Seeking for Righteousness

The Personal Blog of Kaimi Wenger

One Reason I *do* Contribute to the ACLU

Dustin the Legal Guy, a fellow LDS blogger, has posted a short discussion entitled “Why I Will Never Contribute to the ACLU.

Well, I am both a church member and a genuine ACLU contributor (a “card-carrying member of the ACLU”). I understand the dislike some church members have for the ACLU. I don’t agree with every position the ACLU has ever taken. However, I think that it serves a very important role in protecting underrepresented and minority groups. And in doing so, it protects LDS members even more than the general populace. This is, of course, because Mormons are, nationwide, very much an underrepresented group. Because the ACLU protects my rights as a member of a religious minority, my ACLU membership is very important to me as a Mormon.

It is possible to lose sight of the fact that Mormons are an underrepresented minority, especially if one lives in Utah, Arizona, Idaho, or other places where there is a large LDS populace. However, in most of the country, we are a politically weak (politically non-existent) minority, and the ACLU helps prevent other majority religions from oppressing us.

[The following two paragraphs partially adapted from an e-mail I posted on the LDS listserv].

I don’t know how many LDS people are aware that one of the lead plaintiffs in Santa Fe v. Doe, which struck down some “school prayer” programs, was an LDS student. That plaintiff was an LDS student who had been harassed by other students and teachers for being LDS, had been told by teachers that the church was wrong. That is, of course, exactly the kind of behavior majority groups can inflict on minority groups.

The ACLU suit in that case had several effects. For the LDS plaintiff, the suit had the effect that school officials could no longer harass LDS students (i.e. the plaintiff) and tell them that the church was wrong. That’s a good result for church members everywhere, which is why I am consistently surprised by the number of e-mails I get from LDS relatives about why “school prayer” is good. As the facts of Santa Fe point out, “School prayer” = license to harass LDS kids. Why exactly am I supposed to like that?

I’m not a Utah Mormon. I’ve never lived in Utah (except for a month at the MTC). I have lived in Mesa, Arizona for several years, which is similar in many respects to Utah, but I’ve also lived large stretches of life in areas where church members were practically unknown. I lived for several years in Oklahoma, where I was one of a handful of LDS kids at the school. I now live in New York, and my oldest son is the only LDS student at his school.

And as an LDS member in a non-LDS area, I am very grateful for the ACLU. I am glad that no one is teaching my son prayers at school. I’ll do that myself, thank you very much. I’m glad that groups like the ACLU prevent the state from blatantly supporting religions, because any support would go to groups I am not a part of.

I sometimes joke that I should pay $20 a year in extra tithing to cancel out negative effects of my ACLU membership dues. But the fact is, I find my ACLU membership very much consistent with being a church member.

August 14, 2003 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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