Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Can Lightning Strike Twice?

Jacob S. has already elucidated the behavior of our beloved legislature Chris Buttars. I want to expand on a couple of his thoughts, and reply to the comments of several of our readers.

First, if you are not aware, Chris Buttars was removed from his positions of chairman and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and as the chairman of the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee. According to Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), Buttars was not removed for the content of his comments on homosexuality, but rather for violating an agreement with the Senate to not to speak publicly on the issue. Apparently Buttars has been marked as a "lightning rod" on this issue.

In my mind, this leaves two questions open for debate. One, is the content of Buttars benign, or is the content itself the source of the reaction. Two, should Buttars comments "in private" be considered as speaking publicly (i.e. where does free speech leave us exactly).

There is no question that the LDS church considers homosexuality a sin. There is no question that all sin is considered by the LDS church to have a negative impact on society. However, Chris Buttars stated that "
the greatest threat to America going down," and went as far as to compare homosexuals to "radical Muslims." It isn't enough that Buttars is ignorant and intolerant of Muslims, when he probably means Islamic radicals (the ideology that Islam is both a religion and a political system), but also that he normalizes the violent murders of these radicals with the behavior of homosexuals. Murder is worse than sexual deviance, as stated by President Kimball in 1978 (Spencer W. Kimball, A Letter to a Friend, pamphlet). Instead, homosexuality is in line with all other forms of sexual immorality including adultery, fornication, etc. Buttars is mistaken in equalizing homosexuals to murderers.

A second, decisively inflammatory comment from Buttars on the Common Ground initiative (SB 32)
was, "It lost 4-2, and I killed it. I've killed every one they've brought for eight years." The bill is designed to give certain rights to homosexuals, among which are: expanding healthcare, fair housing and employment, wrongful death rights, etc. Notice that neither marriage, nor civil unions are listed among the changes sought by this, and similar bills. In addition, Elder L. Whitney Clayton, a member of the church's Presidency of the Seventy stated that "...in general, the church "does not oppose civil unions or domestic partnerships," that involve benefits like health insurance and property rights. So where does the justification for Buttars delight in killing these bills come from? Certainly not from LDS doctrine.

Homosexuality is a moral issue, that is now being debated as a civil issue. From the LDS church's point of view it is a sin, but the sinner is still a child of God, and a member of society with all the rights to worshipping "how where and what they may" (Articles of Faith #11). Chris Buttars does not speak for the church, nor do his comments represent the teachings of the church. It is the very content of his comments that deserve explanation and consequence, as they are not in line with civil liberties.

The second question is in regard to Chris Buttars' right to free speech. We can not, and must not, interpret Freedom of Speech with the right to say or do anything we want. It is not absolute and there are (thankfully) limitations against things such as "hate speech," pornography, and the "offense principal." Obviously, the response to the various form or context of speech is individual and subjective, and therefore must be decided upon by the each respective society. Kissing in public for example is acceptable, while public sex (although it technically is protected under "free speech") is not condoned in the United States or any other society I am aware of. So, while Buttars does have the right to say whatever he wants, he must accept and be aware of the association and implication of his statements. Such responsibility is true of everybody in all situations, but is exceptionally true of a public figure in a society where "private" statements are rapidly disseminated. Buttars must take responsibility for his words, his actions, and his flawed ideology. If he is not self-sufficient or self-motivated to do so, then his constituency, the Republican Party, and the government must take action.


Jacob S. said...

Nicely put, SO. The freedom of speech does not give you freedom from the consequences of your speech. No one is saying that Buttars doesn't have a right to say inflammatory things on a regular basis, we are saying that this is not the conduct we expect or want from our elected officials and the consequence should be that he resigns.

Iliana said...

Really, are you gonna devote this blog to Buttars? A man of little consequence who IN PRIVATE mind you says idiotic things. I agree with his consequences. I think they are fitting and for the right reasons. Hopefully his constituents will vote differently at reelection. Maybe they wont. For pete's sakes the adultering Pres. Clinton who LIED PUBLICLY remained the pres of the whole USA. Let Buttars alone to his sad life. There are bigger issues at hand. Buttars isn't the only one who shot down CGI. Move on... I'd like to hear something different from you lovely democratic mormons.

