A more even-handed take on the kiss-in in SLC

This article covers yesterday’s kiss-in at Temple Square pretty fairly.  The primary feeling I have had throughout this controversy is gratitude that the Church had the foresight to take control of the property in front of the temple to prevent the kind of desecration that took place outside the temple in Los Angeles after the Prop. 8 victory.  The bottom line is:  I support the Church’s right to prevent lewd behavior near the temple, and the Church has the right to control what happens on its private property.

I would imagine there are many who disagree.  If you’d like to post your thoughts, please do so in a way that does not offend anybody or the Church.   Comments that are offensive will be deleted.

UPDATE:  Guy Murray has more information, including the police report from the SLC PD, here.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

50 thoughts on “A more even-handed take on the kiss-in in SLC

  1. If I lived in the SLC area, I would definitely attend this event:

    ===================

    Please come to the sidewalk just off of LDS Church property near Temple Square on Saturday July 25th at 10 a.m. for a “kiss in for families” to support marriage between one man and one woman. When you come, it is important that you wear a (single or double) blue and red heart in solidarity. This is in response to those who seek to reinterpret the family, and use intimidation to achieve that end.

    It is without accident that this date is directly after the Pioneer Days Celebration, so that maximum advertisement can be granted. Wear the red and blue heart(s) when you go to this celebration to encourage participation. Those who ask can be given the information about the planned kiss in for families event.

    Please e-mail this to family, friends, college students (especially at BYU), and acquaintances that you know will be interested. It is especially helpful to e-mail any politicians who would be supportive. Without your or others participation there will be no voice to support one man and one woman over anything goes. Don’t be caught silenced or your going to help destroy the family.

    Note: The media will more than likely not support this cause no matter how many people agree. It is vital that you do your own interviews, take your own pictures, and blog about and mail the information.

    Families everywhere thank you for your support.

  2. I would attend the event if I were in the SLC area on July 25th, but I’m 7,000 miles away. I’d suggest the ladies wear skirts (either pioneer or otherwise) and the men wear good slacks (or pioneer clothing). The contrast with those who wish to re-define marriage will be obvious.

  3. Geoff, I agree with you that the LDS church has a right to restrict access to its private property. The young men in question, by all appearances, committed the crime of trespassing when they failed to immediately leave the property at the direction of security officers.

    That said, do I understand correctly that you consider a kiss on the cheek to be “lewd” behavior?

  4. Nick, it’s ironic, because as I was writing this I thought to myself that you might show up to comment on this issue. I’m not really sure that we know all of the story, but as you say, the Church has the right to enforce its rules on people on its private property. So, in the eyes of the people responsible for security, the behavior was lewd, and that’s all that really matters.

  5. I think it is time the church put up security cameras to record such events when it is so obvious the guards are going to be baited.

  6. Fair enough, Geoff. I’m not sure they classified it as lewd, though. The argument I’ve seen so far is that “public displays of affection” are not allowed on the plaza. If that’s their official reasoning, it’s problematic, since wedding photos are taken there, etc., with plenty of PDA.

  7. Nick, the article I link says “inappropriate behavior.” As I say in #4, I don’t think we really know what that is. The men say they kissed each other on the cheek. Well, there are about 100 different ways of doing that, and because we weren’t there we don’t know what that involved. So, my point is that you have to cede judgment to the people who were there and actually saw what happened, and in their opinion it was inappropriate. I get to decide what is inappropriate in my house, and the Church gets to decide what is inappropriate on its private property. End of story.

  8. It’s really two different issues: was the kiss “lewd” and does the Church have the right to control its property. I’m settled on the latter—it does have that right—but since I wasn’t there to view the former there is no way I would ever attend the “kiss-in for families.” No way at all.

  9. I am of the opinion that this event is the result of a single security guard (or maybe a pair) who has a bee in his bonnet, and not a policy. If such is the case, I would imagine that his superiors are really wishing that he had not done anything, because now they are in the impossible position of having to defend their officer without looking stupid. I am a Church man through and through, and I agree that the Church has the right to enforce their rules, but to detain the couple for a cheek-kiss is just asking for a PR nightmare–which it now is.

    Dumb dumb dumb dumb.

  10. As I’m sure Mike knows, there is no way of knowing whether Derek on the Jewish Journal blog is really an eyewitness or not. If there is any lawsuit brought about this (with the whack-jobs who run the ACLU these days, there may be), will Derek and other eyewitnesses corroborate the Church’s position or the gay cheek kissers’ position? Until then, we really don’t know what to think, so the default position has to be that private property owners get to choose what kind of activities take place on their property.

