Cheney at BYU: my view from Europe

I fully understand that given Dick Cheney’s offer to speak at BYU’s commencement, BYU and the church would have little choice but feel obliged to honour the sitting Vice President.

Still, it might be useful to have some sense of how Cheney’s appearance at BYU will be viewed. As a British Mormon, I feel obliged to point out that most people in the UK and Europe see Cheney as the architect of a discredited war and abuser-in-chief of many of America’s cherished civil liberties and moral values. When BYU’s Kelly Patterson suggests that Cheney will enjoy a “very receptive and very hospitable” audience, this will sound in Europe as if BYU supports the Iraq war with which Cheney is inextricably linked. Indeed, this is exactly how it is being spun in the British media, namely that Cheney, unpopular everywhere else, will be among friends at BYU.

Universities understandably want high-profile speakers at their commencements, but BYU is more than a university, it is the academic arm of the global Mormon church and as such the views of those of us outside of the US ought to be considered. For some European Mormons, Cheney’s visit may look to them like the church endorses his policies. This would represent a palpable moral blow to the many anti-war European Mormons, and might further encourage a view, rightly or wrongly, that the church, despite claiming neutrality, is in fact in step with the American Republican Party. For many faithful European Mormons, whose political views would tend to the center-left on the American political spectrum, this is a bitter pill to swallow.

Dick Cheney is not just the Vice President. He currently represents much more than that, and for many people, what he represents is wholly negative. I would rather our church, to which we in Europe are faithfully dedicated, not also bear Cheney’s stigma. This could be avoided if BYU would more frequently invite high-profile guests from the other side of the aisle.

I endorse this petition.

___________

Take a deep breath. I don’t have the stomach for a partisan fight here. People are entitled to feel that Cheney is unfairly maligned and that his appearance at BYU will do honour to the university. I am just reporting on how it will look, especially from overseas. Whenever the church and the Republican party come across as inextricably linked (fair or not fair, this is sometimes the impression) it is desperately alienating to many of us and terrible PR to boot. Needless to say, these are my views alone.

Other fora: Check this out, Bloggernacle Times, Connor’s Conundrums, Messenger and Advocate.

Comments

  1. I am an alumni of BYU and this choice to invite Cheney seems completely inappropriate to me.

    Realize that a lot of people consider the choices made by the BYU administration to be synonymous with the choices of the General Authorities of the LDS church. This view was reinforced when they started making the President of BYU an actual standing General Authority. This move will be interpreted by many I know as a direct endorsement of Dick Cheney by Church Headquarters.

    It is decisions like this that make me more reluctant to donate anything to BYU. I’m not saying it’s decisive by any means, but it does make it harder for me.

    Note that I am also an alumni of the University of Wyoming and I would be completely OK with that university inviting Cheney to speak.

    Why?

    Because not only does UW not have to carry the torch for a major religion, Cheney is also a native-born son of Wyoming and a loyal patron of the university. He makes complete sense as a speaker THERE.

    BYU also ought to consider: the only reason Cheney is even bothering to speak at lil ole BYU is because he’s so hated almost everywhere else, that the list of places where he can get a good reception is so small. BYU needn’t be patting itself on the back over this catch. It has more to do with Cheney’s unpopularity than any merit on BYU’s part.

  2. I said on Messenger and Advocate that the gracious response would have been to kindly decline. The evidence is strongly there that Cheney is a liar and a violator of the law. Sorry, but I normally wouldn’t care if BYU invites a Republican VP. Cheney is a different individual. He does not deserve the respect of his office.

  3. The issue is complex. The church invited GWB himself a year ago or so. He declined, but then, in response to the original invitation, the White House called and asked if the VP could take his place. For a church that accepted a medal of honor from this presidency, this is a tricky position.

    And, finally, the official release announcing this indicates that the decision to accept the new terms was made by “members of the First Presidency.” Whatever the kind intentions of accepting this request, I believe Cheney is hoping to “(de)spitefully use” the kindness of LDS leaders.

    I wish that the White House would have the decency to let the Mormons off the hook on this one, but this regime has not been marked by decency at any level or phase.

    While ultimately, BYU (and the church) are not mine to run, I do feel that it’s reasonable to give personal feedback about the moral and emotional cost such a decision has on committed, rank-and-file Latter-day Saints. I’m afraid the message is as discouraging to me as it is to European Mormons. (Incidentally, I was at the Brigham Young campus shortly after the announcement was made, and people were in a state of nervous consternation–even faculty members were surprised and dismayed at the way this was playing out.)

  4. cj douglass says:

    Even if he wasn’t the pupeteer behind everything wrong with the Bush administration, he’s still a terrible speaker. What’s he going to talk about the good old days at Halliburton? Morality? Integrity? I’d love to be there just to see this guy lie through his teeth.

  5. Well said Ronan. I think it is particularly helpful for faithful non U.S. Mormons, like you and others, to make their views known. As you rightly point out, this will look bad for the Church and BYU worldwide. It only reinforces the Mormon Church/Republican Party myth. I see absolutely nothing virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy by inviting Mr. Cheney to speak at BYU. Thanks for the link and for endorsing the petition.

  6. I agree with everything that has been said above. In my opinion the decision to invite the VP sends the wrong message to those of us who have always accepted the First Presidency’s statement of political nuetrality. Cheney is not just a political figure, he is the most devisive political figure in this country. On graduation day, a day when BYU should be celebrating education and enlightenment, they are hosting a man whose actions and attitudes have reversed, by about 50 years, our country’s long struggle for civil rights and liberties. The actions of this adminstration, of which he is the most influencial figure – even more than the president himself – have destroyed our previously held position as the world’s moral leader. I am so glad and thankful that Ronan has expressed the feelings of Europeans. I know first hand that church members in other parts of the world, and especially here in the U.S., share those feelings.

  7. I despise PR mongering and folks driven by what others will think. It looks bad because many on the left and right and center disagree. Some will reach unwarranted and logically rediculous conclusions. If BYU tiptoed around everyone who disagreed and ran their lives and calendars by what others think it would virtually cease to exist. Isn’t there a better way … like education?

    Mormons will be linked with the Repbulican party not because Cheney speaks at BYU but because the vast majority of Utah Mormons vote Repbulican. That won’t change as long as the Democrats adopt a pro-abortion pro-gay, pro more-tax platform. [Don't get me wrong, I'm no Repbulican -- I happen to believe that the abortion stance of choice outlined by the Supremes is largely correct, that government ought to stay out of sexual preference issues and we're always taxed too much for the wrong things].

    The Vice-President of the United States has offered to speak at BYU. Even if you’ve despised the war since the beginning [like I have] and now despise the rhetoric of irresponsibility to cut and run after we have destabalized the enitre region and do so will leave the entire region in melt-down [like I do], the Vice President is still an important player in American politics and his visit can be very enlightening and educational. The petiition is just stupid. It won’t change anything and says in essence: if I disagree with a speaker I refuse to even listen. With apologies for the stigma ya’ll will be stuck with, isn’t it wiser to voice disagreement intelligently based on policy reasons? Forget the PR and the what-others-will think syndrome. If we get stuck in that line of thinking we have sold out to the worst kind of dogmatism. Heck, we ought to listen just out of spite for those who think that they can control American politics from afar and worry about what the neighbors might think.

  8. Personally, I agree that any association with Cheney stinks.

    On the other hand, because the university was approached by the VP’s office, I can’t really see them turning it down, and I think most people would see that or should see that. If Tony Blair went to BYU and asked to be a speaker, how would LDS Brits feel if he were turned down (because he is also an architect of the war and the head of a government which has threatened the tradition of Britain’s cherished civil liberties)? I imagine national offense would trump political sensitivity.

