Persecution or Freedom?

0-VidmarJust a week after he was named chef de mission of the U.S. Olympic Team for 2012, Peter Vidmar has resigned because of objections to his beliefs—specifically his opposition to same-sex marriage. Vidmar, an LDS Church member and a member of the gold-medal winning 1984 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. He is also the highest scoring gymnast in Olympic history.

But in 2008 Vidmar publicly campaigned for Proposition 8 in California.

I’m a little disturbed at this turn of events. I’ve always hoped that in the U.S. we would be tolerant of others beliefs. Clearly Vidmar’s beliefs are the issue. And because those beliefs are shared by most active LDS Church members and the Church is widely associated with the Proposition 8 campaign, mormons are also the issue. If it isn’t yet obvious, we now have to know that Mormons are at risk for this kind of reaction.

But I don’t think the issue now is about Proposition 8 or gay marriage. The question now is how we as Mormons view and react to this event. Should Vidmar have resigned? Should opponents of same sex marriage now put pressure on the U. S. Olympic Committee to not give in to this kind of attack? Shouldn’t we be protected legally from this kind of attack?

Political disagreement spills over into other areas of life all the time. It affects personal lives, businesses and even religion. In some ways it seems like there is no “private” anymore, where politics may not intrude.

What disappoints me about the activists in this case is that this mixes two unrelated things: Vidmar’s personal beliefs, public as he made them in the campaign, and his ability to perform the duties of <em>chef de mission</em>. Perhaps I don’t understand the position very well, but I have a hard time understanding how the beliefs could adversely affect the position.

This isn’t a government position, so, from my limited legal knowledge, this isn’t about freedom of religion. Had Vidmar been fired, as I understand it, employment discrimination might be an issue (depending on the facts). But instead he resigned, seeing that his presence could cause problems for the athletes.

The U.S. Olympic Committee can, except for, use whatever criteria they think proper to determine who it names to this position. While they apparently didn’t think Vidmar’s beliefs were an issue when they named him, the fact that they became an issue will, no doubt, affect who they chose in the future. Vidmar himself apparently sees the issue as a public relations problem, making the following statement on resigning:

“I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction from the amazing things that are happening in the Olympic movement in the United States. I simply cannot have my presence become a detriment to the U.S. Olympic family.

“I hope that by stepping aside, the athletes and their stories will rightly take center stage.”

In our society we allow everyone to express their beliefs as they wish, and to put pressure on privately controlled institutions like the Olympic Committee, as well as governmental institutions. Whether or not I like what these activists did in forcing Vidmar to resign, I must acknowledge that they have a right to do it. And I’m quite certain that, given the right circumstances, their political opponents would do (and probably have done) the same thing to advance their cause. What our society believes to be politically correct always allows majorities to make minorities uncomfortable, and in many cases using this pressure has led to important changes for the better.

I would not want to keep either side from being able to do this kind of thing. It seems to me that interest groups need to be able to put pressure on institutions, governmental or not. I’m sure there are those who would make me object also, and I’d want to be able to try to influence an institution like this, if possible.

I fear that some Mormons will take this and call it persecution, or call those who used this influence anti-mormons. They may be anti-mormon, but it is certainly not persecution. No right has been impinged, nor has our ability to believe as we wish been infringed. This case is merely a consequence of stating belief publicly. If you speak up, there are consequences.

Even the idea that Vidmar’s attackers are anti-mormon may be suspect, because their motivation is more about pushing for same-sex marriage than against Mormons. Had Mormons not been so involved in supporting proposition 8, would these activists even be thinking about Mormons?

It seems, then, that all this is just the consequences of stating and working for an unpopular belief. Our only choices are to either get used to it, or change the belief.

81 comments for “Persecution or Freedom?

  1. Thanks for writing this. I think that we tend to forget that “freedom of religion” doesn’t mean “freedom from the consequences of our beliefs”. We are free to select our beliefs without legal repercussions, but we must still accept that living unpopular beliefs may result in social repercussions. As you point out, that’s not persecution; it’s people expressing their own freedom to disagree with us.

  2. Dane, I think that the problem nowadays is people who think “freedom of religion” means “freedom from religion.” We are expected to only mention or practice our religion behind closed doors.

    I feel really sad for Vidmar. It was his job. Was he treating gay people differently at work? I wouldn’t want to be forced to resign because of my politics or my religion. Half of America still agrees with him (and more than half agreed with him in 2008), so calling his position “unpopular” is a little extreme. Was the media part of the campaign against him?

  3. a) I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out what a stance on the marriage controversy has to do with promoting the interests of amateur athletes in the context of their athletics. Does being “chef de mission” entail a role in solemnizing or denying the right to solemnize a household union?

    b) I’m noting to myself that the same kind of nonplussed-but-visceral reaction attended my response to the Scouting’s rejection of openly gay volunteers, who themselves had agreed to service within the context of Scouting’s principles.

    c) I’m confused, a lot, about the hypocrisy apparent when a minority group, itself the victim of decades of unjust and disproportionate persecution and social marginalization, would employ any kind of demagoguery or other fallacy to marginalize another person, especially when the issue of marginalization is, itself, apparently orthogonal to the controversy, (See “a)”, above) as well as being fully aware how that cuts both ways and then some.

    d) I agree with Kent that no rights were violated, but I’m made wary by the fact that I, as a member of Vidmar’s church, could be painted with the same brush as he was, in spite of the fact that whatever my own position, I neither supported nor opposed Proposition 8. Not being a resident of California, and not being willing to inject myself into a California initiative through a money donation, this is kind of by definition. This wariness is multifaceted, since I can’t imagine a Roberts Supreme Court upholding the decisions made on the federal case which declared it unconstitutional, without being sure that a Roberts Supreme Court would render any kind of correct decision.

