Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Witty Response to BYU's Removal of Same-Sex Marriage Greeting Cards

by Brig Bagley

28 August 2014

A satirical blog that pokes at much of BYU and Mormon ways put out a response to BYU's anti-gay-marriage message of removing the gay marriage greeting cards from its bookstore. 

Hopefully you can laugh at its references as it pokes fun at both sides from different angles.  

The blog post is here:

Both Sides of Gay Marriage want US Supreme Court to Hear Case


by Brig Bagley

28 August 2014

Virginia and Oklahoma are two other states in line with Utah for the US Supreme Court. Each state has received confirmation from their respective federal district courts that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. Although the appeals to the US Supreme Court are coming from the SSM opponents, supporters believe that the highest court is the best vehicle to finally decide the issue for the entire nation. Given the record as of yet, it would not be surprising if it is in favor of SSM.

There hasn't been one federal ruling against gay marriage since the end of DOMA in 2012. There have been several split decisions, however, with one dissenting opinion opposing SSM. Although the dissents are muffled in the exclamations of joy in the decisions, conservatives and the religious clutch to and praise the few dissents that occur throughout the rulings--hoping that the US Supreme Court reflects those opinions instead.

Several amicus briefs are expected to be filed in order to convince the high court to take the case. Within a week, the plaintiff's brief is due. Utah's was extended for a month. At the end of September, high court justices will start reading the petitions for the case. It will decide whether to take the case sometime in October, a decision that only takes 4 justices to approve.

Read more here:

Friday, August 22, 2014

LDS Church Uses Internet to Proselyte, Monitor

by Brig Bagley

22 August 2014

The Mormons hardly dictate where the world and its society shifts. That is why it so often changes so many of its practices and policies--to mold to and to take advantage of what society has to offer. The explosion of the internet and social media is one example where the church first warned of, but now has embraced. Using its hired expertise of LDS lawyers, advertisers, and businessmen, church leaders have now exacted policies to incorporate electronic tools for proselyting. Half of missionaries today carry only a tablet instead of scriptures, not to mention a cellphone--both of which I would have been sent home for possessing. The unsaid other usage of the internet and social media is to monitor the activities of members' personal lives.

During the Kate Kelly and John Dehlin excommunication stories, I explored a few examples where members of the church were snitched on and disciplined for their opinions online. The church still uses the temple interview question #7:

"Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?"

This question was confusing, but easy for me when I answered it years ago. I didn't know why I would belong to a group that would teach things the church opposed. But looking back, this question is so sweeping and general, it basically incriminates you for being a mere friend of someone gay, feminist, atheist, etc. You cannot support your gay friends. You cannot affiliate with a feminist group. You cannot agree with a friend drinking, smoking, or getting tattoos. Basically, you can't leave your Mormon bubble, or they'll make sure you don't get back in.

Kevin Kloosterman tweeted his congratulations to the first same-sex couple married in Utah. He was a Bishop in the past. But when his Bishop found out about the tweet, his access to LDS temples was revoked. Just one simple tweet.

Several other members have been removed from their callings (their "jobs" in the church, such as a teacher, pianist, or leader) for their opinions on their blogs, Facebook posts, and the likes. Some members have been excommunicated, like Kate Kelly, founder of "Ordain Women". Kelly was certainly more on the radar than others, but local leaders, when informed on their own or other members about inappropriate opinions online, take action to squash it immediately. No free thinking in this church. Or if you do it, don't talk about it.

Sometimes I wonder if my family fears the discipline they would receive by just being supportive of me, an openly gay man--no longer a believer or member of the LDS church. I wonder if they will ever be able to think outside of the box--to love and accept me unconditionally--with the belief that affiliating with someone like me would jeopardize their salvation. I wouldn't be surprised. And it's hurtful. I'm far from the only person estranged from the church that feels that way.

I'm sure I've lost many Facebook friends with some of the many posts I have that are not becoming of an active LDS member.  I've been chastised by former leaders that I used to admire and respect on my posts. At family reunions, I have aunts, uncles, and cousins that consider me a lost soul with no morals now that I've taken a "path off the deep end".

I know I'm getting off topic, but I know this happens within the church for even the most minor infractions. Judging others is a forte for Mormons. It's not taught, it's learned. Ratting another member out for being imperfect is a great way to shift blame and guilt away from yourself. The internet just made it a lot easier.