    In my limited experience in my corner of Europe, I couldn’t really predict the response. Finnish members are fairly wide on the political spectrum. Some members disapprove of the liberal president but were universally pleased to see her meet with President Hinckley during the SLC Olympics. Interest in American politics is low nearly to the point of irrelevance. Most members, incuding hip YSAs, have no idea about Mitt Romney, for instance. (Ronan: I searched for UK coverage of Cheney speaking at BYU: where is it reported?)

    FWIW, I also endorse the petition (and because of my personal politics I added my name). The petition shows healthy political dissention within the church. I also accept that it is inevitable that he will be speaking, and I understand that as reasonable from another point of view. (Can you imagine the petition if he were refused?) In the end, the best thing for the church is to have him speak with no honorary degree, and to have a vigorous (but not disruptive) protest for the world to see.

  9. I think much of the criticism of Cheney here and elsewhere is way overblown, but I’d rather BYU not host Cheney. I’d prefer that BYU not host any high profile politicians of any persuasion.

    A question for Ronan: will Cheney’s appearance at BYU’s commencement really get that much press in Europe? Will this register on the radar screen of the Man on the Street? It’s normal for vice presidents to speak at commencements and which universities they go to is only mentioned in passing in the national press, if it’s mentioned at all. I’ve only heard about this through LDS blogs.

  10. Ronan's Dispassionate Ka says:

    Tom and Norbert,
    Ronan wishes me to tell you that it was reported in the Guardian, although he can’t find it online right now. But more to the point is how some LDS Europeans will see it: that the church supports the war. That makes for some discomfort, especially when added to Mitt Romney, Utah politics in general, and President Hinckley’s 2003 talk. Throw the lefties a bone once in a while, eh? Or just once.

  11. Jonathan Green says:

    Given the nature of the institutions involved–the vice presidency and a graduation speech–I don’t think Cheney’s appearance at BYU says much of anything, let alone an endorsement of Cheney’s views. On the other hand, a disinvitation would be a very strong statement of rebuke, which would probably be inappropriate. Hopefully, Cheney will read “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” and that will be that. Now if the audience greets Cheney like the second coming of Elvis, that would be a problem.

  12. I find the above statement “Forget the PR and the what-others-will think syndrome” laughable. The Church already has a PR department that is all about trying to fix what other people think and the move to mainline ourselves is reflected there. Ronan, I agree with you completely. Universities are generally perceived to support the individuals that they invite to speak at their convocations. Combine this with our 12th article of faith, and I fail to see how many people, especially those outside the U.S. can take the church’s claims of political neutrality at face value.

  13. Serves us right. Since the 1950s we’ve made it clear that we’ll allow the government to come to Utah anytime they want to dump something radioactive that nobody else wants in their back yard…

  14. Kris: I find your view up-chuckable and logically impossible. Damn the church if it pays attention to PR, damn the church if it doesn’t pay attention to PR. That is the implication of your view. With so many hard spots between the rocks your throw it would be impossible to satisfy your demands.

  15. Steady on, everyone. No name calling. (Except when used against Richard “Lucifer” Cheney.)

  16. Admin — finding a view repugnant is not the same thing as finding a person repugnant. Important to keep in mind important distinctions. I don’t have a problem if Kris finds a view I propose to be laughable, at least there was a good laugh.

  17. Blake, you know nothing about my “demands” — it was you who said to forget about the PR. I was merely pointing out that the Church is unlikely to do so.

  18. Kris: No — what you said is in # 13. You agree with Ronan that the Church should not invite Cheney because it is bad PR and then you argue that the Church can’t be taken seriously about its claims of political neutrality and you find the view that we ought to stay out of the PR business laughble. If you cannot see the double bind then nothing I can say will remove them thar opaque eyeglasses.

  19. Does anyone have the statement made by GBH when there were protests about the Rodin art exhibit? Did anyone feel it was kinda complicated signing?

    I signed the petition, b/c I think that of all the republicans in all the states, [Gonzales, Rove, Libbey and Cheney] shouldn’t show up in our gin joint.

    HOWEVER,
    I don’t agree that BYU needs to become apolitical in investigating, listening, discussing, etc. Also, since BYU and the church have had a policy of supporting *praying* for leaders and welcoming heads of our government (and countless others) regardless of politics, if they STOPPED NOW, that WOULD be a major political statement.

    So while we’re all whining that we can’t accept Cheney b/c of our “neutrality”, actually REFUSING him would be violating that neutrality the most.

  20. “Laughable” and “up-chuckable” are probably not conducive to civil discussion.

  21. Ronan's Dispassionate Ka says:

    Blake,
    PR is only 20% of this. Mostly, as I’ve already reiterated, it’s the uncomfortable position that many church members continually find themselves in because of their honest political objections to the current US Regierung. It’s a one way right wing show.

  22. Steve Evans says:

    It’s clear that this conversation will spiral out of control into hateful debate, as evidenced by the adjectives already being bandied about by Blake and others. It’s unfortunate that people use the internet as an excuse for incivility, but I suppose I’m as guilty as anyone else. I don’t particularly like Dick Cheney, I supported the petition and I think picking him to speak was an exceptionally poor idea. Others may think that protesting, petitioning or complaining is a stupid idea. That’s just fine, folks — if that’s your view, state it and move along. Leave those of us who care to grouse unperturbed by your disdain of all forms of dissent.

  23. MikeInWeHo says:

    “…the church, despite claiming neutrality, is in fact in step with the American Republican Party.” The actions of the people and ward-level leaders speak louder than any press release or annual reminder of political neutrality. The Latter-day Saints in the U.S. are deeply connected to right-wing American social politics (and quite probably taken completely for granted by Rove, et. al. to boot). As for what people are thinking in the CoB: who knows? And does it really matter?

    re: 8
    “..Utah Mormons vote Repbulican. That won’t change as long as the Democrats adopt a pro-abortion pro-gay, pro more-tax platform. [Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Repbulican — I happen to believe that the abortion stance of choice outlined by the Supremes is largely correct, that government ought to stay out of sexual preference issues…”

    The only way I can interpret this is statement is that somehow you’re smarter or more enlightened than the “vast majority” of Utah Mormons??? Also, you’re parroting a very distorted description of what the Democrats represent.

  24. Ka: you are not dispassionate. Your discomfort comes from your own “honest political objections.” I didn’t see anyone here complaining wheen Michael Moore came to UVSC or that the vast majority of college professors lean far left. It’s about partisan politics; not some principles suggestion of neutrality. I tend to agree with JAT about that.

  25. I don’t think that BYU can gracefully deny him the opportunity to speak, as he has asked. I hope that the students listen politely to him and, if they are so inclined, then join the protests that will surely take place just off campus.

  26. Mike: you’re right I was parrotting a caricature of the Democratic party. That was my entire point. As long as Utah republicans see the Democratic party that way, they will continue to vote Republican. Now let me be clear, I am no Democrat (tried that; didn’t like it).

  27. For the record, I complained about Michael Moore and Sean Hannity during the ruckus at UVSC. Please don’t intuit facts.

  28. Marginscribbles says:

    Here’s the Guardian link — a straight AP newswire run, though; not clear it appeared (or will appear) in print.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6501405,00.html

  29. The problem with all this anti-Cheney rhetoric is that if BYU were to invite Hillary Clinton, those of you who are objecting would be applauding. I like you guys, you know that, but this is hypocritical and simply party rhetoric based on the present polarity.

    He is still the vice president of the United States and it’s not high treason for him to be invited–or invite himself to speak at any university.

  30. And I don’t even like Dick Cheney.

  31. Steve Evans: Sorry to disturb your dissent. If you don’t like “upchuckable” (I thought the neo-logism was at least interesting) then at least get the facts straight. Cheney more or less invited himself. BYU is simply not rejecting him. Small facts make a difference — don’t you think?

