t think it would be permissible for me to hit a woman who made a pass at me.” You’d be right about that, as I’ve learned through harsh experience.

    I would like to disagree with Kaimi’s statement that “we should see this kind of violence as the same sort of unsavory behavior as any other sort of violence.” In a general sense, of course he’s right — we should eschew all violence. But shouldn’t we stick up for persecuted underdogs? The Mighty Richard has brought up this point, I believe, and it’s worth looking at from a Mormon perspective: we’ve been pushed around as a people by those who considered us the end of civilization — should we not then be particularly compassionate towards those who are likewise marginalized? Or is it every oppressed group for itself?

  47. We all seem to be equivocating over the definition of a “pass”

    Some seem to be defining it as very forward physical contact, and others as merely asking someone on a date.

    I don’t think this conversation will really get anywhere as long as (at my count) four or five different definitions of “a pass” are being used.

    And Rosalynde – re: Matt’s comment, he specifically said if a man makes a pass at a married woman knowing that she is married – your rebuttal of him is a straw man, since you take on a weakened form of his argument.

  48. So – when do we start the lobby to protect the oppressed group of adulterers (since they’re in danger of violence from being slapped by married women)? ; )

  49. Mark B., #9, has identified the real issue–our modern instinct to conflate any sort of violence whatsoever into a major incident. There is a world of difference between a slap or an instinctive swing, and ‘beating to a bloody pulp.’ The difference may be that we are not very good at sorting out what the law requires from what morality requires. The law has never made an explicit exception for low levels of physical roughness, but it used to make a practical exception. Now it doesn’t.

    Matt is right on. We live in sanitized, sensitive, isolated times. We need to allow a little room for the physical, both in communicating pleasure and expressing disdain. We should tolerate married women taking a shot at men who try to come on to them, knowing they are married.

  50. Comment #44

    I’ve seen accounts that the Matthew Shepard killing had to do with methamphetamines, that the killers were bisexual, etc. I do not know if these are true or not. I’ve never heard any one allege that the killers were inspired by religious hatred generally or President Packer’s thirty-year old talk specifically. I do not know if they were or not, but I bet not. Do you have information to the contrary?

  51. Adam,

    I don’t see any suggestion in #44 that Matthew Shepard’s killers were “inspired by religious hatred.” I agree with Jeremy that we should all take to heart the counsel of our prophets and eschew all violence, including violence toward gays, and that there may be reason to believe we have not been totally successful in doing so.

  52. “may be reason to believe we have not been totally successful in doing so”

    Certainly there may be. No one has succeeded in being totally successful at doing good since a certain episode involving an apple.

  53. Mathew,
    I guess the argument can go to the fundamentals of “gay being” – is it a lifestyle choice or not. If it is not and they are born that way, then you have a good argument. If it is a lifestyle choice then they deserve no more special treatment than any other sector of society.
    My take on it is that it is a lifestyle choice. That being the case they should be treated like every other citizen. Therefore they already have full rights and protection that we all enjoy from violent behaviour.

  54. Re comments 4, 7, 12, and 13 on “To the One” and “To Young Men Only”:

    “To Young Men Only” is an address originally given by Elder Packer at the Priesthood Session of General Conference on October 2, 1976. It’s been published as a pamphlet with the same title.

    “To the One” is an address originally given by Elder Packer at a Brigham Young University 12-Stake Fireside in March 1978. It’s also been published as a pamphlet with the same title.

    In October 2000, some LDS couples called on church leaders to endorse the contents of three pamphlets–the two above plus one called “Letter to a Friend”–or cease publication, distribution, and use of them within the church.

  55. Mathew,

    When I imagine my wife hitting a guy, I see it primarily as a symbolic gesture. She’s only 110 pounds, and unlikely to hurt many men. But if married women regularly hit hard enough to draw blood, the world would be a better place, especially for women. I see no reason to defend those who make unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances. We should wish them nothing but toothaches — repentance-inducing toothaches.

    Mighty Richard,

    I hope the Utah legislature had the sense to oppose all hate-crime legislation. All reasons for the deliberate killing of harmless innocents are equally evil and should be equally punished. It makes me angry to know that some people think Matthew Shepherd’s murder would have been more tolerable had he been killed for being from the wrong part of town, or for being an out-of-towner, or for having bad acne. Etc.