Read the original article here:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BYU Removes Hallmark's Same-Sex Marriage Greeting Cards

by Brig Bagley

20 August 2014

Hallmark has apparently stared providing two small greeting card sections for weddings of two grooms or two brides, likely due to the growing acceptance and legalization of same-sex marriage in the US.

BYU has a Hallmark Greeting Card Section in its student bookstore, and when the Hallmark stocks-man came to update the shelves, these standard sections were added just like at any other location. 

Up Tuesday of this week, students started posting pictures of the sections in the BYU bookstore, alerting school staff/officials of the addition. The sections were promptly taken down and the situation labelled "an accident". Although BYU will not end its ties to Hallmark, it notified the company that any such cards or similar are to not be sold to the school. 

BYU is operated by the Utah-based LDS Church, which officially opposes same-sex marriage and reprimands any members that support or promote it. It even disciplines members that associate with groups that approve of same-sex marriage. It's not a surprise that it condemned the cards and had them removed from campus. 

Carri Jenkins, a BYU spokesperson, stated, "Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex," it states, "but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings." Students who participate in these behaviors are punished and usually expelled from the school if they don't take steps to repent.

Attraction to people of the same gender is not against the honor code anymore at BYU. But considering this incident and past gay witch hunts at BYU, that policy isn't encouraging anyone to come out anytime soon.

This isn't a surprising story for BYU. In the future, it might suffer alienation for its outdated religious policies.

Utah Seems to Support Non-Discrimination Laws


by Brig Bagley

20 August 2014

Following the survey about Utah's attitudes towards gay marriage, the same polling group released a poll saying that about the same majority of Utahns support non-discrimination legislation in the workplace and in housing with respect to sexual preference.

Some see this as a line dividing what is tolerance versus what is condoning immoral behavior, such as legalizing same-sex marriage.

This result reflects the decrees of the Mormon church, who officially supported non-discrimination in Salt Lake City, but also firmly opposes legislation that makes SSM legal.

This is a positive thought for those in the LGBT community, but there is still a long fight ahead to secure the protections and equality they seek.

Read more here:

Reflections on TV Show: Queer as Folk

by Brig Bagley

20 August 2014

Today I will finish the entire series of "Queer as Folk", a Showtime series that aired from 2000-2005. It features the lives of gay couples, individuals, and their families in Philadelphia. The show covers almost every aspect of homosexuality and its surrounding issues: A P-flag mom, safe-sex, HIV, gay marriage, anti-gay religions, gay clubs, same-sex parents, artificial insemination, drag queens, open relationships, coming out... the list goes on. Several scenes stirred my emotions, from sadness, to pain, to anger. Many, if not most of these issues have come up in my personal life, and I expect the same of most people who are or are or have relationships with LGBT people. 

One scene in particular (spoiler alert!) takes place at a candlelight vigil in memory of people who were killed or hurt in a terrorist event during a fundraiser against a bill that would remove any and all rights to gay couples in Pennsylvania to adopt children, have joint accounts, or even share health benefits. In the midst of the vigil are protesters yelling that the injured should have died, as well as all the others at the terrorist event for defying nature and god by practicing and promoting homosexuality. 

Tempers rose to violence, as you would expect, at the disrespect of the lives of those involved with the hate-crime. 

This isn't that far from reality in some places, especially places like Russia, Uganda, and Provo, UT. 

If you haven't seen Queer as Folk, and you don't mind a more adult-themed drama (this certainly isn't a show for young kids), I would recommend you watch it (available on NetFlix). You will see yourself in at least one of the characters, and will have names of people in your life that fit several other characters. There are also characters you will have wish you had in your life, such as the supportive mother of a gay son, Debbie, and the ever-so-fabulous and honest Emmett.

I'm not so sure what took me so long to watch it, but I can imagine it might have been my Mormon upbringing. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Poll Claims Utah "Clearly" Opposes Gay Marriage

by Brig Bagley

19 August 2014

A poll provided by Zions Bank (owned by the LDS church) put out a survey claiming that the majority of Utah opposes gay marriage.

Although 400 is a big enough number to estimate (statistically) the population, it is very unclear that the sample was a random selection of Utahns.