    Vidmar denies demagogues the chance to use his fame as a bellows for the flames they want to fan. He’ll be fine otherwise, it’s not like he’s a wage earner who just lost his only livelihood.

    So it was a good “chess move” in support of his causes, and actually showcases the lack of strategy involved with those who oppose him in that position. After all, if the cause is to denigrate supporters of Proposition 8, or discredit its ideas, then it’s better poker to make sure it has greater impact, by waiting until he *can’t* resign (due to timing or whatever) without doing greater damage to the athletes. That would have been a more successful publicity tactic, and likely garnered them more attention.

    So, as a Mormon, I guess the correct reaction is to shrug, because Vidmar will be fine and comes off as an honorable man. And as an American, to tune in to the Olympics and watch some truly fine athletics. Provided NBC can keep from deep-sixing the whole thing with its warped sense of what fine athletics looks like. (But that’s another grievance altogether, isn’t it? :-) )

  4. “They may be anti-mormon, but it is certainly not persecution. No right has been impinged, nor has our ability to believe as we wish been infringed. This case is merely a consequence of stating belief publicly. If you speak up, there are consequences.”

    I’m not aware of a requirement that a right needs to be infringed before treatment qualifies as persecution. Harassing or targeting individuals based on their beliefs, religious or otherwise, is all that is needed to meet the definition.

    “We are free to select our beliefs without legal repercussions, but we must still accept that living unpopular beliefs may result in social repercussions. As you point out, that’s not persecution; it’s people expressing their own freedom to disagree with us.”

    Wrong, see above.

    I think this situation is unfortunate, both for Vidmar personally, and for the fact that this outcome will simply embolden individuals to protest the appointment of Mormons to public or private positions in the future. If Vidmar was unable to perform his duties due to his beliefs, or if he was mistreating homosexuals at work, then I would see the concern. But there is no indication this was a factor here. I would have liked to see Vidmar stick around and see it through, but I understand his personal reasons for stepping down.

    While the majority of active LDS members agree with Vidmar’s position and likely support him, my guess is the majority of the bloggernaccle will be satisfied with this outcome.

  5. Publicly campaigning for Proposition 8 and simply being Mormon are two different things. Mormons often say “Hey, don’t stereotype all Mormons as homophobes!” OK, but then you can’t characterize the action of working to disenfranchise gay people as nothing more than “practicing our religion”.

  6. Turn the tables. Say that a gay man was chosen to represent the Olympic athletes from the state of Utah. If the Utah conservatives got all riled up and said, “No way we can be represented by a gay man!” then would the LBGT people quietly say, “Those are just the consequences for coming out of the closet… There is no freedom from the consequences of coming out, only freedom to come out. As long as the gay person was not tarred and feathered or fired from a government position, we cannot call it persecution. We either have to change our sexual orientation or get accustomed to being treated like second-class citizens.”

    The whole point of the freedoms of religion/speech/association is that we can avoid Chilling Effects, right? We want a robust marketplace of ideas, right?

  7. The Mormon angle to this story is interesting to the audience here, but at the end of the day, this is what happens when you write checks for anti-gay initiatives. Echoing the OP, get used to it.

    By the way, did anyone here at T&S raise a ruckus when Robert P. George went after Kevin Jennings? Didn’t think so. Robby was wrong to go after Kevin but he was right when he told BYU that, due to informal cultural pressures, the days when folks are allowed to diss on gays without consequence are numbered.

  8. “Fear”? “Call it”? No, call it what it IS. It IS persecution. However, as Chino mentioned “get used to it,” unless God changes his mind and Church Doctrine and Policy change. Its a very emotionally charged issue; but welcome to mortal life where your choices are:
    1. Find and Follow God’s truths, with empathy for those who don’t and take the consequences; and
    2. No. 1 but without empathy and be a hardliner; and
    3. Bend with the wind and follow what the masses say, or the elites say, or whatever is more comfortable for you to personally avoid persecution.

  9. A lot of people have personal beliefs that might cause problems for them if they were well known. In Peter Vidmar’s case, he not only held strong views on same sex marriage, but he became a public activist in support of those views, views that are seen by many, including many among our own faith, as wishing to deprive other citizens of what are considered to be basic rights. If you wish to speak out in support of your views in a very loud and public way,fine, but there are sometimes costs in doing so. Vidmar painted a big bright target on his back and he did the right thing by resigning. He is now free to resume fighting against same sex marriage with all his heart, mind, might and soul.

  10. Hi Lyle,

    If Peter was Pentecostal or Presbyterian or whatever, he’d still be gone. Get used to it.

    What if an Olympic rep had been found to be a donor to White Supremacist orgs? Would you mount the same defense? I appreciate the uneasiness some folks feel about this, and I think it speaks well that many have a general concern for fair play, but you’ve gotta think about it in terms of who’s being represented: Athletes. Many of whom aren’t white. Many of whom aren’t male. Many of whom aren’t straight. Racists and misogynists and homophobes don’t get a pass anymore. They also don’t get fired from real jobs as long as they don’t act out in the workplace. Chef de mission is not a real job. It’s like being appointed ambassador to Fiji. You don’t appoint a diplomat who hates Polynesians to that position.

  11. I don’t know the facts of this case (or how many facts there are). Is there a source I should read? There seems to be a lot of emotion and opinion on this Post, but few facts shown.

