Guest Post: Why I still don’t wave the rainbow flag

By: Latter-Day Publius

If the LGBT movement has done one thing right, it has alerted much of America to the difficulty minority groups experience. One good example of this is Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s recent explanation of his own journey to being out as a gay man. As one of the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President M. Russell Ballard, said:

We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing. Certainly we must do better than we have done in the past so that all members feel they have a spiritual home where their brothers and sisters love them and where they have a place to worship and serve the Lord.

I emphatically agree with President Ballard. More listening is needed, and some of that listening will add nuance to my views and the views of others. The victims of horrible violence against LGBT individuals are indisputably worthy of our love and support, which may be what God Himself had in mind when he showed a sign of His love– a rainbow– in Orlando recently during a commemoration of the horrific Pulse massacre.  And other expressions of support for LGBT rights are surely appropriate

Notwithstanding all of this, I am not attending a pride parade or waving a rainbow flag this month. I feel this way because, even after decades of discussion, there are still numerous concerns about the LGBT Movement’s goals that mean I must differentiate listening and learning from them from accepting their goals. Here are some examples.

A. Pride/LGBT movement advocates push for messages that have harmful effects on children, by:

  1. Ignoring the fact that the vast majority of children who experience gender dysphoria naturally grow out of it.  Attorneys at the well-respected law firm Becket Law have collected information on this topic, including scientific studies, accessible here.
  2. Separating children from the gender diversity that results from having a male and a female parent, whether biologically or adopted. Having two parents of different genders at the head of the family introduces the children to broader understanding of humanity.  (See the article the Divine Institution of Marriage for more developed points on pitfalls of same-sex parenting).

B. Pride/LGBT movement advocates ignore scientific methodology by:

  1. Relying on the studies to study the issue focus on same-sex female couples, to assert that same-sex male couples are just as good parents as heterosexual couples. This ignores that men and women, whatever their sexual orientation, parent differently. The few, few studies that study same-sex parenting of males are limited in scope.
  2. Relying on studies of female same-sex couples’ parenting that (1) tend to be based on convenience rather than random samples; (2) tend to have small sample sizes; (3) tend to study more affluent demographics than the population as a whole and (4) reward parenting attributes that females typically excel at, while not studying some attributes that males excel at. (See a peer-reviewed paper by Loren Marks. Most literature released after the Marks paper either falls into the same pitfalls or contradicts the consensus view).
  3. Using self-selected samples to asses LGBTQ outcomes more generally.

C. Pride/LGBT movement advocates push for messages that have incorrect understandings about suicide and happiness:

  1. Suicide is a complex matter, and no one factor typically causes suicide. So to, without solid evidence, link a rise in suicides to any one policy or plan is unwise. This is especially true when climate and elevation play a role in suicide as well. You can read a good explanation on this point here.
  2. Many religious and secular individuals correctly teach that happiness need not be dependent on circumstances or dispositions, that single people can be fulfilled without a sexual relationship, and living a life of self-denial can benefit oneself and society. By sending a message that there is no legal distinction between discriminating based on one’s sexual orientation and one’s choice of spouse or partner, LGBT advocates send a message that fulfillment comes primarily from romantic relationships.
  3. One’s relationship with God or a broader culture can certainly be more powerful than one’s own romantic desires. While fictional, the character Albus Dumbledore highlights the importance of distinguishing between choices and inclinations, both by his words and his story.

D. Pride/LGBT movement advocates push for messages that harm religious freedom:

  1. If one accepts the above points, it is obvious that churches must have the right to teach the doctrinal foundation for these policies.
  2. Even if one rejects the points above, they are certainly plausible. As Justice Anthony Kennedy said in Obergefell v. Hodges, people of good faith can disagree on such issues. The Free Speech Clause protects the right of people to advocate for their views.
  3. But more importantly, religious freedom is designed to protect unpopular views and actions. By pushing issues concerning LGBT issues outside of the bounds of religious freedom (as the Equality Act hints at doing), the LGBT advocates target certain religious beliefs for unfavorable treatment.
  4. The present or immediate future impacts of present LGBT positions, if adopted, hurt religious freedom. The scope of hiring decisions at religious colleges, universities, hospitals, and non-profits may be limited. Even religious groups and individuals (like me) who support extending non-discrimination laws to protect LGBT individuals need the right to have criteria based in chastity when determining employment. Analogous efforts are underway in areas of accreditation, cooperative areas such as Foster Care and Adoption, housing at religious institutions, and state and federal funding. See this letter for more specific details.

When governments place these sorts of limits on religious institutions, governments chill the ability of those institutions to serve others and teach their religious beliefs. Indeed, some faiths believe that a connection to God allows one to excel more in employment and other endeavors. As President Ballard said in the same talk quoted above:

… I testify that living gospel commandments brings anyone untold blessings, allowing us to become our very best selves—exactly who God wants us to be.

As religious organizations want their members to become their best selves, they need to hire those who are striving to get the untold blessings President Ballard mentioned, so their employees can be examples of the believers.

