Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Keep Your Politics out of My Religious Organization

People who take their religion seriously often find that their political views are informed by their religious convictions. I get that. I respect that. I have no problem with that. My politics are informed by my religious views. However, it annoys me when people try to bring their politics into church settings. Church is about worshiping God. It should be a vacation from politics. Good people can differ about the wisest political course to take, and politics can serve to divide instead of unite.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is officially neutral as to partisan politics. Good members of the church can espouse a wide range of political views and be a member of a wide range of political parties. Although a large segment of the U.S. membership is conservative, and often aligned with the Republican party, this is not required.

I recently was elected vice president of my law school's chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, which is an association of LDS legal professionals. Our bylaws (as a university student organization - I don't know about the organization nationally) prohibit the organization from getting involved in partisan politics. The mission statement of the national society is "We affirm the strength brought to the law by a lawyer’s personal religious conviction. We strive through public service and professional excellence to promote fairness and virtue founded upon the rule of law." That's it. No politics. Just like the church, we're a politically neutral organization.

I like being able to associate with my fellow saints at school without politics getting in the way. There are plenty of political organizations available on campus for people who want to participate in them. (I'm a member of one of the political organizations. I don't object to politics in the abstract.) However, I do object to something that happened last night.

A former JRCLS officer, who is still a member of the organization, but whose term is up, sent out a message last night. He sent it out to the university's JRCLS e-mail list. He put [JRCLS:SC] in the subject line, which is how all official announcements from the organization start out. The e-mail contained a message inviting everyone to an upcoming fundraising dinner for an individual running for statewide office. The dinner is being hosted by a prominent LDS politician. I replied to the e-mail (just to the sender, not to everyone) reminding him that the organization is not permitted to engage in partisan politics.

He responded with a fairly rude e-mail saying that he wasn't doing this officially, and that we have a duty to get involved in politics, and he wasn't trying to convince anyone of anything. He said he was simply giving everyone an opportunity to support the politics we already believe in. (The subtext, of course, was that all good church members support this candidate.)

I didn't reply, simply because I was ticked by the tone of the e-mail. I know I'm right, but the only way of handling this that I can see is to pull rank, which I don't like to do. (In my book, a current VP outranks a former officer of any rank.) This guy is going to graduate next month anyway.

I'm going to get the rest of the officers on board for next year to remind everyone that the membership list is not to be used for political purposes, and that anyone who wishes to talk politics should ensure that s/he doesn't imply that the JRCLS endorses that position. I think I'll have no trouble convincing the officers to get on board with this because a) it's in the bylaws, and b) there are at least 3 different political persuasions represented among the 4 of us.


C.J. said...

So many people, though, regard other political persuasions as "wrong". It bothers me, too, how so many people presume that if you're of x faith/race/insert marker here, you'll vote a certain way. That's the herd mentality jackasses like Rex Rammell are exploiting.

Gwen said...


Gwen said...

P.S. Can I be on your blogroll? K thanks.

Mike H. said...

It's hard sometimes.

A prominent John Bircher in the ward I grew up in took a shot at both Nixon & McGovern from over the pulpit in Sacrament Meeting in 1972 before that election. The Bishop of one of my BYU student wards put in a plug to vote for a particular candidate in a local election there in 1982. In my mother's DUP camp, one of the members there was passing around a Gray Davis recall petition, and called it a moral issue!

So, some members are clueless about this issue.

Jessica said...

and Amen. I "came out" as a Democrat to my Relief Society a few years ago in an effort to put a damper on some of the political speech during that meeting, at least. I think it helped a little, but not nearly enough. I think I would have liked to see you pull rank, but I have no experience in the sort of organization this is so your choice may be more prudent.