    As for rejecting all forms of dissent — I suggest that such dissent isn’t productive and not that dissent as such is always out of line. I’m sorry that I distubed your dissent with my dissent.

  32. annegb,
    I don’t think that Hillary should be speaking anywhere. This is partly because she bugs me personally and partly because I think she engenders much more Republican hate than Democratic support. The more publicized she is, the more likely we are to have four more years of Republican’s in the Oval Office.

  33. #14 – Pres. Kimball did tell a republican president ‘not in my backyard’ to nix the MX missle.

  34. It only reinforces the Mormon Church/Republican Party myth

    Problem is it sometimes feels like it’s not a myth. The often perceived perception is that to be a good Mormon you have to vote against abortion/gay marriage = Republican. An impression solidified with conversations I had with members whilest living in the States.

    In England (and I suspect most of Europe), politics and the church just don’t come together. Church members are not majority voters of one party, and who you vote for is never linked to church values (all the parties have similar lines on abortion, for example, so it’s not an issue you choose a party to vote on).

    Foreign views of the church are almost always linked with members being one (or maybe 2!) issue voters and that the right party to choose is Republican. Does Cheney at BYU do anything to change that view? No. It send a very strong message that BYU and therefore the church support this administration and lose their political ‘neutrality’.

  35. Hannah G says:

    Numerous schools actually turned down Cheney, so I don’t see why BYU would not have been able to do so.

    I don’t think this issue is purely partisan. One can object to the invitation because it appears to send a political message and the church maintains that it is politically neutral. This isn’t the same as invititing someone to speak at forum or to a club, inviting someone to speak at commencement is an honor and endorsement.

    One could also object to Cheney on the grounds that he has is questionable ethical role model (Halliburton accounting mispractices, conflict of interest, Cheney energy task force, endorsement of torture, etc. etc.). There are plenty of Republicans who wouldn’t view Cheney as someone who should be held up as an example of honesty, truth, and virtue to a graduating class.

    It’s not really about censoring any opposing viewpoint, in my opinion. It’s about the appropriateness of offering an honor and endorsement by the flagship institution of the church to someone who may not (in my opinion, does not) deserve it.

  36. Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Today, we mourn the passing of the academic free marketplace of ideas.

    Normally we would have a moment of silence – but those groups opposed to moments of silence have submitted a petition against it. They object on the grounds that a moment of silence was also used by some to mourn the passing of the tyrant Slobodan Milosevic. Consequently, our proposed use of a silent moment would amount to a tacit endorsement of Mr. Milosevic.

    Please refrain from being silent.

    Thank you.

  37. Blake #25 said, “I didn’t see anyone here complaining when Michael Moore came to UVSC.” UVSC is a state run school and not affiliated with the church I belong to. Oh yes, of course there is LDS influence in all of the state run schools in Utah but what concerns me is my church inviting such a divisive political figure to speak at such an important event (it may be routine but graduation from a university if ALWAYS important) when they otherwise claim political nuetrality.

    It seems that the the VP’s request to speak could have been respectfully declined and none of this would have been publicized. I doubt the White House would have publicized such a snub.

  38. I just don’t see the church as being in the business of “snubbing” governments. But I am not adequately informed on all church interaction with the government over the past 50 years or so.

  39. annegb,

    I don’t think inviting Hillary or Obama would be a good idea either. Of course, once the Cheney visit goes through, maybe it would be a good idea have Obama speak at BYU (Hillary is pushing it), just to try and wash the Church’s hands of perceived bias.

    Wouldn’t work though. Such a visit wouldn’t get as much press as a visit by a standing VP. And with Obama campaigning, it’s less than certain he would accept.

    If the Church did indeed invite President Bush a while back, and Cheney’s office is indeed the source of the speaking offer, then yeah… I don’t see how the Church can get out of this one gracefully. They probably do have to host him. The best the Church can hope for is a sizeable protest on campus during the visit (which may or may not be covered).

  40. There won’t be an on-campus protest. However, there could be a near campus one.

  41. Seth,

    I don’t believe the Church does not allow protests “on campus.”

  42. I meant, I don’t believe the Church allows protests on campus.

  43. Seth, if they were the vice president, would you support it? Would you highly object? I suspect not.

    Picture this: BYU announces they are inviting Barak Obama to speak. No way would you guys be objecting like this. We’d be reading posts about how terrific it was.

    This is about partisan politics, not respect for the office of vice president. I bet they thought about it long and hard and decided this was the right course. Frankly, given that they had to know it would be an unpopular decision, I find it admirable and courageous.

  44. Did I mention that I don’t even like Dick Cheney? It’s the principle of the thing.

  45. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU Ronan!
    My husband and I lost sleep over the announcement that Cheney would be the commencement speaker. This has been eating at me since the announcement came, and I (not wanting to post a blog myself) was hoping someone else would. I think you are the perfect person to do it.
    There are many of us at BYU who oppose the Iraq war and all of its arquitects, and who (some of us remembering Viet Nam) recognize the quagmire now expanding throughout Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Any war is tragic. Any war fought on a false premise and started offensively goes beyond tragic.
    And no, I would not be celebrating a visit by Hillary Clinton either. And though I love Barak Obama, I would think it unwise to invite him–or even Mitt Romney.
    Why? Commencement is a time of celebration, of family reunion and photo opportunities. Many in attendance will feel as I do about what Cheney’s role in government has cost this nation–not just in lives lost, but in international reputation. It is a slap at a time when grads should be getting flowers and their families should be happily taking pictures. To invite a figure (and there is a little more to the story than has been posted) whose very presence polemizes the environment ignores the sensibilities of these students and their families.

  46. Annegb:

    How do we honor the Vice Presidency as an office by honoring a dishonorable individual occupying that office? It seems as though you are elevating form over substance to require honor to an office that Mr. Cheney through his entire term as dishonored by his actions.

  47. To invite a figure (and there is a little more to the story than has been posted) whose very presence polemizes the environment ignores the sensibilities of these students and their families.

    Margaret,

    Please do tell the rest of the story. You seem to be uniquely in a position to do so.

  48. Sorry. Can’t.

  49. annegb,
    I’m afraid you’re not getting the objection. It’s not that it’s Cheney per se, it’s that it’s always, always, always support for the right wing where the church/BYU is concerned. If BYU were a school that regularly hosted partisan figures from both sides it would be a different matter.

    Blake,
    I don’t care what UVSC does because it’s not run by my church. And I think having Hannity and Moore is exactly the right idea.

  50. Since when has BYU considered the sensibilities of the students and their families? They ignore peoples’ feelings all the time. You guys are always griping about BYU.

    Guy, good point. I must ponder a suitable response, if I can come up with one, although I doubt it.

    Margaret, it’s easy to say you don’t think Hillary should speak–she hasn’t been invited. I was trying to think of a Democrat who was also controversial to point out that the objections to Mr. Cheney are based on party politics rather than a true moral objection.

    It’s traditional for high government officials to speak at commencements at all universities, isn’t it? It’s not unreasonable for the vice president to speak at BYU.

    One last point, all the argument aside, I’m rather stupidly proud that people know they can come to Utah and despite their problems, be treated civilly and be safe. We have many Muslims and gays in Cedar, for example. They might experience some social rejection (not much, though, I think), but they are safe and are treated courteously.

    I’ve always thought if I were a really strange and different person, or another faith or gay, Utah would be the place I’d pick to go.

  51. Sorry. Can’t.

    What if we promised to interview you in “secret”, not under oath, and didn’t have a transcript. Would you, could you then?