  12. I remember a post not long ago about Muslims and pressure put on them because of their beliefs. And people here were saying how terrible it is to treat them different and how wrong it is that they face “consequences of stating and working for an unpopular belief.” But now it seems that Mormons should just get used to it.

    Like Kent, I don’t want to eliminate anybody’s right to protest this appointment. I likewise want to maintain the right to oppose things I disagree with. I don’t understand how when the protestations are about muslims then the protesters are racist bigots, but when Mormons are the target the protestors are simply exercising their rights and the Mormon should just accept that they are unpopular and live with it. Seems like a double standard to me.

  13. I don’t think this is a Mormon/non-Mormon issue. It is about the American informal political/cultural system of change. Whether LDS like it or not, opposition to same sex marriage is becoming to a large portion of the US a near equivalent to racism.

    The pressure on the Olympic committee is akin to the pressure put on King & Spaulding to refrain from representing the United States of America in law suit challenging the Defense of Marriage, which had been enacted by a bi-partisan majority and signed by a democratic president.

    It may be true that half of the public still opposes SSM, but I do not think the strength of that opposition compares to the strength or force of opinion of those who view it as a civil rights matter.

    It is instructive how rapidly societal views have changed since 2004, when many attributed the strength of GOP victories to their opposition to SSM.

    I believe that in today’s environment, it is simply unacceptable among polite society to public oppose SSM. Even Paul Clement (when he resigned from King & Spaulding because that firm decided not to defend the US statute because the statute was anti-SSM) did not say he personally opposed SSM and expressed no view about it. (One may oppose SSM in private and share that view quietly with likeminded friends, but don’t state it publicly. Sort of like LDS norms for expressing disagreement with Church leaders)

    HRC and others in our national LGBT community have succeeded then through education (and sometimes raw political pressure) in changing this environment, and are to be congratulated for this. Even though I would rather there were a societally acceptable way for the debate to continue, I think it is over.

  14. For the purposes of this discussion, I think it would be wise to make a distinction between exercising one’s religion and acting on one’s conscience.

    If we want to claim that Vidmar’s religion required him to donate money to a cause and attend rallies in support of that cause, we are on very shaky ground. In the first place, we have an official statement from the church, saying specifically that members were NOT required to donate to protectmarriage, and that a member’s position on this issue was not an indicator of worthiness. Then we have the example of thousands of LDS people (Steve Young, e.g.) who opposed protectmarriage and are still members in good standing, with callings, temple recommends, etc. It is simply not true for anybody to claim that the church made them do it, therefore it should be protected on the grounds of religious freedom.

    Conscience is another matter entirely. I assume Vidmar did what his conscience told him, and good for him.

  15. DavidH believes you can hold anti-SSM views, but shouldn’t voice that opposition public because it would be impolite. I would remind that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. I know the counter argument is that SSM is not evil, or at least not as evil as making the LGBT community feel uncomfortable, but I disagree.

  16. I think ceej@y asks a good question.

    Chino Blanco, why does objecting to SSM make a person a homophobe? Do you believe it is impossible to be for traditional marriage without also hating homosexuals?

  17. Kent,

    I’m curious what is wrong. He wasn’t forced out. He could have stayed on over the objections. Isn’t it a matter here of Mr. Vidmar not willing to stand up for his beliefs come hell or high water? Is he trying to play some victim card here in hopes of keeping up the division in this country going?

  18. @15 Your questions have been answered over and over again. Considering the forum, I’d suggest you direct your queries to one of your fellow believers and see if maybe they’ve got the energy to engage. As far as I can tell, DavidH has already explained the situation quite clearly. Truth be told, I got a little verklempt reading his comment.

    As an American, I would’ve preferred sorting this out legislatively. Sadly, even with so many good Mormons who understand the struggle, that approach would’ve meant years of continued delays. It is what it is. The culture that makes it OK for bloggernacle permas to entertain jokes on their personal websites about my supposed penchant for rectal exams is quickly disappearing. Good riddance. I’ll do what I can to promote its extinction.

  19. Sorry if I joined the discussion without the right background info. Could you point me to one of the places where my question’s been answered?

  20. I too would like to know where it has been answered that objecting to gay marriage is ALWAYS caused by homophobia Chino. I have heard many people make the claim, but since I have no ill-will, wish them no harm, and don’t have any ‘phobia’ or fear about them, why does standing vocally against SSM make me a homophobe?

  21. #13 Not exactly. Steve Young’s wife publicly opposed Prop 8–Steve specifically said that he did not speak out on political issues, and made no statement for or against Prop 8. ‘Thousands’ opposed Prop 8 with no consequence? Really? Like who?

    MC members were specifically told to support Prop 8 over the pulpit.

  22. @Chino Blanco, could you tell me what you mean by “homophobe”? It’s easy to impugn people by labeling them, but I’d appreciate a clarification. How do you use the term and how does it apply ti Vidmar, if at all?

  23. Cross-posted, Jax. My dictionary says:

    an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people

    To be clear, my question to Chino is, what constitutes “extreme or irrational”?

  24. Alison,

    “extreme” and “irrational” are largely opinions. Being on the side of the majority opinion doesn’t make it extreme to me, but Chino apparently thinks so. And it is only irrational if the prophets are wrong: “Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” Belief in that statement makes opposition to SSM very rational. The only way to argue that it is irrational is to state that the prophets are akin to fearmongers.

  25. Peter Vidmar can and should be able to hold any religious view and chooses, and to advocate for those views. However, Prop 8 was not about advocating for anything but stripping homosexuals of the legal right to marry, and as such it is not a benign ‘difference of opinion’. There is no evidence that homosexual Americans ever cared about or opposed Mormons or their beliefs prior to Prop 8.

