In an effort to create an issue where none to date exists, the executive vice chairman of Overstock.com (headquartered in Salt Lake City) is forming a political action committee to protect churches from the onslaught of marriage equality. Specifically, Johnson wants to ensure that churches do not have to perform same-sex weddings if they don’t want to.
“I’m surprised that anyone thinks that the government should force religions to do things,” he told the Deseret News. “But because the religious liberties issue today is so tied to the same-sex marriage issue, I can see why it’s a sore spot for people.”
Johnson’s committee, First Freedom PAC, sprung to life in the wake of the Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA. Johnson wants to amend the state constitution to ban any requirement that churches marry same-sex couples.
The problem is that Johnson is raising money on the basis of a red herring. Every state that has marriage equality has provisions exempting churches from performing marriages if they don’t want to. Why Utah would need to amend its constitution to enshrine that ban is a mystery.
Except that Johnson’s comments were made to the newspaper owned by the Mormon Church, in response to a survey that showed 57% of Utah residents oppose marriage equality. Johnson (and presumably the Church) are freaked out that a small percentage of respondents thought that church’s should follow civil law.
“It makes me feel like if a same-gender couple goes to an orthodox Jewish rabbi and says, ‘Marry us in your synagogue,’ the 22 percent would say he has to say yes,” Johnson said.
Just as interesting is the comparison between the Mormon-owned paper’s poll and the secular Salt Lake Tribune. The Tribune’s poll, published a few days before the Deseret News’, had the state evenly split on marriage equality, 48% to 48%.
So who are you going to believe? Well, here’s one tip off: the Tribune quoted both supporters and opponents of marriage equality in its story. The Deseret News provided advertorial for Johnson and no corresponding response from the pro-equality side.
Photo credit: Overstock.com