    You asked what lessons Mormons should take from their persecuted history. Answer: Mormons should stand up for victims without regard for class membership. It’s offensive when people say we should have less compassion for victims if they’re WASPs.

  56. Kaimi,

    I have read only about half of the comments here, so I may be repeating someone. I have very little doubt that Elder Packer made this story up. It is clearly a reflection of how he sees the issue of homosexuality. In the off chance that I am wrong about this, I would have to say that the missionary in the story is a complete brown nosing idiot.

    ….and should my comments suggest a bias, I will say that, no, I am not a homosexual. I am the heterosexual father of four adult heterosexual children. I do know of two former missionary companions who I later found ot were gay when one died of AIDS and the other (a respected and honored school teacher, father of 7) went out in the desert and shot himself. This is the real violence that comes from intolerant positions regarding homosexuality in the church.

  57. Not all stories that we dislike are either fictional or involve fools and sycophants. In my opinion.

  58. Adam –

    but where’s the fun if we can’t demonize our opponents. ;)

    [Recently, a few fellow grad students were bringing up the ol’ Bush=Hitler trope (yes, that belief does does exist, and at leaast here, very common) and I said something like: Can we disagree without believing our opposition is evil? The response? Conservatives don’t deserve respect, nor should they be considered reasonable or worthwhile.]

    I think if someone tried an aggressive pass at me – grab me and kiss me to show me that I really was gay (similar to what Tom Selleck did to Kevin Kline in “In & Out” – a about how it is okay to obsessivly pursue heterosexual men in order to convert them to homosexuality) I wouldn’t hit them, but I would forcefully push them away and warn them. IF they tried again, I would hit them.

    Sorry if that makes me a bigot. I would hope my wife (who is 6 foot 2 inches and big boned, and thus likely to do some damage) would slap any man or woman who tried to make an aggressive physical pass at her.

    However, if they just tried to ask me to dance or out on a date, I would respectfully decline. If they persisted, I would end all social contact with the person (or possibly file sexual harrassment charges if it was professionally related).

    As I said above, it all depends on what we mean by “a pass.”

  59. I should calrify – it might also depend on the body type. Women making aggressive physical passes several times would not get hit (mostly because I have a psychological block against hitting women), and neither would men with smaller body types get hit by me. In all cases, I would also try to leave the area and not allow the other person further chances to make aggressive physical passes. I’m talking about a hypothetical where someone makes an agressive physical pass, get a warning and in the future (the next day, week, etc.) continues to do so, out of an idea that he could convince me I was really gay (hasn’t happened to me – has happened to a friend though). I would likely threaten legal action before I did anything physcial. But, if it came down to it and the attempts at conversion wouldn’t stop, I have to say I would eventually hit the guy.

    But that’s very unlikely. However, maybe many of you are clucking your mouths at your moral superiority compared to my uneligntened propensity to violence. But an agressive physical pass, to me, would be the same as an attempt at molestation.

    But feel free to tell me I’m wrong.

  60. Matt,

    You believe that all killings of innocents is equally evil and deserves equal punishment. Do you also believe that all unwelcome attempts at seduction of a married is equally evil and deserves equal punishment? Would it then be OK to hit the woman who tries to seduce the married man “hard enough to draw blood”? Or does a discrepancy in the power that each party actually has at its disposal to defend itself/seek redress matter?

  61. Personally, I reserve the right to self defense. If someone, man or woman, puts me in reasonable apprehension of offensive physical contact…I’m going to defend myself with reasonable force.

  62. I don’t know exactly why people insist on posing hypotheticals about what they would do to the gay man who tried to give them an unwelcome kiss when they must know that the likelihood of such an occurence is extremely low (I lived and work in Manhattan for crying out loud and it still hasn’t happened to me), but for some there is undoubtedly a fascination with the subject.

    I’m reminded of my fellow student who read to the entire class the material he claimed he found objectionable.

  63. Then let’s get back to the issue. Why focus on anti-gay violence by (heterosexuals?) when gays are just as likely to be violent with each other as non-gays are. Violence is violence. All are equal where this issue is concerned. Why do we have to be especially concerned with violence against gays?
    More heterosexual men were murdered last year for their heterosexuality, and more were assaulted because of their sexual behaviour than were gays. Where’s the press?

  64. I also think it’s funny that so many comments have been debates about hypotheticals or about the unknown details of an incident spoken of almost thirty years ago. Let’s get to brass tacks.