    Prop 8 was specifically designed to strip homosexuals of civil marriage, which legal right does not infringe upon, alter, change or in any way impact the rights of Mormons or anyone to believe or practice as they choose. We are talking about civil marriage. No where has the right of any religious group been impacted by the existence of legal equal civil marriage between homosexuals.

    When–not if–homosexuals become fully equal under the law, the worst case scenario for Mormons is that they will have to coexist with something they don’t like, which is how many of us feel about having to coexist with Mormons.

  26. #20 I’m sure Chino can speak for himself, but whether or not opposing SSM makes you a homophobe or bigot is to me irrelevant. You are welcome to dislike or oppose the idea of SSM, but Prop 8 went beyond that. Prop 8’s purpose was solely to remove civil equality from me and my family–your motivation is of little interest to me, but securing my equal protection under the law is. You can tell me how much you love me another time, although frankly I’m not interested in that either.

  27. Political disagreement spills over into other areas of life all the time. … In some ways it seems like there is no “private” anymore, where politics may not intrude.

    Well, nobody would understand this better than gays in California, eh? :-)

  28. Two quick points

    1. About a person against ssm being assumed to be homophobic. In California the Church allied itself with groups that were very homophobic. Some Church members and leaders have said things that are considered homophobic. Unfortunatesly in this age of anti-nuance, overgeneralization and media “gotcha” to anticipate that a Church Member who opposed ssm would not be labeled as a homophobe is too much to expect.
    2. This sounds like a conflict that was fairly complicated. We probably do not know enough at this to make a fair judgement based on what actually occured.

  29. Stan,

    it might be too much to expect that the media wouldn’t label an LDS person against SSM as a homophobe, but is it too much to expect from LDS people on a predominantly LDS blog site?

  30. #29 Has anyone in the ‘media’ used the word homophobe in describing Vidmar?

  31. What if, in the mid 20th century, one of the judges resigned because it was discovered he was gay and favored SSM (in some glorious future)? How would we view that nowadays? Would we consider it persecution or just good/bad manners? Would we justify the behavior of those who rejected him as the mere morally vacuous consequences of the judge vocalizing his personal beliefs?

  32. I think there is no denying that the word homophobe has become not a descriptor but a pejorative that will be applied to anyone that opposes SSM, regardless of how the person may feel personally in his/her heart about homosexuals. For better or for worse, SSM has become the litmus test.
    I feel for Bro. Vidmar. He seems to be an honorable, good man that paid a price for following what he felt was a call for assistance from the Prophet. Others have paid a price as well.
    However, I put myself in the shoes of gays that perhaps FINALLY could see the day they never felt possible, and then it was (for the time being) snatched away from them. They view it as a right that was taken from them, and are now understandably angry and bitter towards those they feel are responsible for it.
    To this day I am conflicted, and my heart completely goes out to those that have been victims on both sides of the issue.

  33. There is no constitutional right to same sex marriage.
    The homosexual lifestyle unsafe in every way imaginable. Society should not legitimize this deviancy. How do you legitimize it? By legalizing it.

  34. Could someone define what is meant by ‘homosexual lifestyle’? Homosexual relations between consenting adults are already legal. Lawrence V Texas, 2003

  35. @ Jon Miranda,
    I would worry more about this_ than ‘unsalf’ SSM.
    “Only Latvia, with six deaths per 1,000 live births, has a higher death rate for newborns than the United States, which is tied near the bottom of industrialized nations (CNN 2006)

  36. I went back and re-read the OP and realized I never answered the original question of how we should react. I think it quite right to do just what Kent suggested, which is put pressure on the Olympic Committee not to succomb to pressure like this.

    I don’t think Vidmar should have resigned. If he was willing to publicly come out against SSM before I think that he could have had the same effect by making a public statement that he isn’t ashamed of his beliefs, that his beliefs are perfectly valid for someone with that position, and that opponents of SSM shouldn’t feel awkward about their stance and should stand strongly for it. Each time someone resigns because of their belief it is a de facto acknowledgement that it is the ‘unpopular’ opinion (when it is not) and that they are unfit to be on the public scene. We need to be just as comfortable on the public stage as those willing to openly support SSM, and just as willing to demand that our position be respected.

    But Kent asked if we should be legally protected from this kind of attack. No we should not. We should be strong enough in our principles not to be bullied out of our beliefs. They have a right to use pressure to get changes they want, and we have the right to do the same. What can’t happen is that we allow that they have a right to fight for SSM but we force people who fight against it to stay out of public positions as if they didn’t have just as legitimate a right to their beliefs.

  37. That’s an interesting statistic, but I wonder if there’s a confounding variable. My guess is that, of pregnancies where the baby has characteristics that increase likelihood of complications, the baby is aborted more often in Europe. That stat could indicate that the US has either poorer medical care or lower abortion rates.

  38. I loved the quote from Vidmar opponent Mendoza who said “The Olympics is to be inclusive of everyone, regardless of race, gender or sexuality.” I guess she doesn’t mean inclusive of SSM opponents – everyone except them I guess.

  39. “I’ve always hoped that in the U.S. we would be tolerant of others beliefs.”

    first of all, this doesn’t seem like a case of failing to tolerate others’ beliefs. there’s a difference between all three of the following things:

    (1) tolerating someone’s right to believe whatever they want to believe
    (2) tolerating someone’s right to express openly those beliefs
    (3) not wanting someone who openly expresses unpalatable beliefs to represent your country’s olympic team (a team with many athletes who belong to the lgbtqi community)

    i am willing to defend vidmar’s right to both (1) and (2), but the simple fact of the matter is that no one has a right to be chef de mission of the u.s. olympic team.

    it seems to me like the problem people have with vidmar isn’t that they can’t tolerate his beliefs. it’s that they don’t like intolerance. when someone is going to be representing the world at the olympics, it seems like a legitimate concern.

