Leaked Mormon Church training documents detail its key role in the anti-gay marriage movement during the passage of Prop 8.
The tax-exempt Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) has repeatedly sought to downplay its direct political role in the battle over California’s Proposition 8, a measure which succeeded in banning same-sex marriage in 2008.
Today, leaked documents released via MormonLeaks show how senior church leaders appear to have directly colluded with the campaign to ban same-sex marriage.
The documents were released via MormonLeaks, an anonymous whistleblowing website which has previously exposed homophobic practices within the Church.
The LDS Church has always maintained its activities were comprised of grassroots volunteering.
But a diagram of the campaign leadership appears to show that three senior church leaders, M. Russell Ballard, Quentin L. Cook and L. Whitney Clayton, played a major organisational role.
The documents include an apparent recruitment training manual for Mormon activists taking part in the Prop 8 campaign.
This includes a pre-written script for canvassers who are trying to convince voters to ban same-sex marriage.
It tells campaigners to appeal to concerns about children, directing them to relay to voters that “the best situation is for a child to be raised by a married mother and father in the bond of marriage.”
The script continues: “We should not accept a court decision that results in public schools teaching our kids that gay marriage is okay. That is an issue for parents to discuss with their children according to their own values and beliefs. It should not be forced on us against our will.”.
A second Mormon document, titled “Proposition 8 Volunteer Outline”, also contains an apparent info sheet for volunteers filled with misinformation.
This claims: “If same sex marriage is legal, it will become illegal not to perform a marriage for them. A school cannot be accredited if it does not teach, professional licenses will not be issued to those who do not agree, tax exempt status could be lost, and our tax dollars would be used to support the education that taught these values.”
It adds: “Gays have the right to live the lifestyle they choose, but they do not have the right to redefine marriage for everyone else. Proposition 8 respects the rights of gays while still reaffirming traditional marriage.”
The outline directs volunteers to push the line that “protects our children from being taught in public schools that same sex marriage is the same as traditional marriage. “
Questions have long been raised about the role of the Church in the anti-gay marriage movement given its status as a tax-exempt organisation.
President Trump has pledged to repeal laws that prevent churches from direct involvement in political campaigns.
The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, known as the Mormon Church, preaches a rejection of homosexuality unless members remain celibate for life.
The religion also rejects the children of gay couples unless they actively disavow their parents’ “lifestyle”, and has been linked to a number of dangerous gay ‘cure’ practises.
A clampdown on LGBT people in the church has been linked to a surge in Mormon youth suicides – while the church has also used its influence to block LGBT rights legislation in Utahand channel funding to anti-LGBT campaign groups.