  52. Ronan, our posts cross. You know, that bothers me too–I’d be one of the ones applauding Barak’s invite to BYU.

    Although, let me think, T & S people are objecting based on his acceptance of his gay daughter and refusal to go along with the amendment. I’m hearing a lot based on his support of the war and other issues. So I might be getting something, somewhere.

    Me not getting it, well, that’s par for the course in my universe :).

  53. annegb,
    I really 100% promise you that for me it’s not partisan. First of all, I don’t have a dog in the US race because I’m not American. Second, I vote for the Conservative Party in the UK.

  54. And I’m voting Democrat LOL!

    I’m going to turn off this dang computer and go take a bubble bath and eat hot buttered popcorn at 11 in the morning because Bill is down in St. George getting a root canal and shopping at his dream store: Costco.

  55. Jeremiah J. says:

    “The church invited GWB himself a year ago or so.”

    I think that this would have been very different. Officially Bush is not just a politician but also the head of state. Unofficially, Bush is capable of giving a light-hearted, somewhat inspiring speech not intended to turn the knife in the gut of a good portion his audience. At any rate, a school should feel honored to have the POTUS, even if they don’t like him or respect him personally that much.

    Cheney is clearly a lot different. He is the divisive, partisan political figure par excellence, and has spent a great deal of energy over the past 6 years rallying his supporters around the notion that a very sizable part of the American public are basically traitors or terrorist sympathizers (so I actually disagree with the idea that the main objection to Cheney is *his policies*). The Republican myth is not that there is a pattern to voting in Utah (this is no myth–there is a clear pattern). The Republican myth is that the body of Christ shares not only its basic aims, but its strategy of success and style of leadership with the Republican Party. Cheney’s style of leadership has worked out fairly well for him and his party considering how objectively bad it is. But the church doesn’t grow and succeed through the politics of backlash and resentment, by praising Wyoming and Montana as the real America (or real Mormon) while trying to cut off Massachusetts and Vermont. This point seems to be quite clear to the GAs, from the way they speak and the decisions they make. But the point is somewhat confused by the Cheney invite. I’m not surprised that the church is stuck with Cheney because an offer from the White House, because I would be really surprised if they just settled on Cheney over everyone else.

    “I despise PR mongering and folks driven by what others will think…If BYU tiptoed around everyone who disagreed and ran their lives and calendars by what others think it would virtually cease to exist.”

    You may call it PR mongering, but the church cares about the face it presents to the world, and for good reason. A BYU shouldn’t and does not by any stretch listen to just any random whiner, but they should, and by all indications do, care about how their students and the membership of the church view their actions (e.g. BYU profs are not spokespeople for the church, but the church cares about and tries to respond the commonly held view that they somehow are). BYU is no different than any other school in that it actually puts thought into the decisions regarding who to honor and who to invite to campus. That isn’t ‘tiptoeing’, it’s acting responsibly.

  56. Ronan: I believe that your comment in #50 is more defensible than yor post. In your post you argue that Cheney is a bad idea for BYU because it reflects badly on BYU because of his dispicable politics. However, in #50 you argue that what you really want is balance so that sometimes left-leaning folks are invited to BYU. Perhaps like Helen Thomas a liberal who spoke at a BYU Forum? If that is your argument, then I believe that signing the petition is counterproductive because instead of objecting to Cheney for his politics like others on this blog you should be petitioning for balance in speakers at BYU — which BTW the petition doesn’t do. It simply objects to Chency on political grounds. I personally would love to Harry Reed speak at BYU. However, if that is your position, then we are not as far apart as I initially indicated. I like education and exposure to a broad range of ideas. I despise those who silence speech because they disagree with it.

  57. Blake,

    1. Harry Reid is not the equal and opposite of Cheney.
    2. In the post I both admit that BYU probably had little choice and that the situation could be diffused if the speakers’ list was a little more balanced.
    3. The petition is a blunt instrument for sure, but 1,000 people expressing their reservations is worth something. Also, if you read the petition they also suggest that balancing out Cheney is one potential solution.

  58. I signed the petition but do believe that letters and emails are far more effective than petitions. All of you who feel strongly about this should write letters/emails to BYU to express your feelings. I did. My point is not to get Cheney to not come, as that won’t happen but to let them know what I think. (E) mail is good at helping people feel more opinion more weightily.

    I don’t have high hopes for BYU students’ response. While I was there, Helen Thomas of the White House press corps came to speak. She was a fantastic speaker and she’s got quite amazing experiences. She talked about all the presidents but showed an affinity for Clinton to which the audience booed. I wanted to cry. And then she said am I in enemy territory here? people clapped. I was so embarrassed. Not for the politics per se, but for the PR. Sometimes we don’t realize how foolish we look.

  59. On other threads, we have discussed the “unwritten order” of things–such as the handbook specifically permits men and women to offer prayers in Sacrament meetings, yet many Church officers understand that an unwritten rule requires that only Melchizedek priesthood holders offer the opening prayer.

    Another example: officially the Church has not proscribed caffeinated drinks. Yet caffeinated drinks are not sold at BYU or at temples. This shows that there is an “unwritten order” that caffeinated drinks are not endorsed by the Church.

    Many Church members believe that, even though officially the Church is politically neutral, in actuality–and as a part of the unwritten order– the Brethren and God wish all members to vote for right wing conservative republicans and to support the Iraq war.

    BYU’s actions–inviting to commencement the prominent symbol of the Iraq war and conservative republicanism, but not inviting (since Bobby Kennedy) any equivalently prominent opponents or democrats–strongly suggest that my republican brothers and sisters may be right–that it is part of the unwritten order of things that all good Church members who are “in tune” should support right wing republicans and the Iraq war.

    I actually do not, per se, have a problem with Dick Cheney’s speaking at BYU–my problem is the absence of balance. If Anne is correct, and prominent democrats have been invited and have declined, then my concern would be reduced.

    Perhaps the University or the Church could make a statement on the subject.

    But unless the University or the Church makes such a statement, or does invite other prominent speakers to balance this out, then I must tell you, Ronan, my friend, that I am afraid it is part of the unwritten order that good LDS must act and vote as good republicans.

    Fortunately, to my knowledge, this will not appear in the Handbook, and temple recommends will continue to be issued to democrats (as they usually are to Coca Cola drinkers, those who watch R-rated movies, and to those who play professional sports on Sunday). Thank goodness for small favors.

  60. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 51
    As the token representative of The Strange And Different people of the world, let me assure you that Utah is not a huge attraction when it’s time to choose a home. We all move to California.

  61. David,
    How the h*ll can half of the church who aren’t American possibly “act and vote as good republicans”?!!! I think you are wrong, because to think otherwise would cause me to wonder what place there is in the Church of Jesus Christ for the non-American.

  62. gst, award-winning commenter says:

    Geoff B. unwittingly hits upon a compromise solution: Allow Dick Cheney to speak but only if his remarks are a rebuke of the Church for antagonism towards gays.

  63. I like that comment, DavidH. My husband is in a stake presidency in Provo. At a recent stake event, he wore a silk tie we had purchased in China. It depicts lines of Asian elephants–very pretty design. Someone at the event looked at the tie and said, “Oh, is that a Republican tie?” The bishop of the ward then jumped in: “Oh no. President Young and I may be the only democrats in the stake, but we are democrats.”
    I don’t usually order my husband around, but I gave a mandate that evening: That tie is off limits until after the election. I am currently looking for a donkey tie. Really pretty donkeys.

  64. gst, award-winning commenter says:
  65. Katherine says:

    Blake: The BYU law school has apparently tried on numerous occasions to bring Harry Reid in for a speaking engagement, but he won’t come. Interpret that as you will.