    Scott B, we don’t know whether it was just a cheek-kiss or not. If it was something more, and the guards decided to ignore it, the PR nightmare could be even worse (“temple guards allow gay men to make out on Church property.”) So, I’d withhold judgment on whether it was dumb or not.

  11. Why doesn’t Church security just release the video and then we can easily tell what happened.

    Geoff,

    Why don’t you get them to release the video? Very simple solution.

    Scott,

    Why would the superiors of the security guards have to defend them if they did something stupid?

  12. Michael–it’s not a question of defending a legally incorrect decision by a security guard; rather, it’s a question of defending a legally correct, but stupid, decision by a security guard. The point is, the security guard, in deciding to accost them, put the Church in a lose-lose situation. If they defend him, they look homophobic to a degree that is almost comical to the rest of the world, but if they leave him to the wolves, they are effectively saying, “No, what those two men were doing was fine by our rules around here,” which we all know is not the message the Church wants to send.

  13. Err Michael, I don’t real have any pull on this situation. We don’t know if there was any video. And we don’t know if the Church did anything stupid because we don’t know the actions of the security guards. Methinks Michael and Scott B are trolls. We shall see.

  14. As someone who has worked as a security guard for the Church at a temple, I can speak to some of the issues in previous comments.

    First of all, the Church desires to maintain a sense of decorum in what Latter-Day Saints consider sacred space. I can recall several instances where I asked couples to leave the grounds for inappropriate displays of affection and other questionable behavior. I do not know the whole story behind what happened in SLC, but I would imagine that the guard was following protocol based on behavior he observed. I cannot speak to how he handled the situation as I am not privy to the incident report and/or video. The Church has a complex security system at the temple I worked at and I know SLC has one as well. That likely includes cameras. Not sure if they record, but I’m willing to bet that they do.

    As to the issue of PDA during wedding photos vs. spontaneous PDA on temple grounds, I think it is expected and accepted when someone passes a wedding party getting their pictures taken. Of course, if the PDA was inappropriate for the temple grounds, I would expect Church security would say something to the couple. When PDA is spontaneous, it is not expected and not always appropriate/accepted by others–no matter the sexual orientation of the couple. In short, if you go to the temple on a weekend, you would expect to see newlyweds kissing in wedding photos. Whereas, if you go to the temple grounds on Sunday or Monday, you would not expect to see newlyweds kissing in wedding photos.

  15. One of these days I will have to do a post on all the wierdos I had to trespass from the temple grounds. :-)

    I’ll have to share the story of how I met “Moroni”, or at least a woman who called herself by that name. She had come to anoint the temple and the grounds for destruction. She was very put out when I threw her out before she was able to accomplish her mission. Good times!

    /end threadjack

  16. For a little perspective, Temple Square security has approached me in the past. Once, it was to see if I had any spray paint in my bag. Another time a friend with me did something really stupid, and we received a stern lecture and had to leave. In these cases, the security personnel were appropriately professional, and in the first case even friendly. They seemed to be quietly vigilant, unexcitable men. I doubt the ones involved in this recent case did anything “stupid.”

  17. Like Brian, I have worked as LDS temple security. In my experience, we walked a fine line sometimes between protecting safety/security vs. creating unnecessary offense. Since the temple was new, we spent a fair amount of time asking LDS patrons not to trample the newly-planted gardens in search of their “perfect” photo opportunity (seriously). We also had to (ahem…) “assist” LDS parents who didn’t quite have the brains not to allow their small children to walk along the narrow top of stone walls. Like Brian, we also had our share of religion-flavored mental illness incidents, which were always entertaining. I can’t personally think of any time where our first response to a situation was to order someone off the property, though we certainly did so if we couldn’t get their cooperation otherwise.

    My supervisor at the time was a retired prison guard, and a martial arts expert. He certainly knew how to take care of business when the situation called for it, but he also knew how to control his own emotions and adrenalin. While LDS temple security is not the same as the HQ security force (no handcuffs, for starters), I’m pretty certain I would have lost my job if I’d responded to an “inappropriate PDA” situation by throwing someone to the ground, let alone detaining them or using restraints on them.