    I actually have hit a man who came on to me. I was about sixteen and working on the set of a play. One of my acquaintances asked me to go backstage with him. It was dark back there, but I went, suspecting nothing. Once we were alone, he tried to put his hand in my pants and I punched him right in the sternum, knocking him down. I think it was more or less an instinctive reaction. He said it was just a joke and I didn’t have to hit him. I said I didn’t think it was funny and I left. I’m not sorry. I don’t think I did anything wrong. I think President Packer would agree, and so would my parents and my bishop.

    I also don’t expect this to ever happen to me again, and I don’t expect it to happen to many other people. But I thought it would be interesting to bring this discussion down from the abstract realm into the concrete.

  65. Violence is violence? Are all really equal where this issue is concerned? Well the law doesn’t think so. And there are plenty of instances other than hate crimes legislation. Whether or not a killing rises to capital murder can depend on whether the killer was hired to commit murder, whether the victim was a cop, whether whether the murder was done to avoid arrest etc.

    Few people would suggest that motive isn’t a paramount consideration when determining how harsh a penalty to impose for acts of violence, so even if two corpses were killed in identical fashion, whether or not the killers will receive identical (or any) punishment depends a great deal on their state of mind when killing. The question, then, isn’t whether or not we should draw distinctions between acts of violence, but what sort of distinctions are appropriate. I’m open to the idea that we should not draw any distinctions when motivation to violence is based on race, sexual orientation, religion–but I’m not convinced yet.

  66. I don’t know if this speaks to the question, or if it’s a non-issue (and I certainly don’t want to threadjack), but to echo Jeremy (#44), there seems to be a blind spot in terms of which counsel is heard and taken to heart re: the justifiability of violent retaliation against even a rather innocuous “pass” (assuming such a thing exists). Are young men, especially, hearing Elder Oaks’s message being reinforced locally in homes and priesthood lessons?

    To wit: I remember very clearly walking into my MTC dorm room and finding ten or twelve guys (the room was nearly full to capacity) one-upping themselves telling gay-bashing stories, the majority of which were (to hear them told) first-hand experiences. They were incredibly violent–going well beyond what Elder Packer and JDP (#66) describe–and the tone in which the stories were related was excited and almost jubilant. Now, I wasn’t the greatest of missionaries, but I only had one other experience on my entire mission where I felt as spiritually dark as I did that evening.

    Does it matter that these may have been exaggerations or even complete fabrications? (I hope they were–the stories were brutal.)

    That was ten years ago (1994). Is the message getting through any better now that that sort of violence is completely inappropriate?

  67. Mathew,

    Something makes me really uncomfortable about reserving special protections for some victims. By deliberately killing a harmless innocent, the perpetrator demonstrates that he hates that person — hated them enough to slit their throat. Hate crimes laws suggest that some reasons to hate harmless innocents are better than others, and so long as the perpetrator hated for one of the non-elevated reasons, the court will smile on him to some degree. So according to the list Mighty Richard provided in #34, a perpetrator who kills someone because he hates poor people, or parents, or people with Down syndrome, or foreigners, or people that drive cars made by foreigners, would not be covered under the hate crimes law because Utah law tolerates hating those classes of people.

    In my mind there’s no reason Utah should justify hating harmless innocents because of their financial status, their mental capacity, their nationality, the car they drive, or any other reason. Or even because they’re from California.

  68. Matt,

    Unless you think that I ought to have the right to punch “hard enought to draw blood” the next woman who makes a pass at me when she knows that I am married, you’ve already created special protections for some victims. If you think only women should have this right, then you have demontrated our society’s tendencies to apply one set of rules to a group that we find more sympathetic (for whatever reason) and ignore equally valid claims of a second group.

    I think of hate crimes legislation as designed to do two things–it should level the legal playing field for those belonging to disfavored classes becauses it forces the system (juries) to take another look at the crime and it acts to further deter crimes that are committed against a group that has become grossly singled out.

  69. Mathew,

    I think the reason I’m more willing to tolerate a married woman hitting a man is because I imagine the man being less harmed. If we apply a “degree of harm” meter to the act, I would accept it either way. (In other words, if a man who hits on a woman despite knowing she’s married, the woman can harm him a “15” on his “degree of harm meter,” it would be appropriate for a married man to harm a woman “15” on her degree of harm meter.) The effect is to recognize that a 110 pound woman could permissibly swing a lot harder at a 180 pound man than he could swing at her.

