The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has updated its stance on gay marriage and families headed by gay couples. As of yesterday, the LDS Church will no longer allow the children of gay couples, whether biological or adopted, to be baptized until the age of eighteen. The LDS Church furthermore declares members of same-sex marriages apostates—people who have forsaken their religious belief and/or practices.
Not only is this a slap in the face to same-sex couples who have only now won the right to legal marriage in the United States; this is a calculated move against children of same-sex households. Baptism in the Mormon Church traditionally takes place at the age of eight in order to ensure salvation. However, to quote directly from the statement:
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service only as follows:
A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met:
1. The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
2. The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.
While some members of the LDS church have expressed disapproval of this new ruling, the fact remains that this was approved and enacted by multiple people in the hierarchy of authority within the Mormon community. Now, not only must a child of same-sex parents be denied the salvation they seek in their faith while other children receive a standard baptism, but they are expected to denounce their parents’ lifestyle and leave their home to achieve a delayed christening.
What kind of person would require a child to go through that?
I am not surprised at the Mormon Church’s stance on homosexuality equating with apostasy. Arguably no religious denomination, Mormon or otherwise, has ever been quiet about their aversion to homosexuality. But to purposefully alienate children out of disdain for their parents is prejudice, exclusion and bullying masked as religion.
This mentality is certainly not confined to the LDS Church. Though the Catholic faith differs considerably from Mormonism, similar conflicts persist. More rigidly-conservative Church members and officials have had plenty of complaints regarding Pope Francis’s forward-thinking views on Catholicism’s mission to combat poverty, social inequality, and prejudice, including a more tolerant acceptance of homosexuality. In a church whose name means “universal,” we have reached a point at which some members are blatantly averse to inclusivity, love, tolerance and respect for those who some people claim are different from us. (When a headline reads “Pope Francis’ Plans for Inclusiveness Divides Bishops,” you know something is wrong with the picture.)
It alienates not only marginalized citizens but also people like myself, who the Church has never seemingly taken issue with. I am straight. I am from a middle-class family with a mom and a dad. I was baptized Catholic. I went to a Catholic grade school, a Catholic all-girls high school, and am now in my final year at a Catholic university. That’s thirteen years of theology classes, plus two theology courses required by university curriculum. That’s twenty-one years of more or less regular mass attendance. I consider myself a religious person. And yet, I identify less and less with the Church that has been one of the foundational parts of my upbringing–or, at the very least, with the parts of the Church I see weighing in on the latest social issues.
Religion can be a great thing. It can teach us values that I feel should be inherent—kindness toward others, self-improvement, and so on. It can foster a community based on mutual respect and care between individuals of different backgrounds, and even with different stances on particular beliefs. But if the idea of religion is going to be a means of exclusion, intolerance, and divisiveness, then what is the point?