An independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin criticized Republican Donald Trump on Monday over an automated call in Utah from a white nationalist supporter who calls McMullin a “closet homosexual” and “open-borders amnesty supporter.”
McMullin responded with a series of strongly worded tweets — calling it another “desperate attack” spreading “baseless lies” by Trump and his “racist supporters as he continues to lose ground in Utah.” He said the attack is consistent with Trump’s “bigoted, deceitful campaign and vision for America. Utahns won’t be fooled.”
White nationalist William Johnson said the call will go out Monday night through Wednesday to 193,000 voters in Utah, where polls show McMullin is threatening Trump amid widespread backlash against the brash billionaire among the mostly Mormon electorate.
McMullin has been embraced by many Republican-leaning voters who are steeped in Utah’s culture of courtesy and fed up with Trump’s crudeness and antics. If McMullin prevailed, he would be the first non-GOP candidate to win the state since 1964.
In the 40-second call, Johnson introduces himself as a “farmer and white nationalist.” He says McMullin is OK with legalizing gay marriage and with the fact that he “has two mommies,” a reference to McMullin’s mother marrying a woman after divorcing his father. He also questions McMullin’s relationship status.
“Evan is 40 years old and is not married and doesn’t even have a girlfriend,” Johnson says. “I think he is a closet homosexual.”
McMullin, a Mormon, told the Salt Lake Tribune that he knows people wonder why he has not married, considering many in his religion marry in their early 20s. He said his 11-year career in the CIA made it difficult to date and that he hopes to marry and become a father soon.
On same-sex marriage, McMullin said he believes marriages between a man and a woman are best for society but he respects the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing gay marriage.
Williams’ call is a “false and revolting” call that “smears Evan McMullin’s private life,” his campaign strategist Joel Searby said in a statement.
“Donald Trump has mainstreamed and normalized white nationalists, xenophobes, and bigots of all descriptions,” Searby said.
Trump has faced criticism in the past for retweeting posts from the accounts of white supremacists and failing to immediately denounce the support of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke.
Johnson is among white supremacists who have credited Trump with invigorating their cause. He said in a phone interview that Trump had nothing to do with the call, which is designed to show Utah voters that McMullin is a “faulty” candidate.
Regarding Johnson’s allegations on immigration policy, McMullin says he’s against amnesty and advocates more agents, technology and walls in some places to secure the border. He also backs a path to earned citizenship for those in the country illegally after the borders are more secure.
In the past two years, Nathan Kitchen has revealed to his five children that he’s gay, gone through a divorce with his wife and grappled with how to stay in a religion that doesn’t condone his lifestyle.
Now comes the toughest task: Telling his children he could be kicked out of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints if he someday marries a man, and warning his two youngest, 11 and 15, that they might be barred from serving a mission under new church rules.
“It’s almost like they now have to choose between a gay father and a church that they love,” said Kitchen, a 47-year-old dentist from Gilbert, Arizona. “This is almost too much to bear.”
The changes to the Mormon handbook — disseminated this week to local church leaders around the world — say being in a same-sex marriage warrants ousting from the religion and that children of gay parents must wait until they’re 18 and disavow homosexual relationships to be baptized.
The revisions triggered a wave of anger, confusion and sadness for a growing faction of LGBT-supportive Mormons who were buoyed in recent years by church leaders’ calls for more love and understanding for LGBT members.
Mormon officials said the goal was to provide clarity to lay leaders who run congregations. The religion has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages, church spokesman Eric Hawkins noted.
In a video interview posted late Friday night on a church website, Mormon leader D. Todd Christofferson said the changes were prompted by questions that have risen since the U.S. Supreme Court made gay marriage legal throughout the United States.
He said the church considers same-sex marriage a particularly egregious sin that requires mandatory church discipline.
“There was the need for a distinction to be made between what may be legal and what may be the law of the church and the law of the Lord,” said Christofferson, a member of the religion’s governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “It’s a matter of being clear. It’s a matter of understanding right and wrong. It’s a matter of a firm policy that doesn’t allow for question and doubt.”
Christofferson said the revisions are meant to protect children from being torn between their parents’ teachings of those of the church. If they choose to be baptized as adults, there’s time for an informed and conscious decision, he said.