    As for hate crimes, there’s no reason to have juries look more closely at the crimes of some victims than others. There’s no reason to allow juries to only “look once” because the victim was killed “only” because the perpetrator hates people with Down syndrome. Most importantly, is there any reason NOT to deter crimes against group members in the EXACT proportion to which the group is targeted (i.e., in every case that hate is a motivator)? I can’t see any reason to tolerate hate crimes that are committed against groups that are only moderately (as opposed to “grossly”) singled out.

    If we accept any hate crimes laws (which I don’t believe we should, because they falsely suggest that some crimes against harmless innocents are done for “good” reasons), they should only say: In circumstances when the perpetrator was motivated by hate, additional punitive measures XYZ should be applied.

    That way we don’t fall into the trap of tolerating hate crimes against groups too small or powerless to lobby the legislature for inclusion in the hate crimes statute.

  70. Kristine, if we stone adulterers, where will it stop? We all someday may come in danger of stoning. As Dylan prophesied, “everybody must get stoned.”

  71. Kristine, the people we’ve discussed punishing are those who commit violent crimes against homosexuals and other targeted groups. Because I imagine that you don’t take exception to the need to punish perpetrators of such crimes (and sins), I’m not sure what you intended by your comment.

  72. It seems to me this entire conversation is doomed.

    We’re already comitting the “sins” of engaging in the logical fallacies of equivocation (“pass”) and straw man – but now we seem on the verge of throwing in slippery slopes and reductio ad absurdums as well.

    Next thing, we’ll be trucking in ad hominems and post hoc ergo propter hocs.

    Tread carefully.

    [And use Englishized Lating with care (unlike me – I just bastardized the Latin above).]

  73. Wow, this has exploded. I only brought up the hate crimes stuff to illustrate the point that LDS culture may have some work to do in the way many of us view anti-gay violence, which I believe was the issue Kaimi brought up in his initial post.
    My point was this: The vast majority of our lawmakers in Utah are conservative; the vast majority of them are LDS. They have had the opportunity to enact so-called ‘hate crimes’ legislation on several occasions, but have failed to do so, based not on the relative merit of such legislation – almost all of them agree that it is necessary – but on the inclusion of gay/lesbian in the list of specifically protected groups.
    So if the question is, ‘How do/should LDS people react to anti-gay violence?’ my comments about the Utah lawmakers were meant to illustrate the dichotomous way many LDS people DO view anti-gay violence.
    Certainly I can see no reasonable justification for cracking down on crimes committed in the name of racial purity, but NOT crimes committed in the name of homophobia, but many, many of our brothers and sisters DO make that distinction.

  74. Matt, sorry, I wasn’t responding directly to the immediately preceding comments or particularly to the hate crimes legislation discussion–I just read the whole thread, and was meaning to convey my disgust that a bunch of professed Christians would be discussing what kinds of social offenses merit a violent response.

  75. “It seems to me this entire conversation is doomed.”

    Well that was true since the title.

  76. “We seem to discuss issues of homosexuality ad nausum around here.”

    When’s the last conversation we had? Seems to me we talk more about talking about it than we talk about it.

  77. Matt,

    I admire your idealism in principle, but find it harmful in practice. It isn’t the first time that I have blanched at unintended results stemming from ideological purity.

    I think there are good reasons to have juries look closer at the crimes against some victims than at others–as I’ve pointed out above, even excluding hate crimes, the law thinks so to. There can be no doubt that our fellow citizens are more outraged over certain crimes than others and that level of outrage expresses itself in the treatment that the victims get in the judicial system. You and I differ on how we ought to address this problem–I would be pleased to live in a world where your methods were effective (and one day we may get there), but don’t believe we can turn a blind eye now and hope to realize our ideals later. I also believe that to do so will hurt us in the long run.

  78. Mighty Richard,

    I’m skeptical that the Utah legislature ever seriously considered passing a hate-crimes law. If the bill has been introduced four different times, and there were popular support for it except for the provision on sexual-orientation, then an amendment would have been passed to remove the sticking points and the bill would be made law. Given that it came up for a vote four times and was never approved makes me think it doesn’t have support — with or without sexual orientation.