  40. *representing the us to the world at the olympics

    sorry, way too many prepositions there. it’s been a long night.

  41. What I find interesting in this story is the fact that it appears only a couple of fellow athletes complained about the choice of Vidmar. The Human Rights Campaign wasn’t involved. There were no protestors outside the London offices with banners. There were no marches in the streets of San Francisco. This isn’t a case of activists “pressuring” Vidmar to resign. These were his peers, his fellow Olympians.

    Perhaps this event signifies a shift in society’s view of gay people as no longer the “other,” but rather fellow citizens and participants in the broad range of human activities. Perhaps people are starting to understand that Prop 8 wasn’t simply about an abstract ideal or “definition” of marriage. It affected real people and real families.

  42. Mkemp, so what happens if they appoint someone who supports SSM? What about those athletes who aren’t LGBT and feel uncomfortable? Are you willing to say a SSM support shouldn’t hold the post because they have an ‘unpalatable’ view?

    And to your claim they don’t like intolerance, how about the stark reality that they don’t/won’t tolerate him? Like the quote from the Softball player Mendoza (who opposed Vidmar) who said, “The Olympics is to be inclusive of everyone, regardless of race, gender or sexuality.” Well, why can’t the olympics be inclusive of him, a 2-time gold medal winner? If it is supposed to be ‘regardless’ of sexuality why does his stance on SSM matter?

  43. A sad event all around — politicizing the Olympics is bad for the Olympics, even if it might be good for those who have a political agenda push.

    I admire Vidmar for resigning rather than let himself become a tool for those who wanted to take a cheap opportunity to use his appointment to push SSM, and thereby detract from the Olympics and the athletes (all of them) who should be the focus of attention. But it is obviously wrong for athletes and a small minority of vocal SSM supporters in the media to set this unfortunate precedent. And no, Chino and company, it is *not* a basic civil right, no matter how many times you repeat it. The political and legal process is working out whether it is going to be, and one day it may be, but it isn’t yet. Neither Vidmar nor anyone else should be penalized to exercising their right to voice an opinion on the issue.

    As for the precedent — will Palestinian-American athletes object if a Jewish chief or coach is appointed? Will pro-choice athletes object if a Catholic is appointed? Once you legitimize this sort of demagoguery, any can pull out a soapbox and hijack attention (that ought to go to the athletes) for their own pet cause.

  44. Dave, you say you admire him for resigning so that he wasn’t used as a tool to push SSM. As much as politicalization of the olympics is bad for the olympics it would only reflect poorly on the SSM pushers. But I think resigning sends the statement the being anti-ssm is something to be ashamed of, and that such people need to stay out of public positions. I would rather have him stay and strongly argue that his opinion is just as valid and acceptable. It does set a bad precedent because next time it could be about race, political party, gender, ethnicity, …..

  45. @Jax,

    I can understand why you think Vidmar should not have resigned because, if I may say so, you seem like a real fighter for the faith-and anything less than that has the appearance of backing down.
    I admire that generally, to a point. And I think the point at which I would choose not to fight is the same as what Vidmar chose–when staying in the position becomes such a distraction that it draws much deserved media attention away from his fellow athletes. Resigning so early in the fight shows dignity, class, and selflessness, and love for others. And I think most people see it that way as well, which makes the vocal minority calling for him to step down look worse in comparison and hollows their victory.

  46. @JAx:

    perhaps to be more to the point: if a person wants her beliefs to be tolerated and is going to complain about intolerance, perhaps she should begin by examining whether her own beliefs are intolerant. it just seems hypocritical to complain about intolerance of intolerant beliefs. furthermore, no one is questioning his right to believe what he believes or express openly those beliefs. but since he does, some athletes would rather he doesn’t represent their team. (they could just as well not want someone to represent their team because he has a bad haircut–but, in that case, no one would be questioning whether his right to have a bad haircut was being questioned.)

    furthermore, consider the following case:

    suppose someone who had actively (and openly) campaigned against the ERA or the civil rights movement had been asked by female athletes or african american athletes to step down. this is not AT ALL analogous to someone who did not *actively campaign against* political movements that ensure equality for minorites, but in fact supported it, being asked to step down.

    so, in response to your question about whether it would be inappropriate for someone who supports same-sex marriage to be asked to step down: i think it would be as ridiculous as someone who supported the ERA being asked to step down because she made those who don’t support women’s full protection under the law to feel *uncomfortable* (heaven forbid). i think it would be as ridiculous as someone who supported african americans’ rights to be asked to step down because it caused racists athletes distress. that is to say, it would be a violation of that person’s rights in any way (no one has a *right* to represent the u.s. olympic team), but it would represent sad realities about our society’s intolerance of minorities.

    there’s a difference between *openly campaigning against* a minority’s right to equality and supporting a minority’s right to equality. in my opinion, those who oppose same-sex marriage (and who are made to feel uncomfortable by those who support it) should be given just as much consideration as those who also view women or african americans as second-class citizens and use their misogyny or racism as a reason to make demands, since they feel *uncomfortable.*

  47. I agree with Jax, especially at #32 where he distinguishes between what detractors should do and what they should legally be able to do. I wish Vidmar hadn’t resigned. I can understand, though, if he felt there were better reasons for resigning, like the ones Sonny mentioned at #43.