The new rules stipulate that children of parents in gay or lesbian relationships — be it marriage or just living together — can no longer receive blessings as infants or be baptized around age 8. They can be baptized and serve missions once they turn 18, but only if they:
— Disavow the practice of same-sex relationships.
— No longer live with gay parents.
— Get approval from their local leader and the highest leaders at church headquarters in Salt Lake City.
The church views these acts as promises to follow its doctrine that bind people to the faith.
Scott Gordon, president of FairMormon, a volunteer organization that supports the church, said he understands why some find the changes jarring and consider them mean-spirited toward children.
But he believes they’re intended to protect gay couples and their families by allowing the kids to mature and make the difficult decision at 18 about whether to become fully invested in a religion that holds as a root tenant that their parents’ lifestyle is a sin.
“The idea of family is not just a peripheral issue in the Mormon church. It’s core doctrine. It’s a central idea that we can be sealed together as a family and live together eternally,” Gordon said. “That only works with heterosexual couples.”
The changes align with the way the church addresses children in polygamous families, Christofferson said in the video.
That fact wasn’t lost on Mormons interpreting the new rules. “I am no better now than an illegal polygamist,” Kitchen said.
The handbook revisions also for the first time list being in a same-sex relationship as an offense that can lead to being ousted from the religion. This is a category known as apostasy, which until now has been reserved primarily for people who practice polygamy, teach inaccurate doctrine or publicly defy guidance to church leaders.
Last month, two high-ranking church leaders delivered speeches that gave LGBT advocates hope that the faith was moving toward greater acceptance. The leaders reiterated the religion’s commitment to promoting families led by married heterosexual couples, but it also urged people not to shun those with opposing views.
That message of “fairness of all” appeared to distance the faith from the blowback that came when it was a major backer of California’s gay marriage ban in 2008.
Some find the new rules contradictory to these recent church messages, including guidance from a church website created in 2012 to urge more compassion for LGBT people. On it, the church says: “With love and understanding, the church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
“It feels like they are extending an olive branch and hitting you with it,” said Wendy Montgomery, who is Mormon and has a 17-year-old gay son. “It’s like this emotional whiplash.”
Montgomery is in the legion of Mormons who have grown more accepting of homosexuality in recent years. But the acceptance rates still put the religion among the least accepting among major religions, a new survey from the Pew Research Center shows. In the survey done last year, 36 percent of Mormons said homosexuality should be accepted by society. That’s up from 24 percent in 2007, the last time Pew conducted its U.S. Religious Landscape Study.
Support for gay marriage is lower, with just 25 percent of Latter-day Saints approving such unions.
Montgomery said news of the new rules left her son sobbing and forced her and her husband to consider leaving a religion they’ve been desperately trying to stay in, despite a harsh reception to their son coming out.
Montgomery echoed a response shared by many on social media: She can somewhat understand the hard stance on same-sex marriage, but she can’t comprehend singling out gay couples’ children.
“We just put a scarlet letter on these kids,” Montgomery said. “This isn’t my church. I don’t see God in it. I don’t see divinity it. It just feels evil.”
While finding that Americans narrowly favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, a new Associated Press-GfK poll also shows most believe wedding-related businesses should be allowed to deny service to same-sex couples for religious reasons.
Roughly half the country also thinks local officials and judges with religious objections ought to be exempt from any requirement that they issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, according to the poll.
That view of the same-sex marriage issue echoes that of the Mormon church. Last week, the church called on state legislatures to pass new laws that protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination but also to protect the rights of those who assert their religious beliefs.
David Kenney, a self-employed Catholic from Novi, Michigan, said he’s fine with same-sex marriage being legal. He’s among the 57 percent of Americans who said wedding-related businesses — such as florists — should be allowed to refuse service if they have an objection rooted in their religion.
“Why make an issue out of one florist when there are probably thousands of florists?” asked Kenney, 59. “The gay community wants people to understand their position, but at the same time, they don’t want to understand other people’s religious convictions. It’s a two-way street.”
Kenney isn’t alone. About a quarter of those who favor legal same-sex marriage also favor religious exemptions for those who issue marriage licenses, the poll finds, and a third say wedding-related businesses should be allowed to refuse service.
