Thursday, October 19, 2006

The LDS Church responds to Globe article

From The National Journal. The LDS Church responds:

October 19, 2006

LDS Church Responds To Boston Globe, Romney

An official of the LDS Church sent us a response to this morning's Boston Globe article on Gov. Mitt Romney's meetings with church officials in Salt Lake City.

Michael Otterson, the LDS's director of media relations, also said that the church sent a letter to its stakes and wards last week reminding them of their obligation to be politically neutral. Otterson said the letter was a standard election-year communication.

In its edition of October 19, 2006, the Boston Globe ran two lengthy stories relating to Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and what it described as actions of some of his supporters in seeking financial and organizational help from members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In its reports, the Globe failed to make the significant distinction that Church members are found across the political spectrum and are entitled as citizens to support any candidate of their choice, from any party, and to act and vote accordingly and even to raise money if they wish. This is no way contravenes the institutional neutrality of the Church itself in party politics, and the Church's avoidance of anything that looks like an endorsement.

The Globe several times refers to "documents" which it never describes or explains. Despite the Church's request that the Globe be forthcoming and allow the Church to respond to issues raised in the documents, the Globe would not provide them. Nevertheless, the newspaper makes frequent references to these non-attributed documents as the source for its stories.

In its communications with the Globe, the Church public affairs office emphasized these points:

The First Presidency of the Church has no connection or involvement whatever with the campaign or activities of any politician or candidate.

A meeting in the office of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Council of Twelve and three supporters of Governor Romney was a routine response of a Church leader to a request for a courtesy visit, and not a meeting to decide fund-raising tactics for a candidate. There had been no prior discussion of an agenda. It should be noted that there is a continual stream of visitors to Church headquarters. Church leaders hold many courtesy visits with representatives of different parts of the community.

In the meeting in question, Elder Holland reiterated the well-known Church policy of party political neutrality. (That policy has again been reiterated as recently as today, following the Globe article).

Both the Church and Brigham Young University act under strict guidelines of remaining neutral in party political matters. A letter sent by leaders of the BYU Management Society was counter to these guidelines and was promptly dealt with by the university when it became known. This matter had already been corrected before the Boston Globe began its inquiries with the Church and Brigham Young University.

The Church goes to considerable lengths to emphasize to its members the institutional neutrality of the Church on partisan matters, including sending out a letter to be read from every pulpit before elections.

Party-political neutrality does not preclude the Church from speaking out as it feels necessary on public issues, such as pornography and gambling, or from expressing a view on such topics as same-gender marriage.

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