    I would also have to see the legislator’s specific language before I’d agree that she intended to say that she was willing to apply additional punishments for crimes against some classes, but not gays. It seems more likely to me (and it’s my hope) that she was questioning why gays were more deserving of extra protections than are other groups, like the homeless or the disabled, that were left out of the bill.

    Having interned at the Utah legislature, my guess is that a Democratic repesentative sponsors a hate-crimes act every year and, every year, it goes nowhere. The “but for sexual orientation” explanation would make a good lede for a fundraising letter, but my guess is that it’s a red herring. Specific details would convince me otherwise.

  79. Is there any objective evidence that hate-crime legislation deters criminal acts? When we debated this at grad school, the panel experts said that there was none.
    If that is still accurate (that was 5-6 years ago), what is the point of hate-crime legislation, beyond punishing the perptrator more?
    Is a person who assaults gay people worse than someone who assaults whoever is at hand (or who appears vulnerable)?
    I, personally, view hate-crime laws as violating the equal protection aspect of the constitution, but then Canada was a bit lite on teaching the US Constitution . . .
    As far as the acceptibility of gay bashing in LDS culture, it sadly reflects too much of main stream culture. I imagine that, now that gay bashing is a cultural no-no, fewer LDS men will brag about it.

  80. I’m more concerned about psychological violence perpetrated against homosexuals than actual physical violence. And Church members are certainly capable of it.

  81. Given that it came up for a vote four times and was never approved makes me think it doesn’t have support – with or without sexual orientation.

    As I blogged some time ago, hate crimes bills have received broad support in Utah, including endorsement by the Alliance for Unity (which has at least one GA on its board), support from Utah law enforcement officials and prosecutors, majority support among polled Utahns, and an official statement of non-opposition from the Church–which the Church had to reiterate by reproaching Gayle Ruzicka when she tried to wrest it into a “wink-wink nudge-nudge” opposition.

    So, I suppose it depends on what you mean by support. If you mean support of the legislators, which generally swing well to the right of their constituents, then no, it hasn’t had it. If you mean the support of the community, however, the legislature is clearly going against public, civic, and, arguably, ecclesiastical opinion.

  82. “an official statement of non-opposition from the Church”

    As I have repeatedly maintained, an official Church non-position is not a position in favor of it. Also, your post isn’t very responsive to Matt’s point–that Utah legislators dislike the idea of singling out hate crimes in general.

  83. But a statement of non-opposition clearly sends the message that, if you’re going to oppose this bill, don’t claim doctrinal or (LDS-related) religious justification for it. Also, I assume the general authority in the Alliance for Unity had some veto power that went unexercised.

    I wasn’t trying to address Matt’s observation, just simply pointing out that the legislators’ hangups about hate crimes as a category aren’t shared by other civic entities or the public. On the topic, though, it seems that Matt’s comment doesn’t address those by others in the thread: that there are other cases in the law in which motive and attitude toward the victim do affect severity of punishment, and that a hate-crimes bill thus wouldn’t be introducing some new punitive paradigm.

  84. “But a statement of non-opposition clearly sends the message that, if you’re going to oppose this bill, don’t claim doctrinal or (LDS-related) religious justification for it.”

    I don’t think this is true. I think it just means you can’t claim your doctrinal or LDS-related religious justifications are normative.

  85. When we talk about cultural attitudes, often the attitudes come out of ignorance, and often they come from experiences that are passed on for generations.
    I remember a highly respected scout leader (non-LDS troop) who insisted on doing medicals at scout camp every year. He was not a doctor, nor in the medical field. It turned out he was a pedophile but disguised it in such a way that he got away with it for a couple of years. We also had a highly placed and highly regarded member of the Church who preyed on young men for over forty years, and when reported the reports were dismissed. And, in fact, one young man was exed for suggesting such a thing. These have been rectified now, but what about the damage that has been done?
    When we are reminded of the psychological trauma that is heaped on gays by the Church, I believe we need to be careful. Much of what passes as psychological trauma is really a genuine concern about behaviour. Because gays don’t wear signs saying I’m not a pedophile, how does one discern between a child abuser and one who is simply gay?
    With all the activity by the gay community to focus education on the youth, don’t you think that this should raise some concerns? With a number of organizations trying to legalize man-boy sex, doesn’t that become an issue?
    There needs to be a concerted effort on the part of those who are simply gay and not pedophiles to disengage from the radicals so that a level of confidence can be established that they are legitimate and should be treated by us as we wished to be treated by them.
    Otherwise, the level of discourse is going to get worse, not better. Our children must be safe and must be seen to be safe. Right, lawyers – or do children’s rights really have no bearing on this issue – even though gays are now eligible to be scout leaders?