    Aside from complaints about violation of political neutrality and Cheney’s not being a particularly useful or inspiring speaker anyway, the biggest concern I’ve heard on campus, especially in my English circles, is the radioactive effect this will have on BYU’s credibility as a scholarly institution in the liberal academy. BYU is already associated with conservative thinking and Republicanism–nothing new there, but appearing to welcome Cheney takes the association several steps further into the realm of right-wing paranoia. Many of the faculty are concerned about the impact this association will have on the reception of work they send out in the next year or two; I, as well as many other students, am worried about the reputation BYU will have when I begin applying to (inevitably liberal) PhD programs in just a few months.

    Part of me wants to attend the speech just to see how he’ll use the situation to make a political point intended far more for the media and the general public than for his immediate audience. But I’ll more likely set my morbid curiosity aside and join whatever protest happens (on or off campus). I don’t think many of the protest organizers intend to cause problems, but merely want to have a presence significant enough to get coverage that will, to some degree, neutralize the situation.

  66. Steve Evans says:

    Katherine, you say that the biggest concern you’ve heard is “BYU’s credibility as a scholarly institution in the liberal academy.” What credibility is that, exactly? BYU’s reputation in that respect is already tenuous, particularly in your department, where the institution’s track record with regards to academic freedom is historically quite spotty. It seems to me all this will do is cement what people already suspect about BYU’s allegiances and political views.

  67. English circles, Katherine? I’d really like to understand the implications of that. I’m assuming you’re referring to the department I teach in. Are we “English” people perceived as being uniquely liberal? (I did hear once that we were a thorn in the side of BYU.)

  68. Steve Evans says:

    I should clarify — I have a degree in English from the Y, and I know and love many in the department. I have the utmost respect for the work they do, and see them as my intellectual superiors in most (if not all) respects. But if other colleges are hesitant to let Y grads into their English PhD departments, I can’t blame em.

  69. The whole situation does not surprise me at all.

    1. Cheney is speaking at BYU. No surprise
    2. The bloggernaccle erupts in protest. No surprise

    As far as the reputation issue with other Universities… I find it refreshing that BYU does not hew the “party line” with all the other Universities esp the liberal arts PC Police. Its nice to be counter cultural sometimes

  70. Katherine says:

    Steve: Fair enough. By “credibility” I suppose I mean the efforts to recuperate the reputation or at least prevent it from falling further. Yes, my department’s academic freedom record is spotty–that’s another issue entirely–but the faculty joining the department and the work they’ve produced in recent years is going a long way toward ameliorating, though admittedly not solving, the problem.

    Margaret: A thorn in the side of BYU? I can’t imagine. Based on my experiences across campus, I’d say the uniquely liberal perception holds, though I do suspect it’s an over-simplification. Not that the department harbors a bastion of flaming, revolutionary liberalness, but whether the humanities, and English in particular, attract the liberal thinkers on campus from the start or we turn that way as a survival mechanism to make our way in the discipline beyond BYU, the perception seems to be grounded in some truth.

  71. Steve Evans says:

    p.s. kudos to you Katherine for taking the PhD plunge. I just pray you won’t go on the dole.

  72. Risking a threadjack here, so I’ll be brief. In our English department faculty, we have PhDs from Harvard, Berkley, UCLA, Rice, Cornell, etc. All are very well trained, and all are expected to publish in major, peer-reviewed journals. An article in _The New Era_ will not help a prof get a promotion. (In fact, unless the prof is a creative writer, publications with Deseret Book are pretty much ignored.) But I have heard that Stanford will absolutely NOT admit a BYU grad. (I heard that quite awhile ago, and hope it has been proven false by now.)
    The truth is, my colleagues do seem to be liberal–at least in comparison to, say, the Business Management schools. I would guess that one reason this is so is that we have read widely–particularly novels. Tolstoy, Heller, Tim O’Brien (etc.) have invited us to see war up close, and have introduced us to characters we learn to love. All of the great authors have invited us to look at hard, moral questions from many angles. After we’ve read “The Things They Carried,” how can we move easily to the scenes on the Nightly News and not be appalled?
    The commencement speakers I would love to see would probably be great authors. We just had David McCullugh as a forum speaker, and we had Gwendolyn Brooks as a forum speaker years ago. We even had Madelyn L’Engle. I would vote for one of them as a commencement speaker.

  73. Ronan,

    My apologies, but I thought it was evident that foreign LDS should act “as if” they were conservative US republicans. I suppose you could look to the US GOP platform, and the positions of Mr. Cheney, to understand the “inspired” positions that should be taken on international issues. I am thinking about sending a note to the missionary department suggesting adding a discussion, summarizing the GOP platform (and the Vice President’s talk) in a way that can be understood in other countries. I am open to suggestions on how this transcultural translation can best be done.

    [Actually, if it is not clear, I fully agree with you.]

    Margaret,

    I am glad to know our stake has more active LDS democrats than yours. I know one other person in our ward and two others in our stake who are democrats–so that makes four of us. Let me know if you find a nice donkey tie.

    bbell,

    I don’t have a problem with the University’s being “countercultural”, and believe it is healthy to have in our higher education system a university whose student body or faculty lean to the right (or far to the right). My problem is whether this associates, or is intended to associate, the Church with the right wing of the republican party. Do you think such an implicit statement is intended? And should it be?

  74. The proposed District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act disturbs me, far more than any commencement speaker, as an official designation of Mormons as loyal Republicans.

  75. Davidh,

    I think when your faculty and student body come from a narrow demographic that pretty much all vote the same way (80%) the alignment simply happens.

    What would you have Pres H do? Give a conference talk and divide the membership rolls 50-50 and assign families to vote a certain way? Was that not tried 110 years ago?

  76. Looks like the BYU Democrats plan to protest on campus during Cheney’s speech, rather than off.

    http://byudemocrats.org/?page_id=83

    Do you think they will be allowed to?

  77. This debate appears to be confused.

    It is perfectly acceptable for any university to host political leaders. Although Ronan has a point with respect to the lack of balance in BYU’s guest list, an individual politician’s visit neither constitutes an endorsement nor any other indication of support but a modicum of respect.

    There are many Republicans that deserve this respect. Unfortunately, Dick Cheney is not one of them. He has squandered that respect when he openly supported torture.

    Besides the man is a draft dodger. I didn’t support the draft dodger Bill Clinton. I won’t support the draft dodger Dick Cheney. He does not respect the rights of others and he has never sacrificed for the greater good.

    Cheney is no gentleman. He has no honor. The only legitimate reason to extend hospitality to somebody like that would be to extend sanctuary.

    Therefore, Cheney should not play a role in anyone’s commencement ceremony.

    If BYU wants to invite Fred Thompson or Hillary Clinton that would be fine with me even though they would not be my favorite public figures.

  78. Re #20:

    Does anyone have the statement made by GBH when there were protests about the Rodin art exhibit?

    “I recently spoke on the campus of another university in this state [Utah State University]. The paper reported there were 20,000 in attendance. I think that figure was exaggerated. But the fact is, there was a huge crowd. Most of them were institute students. They looked just the way you look. They were clean, well-groomed, and neatly dressed. They were eager and attentive. As high a percentage of them will be married in the temple as there will be of you. They were much better behaved than some few of you I saw on television the other night” (“The BYU Experience,” BYU Devotional, Nov. 4, 1997).

  79. John Mansfield – I hope you find a way to post a blog about the DC Congressman issue. I’m always interested to know why some people believe that Americans who pay the same taxes and die in the same wars as everyone else shouldn’t have a voice in Congress.

  80. bbell,

    I am not objecting to the political alignment of members, I am concerned whether, by inviting a controversial prominent republican, but not (since Bobby Kennedy) a similar democrat, the University and its sponsoring institution are implicitly endorsing a political view.