Andrew said...

Well, I'll stand up for why things like this are important -- do Republican Mormons want any say in the national party?

I'm not a Republican (or a Democrat, but I've voted for Democrats mostly in the last few elections), but for the sake of the Republican party and Mormons in it there needs to be some sanity. Guys like Buttars demonstrate to the world that Republican Mormons are morons. They align Republican Mormons with their cruder Republican brethren from the South who, not coincidentally, played an important role in killing Mitt's chances at being President.

And herein lies the important dynamic -- the national Republican party loves the Mormon vote, but doesn't want Mormons in leadership. Could any of the LDS Republican members of the House or Senate ever credibly vie for leadership within the national party? And yet they are acting like singing in the choir will get them appointed as choir director.

Huntsman seems to get this; the national Republican party hasn't done their Mormon supporters any favors other than providing fuzzy feelings by kinda sorta aligning on key issues and throwing a largely symbolic bone here and there. Half the national Republican leadership are probably tied to the publishing houses that still churn out anti-Mormon literature quicker than the Zimbabwe government prints new money. They are not your friends, and when people like Buttars act that way the only thing they get is irrelevance. For the dignity's sake Utah Republicans should show some backbone and answer to their better lights.

Iliana said...

FYI I'm not saying discussing Buttars' remarks is unimportant, just not super important in my book. He did nothing illegal, so let his consituancy do their bidding. There are morons everywhere, in every state, in every legislature. I don't let one person's remarks cloud my opinions of everyone else who is somehow labeled the same as he/she. I think Palosi is a huge idoit but I wouldn't presume that every other democrat thinks exactly the same as she, that every Catholic is fine with abortion, or that any Californian shares her same platform. As far as R Mormon's being dismissed for national party leadership because of people like Buttars, I don't think so. One, there isn't a whole lotta strong Rep Mormon leadership thats worth anything, and two, they'd be carrying around the Utah tag. Politically, Utah's pretty limp. Kinda like the Jazz; who gives a crud about them except those living here. Go ahead, keep discussing Buttars, I don't care. I was just letting Jake know I'm interested in what he has to say about other issues too.

Jacob S. said...

Iliana, I get what you are saying and trust me, we've got a lot of non-Buttars content coming. But this Buttars thing has has captured Utah's attention and a lot of people are interested in it. If it was just Buttars running his big mouth it'd be one thing, but the open support for his actions by the legislature as a whole is what is fascinating to me. I think it says a lot about the Utah Republican Party. And I won't lie, I get a fair amount of pleasure sticking it to the Utah legislature once in a while. Thanks for reading.

Andrew said...

'As far as R Mormon's being dismissed for national party leadership because of people like Buttars, I don't think so. One, there isn't a whole lotta strong Rep Mormon leadership thats worth anything, and two, they'd be carrying around the Utah tag. Politically, Utah's pretty limp.'

I think you misunderstood what I was getting at. Comments like Buttar's are par for the course with national Republicans and it sounds to me like he's singing their song. I feel like Utah Republicans say stuff like this partly in an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the national party. And my point is it's not worth it -- the national Republican party and leadership do not have the best interests of Mormon Republicans in mind.

I think Utah's "limpness" politically is due in part to the Republican leadership taking Utah's Republican-leaning nature for granted. In other words, despite being in the pocket for Republicans for years, what has Utah (or, more specifically, Utah Republicans) gotten out of the deal? If Republicans in Utah stopped marching in lockstep so often with the national party and, instead, forced the party to stop taking their support for granted, then perhaps they could strengthen their political hand.

I still probably wouldn't vote for them, but it just amazes me that both Utah Republican politicians and voters don't seem to get that they're being dealt a losing hand. The same thing is true of Mormon Republicans everywhere; I just use Mormon Republicans in Utah as an example because they have, relatively speaking, a fair amount of political power.