    Honestly, I’m confident that my supervisor would have recognized the actions of these young men for what they were–a quasi-protest attempt to gain attention. His response would have been to deny them the very thing they appeared to want so badly, particularly if, as in this case, they were 20 feet from leaving the property at the time. He would have had the wisdom to know that a hostile response would only have given them ammunition, and likely have caused a public relations problem. Of course, if the young men had amped up their behavior, he would have reached a point where he felt it was necessary to intervene.

    From what I’ve read on both sides so far, I do feel that these security guards reacted unwisely to an attention-seeking stunt, and that they hold a large part of the responsibility for escalating the situation to the point where their adrenalin overcame their common sense. While I’m no expert on the issue, I have a hard time believing that they were legally justified in detaining/restraining the young men in the way they did.

    That said, I also have to note that the young men walked across the property holding hands prior to the cheek kiss, and were not accosted for it. Truth be told, these young men probably expected that merely hand-holding would provoke a reaction, and when it didn’t, they took a further action, albeit a relatively small one. It looks to me like the security officers took the bait at that point, and when the young men failed to leave the property as ordered, the security officers frankly lost their common sense.

  18. Geoff B. :
    Err Michael, I don’t real have any pull on this situation. We don’t know if there was any video. And we don’t know if the Church did anything stupid because we don’t know the actions of the security guards. Methinks Michael and Scott B are trolls. We shall see.

    I don’t know about Michael, but Scott B. is a BCC perma. He’s legit. He most recently wrote about something else security wouldn’t allow long on Main Street Plaza.

    Nick, from the facts currently available, I think your explanation is the most likely.

    [edited to fix typo]

  19. Nick,

    I will email you when and if I ever post about my experiences as a security guard at the Mesa Temple. It would be fun to swap stories.

    My first supervisor at the temple was a retired police officer. His approach to dealing with incidents was similar to how any police officer would deal with something. My second supervisor was not a security professional or a retired cop, but he did have a knack for the job. I’m not sure how either men would have handled the SLC incident, but I’m guessing their approaches would have been different.

    Personally, I would not be inclined to restrain someone for a peck on the cheek. But, I wasn’t there and cannot speak for the security guard who was. I’m fairly certain that this incident will be reviewed at all levels and appropriate corrective action and future training implemented to avoid any possible embarrasing encounters.

  20. A Troll!!! How offensive.

    We do know that there is video. All of that property is full of Church video cameras.

    My point is that releasing the video will show if the men are telling the truth or if the security guard was over the top. Scott is of the opinion that the Church will never allow gay men to walk around its property holding hands. That is becoming a barbaric position in our society. Innocent expressions of affection are totally different than lewd, disrespectful outbursts.

    It is very comparable to those who freaked out over inter-racial marriage thirty years ago. If this was 1967 and a black man was holding hands with a white woman, the security guards would most likely have done the same thing.

  21. Geoff–

    A troll? Brilliant. Try clicking on my hyperlinked name.

    Michael–
    I am not “of the opinion that the Church will never allow gay men to walk around its property holding hands.” I am of the opinion that the Church would simply prefer not to have to deal with this kind of thing in such a public fashion. However, when that security guard took it upon himself to do detain the couple, the Church was boxed into a corner where they have to now.

  22. @Nick Literski
    Nick,

    Yours is essentially a more elegant version of exactly what I was trying to relate: Pick your battles with this topic, because any action will cause a (potentially undesired) reaction. Just because a policy “allows” you to detain people for PDA doesn’t mean you should or have to.

  23. So kind and gracious of you. Here is the definition of a troll (according to Wikipedia):

    “In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or collaborative content community with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional or disciplinary response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.”

    Sorry. But it does not apply to any of my posts so far.

  24. I would not classify the protest in front of and around L.A. as a desecration. It was a protest.

  25. I happen to personally know one of the participants in this stunt. I actually call(ed) him a friend. He’s a good-natured guy as long as the subject of the LDS Church isn’t brought up. He’s worn his hatred for the church on his sleeve for a very long time, but I’ve always respected him because I thought he respected me. I guess I thought wrong.

    IMO, this begun as an alcohol-influenced, probably impulsive stunt, but as soon as they got some media attention they decided to milk it for all it was worth. I’m sorry, but any sympathy I have for the gay rights movement is being quickly eroded by stunts like this.

