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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : When It’s OK to Invite Ward Members to Political Get-togethers » When It’s OK to Invite Ward Members to Political Get-togethers

When It’s OK to Invite Ward Members to Political Get-togethers

Tom - May 10, 2007

The Church’s policy of political neutrality doesn’t extend to members. We’re of course free to endorse political candidates and platforms and to try and drum up support for particular candidates or political points of view. As Church members we can’t use Church buildings, phone lists, or official church venues for our advocacy, but we can freely advocate amongst people with whom we associate at church without running afowl of Church policy. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always appropriate.

I might not be on very solid ground here, but I see the Church’s policy of political neutrality as being partly based on a couple of principles: 1) that the resources of the Church should be devoted to accomplishing the mission of the Church and our work and worship should focus on the Gospel, not secular politics; and 2) that we don’t want political differences among us, which are inevitable, to divide our community. I know, some people think that the only reason that the Church has the policy of not endorsing specific candidates or platforms is so that they can maintain tax exempt status. That may be part of it. But the fact is that none of us know if this is the whole of it. If the consideration of U.S. tax law were off the table, I feel that the Church would still refrain from endorsing specific candidates and would not allow Church resources to be used to do so.

Either way, I’m glad for the effect of the policy of political neutrality on our community. I would hate for the Church itself to be as steeped in secular politics as it seems that many other churches are, both conservative and liberal.

So if, as citizens, we feel that there is a candidate worthy of our support and that of our brothers and sisters at Church, how should we go about advocating ? I think we should keep in mind the principles that I mentioned above, especially the one about not letting secular politics affect our Church community.

With that in mind, I’ll propose some guidelines for advocating for political candidates among Church members:

1) Never say anything for or against any politician or political party in any official Church meetings, functions, or venues.
2) If you want to host a political event or invite Church acquaintances to a political event, only invite those Church members with whom you are personally close and who you are certain would appreciate the invite.
3) If you are in a high profile leadership position, be extra cautious in adhering to the above.

Pretty simple. I think it’s important to follow those guidelines to avoid potential negative consequences for our Church community and it’s vitally important work.

8 Comments »

  1. I am also aware that some people claim that the Church already is steeped in secular politics. I would prefer to avoid that debate here.

    Comment by Tom — May 10, 2007 @ 9:05 am

  2. Great advice, Tom. Being in a political minority usually means being in an awkward social position in the Church. Once people find out your political views/affiliation, it can mean, for instance, that you don’t get invited to watch the Republican debate with your Ward friends, and no one wants to come over to your house to watch the Democratic debate. It’s important not to divide our Church community along political lines, and I think a higher level of tolerance for our friends’ political opinions is necessary. Trouble is, most polite political discussions usually get around to abortion and homosexual marriage, and then all Hell breaks loose…

    Comment by ECS — May 10, 2007 @ 11:03 am

  3. People have political get-togethers?

    Comment by Susan M — May 10, 2007 @ 12:42 pm

  4. ECS,
    It’s funny that you mention debate parties because it was an email invitation to a debate party that was the impetus for this post. The fact that my wife and I were invited means that the inviters were casting the net pretty wide. One of the invited ward members, who seems to be liberal, replied to the whole list that they were declining the invitation because they found the positions of a certain candidate mentioned in the invite to not be in agreement with Gospel teachings.

    I don’t know how this will play out. Hopefully there won’t be too much trouble. But the potential for trouble is there and it could have been avoided by following my guidelines.

    Susan,
    I was kind of surprised that people have debate parties. I would never think of doing such a thing. I get people together to watch sports and have fun, not scoff at the stupid things the cynical idiot politicians say to trick people into voting for them. But hey, whatever floats your boat.

    Maybe it would just be me scoffing at the stupid debate, which is why I will definitely not be at the party. Nobody wants a party pooping cynic around.

    For the record, I scoff at cynical idiot politicians from both parties, though I probably scoff at Democrats a little more than at Republicans. You can take a man out of Utah, but it’s hard to take Utah out of the man.

    Comment by Tom — May 10, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

  5. I would retype your third point in bold, all caps with double underscore.

    I think bishops, stake presidents and others in such leadership positions should be like the old army–completely apolitical. Well, let them vote, but it had better be a secret ballot. And nobody, absolutely nobody except their wives, should know what their politics are.

    I try to send enough mixed signals that nobody can figure out where I stand.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 10, 2007 @ 3:51 pm

  6. I try to send enough mixed signals that nobody can figure out where I stand.

    Amen Mark but what about ward members who have known you for years before you became bishop/SP? Certainly at that point your politics should be discreet (if they weren’t already) but it doesn’t erase what people already know about you. And BTW, I’ve always known that the tight haircut and stiff demeanor were smokescreens to conceal your radically liberal agenda. :)

    Comment by cj douglass — May 10, 2007 @ 7:19 pm

  7. Amen to all of your points.

    My husband and I are pretty big political nerds (conservative), and we are very interested in understanding people with different viewpoints than us, especially those we know are marvelous, temple-recommend-bearing, trying-to-build-up-Zion types. Just before the 2004 presidential election, we invited some friends over for a “political FHE” and had them tell us about why they usually choose to vote for Democrats. It was an interesting and relaxed evening, and we came away with a better understanding of their political views.
    However, I certainly would only do this with people I know and feel VERY comfortable with. Yikes to offending someone in your ward over politics.

    Comment by Keryn — May 11, 2007 @ 1:03 pm

  8. I can say from experience there are few things more annoying than having someone organize for a specific candidate or party during a church meeting (Sunday School in my case). It’s hard enough being someone that leans slightly left in Davis County Utah, having comments about Democrats being Satan’s party during a Sunday School lesson, while planning a Republican get-together close to an election left a bad taste in my mouth that is still there.

    Comment by jjohnsen — May 11, 2007 @ 7:55 pm

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