Monday, November 10, 2008

Whom do we blame for Proposition 8?

First off, Not African-Americans.

I know, I saw the CNN numbers, too. And they look pretty scary. 70 percent of African-American voters voted for proposition 8. But at the link above, a writer named shanikka at DailyKos breaks the numbers down, and the assumption that the African-American vote made enough difference to swing that election just falls apart.

It's been 5+ years since I had statistics, but her numbers look good to me.

The lack of support among African-Americans didn't help, I'll grant you, but it wasn't a deciding factor. All other things being equal, I'd rather think low things about people of my own color, so I'm regarding this as good news.

Besides, the "I voted for your civil rights so you should vote for mine" is about a two on Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development and I prefer to make my voting decisions at roughly a five.

The other favorite bad guy is the Mormon Church**, and I'm having a lot more trouble letting them off the hook, at least partially because I don't even like MY church meddling in politics even when I agree.

I really, really, think the Mormon Church, and indeed any church that takes a stand on a specific candidate or bill, should be taxed as a political organization.

Katy-the-Wise and I had an argument about this a few days ago, and I don't even feel like I lost*. She argued that taxation gave the government a level of control over the church that they shouldn't have. IMHO, lobbying just isn't a spiritual or charitable practice and non-spiritual and charitable practices of churches need to be taxed.

Also, I don't want to hear any more about politics in church than I have to. I don't want the candidates to have to pander to religion any more than they have to. I don't want candidates feeling that they need to suck up to ministers and I don't want ministers tempted with the sort of earthly power that asskissing politicians would be offering.


*If you don't know her, trust me on this, to argue with Katy-the-Wise is pretty much always to lose.

**FWIW, there are approximately 750,000 members of the Church in California (including those members who are not old enough to vote). The population of California is approximately 36,553,200, making Mormons about 2% of the population. That said, even if every Mormon of voting age voted yes on Prop. 8, they would only have been responsible for about 4% of the total number of voters who voted yes.


L said...

If you let African Americans off the hook based on a voting statistics, then you have to let Mormons off the hook for the same reason. If you are arguing that the Mormon church used undue influence on the election process, you need different statistics and a different argument. Basically what I read from your statement was that you're letting African-Americans off the hook because their voting numbers could not have swung the vote. However because you disagree with the politics of the Mormon church, you are holding them responsible even though their voting numbers could not have swung the vote either.

Just sayin'.

*Disclaimer: I am not black, Mormon, gay or Californian. So I really have no influence in this argument.

Chalicechick said...

As far as I know, there was no organized effort of African Americans to get the bill passed.

The LDS church lobbied and organized to get the bill passed.

True, the church itself only organized and gave no money, but no one is denying that their participation made the difference.


Anonymous said...

Not only did the Mormon church lobby and organize to pass the bill, they put out ads that were LIES. That's about as un-spiritual as you can get. Lying as well as messing with the politics in a state they have no business messing with: How would they feel if we passed an amendment to Utah's constitution saying "marriage in Utah is between one man and one woman, and you have to enforce that"!?! They don't really believe in one man and one woman marriages, after all.

PG said...

Yes, the Mormon church as a national institution did everything it could to ensure that Prop. 8 passed. It talked it up in congregations, to the point that gay-friendly Mormons felt uncomfortable and some are leaving the church. It encouraged people to donate to Yes on 8, even invoking tithing. It produced disinformation to convince non-Mormons to vote for Prop. 8. The Catholic church was similarly active.

Now, what did the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP or any other organized group of African Americans do to get Prop. 8 passed?


hey don't really believe in one man and one woman marriages, after all.

The organized Mormon church does believe that marriage is one man and one woman now. Polygamists are not welcome in the church anymore. It's sort of like the Chris Rock routine about "black people versus niggas" -- establishment Mormons see the polygamists as the "niggas" who make the rest of them look bad.

Anonymous said...

how about not looking for anyone to blame and/or scapegoat? a more constructive approach would be building a stronger, more diverse movement of folks for marriage equality. instead of pointing fingers at who's against us, who could step up more (with donations, with volunteering, with supporting marriage equality from the pulpit) on our side?

Steve Caldwell said...


You may want to check out atheist blogger Greta Christina's take on which group(s) were responsible for Prop 8's passage:

Why We Care What Other People Believe: Religion, Race, and Prop 8

In a nutshell, her take on this is one that religion was responsible for Prop 8's passage:

CNN exit polls showed that those who attended church weekly voted against marriage equality, 84%-16%.

Those who attended church only occasionally voted for marriage equality, 54%-46%.

And those who do not attend church at all voted for marriage equality, 83%-17%.

The impact of religion on Prop 8's passage goes beyond demographics. Here's a brief paraphrase of Greta's argument (I would check out her blog for the detailed version):

Lots of religious thought is based entirely and explicitly on authority, tradition, and personal feeling and intuition.

Therefore, religious thought in many cases is a belief system that can provide an impressively- armored rationalization for just about any opinion and action you care to name.

Religion can be a belief system with little or no connection to evidence and reason, and that much of the time is singularly resistant to it.

Yes -- there are small pockets of religious thought that don't cause this sort of harm that Greta mentions. But they are a minority viewpoint within religion as it's currently practiced in North America.

Joe The Math Guy said...

_I'll_ tell you who _I_ blame. _I_ blame the people who set up the California constitution so that it could be changed by a simple majority of the voters...and a simple majority of those who actually voted, at that.

A large part of the point of having a constitution, as I see it, is to protect certain fundamental principles of government from the whims of the majority. The California constitution doesn't do that. This is a textbook example of unfettered democracy.