  26. I understand that LDS public relations statements have suggested that the two young men were drunk (perhaps even hinted more along the lines of “blasted out of their minds?”). I also understand that the young men acknowledged each having had a beer, some two hour earlier, which certainly wouldn’t leave them intoxicated by the time they were walking on the plaza. Perhaps the truth is somewhere between? If the young men were as liquored-up as the the LDS want to make it appear, surely the police would have also arrested/cited them for public intoxication?

    Tossman, in any group or movement, certain individuals will make poor choices. Sometimes those choices are poor enough to make other members of the same group/movement cringe. In this particular case, it appears that the young men were intentionally provocative in a way that doesn’t appear to have had much potential benefit in terms of public protest, etc. On the other hand, the security officers, acting as representatives of the LDS church in the situation, appear to have overreacted–themselves “drunk” on testosterone and/or paranoia about gays “out to get” their church. I think one would have to be wilfully blind, not to see fault on both sides of the incident.

  27. Nick, were I the responding security guard that night, I may have acted differently. That said, I’m not sure you can technically assign “fault” to the side of the church. Matt and his boyfriend had no right to do what they did, while the security guard had every right to do what he did. Now SHOULD the guard have detained them? Maybe not. Did his actions fan the flams? Probably. But there is technically no fault on the part of the church here.

  28. It sounds like we’re getting down to semantics, Tossman. When I refer to “fault on both sides,” I’m not trying to assign some sort of “ultimate blame” for the incident as a whole, to either side. In reality, both the young men and the security officers engaged in behavior that made the situation worse than it needed to be.

    The young men were responsible for (a) trying to provoke a response, and (b) failing to immediately leave upon being directed to do so by security, thus committing the crime of trespass. It is in this sense that I say they had “fault.” You’ve suggested that this fault on the part of two young men makes you think poorly of all those who are supportive of gay rights.

    The security guards (a) “took the bait,” responding in a manner that unnecessarily provided the very attention these young men sought. When the young men failed to immediately leave the property, the security guards (b) responded by violently detaining/restraining them, in a manner which very likely exceeded their legal rights as representatives of the property owner. It is in this sense that I say the security officers had “fault.” Many have suggested that this fault on the part of ten security officers makes them feel poorly about the LDS church.

  29. “In reality, both the young men and the security officers engaged in behavior that made the situation worse than it needed to be.”

    Agreed

    “the security guards (b) responded by violently detaining/restraining them, in a manner which very likely exceeded their legal rights as representatives of the property owner.”

    Be careful about that claim. We do not have proof that the detention was at all violent.

    “Many have suggested that this fault on the part of ten security officers makes them feel poorly about the LDS church.”

    I’d bet most of the people who have suggested this already felt poorly about the LDS Church.

    Ironically, my gut reaction as a not particularly active or loyal church member and a friend to one of the offending party, is a vehement defense of the church. Also more of a polarization on this issue than before.

  30. We do not have proof that the detention was at all violent.

    Violence comes in varying degrees. If you push me to the ground and put handcuffs on me, that’s a violent act, even if it turned out to be “justified” violence. The description of Jesus braiding a whip and driving the moneychangers out of the Jerusalem temple is the description of a violent act, as well. To say that the security officers engaged in violence is not to say they shot these young men three times in the head, after all.

    I’d bet most of the people who have suggested this already felt poorly about the LDS Church.

    I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. It’s likely no more accurate to suggest that “most of the people who have suggested” that the young men’s actions made them think worse of gay rights supporters “already felt poorly” about the latter. We all, of course, are quite susceptible to confirmation bias!

  31. So the LDS Public Affairs Department has created a “we’re the victims here” statement, including allegations never before made or reflected in the police report. As a result, these young men will likely add defamation to their surely-impending lawsuit. The security films will end up getting subpoenaed, and we can all find out where the truth comes down.

  32. Nick, it is also possible (in fact, in my opinion standard operating procedure) that Church public affairs interviewed the security guards involved and found out the additional information. Church public affairs decided to release it so that the record was clear. Public affairs is highly unlikely to release this information without passing it by a group of the Brethren and likely Church counsel. You’re probably correct that some kind of lawsuit will take place, and it seems wise to me for the Church to set the record straight right from the start. Hopefully the result will be that people will be forewarned about avoiding this kind of behavior on Church property.

    Based on the available information, I personally am more likely to believe the Church version. These guys were drunk and looking for a battle, and they rightly got arrested after getting unnecessarily bellicose.