  48. During the Prop 8 campaign in CA the Church, unintentionally, I know, became perceived by many as the face of bitter and implacable hatred toward gays. I wonder if Mr. Vidmar and others would be receiving the same kind of backlash if the Church had made sure its members and allies conducted a more civil and accurate campaign. I guess I can understand why gay athletes wouldn’t want someone to represent them if they believe he hates them. (Of course, I don’t know whether they believe that or not, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. I know lots of people who believe being LDS connotes real hatred toward the gay community.)

    By the way, #13, in spite of official pronouncements to the contrary there was a tremendous amount of pressure in our CA ward and stake from local, regional, and general leaders of the Church to donate money and time to defeat Prop 8. Our ward kept track of who did and who didn’t. I saw a SL Trib story after the campaign was over that quoted Elder Clayton as saying that LDS members who disagreed with the Church’s stance were not to be sanctioned. No one around here got the memo, I guess. I personally know LDS Prop 8 opponents who were punished, some rather severely (having temple recommends removed, being threatened with temple recommend removal, being unofficially disfellowshipped, being released from callings, being essentially shunned in some cases). Some of these people stayed active in the Church, some left. I wonder if Steve Young escaped sanctions because it would have been really bad PR. Or maybe his local leaders did get the memo. Anyway, around here it’s still a sore point. A few lessons ago one of our Relief Society teachers called those who didn’t support Prop 8, “minions of Satan.” No one objected, including me. Elder Clayton statement or not, I didn’t dare. It’s too soon for our ward to deal with it rationally.

    Around here, we committed LDS folks are trying to change people’s negative perceptions of the Church stemming from Prop 8, but it’s not working too well. Most of the people I know who aren’t LDS see the issues as hatred and undue influence, not just political or religious differences. Healing and understanding will take time, effort, and love unfeigned. If healing such a rift is even possible at this point. I dearly hope so.

  49. Sonny,

    I don’t think he resigned because of a deluge of media attention. If it weren’t for T&S I wouldn’t have known about it. I haven’t seen it mentioned on any major news channels. I appears it was relatively few who asked for his removal. There was no major PR issue that he backed down from. Therefore I don’t think there is/was or would be a major distraction from the athletes or their athletic accomplishments. I can’t image that on the opening day of the 2012 games people would be talking about him or his beliefs. It seems he backed down because, like too many SSM opponents, we let the vocal minority make us believe our positions aren’t compatible with public offices or positions. I think holding the legal, popular, and historic beliefs our our country puts him in the better position and that there was no reason for him to step down. Add to that the fact that he is an accomplished Olympian himself and there is no reason that he should be disqualified by others, or by himself, for a figurehead position.

  50. Jax,

    I mentioned distraction because that is the rationnale Vidmar himself used in announcing he was stepping down. It likely hadn’t been much of a distraction yet, but I think he rightly figured it would eventually.

  51. He did mention distraction, but I can’t see any of the athletes thinking about him or this politics during competition. It may have been a blurb in US media for a short time before the olympics, but I can’t see how it would have a negative effect on the perception of the US team as a whole or the competitive events themselves.

    People will be focused on their events, on medal counts, on opening and closing ceremonies, and on the parties. They won’t care that a figurehead for just one of dozens of competing countries has a controversial position, but stands with the legal majority. The Olympics are big enough that this largely US drama won’t have any significance for a world event, and the position of just one of hundreds/thousands of americans involved, who isn’t even competing, wouldn’t have been a major issue, just a blurb. When it was over people worldwide would remember the fantastic displays of strength and determination, and the awards won, not a non-competitor’s political activity from 3 years before the olympics.

  52. I think what’s happening is a net positive for Vidmar and SSM opponents who don’t hate their opposites. We see pressure here from a faction which demands tolerance and acceptance of *them*, to not tolerate or accept an unpleasant trait about someone else. Eventually, that’s going to backfire. Vidmar behaved honorably and wisely.

    If this were a case where he entirely lost his livelihood, I might have something else to say about it.

  53. I don’t think Vidmar acted dishonorably. But why is maintaining a position of prestige while holding the belief that is both legal and the most popular among our citizens not honorable?

    I don’t know him at all. But believe that a 2 time gold medal winner, who was selected by the committee would serve honorably despite his beliefs. I think he would have served all the Olympians, even the gay ones, well as a mouthpiece and spokesman. I don’t think it a matter of honor, but one of framing the argument. It has been framed that a belief in traditional marriage is unpopular and publicly unacceptable. But it is the majority opinion, the historic opinion, the divinely justified opinion, and makes it perfectly acceptable for public positions. Furthermore, as Kent pointed out, his beliefs would have no effect on the athletic events themselves and would in no way bring shame of negative publicity to the olympic team.

  54. Bob — many countries count statistically live births as only those births of children who live a full 12 months after birth. That does skew the statistics. They also do not count as live births any euthanized child.

    I’m not aware of a requirement that a right needs to be infringed before treatment qualifies as persecution. Harassing or targeting individuals based on their beliefs, religious or otherwise, is all that is needed to meet the definition.

    Actually, when you consider hostile work environments and similar EEOC and other public law factors, harassing or targeting individuals can very much constitute a violation of rights.


  55. As for th idea that one should not be ashamed of being Mormon and monetarily supporting the anti-SSM movement— this is th same Mormon church that recommended that men donate under their wives names to avoid business backlash?

    There are people who dint think it’s shameful to be a racist or anti-Semite either. They’re just as wrong.