  86. Mat: I am mystified by your argument with regard to Hate crime’s legislation. How does it force the jury to take a second look? I am honestly at a loss as to what this means. To the extent that hate crimes legislation creates a new class of crimes that are indistinguishable from other crimes other than adding a single additional element having to do with the motive of the perpetrator, it seems to me that they don’t really have any ability to make juries look harder at any particular issue. They would allow a prosecutor to put on lots of inflammatory evidence about how the defendant is a bigot, but since potting the defendant would now require proof of an additional element, it seems that at the evidentiary level the laws are a wash.

    I can understand justifying such laws on the basis that certain crimes merit particular outrage, or perhaps that particular motives are — in economic terms — going to result in different price elasticities for certain crimes, ie it might take a bigger threat to deter a neonazi than to deter an ordinary mugger — but none of these things seem to have anything to do with your worries which seem to be directed toward latent jury bias.

    Furthermore, my understanding is that to the extent that there is any bias in the system it is less likely to occur at the level of the juries, which virtually always convict in criminal cases, than at the level of prosecutorial discretation, where again the existence of a new law on the book will have relatively little impact.

  87. Larry,

    In my opinion, most of your comment is off-topic and totally offensive. There’s no good evidence that the rate of pedophilia is higher among gays than heterosexuals. Please try to remember our leaders’ pleas that we welcome and support gays, even while affirming that homosexual conduct is sinful. And here is some reading on the decision allowing scouts to bar open gays from leadership positions:

  88. Nate,

    I think the wording I used was “another look” which I chose to avoid the legalistic “second look”. Perhaps I should have said a “closer look”. I disagree that juries wouldn’t look any harder at the issue since the introduction of additional evidence of motive by definition requires them to consider additional factors that are salient to the case. I’ve already stated that, for better or worse, our level of outrage and the seriousness with which we treat a crime is colored by what we believe the motivations behind it are. Of course the prosecution would still have to prove the additional element–no one is asking that the jury merely accept the prosecution at its word.

    Last night I was thinking about the problem of prosecutorial discretion in relation to this topic and I came to roughly the same conclusion as you have–that the existence of hate crime laws will have little impact on prosecutors who would otherwise fail to bring appropriate charges. One argument against this is that a prosecutor who consistently fails to bring charges for hate crimes may cause enough of an outcry that the prosecutor would be removed from office. The problem, of course, is that a prosecutor who fails to bring appropriate charges in the absence of hate crime legislation should also cause a public outcry.

  89. Greg,

    You must be a lawyer. My comment were not intended to be offensive but to posit another side to the equation. We are discussing anti-gay violence and why people are hesitant. When we come from experience (both these men approached me, one on the pretext of a priesthood interview) I did not hit them. However, in the case of the Church leader, I know several young men that did go gay as a result. ( I personally talked to them about their experiences and their effects on them)
    This is not off topic as much as you would like to believe. If you read my comments carefully you will note that the comments were intended to create some understanding as to why people are a little hesitant. My comments regarding active gay education is real (i.e. British Columbia), and NAMBA among others. The experiences speak for themselves. Why are those concerns not legitimate?
    I have no quarrel with the Church’s stand regarding the welcoming and support of gays. I never have had a problem with that.
    I have a problem with those who engage in deviant behaviour with children regardless of their sexual orientation.
    However, when there is a question of doubt that exists in peoples minds – based on experience – isn’t there an obligation, at some level, for those who are different to stand up and be counted rather than sit as a silent majority and let the radicals rule?

  90. Mathew and Nate,

    Earlier I wrote a comment pointing out that hate-crimes laws had neither the purpose or effect of remedying jury deficiencies, but of increasing the penalties and expressing outrage of crimes motivated by hatred. Sadly, when I posted the comment the server was down, and my comment was lost to the ether.

    In that same comment I pointed out that there’s only one reason to create a finite list of groups against which we condemn crimes of hate: identity politics. The reason the homeless and physically and mentally disabled weren’t included in the bill before the Utah legislature wasn’t because crimes motivated by hatred aren’t committed against those groups, but because those groups have no votes or campaign dollars to offer the bills’ sponsors. If the sponsor were genuinely concerned about crimes motivated by hatred, they would simply increase the penalty for any and all crimes inspired by hate.