Another way to look at the accuracy of this survey is LDS activity levels in Utah and to cross-reference with the support of SSM per level. (

Using 2012 stats for LDS Utah, (, 1.9 million members in 4,815 congregations yields 402 members per unit. Any church leader could tell you that 250 in church is a HUGE ward. Even being optimistic, this is only 62% activity.

About 60% of Utah is Mormon ( That includes less/non active Mormon. 62%*60%=37% of Utah is active LDS. So 32% of Utah represents the "majority vote" in this survey. Every other category overly supports SSM (except protestants). If you add all of the other numbers in this fashion (23% non/less active, 10% Catholic, 7% Protestant, 16% non-religious, and 7% other), the most you can get is 49% oppose, and 40% favor SSM, 11% undecided. This suggests that this poll DOESN'T represent Utah—the numbers are closer than you think. With a less religious population today, numbers are probably more in favor of SSM.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Nepal Exclaims its Gay Pride

by Brig Bagley

11 August 2014

Unbeknownst to many, Nepal has made significant progress in securing approval and rights for LGBT citizens. Today, supporters of the gay community marched on the capital. Traditionally celebrated as a Hindu day of the dead, this holiday has become the excuse for gay pride in the country. 

In 2007 the law decriminalized homosexuality, the most important advancement for gays. Other protections have been put into place as well, but the community is pushing for full legalization of same-sex marriage. The median age in the country is 21, with well over one third of its citizens under the age of 14. The younger generations have been vital in pushing for progress while respecting the history and culture of the nation.

Many, of course, still oppose the break from the long-held traditional marriage definition, but LGBT supporters are optimistic that the support of their legislators and Prime Minister will follow through within the year to provide the protections and equality they desire.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Opinion: Ty Mansfield Slaps Again

by Brig Bagley

8 August 2014

When you look at the picture above, what do you see? I see a lone man looking into the horizon, apparently in deep thought. He is probably thinking about something in his life that disturbs him. A problem he is trying to understand and struggles with. 

This is the image that LDS counselors and leaders like to associate with gays. They believe there is an internal problem that needs to be managed, and that they have a difficult condition for which they need help and cleansing. 

This is the image that North Star, an LDS-based gay support group, and Ty Mansfield, it's president, wish to apply to the issue of homosexuality in the LDS church. Ty and the group believe that a gay person can live with their feelings while still living fully the standards and principles of the LDS church. However, Ty believes that "gay" and "homosexual" are negative and oversimplified terms that bring in stereotypical connotations. According to Ty, "same-gender attraction" is a more inclusive term that encompasses the complexity and sensitivity of the issue. 

The LDS church is the primary creator of the terms "same-sex attraction" (SSA)or "same-gender attraction" (SGA). It was a way to soften the blow of "full-on gayness" that comes with being gay, namely the feminine composure of gay men and the uncontrollable urges for sex, drugs, deceit, and crime. It gave it a feeling of a condition that could be overcome "with growth, maturity and self-awareness and even addressing therapeutically factors", as Ty states in his address. Ty Manfield's story is that after overcoming the worst of his "attractions", he has come to love and appreciate his wife and children and their purpose as a family designed by God to fulfill His eternal plan.

Ty's story is probably one exception out of a million, if not a complete lie. I, myself, have a gay uncle (that I never see because he was shunned from the family) that could no longer live with his wife (my aunt) and their kids because of the personal hell it gave him. He was never truly happy, even though he did exactly what "God" prescribed to be the way to happiness. I felt the same way, but luckily, I escaped the sinking ship before I went down with it.

The terms SSA/SGA are offensive to those who love and accept who they are: gay, lesbian, etc. I admit I used those terms in the process of coming out, but now I look back at how demoralizing they are. They make one believe they can change their nature, and that there is something wrong with them. They are diseased and disgusting and need to cleanse their soul, shed their attractions, and sacrifice everything to be like everyone else. Outside of religion, people tend to claim as "bisexual" before coming out as truly gay. But the term bisexual at least doesn't have the connotation that something is wrong with the person.

I was once a follower of North Star. When the theme repeatedly exclaimed that "just being obedient" was worth the struggle, and the "Holy Ghost" was with them to help them not look lustfully at other men, I finally decided I was among confused individuals and left exclaiming my pride for who I was.