  56. Assuming I ever get out of ‘moderation hell’, I would like to point out that I likewise think Vidmar’s withdrawal was selfless….he did not want it to become a distraction as he stated. For years he has been a respected athlete and major figure in the Olympic movement, and no one–I repeat no one cared two cents about his religious beliefs. What people do care about is that he used his Olympic cachet in a political effort to remove a legal right–and yes it was a legal right–of homosexual Californians. (18,000 couples were married and still are married in CA) All this whining about his right of personal belief is nonsense–no one cared what he believed or believes. Don’t expect homosexual Americans and their supporters to just accept a well financed and often totally dishonest and fear mongering political effort to remove their legal equality and to simply defer to your beliefs because they are founded in your religion.

    There was and is plenty of room in the Olympic movement for Vidmar–I am a huge fan of his in spite of his effort to eliminate my legal equality in my home state. The idea that he is being singled out because of his religious beliefs is nonsense…..he is being criticized for eliminating the equal protection under the law for people the Mormon Church doesn’t like.

    And yes (51) put me down as one of those who sees ‘The Church’ as the face of ‘bitter and implacable hatred of gays’. I figured out a long time ago the difference between love and smug condescension.

  57. So are any of you liberals going to provide a cogent and reasonable response to “ceej@y”‘s question in comment #5? I’m very interested to know in a response and haven’t seen one here. Unless I see one, I’ll just have to continue to assume it’s because there is no good response.

  58. Assume what you like, @psychochemiker. If you can’t see the difference between rejecting someone for being gay (which does not affect anyone else’s rights) and rejecting someone for openly and publicly advocating a political position to deny other people’s rights, I would say further discussion would not be worthwhile.

  59. The real issue is the politicization of every possible public institution. Why does the Olympic Committee, eaither national or international, have to take a position about homosexual marriage? It does nto perform marriage, it does not award positions on an Olympic team based on marital status, it does not score athletes based on their marital status. So why should anything related to marriage be a concern for those organizations?

    I agree that this is not centrally about attacking Mormonism on a religious basis. It is the far more fundamentally dangerous movement toward punishing freedom of expression and freedom of association. It is imposing an orthodoxy of political belief that doe snot tolerate dissent of any kind, from any source, whether one’s own personal reasoning, or membership in an institution that has adopted a position on an issue.

    One of the ironies in all of this is that the LDS Church itself tolerates fully its members who disagree with the support the Church stated for Proposition 8. No Church member was required to report how much they donated to the Prop 8 advertising campign. No Church member was disfellowshipped for speaking in opposition to Prop 8. Yet this incident makes c lear that there are organizations who have NO stake as such in the Prop 8 issue which are being made thought control zones, where true diversity of belief is being stamped out as intolerable, where democratic debate and disagreement is not tolerated.

    I personally feel that homosexual marriage is far less dangerous to freedom and religious practice than is the impulse that the homosexual marriage campaign has engendered of suppressing democratic disagreement, and the expressed desire to punish all who disagree with its advocates. Without that strident suppression of disagreement, homosexual marriage would not be nearly so dangerous, but it appears to be mainly a stalking horse for an agenda of imposing public sanctions against all organizations, from the Boy Scouts to churches, that refuse to endorse unlimited sexual expression at all times and all places. Homosexual marriage is not about obtaining a freedom of action for homosexuals in California, who can get virtually all the legal benefits of marriage if they so choose under domestic partnership laws. It is rather about forcing everyone else to praise homosexuality as normal and good, even if it means punishing religious organizations and their members for their dissent.

  60. Raymond,

    Why does the Olympic Committee, eaither national or international, have to take a position about homosexual marriage?

    Um, could you point to where the Olympic Committee took a position on homosexual marriage?

    It is the far more fundamentally dangerous movement toward punishing freedom of expression and freedom of association.

    He quit himself. He was not forced out. It was his choice.

  61. Raymond, I like your point about, SSM positions aside, why it needs to be an issue for an athletic tournament. It’s odd that we can’t seem to separate areas of life anymore.

    I also like that you compared imposing an orthodoxy to doe snot … or was that an accident? :-)

  62. The original Olympics were about the escape of politics. Cities at war would participate and during the games would be at peace.

    It is interesting how that core value has been rejected in the modern Olympics as time has gone on.

  63. Dan,

    You just made my point for why I think he needed to stay. There was no push from anyone in any position of authority for him to leave. His walking out makes it seem like an admission that anti-SSM opinions are invalid and inappropriate.

    I think Raymond was asking why people want the Olympic Committee to take a stand, not questioning why they did so (they didn’t as you point out). But it was his choice because their is a push, an agenda, from many media outlets and certain political groups to push for a “fundamentally dangerous movement toward punishing freedom of expression and freedom of association”.

  64. Jax,

    His walking out makes it seem like an admission that anti-SSM opinions are invalid and inappropriate

    I’m really not so sure. Perhaps it may in some minds, as you fear it will, but I suspect that if someone thought anti-SSM opinions were invalid, they would think so regardless of what Vidmar did (resigned or fought). Personally, I think the fact that resigned as quickly and graciously as he did makes him more sympathetic in many eyes. If nothing else, he is an example of turning the other cheek.

  65. Stephen,

    It is interesting how that core value has been rejected in the modern Olympics as time has gone on.

    Hmm, I don’t see that. Maybe it’s a matter of grade, but aside from a few incidents, the modern Olympics have been amazing at how much they’ve brought nations together. Were the original Olympics open to people outside of Greece? I’m asking honestly. I’m not sure of the history.