I just don't see "blaming" all these people you guys are talking about. They are only voting their conscience, the same as you would do. The problem is that the system was set up in such a way that their conscience can undermine equal protection under the law.

I'm speaking as an atheist who finds it damn tempting to agree with the sentiments in Steve Caldwell's post...and as a matter of fact, I DO agree with some of it. But, at the end of the day, religious people have as much right to their religion as I have to my atheism. (Heh. Big of me, ain't it?)

A large part of the point of government is to enable people like me, people like the Mormons, and people like George Takei to all live together peaceably. The California constitution just didn't do that.

Chalicechick said...


Individual Mormons can, of course, vote however they want. They can even give money to political action groups however they want.

My objection was the church leadership involving itself in grassroots political activities like organizing demonstrations and fundraising. If church leadership is doing this, they need to be taxed because they are acting like a political group and political groups are not tax-exempt.


Chalicechick said...

(((_I'll_ tell you who _I_ blame. _I_ blame the people who set up the California constitution so that it could be changed by a simple majority of the voters...and a simple majority of those who actually voted, at that.)))

That's true, too.


PG said...


I'm pretty sure the people who set up the California constitution that way were the voters who amended the original 1849 constitution to provide for easy, bare-majority referenda to create both statutes and constitutional amendments. Cooler heads have been troubled by this since at least 1916. See, e.g., Edward F. Treadwell's preface to a book attempting to definitively publish the most up-to-date version of the Constitution:

While each election has added to it many new and radical features, many of them extremely detailed in character and partaking more the nature of legislative acts than provisions of a constitution, still the people at the last general election defeated a proposition for a constitutional convention to revise the constitution. This attitude is largely due to the fact that the Constitution can be amended about as readily as a legislative act can be passed, and the habit of avoiding all constitutional questions by putting legislation in the form of constitutional amendments is growing at a rate calculated to alarm those who would desire to see the Constitution of the state a permanent instrument of fundamental principles and provisions. The more detailed the Constitution becomes, the more often will it require amendment, and it has already been amended over one hundred times. This
condition will continue as long as legislative detail is retained
in the Constitution. The present condition can only be considered transitory, and must eventually be remedied by a general revision in which all legislative matters shall be eliminated.

Fat chance, bucko.

Joe The Math Guy said...

Thanks for the info, PG! I had wondered how the California constitution came to be in such a state. What you say implies that the voters already had the power to vote to change the constitution; the only question was how large a majority they needed. I wonder how many other states have control of the constitution directly in the hands of the voters, and what majority is needed to affect a change...surely California can't be that unusual.

PG said...

Yes, there was an amendment process in the 1848 California Constitution, but it was much more demanding:

ARTICLE X. Mode of Amending and Revising the Constitution.

Sec. 1. Any amendment, or amendments to this Constitution, may be proposed in the Senate or Assembly; and if the same shall be agreed to by a majority of the members elected to each of the two houses, such proposed amendments, shall be entered on their journals, with the yeas and nays taken thereon, and referred to the Legislature then next to be chosen, and shall be published for three months next preceding the time of making such choice. And if, in the Legislature next chosen as aforesaid, such proposed amendment of amendments, shall be agreed to by a majority of all the members elected to each house, then it shall be the duty of the Legislature to submit such proposed amendment of amendments to the people, in such manner, and at such time as the Legislature shall prescribe; and if the people shall approve and ratify such amendment or amendments, by a majority of the electors qualified to vote for members of the Legislature, voting thereon, such amendment of amendments, shall become part of the Constitution.

Sec. 2. And if, at any time two-thirds of the Senate and Assembly shall think it necessary to revise and change this entire Constitution, they shall recommend to the electors, at the next election for members of the Legislature, to vote for or against the convention; and if it shall appear that a majority of the electors voting at such election have voted in favor of calling a convention, the Legislature shall, at its next session, provide by law for calling a convention, to be holden within six months after the passage of such law; and such convention shall consist of a number of members not less than that of both branches of the Legislature.

Anonymous said...

The way the IRS rules are set up, churches are generally 501(c)3 non-profits, and are exempt from taxation if they follow the rules. The rules about political activism allow for taking stands on issues and specific legislation, but not endorsing one political candidate or party over another.

So, lobbying for legislation and organizing voters around particular issues is perfectly okay for a church or denomination to do while maintaining their tax-exempt status. I believe that fundraising within these guidelines is also legal for 501(c)3 organizations, but I'm not positive.

Personally, and as the wife of a minister, I feel this is fine, because churches are supposed to take public moral stands about issues. But I draw the line at telling people they *must* vote a certain way or be damned eternally, etc. And I draw the line in our own Association when our national organization takes stands on behalf of all of our congregations without consulting with the congregations as to which stand, if any, to take. For UUs, without I think these things are better left to individual congregations, ministers and members working together.

Chalicechick said...

I do get the legal standard, I favor a stricter standard.

I should have made this clearer.


Steve Caldwell said...

Jess wrote:
"And I draw the line in our own Association when our national organization takes stands on behalf of all of our congregations without consulting with the congregations as to which stand, if any, to take. For UUs, without I think these things are better left to individual congregations, ministers and members working together.


If you want this change to happen, our congregational delegates need to stop telling the UUA to speak on our behalf. The "consultation" of the congregations that you refer to in theory is happening at General Assembly.

Whatever political - social justice work the UUA staff does, they do so with our collective blessing and the support of the voting that our congregational delegates participate in at General Assembly.

I don't our congregational delegates stepping away from this political involvement any time soon.