    Do you think this is an implicit (“unwritten order”) endorsement of conservative republicanism? If it is, do you think the Church and BYU should be making such implicit endorsements?

  81. I’m always interested to know why some people believe that Americans who pay the same taxes and die in the same wars as everyone else shouldn’t have a voice in Congress.

    Stupid Founders!

  82. But I have heard that Stanford will absolutely NOT admit a BYU grad.

    Is that true? Why would they do that? The old race and ERA stuff or have their been instances of BYU grads spying on their professors in the fifties and sixties?

  83. Sterling says:

    Nobody on this thread has yet mentioned the hot water BYU found itself in when its employees started working with the Romney campaign.

    Nobody has yet mentioned President Hinckley’s comments about war in his Halloweeen 2006 address.

    Nobody has yet mentioned the recent poll data that says Utah Mormons, as of last January, are almost evenly split on the president’s handling of the war.

    Nobody has yet connected the timing of the Cheney announcement with the timing of the Soulforce incident at BYU and Temple Square.

    Nobody has yet cited this latest report on the various types of protest being planned by BYU students.

    Is this all a coincidence? Is it possible the brethren and administrators who invited Cheney to speak were fully expecting (and hoping for) these responses?

  84. But I have heard that Stanford will absolutely NOT admit a BYU grad.

    Can’t be true. My sister, a BYU grad, went there for her grad work in finance. A good friend from my freshman year at BYU was at the law school there. Many of my sisters friends, doing grad work in, among other things, accounting and computer science, were BYU grads. Frank McIntyre was there for Econ.
    If you mean Stanford won’t accept BYU students into their English Ph.D. program, I don’t have any idea.

  85. I believe it’s specific to the English department. I wouldn’t know about other fields. I would love to receive a list of BYU alumni who pursued post-grad degrees in English at Stanford. I do know one who did, but he is Chinese and not LDS. Still, I genuinely hope that this “rumor” is just that.

  86. Sam,

    Is your sister named Becky? If so we met once or twice. And I do not find it hard to believe that some of Stanford’s less enlightened departments still hold a BYU grudge. Maybe its because they read so many novels :).

    In any case, the BYU-Stanford grad population had law, MBA, various engineering types, economics, political science, accounting, sociology, medical, and a potpourri of others. In all, there was a pretty good sized Mormon grad population (though many were not from BYU). I do not recall knowing any BYU English grad students.

  87. Nobody on this thread has yet mentioned the hot water BYU found itself in when its employees started working with the Romney campaign.

    Nobody has yet mentioned President Hinckley’s comments about war in his Halloweeen 2006 address.

    Nobody has yet mentioned the recent poll data that says Utah Mormons, as of last January, are almost evenly split on the president’s handling of the war.

    Nobody has yet connected the timing of the Cheney announcement with the timing of the Soulforce incident at BYU and Temple Square.

    Nobody has yet cited this latest report on the various types of protest being planned by BYU students.

    Is this all a coincidence? Is it possible the brethren and administrators who invited Cheney to speak were fully expecting (and hoping for) these responses?


    Puzzlin’ Evidence!

  88. Frank,
    That’s her. You probably did run into her–she would have been there from 2000 through, say, 2005. I don’t know how much overlap there was between econ and finance, but she would have enjoyed the whatever crossover there was, having done econ undergrad.

  89. Sterling,
    I am not ashamed to say that I have no earthly idea what you are talking about.

    Hellmut,
    Students spying on professors?

    Everyone else,
    When the discussion turns to Stanford Economics almuni, you know the discussion has gone off the rails. Chupacabra!

  90. Brilliant, GST!

    (And notice the Mike Wallace reference. Coincidence?!)

  91. Sterling says:

    HP/JDC,

    I am not sure the links I provided mean anything either. I selected a few facts and asked whether they had any connection or presented any pattern. I guess the people reading this will be the judge.

  92. Okay, now I have even less of an idea as to what you are getting at. Tell me, do you wear tin-foil hats about the house?

  93. Sterling says:

    HP/JDC,

    Here is another piece that provides the pulse in Provo.

    I just figured out what you meant about tin-foil hats. I suppose I was more interested in providing foil for the discussion.

    By your choice of terms, it seems to me you smell a conspiracy theory. I was merely wondering if the brethren were demonstrating some political savvy.

  94. Do we know whether BYU has invited democrat politicians in the past and they have declined the offer?

  95. Sterling says:

    john f.,

    This is probably the closest BYU has come to letting a Democrat politician give the devotional address.

  96. On a side note, I attended a speech by Paul Tsongas back when he was running for President (or maybe just after). So, Democrats have appeared on campus at least twice in the past 15 years.

  97. Sterling, that wasn’t my question. I wonder whether we know or can know how many democrat politicians have been invited to speak but have turned the invitation down.

  98. Sterling says:

    john f.,

    You are right. I don’t have the answer to your question. However, I can say there is a distinction to be made. Very few Mormon Democratic politicians have delivered the devotional address. However, many more have appeared at smaller and less-publicized events on campus. For instance, it is not that hard for BYU Democrats to invite Democratic politicians to attend and address their club meetings.

  99. Hellmut,
    Students spying on professors?

    During from the fifties until the early seventies various federal agencies paid informers at American universities and colleges. Often this involvement was quite innnocent, for example, professors would recruit personnel for the state department, the CIA, or FBI among their students. Other cases were more problematic. Informers were supposed to find communists and subversives among their peers and professors.

    I don’t know this for a fact but I have been told that some Ivy League schools shuttered their ROTC programs in response to these intrusions. I would love to learn more if anyone is familiar with that.

    What I do know for a fact is that Richard Perle attempted unsuccessfully to recruit my advisor to spy on his peers and professors at Princeton. Perle offered a fifteen hundred dollar stipend in return for writing “occassional reports” about campus events and personalities. During the early seventies that was a lot of money, especially on top of your regular assistant’s stipend.

    According to my advisor, Perle said that this work would be no different than his military work. The man served his draft in an intelligence unit in Turkey.

    This encounter happened on my advisor’s first day in the department. Perle cannot have learned this information from a student file. The student file might contain information whether or not somebody had served but not about their military assignment.

  100. Democrats I heard speak at BYU: Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Congressman Mo Udall. Both were running or indicated that they were planning to run for president.

    A while ago.

  101. Okay, why BYU grads? Was Richard Perle a BYU grad?

  102. No, I was just wondering what reason people could possibly have. In my opinion, it’s bizarre to exclude BYU students from any graduate program.

  103. Well, I agree with that, Hellmut. I think that it is probably just bizarreness; it would hardly be the first time.

  104. Greg Taggart says:

    According to a poster on another board who says he graduated from BYU’s law school, Harry Reid spoke at his 2004 graduation in the Provo Tabernacle.

  105. StillConfused says:

    I didn’t realize that so many people didn’t like our vice president. In any event, it seems it would be an honor to have the existing vice president speak at your school. Seems like a plus for the students there.

  106. #1 consider that the BYU board of trustees is at least partially made up by apostles and the President Hinckley is the chairman of the board (see here and search on the word trustee). So, trying to distinguish between the administration of BYU and the church leadership may be fruitless.

    I was stunned to hear that BYU had accepted Cheney as its graduation speaker. My personal preference would be to have current political types to abstain from giving commencement speeches. Let them do it after they exit political life.

  107. Amri,

    I once heard Helen Thomas speak at Harvard, and I can honestly say her performance was the most pathetic, asinine, sophmoric speech I’ve ever heard given by a public figure. Perhaps she did better at BYU.

    Aaron B

  108. I can’t get as worked up about this issue as everybody else. However, I agree that, rightly or wrongly, Cheney’s appearance at BYU will exacerbate the already lamentable tendency to associate Mormonism with the Republican party.