  91. Larry: “Because gays don’t wear signs saying I’m not a pedophile, how does one discern between a child abuser and one who is simply gay?”
    “I have no quarrel with the Church’s stand regarding the welcoming and support of gays.”

    I’ve already given your comment more space that it warrants, so I will just suggest that you try to figure out why these two sentences are inconsistent.

  92. Mathew,

    If the purpose of hate-crimes laws were to focus the attention of the jury, wouldn’t the list of protected groups be those overlooked or discounted by juries? If so, then why would the Utah bill include the categories it does — is there reason to believe Utah juries discount violent crimes committed against the protected groups? It seems implausible that juries subconsciously think, “I mean he killed a woman, for crying out loud, what’s the big deal?” Or anything like that.

    As I said before, I think the purpose of hate-crimes laws is to enhance the penalties for crimes motivated by hatred, and to express public outrage about such motivations. Because I don’t think our outrage does or should turn on which group was the inspiration for the hatred, I see no reason to list groups at all.

    About laws adding penalties if the cop was the victim, or to avoid arrest, etc. I don’t see these laws as saying that cops as a class are special — if someone kills an off-duty cop who’s on vacation, for example, I hope that the law doesn’t say that by virtue of his being a cop, his murder is especially offensive. My guess is that such laws are intended to offer those doing the work of the state, the state’s public face, extra protection because crimes against them are crimes against the state and it’s ability to function. When their murder is unrelated to their being the public face of the state, they should be treated like everyone else.

    As for murder-for-hire, I see no reason to punish someone who kills a harmless innocent for money more than someone who kills because he feels like it. For that reason I hope that the enhanced penalties of which you speak are actually just the fact that such people commit two separate crimes: (1) murder and (2) conspiracy to murder. Conspiracy to murder is committed even if the conspiracy isn’t carried out and there’s no murder. If the penalties are structured like this, as I think they should be, then they aren’t analogous to hate-crime laws until we make hating a crime in itself.

  93. Matt –

    then they aren’t analogous to hate-crime laws until we make hating a crime in itself.

    that’s what has always bugged me about hate crime law – it seems to be a form of thought crime legislation. Person A kills/maims person B. We prove that and Person A goes to jail. Now, we decided that since person A has unacceptable thoughts in his/her head, we punish person A for said thoughts.

    In essence, a thought crime.

  94. Mat: Is there any evidence that juries are less likely to convict in cases of hate crimes and thus must be nudged along with a second look? My sense is that juries almost always convict the defendant of whatever the government charges them with. If there is some systematic bias in the system, I doubt that it happens at the level of jury nullification. To the extent that there is evidence that crimes against gays are treated less seriously it seems that the bias occurs at the level of prosecutors or judges. One possible exception is in the case of death penalty and race, where the race of the vicitim seems to play a part — ie if the victim is black the murderer is less likely to get the death penalty. However, capital cases are in a sense sui generis since in these cases the jury, rather than the judge, metes out the sentence.

    In order for your “another look” rationale to hold up, it seems to me that you would need evidence that juries were refusing to find guilty those who were plainly guilty of crimes on the basis of the identity of the victim. Given the rarity with which juries find criminal defendant’s not guilty, I am doubtful that this claim can be supported, but if you know of any actual data on the question I would be interested.

  95. Ivan: There is a real sense in which virtually all crimes are thought crimes. Suppose that I put a gun to your head and pull the trigger, killing you. Whether I am guilty of man slaughter, second degree murder, first degree murder or nothing at all will hinge entirely (or almost entirely) on my thoughts.

    Furthermore, we have lots of laws that mete out a different level of punishment based on the identity of the victim. Certain kinds of crimes, for example, are punished more severely if the victim is a child, a police officer, a public official, etc.

    I am not sure if there are other examples where motive rather than intent is an element of the crime. I suppose that criminal violations of civil rights laws might fall into this category. I would need to check out the statute.

  96. What bothers me most about this thread is not whether hate crimes legislation is a good idea–as I noted above, I’m open to persuasion on that question–but at the vituperation some of our membership directs towards gay people. Of the scores of gay people I know, most are kind, thoughtful and charitable–and a lot of them have very good senses of humor. My interactions have left me with a good impression–I hope we as Mormons collectively leave them with the same good impression.


