Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why Does My State Have A Law Preventing Me From Holding Public Office?

Texas Longhorns

                I have never considered politics as a serious career option.  I have always held an optimistic view of what public servants can accomplish and given my diverse background, I’ve always thought I could add something to the public sphere.  I am an agnostic with a Mormon family and Hindu in-laws; respecting religious differences is a part of my day-to-day life.  I understand what it means to worry about paying for college and what it means to grow up in a family without money or connections.  Watching my husband – a very remarkable individual – navigate the murky immigration system of this country has given me a deeper sympathy for the realities of immigrant life.  I have a deep respect for education; I believe no individual should be held back from pursuing educational opportunities because of an inability to pay.  I am a wife, a daughter, a neighbor, an intellectual, and a dreamer.  I am, at my core, an American; I believe that people should be given the opportunities to work hard and succeed in life.  However, there is the reality of being elected; I have never considered myself to be a serious candidate for public office. 
Why then, does it hurt so much to find out that the state I live in has a clause in their state constitution that bans a person like me – a nontheist – from holding public office?  Article 1, Section 4 of the Texas Constitution states “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.” 
So, in theory, if I were to run for public office in Texas and win, I would be required to acknowledge the presence of a Supreme Being.  I am an agnostic; I don’t know if there is a higher power or not.  I do, however, believe that lying is wrong.  I cannot see myself acknowledging something that I do not believe to be true.  In my mind, that is a lie. 
Throughout my life, there have been many obstacles to becoming the person that I am today.  As a girl being raised in the Mormon faith, I was told not to dream of higher education or a career; as a woman, becoming a mother and a housewife was my duty in life.  As someone who decided to leave the Mormon Church, I ran up against the many prejudices against people who make the decision to leave.  As the seventh child in a lower middle class family, I had to fight to make it through college without financial assistance from my parents.  This fight was ultimately successful through a combination of hard work and the generosity of scholarships. 
For every road-block in life, there was a solution available to me.  I spent a lot of time thinking about who I was and what I believed in; when I figured out the answer, I acted in a manner that was true to who I am as a person, in spite of the negative consequences.  But never, in all of my years, have I come up against a law that specifically bans someone of my beliefs from a career choice.  And that is what hurts the most; that the state I have chosen to reside in has taken the official stance that, as a non-theist, I am not capable or worthy of holding public office. 
I may never be in a position where this law becomes an issue.  However, I can verify that there are many other non-theists out there who can contribute to the public sphere in a valuable and lasting manner.  Why is my state banning them from holding public office?  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mormon Editor - And Romney Critic - Faces Excommunication

          David Twede - managing editor of the website MormonThink and a Mormon in good standing - is now facing an excommunication hearing on September 30th as a result of a series of articles he wrote discussing Mitt Romney’s faith, along with the intersection of Mormonism and politics. MormonThink is a website written by active members of the Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints – commonly referred to as Mormons -who are seeking to create an open dialogue about Mormon history. Their mission statement is:

[To promote] Education and openness of our religion's unique history and heritage. If people want to learn about the true historical issues of the church, that they won't hear about in Sunday School, they can learn about them here. We aren't afraid to discuss the tough issues. We hope to make the church we grew up in a better place by making it more honest.

Our goal would be that no knowledgeable member should have to be afraid to speak the truth in church to avoid offending a naive member with the truth about polygamy, the BOM translation process, Masonry, or any other historical aspect of the Church. We want the Church leaders to be 100% open and honest with the members so we can be 100% open and honest with our children, families, friends, investigators and fellow members.

          By necessity, the MormonThink authors have to remain anonymous. In 1992, the Mormon Church excommunicated or dis-fellowshipped six prominent intellectuals, known as the September Six, for publishing scholarly works that were not aligned with the Mormon Church’s official teachings. This was a prominent example, however, over the years there have been other examples of sanctions taken against member. Grant Palmer, who spent 34 years working as an educator for the Church Education System, was dis-fellowshipped for publishing the book “An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins” and later forced to resign under threat of excommunication. Although the accuracy of these scholarly works have not been questioned the issue is the fact that these books paint the early history of Mormonism in a manner that is not faith-promoting. Boyd K. Packer, who is the acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, has stated "Some things that are true are not very useful." In this spirit, the Mormon Church seeks to preserve the faith of their members at the cost of historical accuracy. Members are instructed to only read history that has been sanctioned by the Church; all other sources are thought to be Satan’s way of leading the faithful astray.
          There are two articles that lead to David Twede being threatened with excommunication. One article is titled “The History Of LDS Politics”, which delves into the relationship the Mormon Church has had with politics, Prop 8 being only a small blip on a long history of political interference. The second article that is sparking controversy is titled “Mitt Romney’s Faith”, which discusses his beliefs as a Mormon.
          David Twede has made the following statement on his blog concerning the matter:

“Open and honest dialogue will allow members to choose, according to their agency, whether these facts are too troubling or in the end, humanizing. What do I mean? If we learn that the prophets are just as human, just as weak as we are, perhaps we will not feel anxious about our imperfections. Perhaps we will be more at ease in the church and more tolerant. Yes, I believe an honest view of Joseph Smith's weaknesses and by opening the facts it will bring love and tolerance to the wider membership of the church because they will lose their need to feel inadequate about imperfections in themselves and others. The Mormon Church needs to jettison Perfection Syndrome.

That is Christianity at its best, I think.”

          MormonThink is a valuable resource; the website is run by active Mormons and gives members the opportunity to learn about the full history of their faith in an honest and balanced manner. The editors strive to approach the issues from all possible angles, allowing both sides of the story to be heard.


MormonThink: an excellent resource on the history of the Mormon Church

David Twede's blog, where he discusses his pending excommunication hearing and the events leading up to matter

The History Of LDS Politics: A full accounting of the intersection of the Mormon Church and political matters

Mitt Romney's Faith: The specifics of Romney's beliefs as a Mormon