    Aaron B

  109. Some of us believe we need to win this war regardless of whether or not it was right to go in in the first place. I’d rather have a bunch of flag-waving conservative LDS cheering Cheney on at BYU than have the press all over the Church’s rejection of the VP. I would feel worse about aiding the negative press on the war effort than having my political “principles” compromised. As far as I am concerned, the most christian thing to do at this point is to kick some royal ass in Iraq and prevent the loss of hundreds of thousands of middle eastern lives–which will certainly be the case if we cut and run.

  110. Jack, what we need to do becomes meaningless in light of our incapacity to “win” the war. People who still believe that we can win are in denial.

    Besides, you never win counter-insurgencies by “kick(ing) some royal a** . . ..” That’s the kind of attitude that got us in over our heads in the first place.

    Counterinsurgency requires sensitive and sensible responses. “A**” kickers are only in the way, which is one more reason not to celebrate the likes of Dick Cheney, the godfather of defeat and debacle.

  111. cj douglass says:

    right….we just have to decide to kick some royal ass. What a revelation….

  112. I quite like Dick Cheney, though I admit I quit paying attention to the spin machine dedicated to demonizing him, and I don’t really know whether he’s guilty of some of the things he’s accused of. What I do know is his main detractors don’t have much credibility with me, and many of the accusations don’t trouble me at all.

    The larger question is more interesting. It would seem apparent that a primary impetus of progressivism or liberalism–or modernism–is the widespread desire manifest in a thousand details to dissolve the influence of Christianity on society.

    Of course, a lot of democrats don’t see that and don’t believe it–and even passionately deny it. That’s okay. It’s still true.

  113. One item that has not been addressed in this thread, and is of utmost importance to me and my wife who are both graduating from BYU this year, is the issue of the opportunity cost for having Cheney.

    With a family of non-members who have all committed to attend our graduation, this was the one opportunity that I had to share my beloved religion with them. We expected, or at least hoped, that the commencement speaker would be selected from the dozens of eloquent and spirit-filled church leaders that could be available to speak at the ceremony. I was excited at the thought that our family would have an opportunity to see the real reason that we both chose BYU for our graduate studies: excellent secular learning in a spiritual context. Not that BYU has a corner on that type of education, but it has a valuable tradition of presenting faithful LDS men and women who can speak to, and inspire the student body from that unique perspective. Instead, we have invited a man that, despite his high political rank, does not seem to represent spiritual wisdom in any way.

    It was hard enough to explain to my family that the BYU student body and faculty weren’t all Republican “dittoheads” with our heads in the sand. How can I possibly explain this?

  114. molly bennion says:

    Am I right in understanding the initiative for Cheney’s appearance came from the White House, not from BYU?

    Some years ago, we were looking forward to hearing a renowned scientist speak at a son’s MIT graduation, but then MIT announced that President Bill Clinton would be the real graduation speaker and the scientist would speak a little. The word around campus was that the White House was making an offer which couldn’t wisely be refused, despite the university’s embarrassment at bumping their announced speaker. Makes me wonder how much support for Cheney or the Republicans or the war we can read into Cheney’s appearance.

  115. But I have heard that Stanford will absolutely NOT admit a BYU grad.

    Margaret: I was accepted for the MA program in English at Stanford from BYU in 1993, but I didn’t go. (Long story.)

  116. Hellmut,

    Kicking a** simply means to win–and I’m one of those who is still in denial.

  117. mlu wrote “It would seem apparent that a primary impetus of progressivism, or liberalism or- modernism – is the widespread desire manifest in a thousand details to dissolve the influence of Christianity on society. Of course a lot of democrats don’t see that and don’t believe it – and even passionately deny it. That’s OK. It’s still true.”

    I hope you can provide some actual evidence of this other than just stating your opinion. I think perhaps you mistakenly define a “desire to dissolve the influence of Christianity” as liberalism’s desire to not let the influence of Christianity – or Judaism or Islam or any other religious movement – mandate behavior in our secular life. The influence of religion should be left to the religions and not enforced by the state. I’m always amused that the right wing has the nerve to lecture progressives or anyone else on issues of morality, when they are the authors of Watergate, Iran Contra and the current tide of questionable behavior.

  118. scott,
    just tell them that we are all Tim Burton fans and that the higher-ups mistook Cheney for the Penguin

  119. Lamonte – Democrats are far less likely to be involved with any organized religion, less likely to believe in God, less likely to believe in an after life and far more likely to be agnostics and atheists. It’s about religion. See here: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/35/do-the-democrats-have-a-god-problem

    The Democratic party gains when the public loses faith in God. See here: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/434/trends-in-political-values-and-core-attitudes-1987-2007 Recent trends give large advantages to the Democratic party.

    In Utah at least, my perception is that the Democratic party is largely the party of non-LDS. The divide in the vote for Rocky Anderson is probably the best indicator.

    Now I’m not suggesting that one cannot be a Democratic and a fully faithful LDS. I’m just providing information you requested. Further, the Repbulicans don’t have a corner on corruption as anyone who remembers presidential pardons, Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky will attest.

    Further, I would suggest that the desire to not let religion “mandate” behavior is one thing (with its compulsory implications); but can any Christian really desire that Christ’s teachings not be a guiding light or influence in the lives of leaders?

  120. can any Christian really desire that Christ’s teachings not be a guiding light or influence in the lives of leaders?

    Indeed this should be a factor, but experience has shown that those most prone to make grand pronouncements of faith are the least likely to live by their own confessions.

    The light of Christ permeates all that is good; thus I believe that an atheist/Jew/Muslim/whatever who follows Christ’s principals of social justice and humility in their public life is as worthy of my vote as a someone who attends church.

  121. greenfrog says:

    Blake,

    You realize, right, that none of the correlations identified in the Pew studies establishes mlu’s point that Democrats bear a desire, whether manifest or unmanifest, to eradicate Christianity from society? None of the statistics you’ve cited says anything about Democrats’ intents, desires, or preferences. They only indicate correspondences between voting patterns of people who believe in God and those who do not.

    Do you, as a (presumed for the question) non-believer in Muslim tenets of faith, wish to eradicate all Muslim belief from American society? I don’t. Do you, as a non-believer in Catholicism, wish to eradicate all Catholic belief from society? Hindu? Buddhist?

    I’m familiar with lots of agnostics and atheists. None of those I’m personally acquainted with has any interest in eradicating the effects of thesism on society. Generally, they’d like to be respected as humans, even though they don’t fit a particular mold. To some extent, they’d like to avoid having their children coerced into worship. Of those I’m familiar with, that’s about as far as “manifest desires” go.

  122. Anon: I don’t believe that one who is influenced by Christ’s teachings is going to make “grand pronouncements of faith.” But quiet, sincere adherence to Christ’s teachings is desirable it seems to me.

    Greenfrog: You are of course correct that these statistics don’t establish the Democrats or liberals in general want to wipe out Christianity and faith; only that they have the most to gain politically by it.

  123. “But I have heard that Stanford will absolutely NOT admit a BYU grad. (I heard that quite awhile ago, and hope it has been proven false by now.)”
    Margaret, do you mean they won’t admit one to the writing program? Or not to any other program? I don’t know of any BYU grads in the writing program, but there were some in other fields when I went to an Institute potluck when my son was first considering going there. The writing program is so competitive that I don’t think it can be taken as slight against BYU if many of your grads are turned down.

  124. Blake,
    Our nation’s current leaders are the one’s who have been making grand statements of faith. Are you now arguing that they are not influenced by Christ’s teachings?

  125. Also, I don’t think that the argument regarding Dems gaining by atheism is true. People who choose atheism are going to be a different demographic from those who cannot worship because the law restricts their rights (which is where I assume all this talk is going). Besides, the fact that atheists prefer one party to another does not indicate that the party prefers atheists.