    I appreciate your comments–may I make one minor criticism: when you write things like “if the sponsor were genuinely concerned about crimes motivated by hatred, they would simply increase the penalty for any and all crimes inspired by hate” I think you are giving the worst possible reading to that person’s motivations. I believe that such a sponsor probably is genuinely concerned about crimes motivated by hatred–although I understand that you disagree with the approach he takes. I’ve never liked the “if you really cared…you would do what X” argument because it unfairly casts the other as acting in bad faith.

  97. Nate,

    I have no data on the point, only anecdotes so I have no problem with you discounting my rationale. As you noted, however, there are other arguments as to why hate crime legislation may be worth undertaking. More importantly for purposes of this thread, see my comment #8 above and my comment immediately above.

  98. Nate,

    Isn’t it equally true that no crime is a thought crime? No matter how someone *thinks* someone dead, or thinks any other crime, there’s no crime until there’s an act.

    As for penalties turning on the identity of the victim, my response is in comment 99.

    Regarding children, I would guess that statutes increasing the penalty for some harms to children are intended to reflect childrens’ vulnerability. I don’t believe the penalties for murdering a child are more severe than for murdering an adult (an instance where everyone’s potential harm is equal).

  99. and while we are at it, why do we turn a blind eye to rape in prisons? if we’all serious about violence, why not do something about violence against prisoners? frankly, it’s sick how common it is for jokes, tv, movies, etc. to talk about prison rape…as if it was somehow ok. so yes, let’s forget about hypotheticals about what to do if a guy hits on you, or if someone beats up someone else because they are/act gay…and deal with real, everyday instances of violence.

  100. Mathew, you are right, there’s no reason for cynicism about every politician in every circumstance.

  101. I’m almost 40 and the couple of times in the last decade when someone besides my husband has made a pass at me, I’ve been amused and secretly overjoyed. Hit that funny and sweet guy following me around the thriftshop asking me, was my old man treating me right? Was I happy? Did my old man do right by me? And would I meet him at a coffee shop? Please? You’ve got to be kidding. God bless him for seeing in me something worth wanting. I didn’t meet him for coffee, of course. But nothing he did merited a slap.

    Where I do water aerobics every day there is a young male lifeguard who is constantly harassing the female lifeguards. It’s NOT nice what he does, and in front of other people. It’s suggestive of rape and it belittles his victims, but he thinks it’s funny or something. He needs to be knocked out. I’m not kidding. Someone’s brother or father needs to take him out behind the gym and clean his clock for him. I wouldn’t blame these women if one of them turned around and broke his jaw. If the one missionary who was hit in Elder Packer’s story was acting like that toward his companion, I’d agree 100% that it’s right to hit him.

  102. As a former prosecutor, I’m not really sure I would want to make the distiniction between regular assault charges and assault charges based on some protected class. The reason? The motivation behind an assault is just one more thing I would have to prove. It is much easier to convince a jury the answer to the simple question that the perp beat up a guy than to add that he beat the guy up because he was a member of some group on a politically motivated checklist. Unless he is stupid enough to say so, I don’t want to add that to my evidentiary burden. That is why so many potential murder charges get reduced to manslaughter. The prosecutor just has to prove that the perp killed the victim, not why he did so. That ever-elusive “why” is the easiest element in which the defense can raise a reasonable doubt.

    Juries normally understand wanton, senseless crimes, and will give a sentence in line with that.

  103. Your practical argument against hate crime legislation, however, underscores the point others have made here: the element of intent or attitude towards the victim is already written into the law (manslaughter v. murder), so hate crime legislation won’t be introducing something paradigmatically new in terms of what defines the severity of a crime.

    Unless he is stupid enough to say so, I don’t want to add that to my evidentiary burden.

    Burden on the system introduces a whole other aspect of the argument, of course, one that some might say takes lower priority than the issue of whether or not it’s the right thing to do.

  104. I would recomend everyone to read this article

    The Church used to seal men to men in the past.
    Also Joseph Smith was NOT against gay people

    Same Sex Temple Sealings
    Did the Early LDS Church
    Embrace Homosexual Relationships?
    By Ben Williams
    Nineteenth-Century LDS temple rituals included the practice of “sealing” men to men. While modern church authorities have nearly eradicated all evidence of this arcane practice, some historians cite it as evidence that the early church embraced homosexual relationships — but are they right?

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