This is a guest post by Michael Davidson a father, husband, member of the Church, and lawyer. He’s speaking this Sunday in his branch about the Sermon on the Mount.
A month and a day ago Kate Kelly was excommunicated for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church.” That conduct has been widely documented on this blog and in other places, but the letter informing Ms. Kelly of her excommunication set forth several things that Ms. Kelly must correct in order to return to full faith and fellowship in the Church. Specifically, Ms. Kelly must “demonstrate over a period of time that [she has] stopped teachings and actions that undermine the Church, its leaders, and the doctrine of the priesthood. [She] must be truthful in [her] communications with others regarding matters that involve your priesthood leaders, including the administration of Church discipline, and [she] must stop trying to gain a following for [herself] or [her] cause and taking actions that could lead others away from the Church.”
The letter went on to detail specific instances in which she had done things contrary to the counsel of Church leaders (which constitutes apostasy) and had released “Six Discussions which were intended to proselyte others and to persuade them to support [her] particular interpretation of Church doctrine.” But these things are in the past, mostly. As touching Ms. Kelly and her potential to rejoin the Church, it’s all about what happens going forward, so I’m more interested in what is happening now and in the future instead of what has already past. It is for this reason that this post will not be about what Ms. Kelly has done, but what she is doing today.
Finally, the letter sets forth what Ms. Kelly should do if she wished to appeal the decision of the council to excommunicate her. It stated that she “must specify in writing the alleged errors or unfairness in the procedure or decision and then present the appeal within 30 days.” This statement was to be presented to her bishop, who would in turn forward it to the Stake President for his decision.
As it turns out, today Ms. Kelly published the contents of her appeal to the Stake President regarding her excommunication. You shouldn’t bother reading it. If you are so inclined and want to be embarrassed for her, she published three documents which seem to constitute her appeal: her Letter of Appeal, a letter from her husband Neil Ransom, and a legal brief written by Ms. Kelly’s “dear friend Nadine Hansen,” a noted enemy of the Church.
In reading these documents, I am amazed at the self-righteous tone Ms. Kelly strikes. She urges her Stake President to “consider my appeal with humility and openness” and consistently urges him to “do the right thing” which she exclusively defines as requiring her reinstatement. While I don’t wish to take the time to go through these documents and refute them point by point, because I wish I hadn’t read them and think she shouldn’t either, there are some items that do jump out.
Ms. Kelly threatened that her Stake President’s anticipated conduct is “potentially actionable.” This essentially means, “be careful or I will sue you.” She raises this in response to a statement allegedly made by her Stake President, which has not been corroborated, that he might have to correct the public record if she continued to publicly state that she was a member in good standing of the Church. She is ostensibly stating that her Stake President has threatened to violate the priest-penitent privilege. However, this privilege does not extend to prohibiting a religious body from publicizing who is, and who is not, a member in good standing of that body. Instead, it prohibits religious counselors from making public information provided by the “penitent” in confidence. Ms. Kelly has not alleged that this privilege has been violated, or even threatened to be violated. Ms. Kelly knew, or should have known this. It is information attorneys are expected to have mastered prior to taking the bar exam. So, she either raises this issue from a place of ignorance, or does so with the intent to be less than candid. In any event, in pmaking her own public statements regarding these conversations, she has likely waived whatever privilege might have been there in the first instance.
Elsewhere, Ms. Kelly argues that the disciplinary council process was merely an attempt to “exercise control” and “compulsion” in violation of D&C 121:37. She alleges that “you had no authority to control my views, voice or speech and no right to compel me into silence.” She goes on to state that, as a result, her bishop “had neither justification nor authority to excommunicate” her, because once he tried to compel her obedience that “the Spirit of the Lord [was] grieved” and that her Bishop lost his priesthood and authority as a result. This is an absurd argument that only an attorney could love.
To illustrate the flaw in Ms. Kelly’s argument, we need only look at her own letter. In speaking about her conversation with her Stake President, she says, “I looked you in the eye and spoke with absolute candor. I told you that I am not going to take down the website … and I am not going to dissociate myself from the group Ordain Women.” She alleges that in the face of her absolute resolve, he and her bishop were limited to simply trying to persuade her to voluntarily abandon her design, and that any action beyond that, including her excommunication, could only result in the cancellation of their own priesthood authority. If this were actually the case, however, it would nullify the priesthood of any individual participating in a disciplinary council in which the subject of that council was completely unrepentant and which resulted in discipline being imposed. This is patently ridiculous.
Additionally, Ms. Kelly doesn’t even quote the scripture correctly. It states that if a priesthood holder “undertakes … to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness … amen to the priesthood … of that man.” Again, this is another instance of Ms. Kelly sitting in judgment of those who are rightly “judges in Israel.” In order for the result she urges to occur, Ms. Kelly’s bishopric must have acted unrighteously in their deliberations. I’m not a betting man, but I would not put my money on Ms. Kelly for this one.
I found nothing interesting or compelling to comment about from Mr. Ransom’s temper tantrum. Likewise, Ms. Hansen’s legal brief treats the whole proceeding as if this was a court of law, which it isn’t. As a result, it misses the point entirely and will likely be ignored.
In the end, Ms. Kelly appears to be completely missing the point. She’s using this appeal as an opportunity to grandstand and submitted papers that are written for the consumption of her base and the media. I wouldn’t bother with it any further.