I end where I began.  “We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing.”  But that does not imply we need to embrace as correct their solutions for the problems they identify.  How to increasingly love and cherish our LGBT brothers and sisters while not blindly accepting their policy positions is one of the challenges of our day.  Other pieces have and yet will be written that correctly emphasize the greater need to love and cherish our LGBT brothers and sisters.  Here is one excellent example of that.  But as it is Pride Month and the Equality Act is pending in the U.S. Senate, it is important to emphasize the importance of at least hesitating before embracing LGBT policy positions, for all the reasons explained above.

8 thoughts on “Guest Post: Why I still don’t wave the rainbow flag

  1. This is one of the best articles I’ve seen from a faithful LDS perspective. Saving it for future use. Thank you for taking the time to write it!

  2. Excellent thoughts. There’s no link in C.1, however, where one is implied.

    EDIT: Thanks for highlighting that missing link. It has been added!

    M* Admin

  3. Well done. Appreciating your clarity and courage….love your emphasis on unfeigned love *and* space for disagreement – aka, Yes, let’s love as President Ballard suggests, “But that does not imply we need to embrace as correct their solutions for the problems they identify.”

  4. I have two thoughts on your observations: Point A1. As a church member with SSA I have been surrounded with many SSA/LGBT folks as, well as activists. Based on my experiences, I imagine that If I sat down to discuss a hypothetical situation about a child of mine going through gender dysphoria or feelings of confusion, the reaction wouldn’t be to push the child into anything, but rather help them sort things out over time. It leads me to think that perhaps your point comes across as not being informed of how people of how many people in the LGBT community would actually respond. It is impossible to describe us in a group in a solid brush stroke. All I know is my personal experience in knowing many LDS who are in the crossroads. Have you been able to sit down and ask about this specific thing with anyone in the LGBT community? Lastly in C1. you bring up solid evidence vs. opinion. Many in the crossroads of LDS/SSA/LGBT have read the Family Acceptance Project research which provides solid data to certain aspects of the conversation around suicide. I myself have had to help talk several acquaintances literally out of committing suicide because of the turmoil they face in their situation; this is a real thing that is happening in our community. As a side note, LDS LGBT organizations (such as Northstar and Affirmation) acknowledge and teach that indeed suicide prevention is complex and has many factors, following the QPR program to train members to help out in our small communities. I’ve been to one of these within the last year, which provided solid, evidence-based, well-rounded discussion as to the complexity of the issue. So again, I think that some things here tend to gloss over the actual conversations that are happening within our LDS/SSA/LGBT community. No disrespect meant, just want to add a bit to the discussion.

  5. Arron,

    A.1: I admit I haven’t asked LGBT individuals about this issue. But I do know there is a cultural push to validate gender identities at a young age, the whole bathroom issue, etc. I think it is fair to suspect the statistics Becket Law cites are not as well-taught in public schools in liberal states or the more activist groups I meant to critique– and googling will only confirm that. If there is a presumption one’s gender identity is fixed once one declares it in the pre-teen years, that is very different than reality and creates harm, as Becket Law describes.

    C.1: I didn’t mean to disparage real mental health concerns, including the increased risk of depression and suicide that many LGBT individuals face. My concern is the concept of causation between a certain set of laws, statements,
    or policies and suicide.

  6. I appreciate your thoughts on this. A few points in response. I wonder if it is possible to wave the Rainbow flag while not completely agreeing with every policy measure put forth by LGBT groups? Like all minority groups they are not a monolith. I feel comfortable supporting my fellow LGBT citizens right to marry and not be discriminated against (figuratively flying the flag) while also not totally agreeing on every policy measure.

    I think your point A1 is well taken. It seems that for some gender identity is fluid, and we should encourage young people, who are in the midst of discovering that identity, from taking permanent measures regarding gender reassignment.

    Your points C2 and C3 seem to take issue with LGBT groups and their allies declaring that romantic and family relationships are a central component to fulfillment and happiness in life. I assume the issue you have with this arises from your core belief that LGBT relations are inherently sinful and these people need to live celibate lives? Correct this if my assumptions are wrong. Hopefully you can see the irony of this position when LDS church leaders have taught for decades that…

    “There can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from the home. The sweetest influences and associations of life are there.” Ezra Benson

    “Happiness in marriage and parenthood can exceed a thousand times any other happiness” James Faust

    I think taking the position (as well as drawing upon a fictional character for support) that romantic/familial relationships are not central to fulfillment and happiness ignores the shared human experience as well as teachings of LDS church.

    Again appreciate your thoughts. All the best.

  7. I think that, from a believing point of view, lots of your points are legitimate. I will though, along with Brady, take issue with point C2:
    “LGBT advocates send a message that fulfillment comes primarily from romantic relationships.”

    I would argue that the church has done a very similar thing. Teachings of church leaders have always emphasized the importance of marriage and family. By listening to church leaders, it’s very easy to assume that a person will never achieve their true potential for happiness unless they are married. For almost all of my life, I never heard a church leader suggest otherwise. Marriage is required for exaltation. Even the Bible states that it is not good for man to be alone, and there is no Latter-Day Saint equivalent to a monk.

    It’s true that:
    “Many religious and secular individuals correctly teach that happiness need not be dependent on circumstances or dispositions, that single people can be fulfilled without a sexual relationship, and living a life of self-denial can benefit oneself and society.”
    But this is not the goal within the church. It never has been.

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