  33. I’m sure I’ve made it clear already, Geoff, that you and I agree on the point of the young men committing the crime of trespass. That said, I hope you’re not taking the PR statement as absolute truth, merely because it was officially issued by your church.

    I don’t take the statement as absolute truth or absolute falsehood. I do, however, take it as a statement issued by an office who’s job it is to make the organization “look good” in the media (which they’ve been struggling at accomplishing, frankly, due to rampant defensiveness in their statements over the past year or two).

  34. Nick, I don’t think you and I are going to find agreement on this issue given that you are a disaffected former Church member. To be quite frank, some of your comments over the years have been even-handed and some clearly intended to question/cast aspersions on the Church in as subtle way as possible. Your claims of “rampant defensiveness” show your perspective — which is that the Church has something about which to be defensive. My perspective is the exact opposite — it is Church critics, especially on the gay marriage issue, who have acted in an uncharitable and dishonest way. The fact that Church critics have not come under greater scrutiny or criticism is just a sign of our times — when good is called bad and bad is called good.

    I simply would like to point out that I worked with Church public affairs for several years. I know most of the people who work in Church public affairs in SLC, and I know how they operate. I would trust my life with them — without a doubt. In this particular case, given my experience, there is no doubt in my mind that what happened is that Church public affairs and/or Church counsel interviewed the security guards extensively to double and triple-check their story. They decided to release this statement several days after the incident so they would have time to check it. After interviewing the security guards, the Brethren were consulted, and, very likely, several meetings were held to discuss the matter.

    If such a statement was released, it is supported by the Brethren completely and has been cleared by probably dozens of people. That’s definitely good enough for me.

  35. Pingback: The Rest of the Story–Church Plaza Incident « Messenger and Advocate

  36. Geoff, I wish you wouldn’t try to turn this into a game of “I dismiss your comments, because you’re an eeee-vil apostate.” I appreciate your insight and perspective as a former employee of the LDS Public Affairs Department.

    It’s clear that I miscommunicated, however. When I spoke of “rampant defensiveness,” I was not trying to imply guilt. The fact is, we’re all very capable of being right, yet reacting to others’ comments in an overly-defensive manner. From my personal perspective, it seems that over the past couple years, the LDS-PA office has been issuing defensive statements on a variety of topics, where they previously would have taken the “don’t dignify that with a response” approach. Sometimes that’s a good and important thing. Other times, it can backfire. I’m personally aware of at least one incident during the past year, where LDS-PA were essentially right in how they characterized the individual actions of a local bishop, yet the tone was such that many reacted with “methinks the lady doth protest too much,” and concluded that the LDS church must be hiding something. In a number of statements during the past two years, the LDS-PA office has seemed to focus on portraying their church as victims in any situation which arises. These sort of things which I was describing by “rampant defensiveness.”

    This particular statement doesn’t carry the same air of defensive posturing. It does, however, make some very specific factual allegations, which I’m surprised legal minds would readily approve. Perhaps they really do have everything on video, and are prepared to give unquestionable proof of their claims. In any case, there are inherent risks in making such specific accusations in official PR statements, as I’m sure you know.

    For what it’s worth, Geoff, if the description by LDS-PA is accurate (particularly in regard to public “groping”), I agree that it fell clearly into the category of “inappropriate,” even if it wasn’t private property.

  37. Nick, just to be clear, I had a calling in public affairs so was not an employee. But nevertheless I have worked with probably a dozen different people in SLC public affairs over the years and have been involved in high-level meetings at different times. I think you are correct that one of the key issues regarding inappropriate behavior is the “groping” allegation. Thank you for reminding me that there probably ARE video tapes and the Church probably feels pretty sure it can prove the “groping” allegation.

    Regarding defensiveness, I’m sure you know that one person’s defensiveness is another person’s “setting the record straight.” Perspective is everything.

  38. I’m sure you know that one person’s defensiveness is another person’s “setting the record straight.” Perspective is everything.

    I get that. Just cut me a little slack, Mister. I’m really trying to have a respectful discussion on the topic at hand. :-)

  39. I will cut you this slack: can you imagine the defamation lawsuit if the “groping” allegation turns out not to be true? Yikes. More reason to believe that the Church feels it has a 100 percent solid case (including, most likely, video tape and perhaps even eyewitness corroboration).

  40. What those young men did was rude. Just bad manners and like you pointed out, Nick, they wanted the controversy.

    I wouldn’t come to your house and diss your beliefs in your face. I’m with the church on this totally…

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