I am not broken. I am not struggling. I am a happy gay man with goals, dreams, and a hope for love down the road. I am successful, have many wonderful friends and a family who loves me (even if they don't yet accept my differences). If I could take a magic pill to become straight, I would not take it. I am gay. And I am proud of it.

Deseret News posted the article on Ty here:

Same-Sex Marriage Case Plaintiffs Ask SCOTUS to Hear Utah's Appeal

by Brig Bagley

8 August 2014

The plaintiffs for Utah's Amendment 3 Case wrote to the US Supreme Court asking it to hear the case appealed by Utah. Although it seems unusual that the two sides are in agreement, it is in hopes for two different things. 

Utah believes its right to define marriage is not unconstitutional by the 14th Amendment and asks the SCOTUS to answer the question as to whether it is or not. SSM supporters believe it is unconstitutional to ban SSM and that there should be a ruling that applies nation-wide. This way, all of the US can enjoy the opportunity to marry another consenting adult of their choice, male or female.

With so many cases across the nation and so many voices vehement about their opinions of the issue, it is unlikely for the SCOTUS to not get involved. The question is when they will take it up. We could have a ruling in less than 10 months. Or it could be up to 2-3 years away. 

In any case, both sides wish to have the question answered once and for all. With the momentum in favor of SSM rights, it appears that gay couples will most likely be awarded the right to marry.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Research States 40% of Homeless Children are LGBT

by Brig Bagley

7 August 2014

Reliable research has strong evidence to believe that over 40% of all homeless children are LGBT. Despite the growing acceptance of gays among the younger generations, parents still have trouble understanding and accepting it--forcing their kids on the streets to face hunger, homelessness, rape, disease, and sometimes death.

Surveys in shelters do not ask about sexuality currently, but recently, they have added a question about transgender. So it is hard to gage too accurately the percentage of homeless LGBT in the nation, but shelter staff and similar employees see this demographic in their work.

Utah is known to match this number, as LDS people are encouraged to "cut off" the offensive aspects of their lives. The church has, however, emphasized recently that estranging children is a higher offense to God than to keep the perceived evil around them.

Read more here:

BYU : Most Religious and 4th Unfriendliest to Gays

Movin’ on up: BYU moves from 6th to 4th most “gay-unfriendly” university in America

by Brig Bagley

7 August 2014

BYU is known as the "Mormon University", as it is operated and owned by the LDS (Mormon) Church. It has the most strict "Honor Code" policy, that not only requires students to be honest in their school work, but requires all students to comply with a rigid moral code in their personal lives. No sexual relations (outside a legal marriage between a man and a woman) is ever allowed (although forgiven for the most talented revenue-bringing athletes). Homosexual intimacy in any form is forbidden, although the school claims students can be openly gay without punishment. It does, however, paint a large red target on the gay person for the "BYU gay witch hunts" done unofficially to attempt to catch students breaking the honor code. The code also requires a student to be actively participating in the LDS church--which requires 10% tithing of a person's income.

These obligations set BYU to be the most religious school in the nation, according to a Princeton Review Survey. Prayers are offered before most classes, church takes place in classrooms on Sunday, and it isn't unheard of for a calculus class to be side-tracked by a religious conversation.

In addition, Princeton Review has also ranked BYU the 4th most "gay unfriendly". It went from 6th in 2013 to 4th this year. It has recently pushed campaigns to promote "gay-friendliness" using its video "It gets better" and it's new "ok to be openly gay" policy for good publicity. But that can't be any further from the truth. Allowing students to publicly declare themselves as gay is probably the most genius way the school has managed to root them out. Other students voluntarily spy on the "gays" to try to catch them violating the honor code and turn them in "for their own good." It wouldn't be surprising if homophobic students blackmail, frame, or set up gay students just for that reason.

Ernest Wilkinson (for whom the BYU student center is named after) said the following in 1965:

“BYU does not intend ‘to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly; and if you will be honest enough to let us know the reason, we will voluntarily refund your tuition. We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence.” Ernest L. Wilkinson, “Make Honor Your Standard”, Deseret News, Church News supplement, November 13, 1965, p. 11

Read more here:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Ugandan Court Invalidates Anti-Gay Law

by Brig Bagley

A court in Uganda has decided against a law written in earlier this year that made homosexuality illegal and punishable up to life in prison. A law against unnatural sex acts is still in place, but activists sigh at this important reversal and step towards gay people in Uganda.