  66. Jax,

    I agree with you that he did not need to resign. Frankly it makes him look weak, and it does continue the assault on the anti-gay position (no credible witness, for instance, was brought to defend the Prop 8 position in the Perry v Schwarzenegger lawsuit) that their position is difficult to defend (which it is, frankly). It’s not that the anti-SSM opinions are invalid or inappropriate, but that they cannot be defended easily or even logically.

    And frankly, I strongly disagree with Raymond. There isn’t a “fundamentally dangerous movement toward punishing freedom of expression and freedom of association.” But there is a push to ensure people are treated equally regardless of their various differences. Now if we as a religion wish to limit what another group can do within our religion (like not give gays certain rights within the church) that’s fine and all, but it cannot be expected that the same discrimination be utilized in society. Prop 8 attempted that kind of discrimination, where we held others to our standard who did not accept our standard. The question here isn’t the rightness or wrongness of Prop 8, but how we are to respond to it. If Prop 8 were, say, a redefinition of marriage that said that in the state of California, no marriage was to include “time and all eternity” but solely “till death do you part.” Let’s say it passed. How exactly would we feel within the church about those outside the church who endorsed the law, or gave material support for its passage? Let’s say you were an athlete for the US team and your representative publicly endorsed the law that limited your ability to adhere to your religion. Would you have a tough time having that man be your spokesman?

  67. The Wikipedia entry for the ancient Olympic games is quite interesting. Apparently, “they were celebrated until 393 AD when they were suppressed by Theodosius I as part of the campaign to impose Christianity as a state religion.”

    Oh, and then there’s this: “It seems that only young people were allowed to participate, as the Greek writer Plutarch relates that one young man was rejected for seeming overmature, and only after his lover, who presumably vouched for his youth, interceded with the King of Sparta, was he permitted to participate.”

    Kinda amusing to be preached to about original Olympic values by folks opposed to (what Oscar Wilde would’ve called) Hellenic love.


  68. @NateW–My hypothetical was missing a piece to make it analogous; I appreciate your critical thinking skills. Also necessary is a fact that the gay person is advocating gay rights–like Vidmar was advocating for Prop 8.

    At that point the gay person WILL be affecting the rights of others. “But whose rights are affected?” The rights of those who benefit most from stable families: minors. Minors are the most “suspect class” in the history of the world. Gay-abuse can’t hold a candle to minor-abuse.

    One right minors have is a fundamental right to receive a stable set of loving parents. (Family Proclamation) “But how in the world do homosexuals affect the stability of families? There is no connection! Families are crumbling because of selfishness of the general population, not homosexual relationships!” There are many reasons why minors are being born into crap-family situations. I accept that. But adopting the homosexual version of “monogamy” into marital bliss is not helping. Homosexuals want to help heterosexuals understand that open-marriages work better; allowing such ideas to be further legitimized is bad.

    I recognize that heterosexuals have already violated this right of children without the need of help again and again. That does not make it OK to exacerbate the problem. (If group A abuses group B, then is it OK for group C to also abuse group B?) We have two competing rights: the right of minors to have a stable family and the right of homosexuals to be first-class citizens. I think the children win. Why do you think the homosexuals should win?

  69. Chino, we’ve suspected all along that your Gay Agenda was a way to bring back Greek Love. At least now you’re willing to admit it. Very clever of you to point out the hypocrisy of people who love the Olympics but oppose pederasty.


  70. Ceej@y:

    That’s an interesting story–do you have any evidence that this is the effect of same-sex marriage? Have minors been harmed in Massachusetts, which has had SSM since 2003? How about Canada, which has had SSM since 2005?

  71. Eagle Lite, the only agenda gay people have is to be treated with respect and equality. Please take your ignorance and hatred elsewhere.

  72. Steven B,

    As Kent pointed out in the OP, and others have stated from both sides of the argument, Vidmar’s position would have had no effect on athletic competition, the respect or treatment of gays, or the legal battle over Prop 8. Can you explain then how their agenda is met by getting Vidmar to resign?

  73. Jax, nothing speaks equity and respect better than to strip a minority of a civil right. Vidmar openly and publicly did so. Vidmar’s resignation sends a message that all people should be treated with equity and respect.

  74. Everyone should be treated with equity and respect, except Vidmar and others who believe like he does you mean. Gays want to be able to be openly gay and have it accepted, but Vidmar can’t be openly for traditional marriage and be accepted. He isn’t treated respectfully for his beliefs and practices, all they while they call for respect for everyone regardless of beliefs and practices.

    We might as well call Noon nighttime as call gays couples “marriage.” Through history has marriage ever, EVER, been understood to mean anything other than a man and a woman? Men might have had relationships with men, and women with women, but has it ever been called marriage before? They may be lovingly devoted to one another, may make fantastic parents, may be great contributors to society, and hold notable positions, I’m not desparaging them in any way, but the relationship IS different and deserves a different term.

    The terms of the relationship are different and should be distinguished as such by using a different term. Their lifestyle is admittedly different (even if only slightly). Participants are different genders, the capability to produce offspring is different, the sex is different (though only for some I suppose), etc. etc…..even down to how gay people describe themselves they use a different term, “I’m gay/lesbian…” Well from creation until now the term “marriage” has always been Man and Woman. For anything different a different term needs to be used.

    I’m not saying people can’t have relationships to their choosing. If God allows them to choose then so can I. But I won’t use an inaccurate term to describe that relationship. I won’t call daylight darkness, I won’t call a cat a dog, and I won’t call a gay relationship marriage.

  75. I suspect this conversation has run its course, so I’m turning off comments. Thanks everyone for participating (except those who tried to hijack the conversation to discuss infant mortality, as important as that may be).

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