Geri Rice, who lives near San Francisco and works in law firm management, strongly favors gay marriage. She’s torn about whether a public official with religious objections should be exempt from issuing a license but says she believes that business owners should be allowed to tell somebody no thanks.
“I don’t like it,” Rice said, “but I think they have the right.”
Whether a business can refuse service to someone is a matter of federal, state and local law. National gay-rights groups called the idea of trying to carve out religious exemptions in anti-discrimination statues, such as those proposed by leaders of the Mormon church, deeply flawed.
James Esseks, who directs the LGBT project of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom “does not give any of us the right to harm others, and that’s what it sounds like the proposal from the Mormon church would do.”
The poll found that 44 percent of Americans favor and 39 percent oppose legal same-sex marriage in their own states, while 15 percent expressed no opinion. But the country is evenly divided, 48 percent to 48 percent, on which way the Supreme Court should rule when it decides the issue for the entire nation this spring.
Gay marriage is legal in 36 states because of a flurry of recent federal court decisions.
In Utah County, south of Salt Lake City, clerk Bryan Thompson says he has strong personal opinions on same-sex marriage, but he doesn’t think those should influence how he performs his duties. His office initially waited to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in December 2013 after a federal judge in Utah struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage. Thompson said he had wanted more legal guidance from the state.
“I have a responsibility as a civil servant to follow the dictates of the law, regardless of my personal feelings or preferences,” Thompson said.
The AP-GfK Poll of 1,045 adults was conducted online Jan. 29-Feb. 2, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.
Swanson reported from Washington.
AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com
Follow Emily Swanson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/EL_Swan
The Mormon church is addressing the mystery that has long surrounded undergarments worn by its faithful with a new video explaining the practice in-depth while admonishing ridicule from outsiders about what it considers a symbol of Latter-day Saints’ devotion to God.
The four-minute video on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ website compares the white, two-piece cotton “temple garments” to holy vestments worn in other religious faiths such as a Catholic nun’s habit or a Muslim skullcap.
The footage is part of a recent effort by the Salt Lake City-based religion to explain, expand or clarify on some of the faith’s more sensitive beliefs. Articles posted on the church’s website in the past two years have addressed the faith’s past ban on black men in the lay clergy; its early history of polygamy; and the misconception that members are taught they’ll get their own planet in the afterlife.
The latest video dispels the notion that Latter-day Saints believe temple garments have special protective powers, a stereotype perpetuated on the Internet and in popular culture by those who refer to the sacred clothing as “magical Mormon underwear.”
“These words are not only inaccurate but also offensive to members,” the video says. “There is nothing magical or mystical about temple garments, and church members ask for the same degree of respect and sensitivity that would be afforded to any other faith by people of goodwill.”
The video and accompanying article feature more detailed information about the garments than has ever before been released to the public, Mormon scholars say.
It was made to fill a void on the Internet, which has little, if any, accurate information about the undergarments, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement.
The video, also available on YouTube, explains that the undergarments are worn daily by devout adult Latter-day Saints as a reminder of their commitment to God to live good, honorable lives.
The garments, which resemble a T-shirt and shorts, are shown laid out on a table in what marks a rare public glimpse at clothing that normally is hidden from outsiders. Members are taught not to hang the garments in public places to dry or display them in view of people “who do not understand their significance.”
The video comes two years after jabs about the undergarments were lobbed at Mitt Romney in 2012 with the intent to damage his candidacy as the first Mormon presidential nominee of a major political party.
At one point during the campaign, New York Times columnist Charles Blow tweeted, “I’m a single parent and my kids are amazing! Stick that in your magic underwear,” after Romney decried the country’s rate of out-of-wedlock births.
The video’s focus on the offensiveness of flippant remarks about the undergarments shows the church no longer will tolerate them, Armand Mauss, a retired professor of sociology and religious studies at Washington State University.
The church has some 15 million members worldwide.
Latter-day Saints seem pleased by the refreshing transparency from the church on a topic that has been the source of much curiosity among outsiders, some whom are rude about it, said Jana Riess, who blogs about Mormonism for the Religion News Service.
She wrote this week that she hopes the footage will “persuade gawkers that there’s nothing to see here, folks.”
“They now have something official to point to if people ask questions,” Riess said in an interview. “I love that they put it on YouTube for the entire world to see. I think that’s very brave.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, http://bit.ly/11O8Hmq