Read more here:

Religion in Schools

by Brig Bagley

1 August 2014

Deseret News, Utah's LDS Newspaper, recently posted an article arguing for religion to be more prevalent in schools. It provided 10 reasons to do so. Here, I will attempt to counter each argument.

It improves brain development.

This argument provided its own counter. Children who grow up with religion have a hard time telling the difference between fantasy and real life. Because of the fantastic Bible stories and such, kids tend to believe in things that are not real. A creative mind can take reality and make practical improvements without the aid of religion. Fantasies like movies and comic books don't claim to be real like the Bible teachings do.

It keeps kids out of trouble.

Religion spawns all sort of trouble. Almost every war in the history books can be traced to a religious disagreement. It's no different with kids. A pious child learns early to judge and look down on other children that are not as "righteous" as they are. There may not be as much violence up front, but "I'm better than you" attitude sparks anger and resentment. That's plenty of reason to start a fight. Teachers and parents can teach children to not hit, steal, or lie without referencing religion. It's simple society.

Religious schools do better than public or charter schools.
The study cited in the article compares private religious schools to public ones. It's not surprising at all that in a privately-funded environment with strict rules and lack of diversity has fewer problems. Parental involvement is higher and class sizes are smaller. The argument cannot be generalized to say that religion is what makes the schools better. It's the highly controlled and well-funded school that will always outperform a public, state-funded one. If you compare public schools, you would find the opposite. Utah schools have some of the lowest lowest budgets and the highest student-teacher ratios. You would think a highly religiously influenced state would focus on its education. Nope. New York is probably the least religious state you can find, and its education is top-ranked.

It helps kids develop psychologically.

This point mentioned the opinion of one expert. But why must an intangible God be the only motivation for self-improvement and discipline? How about a father? An athlete? An artist? Other humans around us are the inspirations for us to push ourselves to become better. Psychologically, it's damaging to believe that our goal is to become perfect like God, which is utterly impossible. Seeing realistic achievements in other people is healthy and reachable.

It would help Americans read more.

Religions do require extensive readings. But so do English classes. Movies today are by far based off of books and inspire people to read them. The people that aren't going to read their school books aren't going to read their religious books, either. It has less to do with religion and more to do with the individual.

It helps students learn a bit more about themselves.

Of course religious classes help people with their understanding of God and religion. That's what they are there for. But without religion, you don't need to fret about the the intangible nature that is God. Identity issues often arise from religion, especially when someone believes they don't fit into the teachings--which is everyone. Religion teaches perfection and sainthood, both of which are not realistic. When people feel like they are not good enough, or that they are a sinner, they feel left out.

Religious majors are more likely to be employed.

How many religion majors are there? Business majors? I don't think I would be too far off to say that religion is near the bottom for number of enrolled students, and business is near the top... if not THE top. The market is saturated with business majors and business opportunities. So it's actually surprising that only a mere 7.5% are unemployed. How many religious jobs are there? Unless you teach religion or become a pastor, the chances of you getting a job in your field are dismal. The survey provided is only from 22K graduates, and only 1/2 of the religious studies grads stayed in the field. From this survey, Music Education, Dentistry, and Vet graduates have lower unemployment than religious grads. Maybe you should consider these fields instead.

It can help further your education.

If you learn more disciplines, you will be in school longer. More debt. Sure, you might know more, but it ain't rocketing you past your peers with success. Religious studies are hardly the only motivators to increase one's education. It might be an encouragement, but it's one of many.

It can help American businesses.

Good business does mean taking care of your employees. But you don't need to be religious to know that. It's just good business. Larry Page, CEO of one of the largest, most successful, and most satisfied employees--Google--was not raised religious. Putting religious belief and understanding in the same sentence does not make religion the only road to understanding. Often, it is the road to confusion. People skills are more integral to success in a company than sharing pious beliefs.

It can knock down depression.

Are you kidding? Utah County has some of the highest rates of depression and emotionally-altering prescription drugs in the country. Religion creates complexes of inadequacy in its believers. Knowing that you are different and unique is much more healthy than trying to conform to a person that religion teaches is best. Deseret News itself reported this.