It didn’t result in blows like the recent Jerusalem brawl between Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks, but another event this month reminded me that religion is a strange master. At an awards breakfast last week, this paper was honored with an achievement award in the “lifestyle” category from the Downtown Alliance. Judging by the response to the City Weekly award-acceptance video, I think some wished we weren’t there.
Truth is, we do support editorially and financially damned near every event that happens downtown, and we maintain an office on Main Street, so I suppose they couldn’t ignore us forever. We were honestly grateful. All went well until Bruce Bingham of Hamilton Partners (which is constructing the new 222 Main building near our office) rose to present the annual report to alliance members. Uh-oh.
Out of the blue, Bingham announced he was breaking protocol—because he could—and launched into a prayer. It was plain this was odd behavior. Heads turned. Bodies shifted uncomfortably. Yet, Bingham droned on. If you grew up in Utah, you’ve heard that prayer before—Bingham was delivering what many people call “The Mormon Prayer.” Without any deference to other Orthodox like myself in the room who don’t pray sitting down or to Catholics who didn’t know if they should perform the sign of the cross, or to atheists who could only shake their heads, Bingham continued unabated. When he ended with “in the name of Jesus Christ,” it was obvious Bingham was oblivious that a Jew might actually be an alliance member. By all accounts, this was not a Downtown Alliance way of conducting business.
It was the day after Election Day. Was Bingham’s prayer spawned by just 30 percent occupancy in the 222 building? Was it because Bingham is fearful of an Obama America? Was it because the results were not finalized on California’s Proposition 8, a cause that Bingham supported to the tune of $500? Did City Weekly bring too many women to his breakfast? Who knows? Bingham’s public exhibition of his own faith only reminds us that we are of little consequence to people like him. Hopefully, his actions weren’t tacitly condoned by the LDS leadership also at the awards breakfast. But for how long can the LDS Church claim to rise above the fray by simply saying they only spiritually advise their flock, but are not responsible for their flock’s actions?
For example, the LDS Church leadership must have conducted some risk analysis before launching into its open and active support of California’s Proposition 8. While they contributed financially within their legal bounds, they also strongly encouraged LDS Church members to help fight against gay marriage. LDS Church leaders surely knew there would be a whiplash. Now, moves are afoot that not only lay the blame on the LDS for Proposition 8’s passage, but also on all Utahns in the form of boycotts of our state and LDS-owned businesses.
Trouble is, all Utahns aren’t to blame, nor are all Mormons. According to donor lists compiled by Associated Press regarding Proposition 8, only 562 Utahns donated money in support of that ballot measure. That doesn’t stop some people for wanting to take it out on Utah, though. Up in Seattle, Dan Savage, sex columnist and editor of the Seattle Stranger, who is gay, is calling for an outright Utah spending ban. Savage thinks a boycott is going to teach Utah and the LDS Church a lesson. He says he’s skiing in Colorado this year. Mysteriously, he’s not boycotting California.
Uh, Danny boy—ever heard of Jim Dobson and his Focus on the Family Forum? That Colorado Springs-based group generated over a quarter-million dollars to support Proposition 8, so enjoy the bad snow. A nonspecific call to boycott is never effective and is fraught with misdirected fire—like the last time Savage was pissed at Utah in 1996. Then, high-schooler Kelli Peterson boldly stood up for her rights against the Salt Lake City School District that banned her gay/straight alliance at East High School. Our paper was about to host the annual convention of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, but some members believed Utah was not a place welcoming to gays and called for a boycott. I called them chicken. They came, and they were embarrassed and enlightened. Peterson spoke to them leaving little doubt who was the bravest of them all. If Savage really cared, he’d be down here marching with our local gay community, tireless in its efforts to educate the public on gay issues, not just tossing spitballs from some liberal safe haven.
A Utah boycott hurts the very people Savage claims to speak for. A great deal of tourist dollars spent here go to the club, restaurant or the entertainment industries—each of which provides ownership and gainful employment for a large number of gays and lesbians. Those persons shop with and support gay merchants and business people. Combined, they all choose to live in Utah where they stand and speak up for their causes in the heart of conservative—if not hypocritical—America. If you must, Dan, start your boycott in your own home state, or against specific entities—boycotting Utah does not boycott the LDS Church. The important work is being done on the streets of Utah, and Dan Savage is nowhere to be found. Imagine Martin Luther King Jr. not marching in Selma.
If you’re a fan of Savage’s column, you won’t find it on our Website any longer. Go to his Website or the Stranger’s, but since Savage hates Utah so much, there’s no point in us playing in his sandbox by sending him a regular check. In the end, it only costs him a couple of Colorado ski runs. Tell Dobson hello, Dan.