WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The Mormon church is taking a hard-line stance against gay couples and their children.
A new policy is making same-sex couples who get married apostates and barring their children from being baptized. Apostasy is defined as a “renunciation of a religious faith.”
The Salt Lake City Tribune reports the policies are part of “Handbook 1” for lay leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“While [the church] respects the law of the land and acknowledges the right of others to think and act differently, it does not perform or accept same-sex marriage within its membership,” church spokesman Eric Hawkins told The Tribune in a statement.
The U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage over the summer.
The Mormon church doctrine considers marriage an institution created by God that can only occur between one man and one woman, however church leaders previously said members are allowed to support gay marriage.
This new policy allows same-sex couples to be disciplined by the church. The Tribune reports the policy also states children of gay couples are not allowed to be baptized, confirmed, ordained to the priesthood, or conduct missionary service unless they get permission from the faith’s highest leaders, known as the First Presidency.
If a child wants to get permission, a request must be made through a mission president and requirements must be met. The child must commit to living church doctrine and “specifically disavow the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage,” is 18 “and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage,” The Tribune reports.
Last month, high-ranking Mormon leader M. Russell Ballard reiterated the religion’s commitment to promoting families led by married heterosexual couples at a conservative conference, but also urged attendees not to shun those with opposing views.
Ballard is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He spoke to about 3,000 attendees at the World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City.
LGBT advocates consider the World Congress of Families to be a hateful, dangerous group that espouses anti-gay rhetoric and legislation around the globe. World Congress leaders say critics are distorting facts to defame the organization.
“Society and law and popular opinion may change, but we know that society’s version of the family cannot and will not substitute for God’s purpose,” Ballard said. “We must rally all the support we can to strengthen and protect our faith, families and freedom. Some are actively trying to strip of us these rights.”
Ballard followed the religion’s “fairness for all” approach in telling conference attendees during his keynote speech that they should extend a hand of fellowship to opponents in an attempt to find common ground even when core differences remain.
He used as an example the Mormon-backed Utah law passed this year that provided protections against housing and employment discrimination for LGBT people while also creating shields for religious freedom. Ballard, third in line for the Mormon Church presidency, said the negotiations between Mormon officials, legislators and LGBT groups reduced divisiveness in the community.
“We cannot and should not shun those who look or think or act differently than we do,” Ballard said. “We demonstrate our best humanity when we show love and kindness to all God’s children. We demonstrate our discipleship when we refuse strident tones, when we refuse derisive labels and when we enter the public square seeking fair outcomes through understanding and mutual respect.”
Ballard’s speech came after World Congress of Families Executive Director Janice Crouse opened the four-day event by calling it a pivotal moment in the world with marriage rates declining and young people waiting longer to wed.
Crouse said marriages between a man and a woman are foundations of societies. She argued married men work harder than unmarried men. They also earn more money and make better decisions, such as drinking less alcohol. Married women are safer and healthier, Crouse said.
“Marriage is the social glue that binds people together,” Crouse said. “We are gathered here … to flex our biceps as we work together across our various cultural differences to create a world where positive messages about the value of family will prevail.”
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