  126. If we judge them by their fruits then it is clear that they have not been influenced by the teachings of Christ. Christ is not into cronyism, incompetence, and water boarding.

  127. cj douglass says:

    Anon: I don’t believe that one who is influenced by Christ’s teachings is going to make “grand pronouncements of faith.” But quiet, sincere adherence to Christ’s teachings is desirable it seems to me.

    Have you been watching the begginings of the Romney campaign? If a candidate is counting on a religious vote (especially the religious right) its in his best interest to make “grand pronouncements of faith.” And if you don’t see republicans using this – look a little closer. Lets be fair, Democrats rely on atleast an ambiguous pronouncement of faith. It’s no coincidence that open atheists don’t get elected to the US Senate, House or the Oval Office.

  128. greenfrog, HP/JDC and Helmut – Thank you for making statements supporting my position better than I could.

    Blake – I accept that statistics show that Republicans, as a group, are more apt to identify themselves as religious than are Democrats. Most of my closest friends in the church are Republicans and they are fine people. I appreciate your belief that political affiliation does not equate to any level of commitment among us Mormons. I should say that most of my Republicans say the same thing but I’m not sure they really believe it. ;-)

    I am also willing to admit that corruption in politics is not limited to one party. As one who calls himself a Democrat, the personal behavior of Bill Clinton was one of the biggest disappointments in my life. A man with so much intelligence and promise let the entire country down because he couldn’t control his base desires. I suppose that story has repeated itself many times throughout history.

    I will state my personal belief, however, that the scrutiny of the Clinton Adminstration was incredibly overblown compared to the scrutiny of the current adminstration despite our current state of affairs related to the war, the national debt, the incompetance of the politically appointed managers of government, the compromising of our civil liberties etc. But what I’m also weary of is the right wing (think William Bennet, Newt Gingrich) lecturing us all on virtuous behavior while they live, essentially, a double life. All the revelations of so-called “religious” people being outed by their actual behavior makes me believe things would be better for them if they just stayed quiet and didn’t try to tell us how to lives our lives. Those are the things that bring me to the belief that we should let the church advise and assist us in matters of spiritual guidance and keep the public square in the secular world.

  129. lamonte,
    If you are telling me to stop telling other people how to life their lives, then I’m packing my bags and going home! What else is online punditry for?

  130. Lamonte, you would probably enjoy Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book Second Chance, which evaluates United States foreign policy since the end of the cold war.

    Brzezinski links Bill Clinton’s indulgence to his foreign policy in an interesting way. The author blames the president for refusing to engage the tough questions such as Middle East peace, Russia’s integration into the world economy, or systematically engaging Al Quaeda.

    Of course, on balance Clinton’s aegis was a lot more rational than Bush’s.

  131. The democratic party understands it has a “God” problem, and is striving to overcome it by reaching out to people of faith, like me, as well as to those, like me, who are pro-life.

    The outreach was sufficient that, three years ago, after 31 years as a registered independent who voted for the republican candidate for president seven times in a row, I registered as a democrat and I voted for Kerry. While there certainly are large numbers of “secular” democrats, I have found many, many people of deep faith within the party.

  132. HP/JDC – touche’

  133. greenfrog says:

    Greenfrog: You are of course correct that these statistics don’t establish the Democrats or liberals in general want to wipe out Christianity and faith; only that they have the most to gain politically by it.

    Not even that, I’m afraid. The statistics measure what is — they do not predict what will be. The Pew studies suggest that of those who currently do not believe in God, more vote Democratic than Republican. It does not suggest that tomorrow’s newly-minted agnostics or atheists will choose to vote the same way that today’s do.

    Think of it this way: in 2000, the American population maintained, more or less, the same percentages of men and women that it had in 1992. Yet in 1992, America voted Bill Clinton into office, while in 2000 it voted Bush into office. The male/female demographics didn’t change — the voting patterns of the persons forming the various demographic groups did.

    I suppose one could study the extent to which theistic beliefs correspond to voting patterns over time, and the extent to which they change, but even that wouldn’t tell us much about what persons who change from one demographic group to the next are going to do — the fact of change, itself, suggests that the people are not as readily categorizable and predictable as we might wish to infer.

  134. I quite like Dick Cheney, though I admit I quit paying attention to the spin machine dedicated to demonizing him, and I don’t really know whether he’s guilty of some of the things he’s accused of. What I do know is his main detractors don’t have much credibility with me, and many of the accusations don’t trouble me at all.

    What do you like about Dick Cheney? I’ve heard people say they don’t have a problem with him, or he’s just doing his job, but what is it you like about him?

  135. I liked it when he remorselessly shotgunned that lawyer in the face.

  136. I like how rich and powerful he is, and may I say I personally find him quite sexy.

  137. GST,

    The only problem with the shotgunned lawyer was that Cheney was using number 7 shot. At a minimum when you shoot a lawyer you should use say a turkey load. Number 2 or number 4 shot.

    Better yet 00 buck with a magnum 3 inch shell.

    My lawyer call me last month and goes…. Hey mad at anybody enough to sue them? Let me know…

    To which I said…. Hey I think I just heard a siren. Go chase it buddy.

    True story

  138. cj douglass says:

    The Penguin face is a keeper.

  139. Eric Russell says:

    I’ve tried to stay away from the frequent conversations on this topic that have oft consumed the bloggernacle, but Hellmut, the blanket ridiculousness of your statements deserve some sort of response.

    “what we need to do becomes meaningless in light of our incapacity to “win” the war”

    If the Iraqi Army can’t win with our support, then they certainly can’t win all alone. If entering Iraq was the wrong thing to do then we become all the more morally obligated to help the Iraqi Army and police forces as long and as much as possible.

    “Counterinsurgency requires sensitive and sensible responses.”

    And the solution to American inner-city gang violence is education and reduction of poverty. But in the meantime, the innocent must be protected. To turn our backs as they are slaughtered would be utterly inhumane.

  140. This is the honest truth: I am excited when he’s in the news for any reason, because it means John Stewart might do his Cheney impression, which makes me weep with laughter.

  141. Eric, when did I claim that the Iraqi army would be able to win? Where did I say anything of the sort? Are you sure that you have read my post?

    What are your qualifications to judge my words as “blanket ridiculousness”? Better yet, what are your reasons to arrive at such a mean spirited conclusion?

    Except for people in the American Enterprise Institute, the expert consensus is that there is no military solution to the civil war in Iraq. Therefore the presence of American troops is superfluous.

    As for your second citation, you will be happy to realize that this sentence specifies the mindset that is necessary to conduct effective counterinsurgency operations. Since that statement does not justify withdrawal, your analogy is logically wrong.

  142. Eric Russell says:

    Hellmut, no meanspiritedness intended, just calling it as I see it.

    You said, “our incapacity to “win” the war.” I consider “us” to be joint US-Iraqi forces.

    “No military solution” means no military solution alone. It does not mean that continued military support is not needed in order to win. Our presence might be superfluous, but it’s saving superfluous human lives. Perhaps we simply ought to leave and decrease the surplus population.

  143. Amen Norbert!

    How do you write that “meh/mah” noise that Stewart does? Actually, it’s to the point now that every time I see a picture of Cheney, I see Jon Stewart doing the “meh/mah” bit.

  144. I should add, I see him doing it in my mind’s eye.

  145. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 124 You perfectly described Harry Reid in your first paragraph up there, Blake. Senator Reid may well be the most genuinely Christian man in Congress.

  146. Eric, you still have not justified your judgement in terms of reasons, probably, because you can’t.

    What exactly is ridiculous about my statement? Please, stick to what I actually said not what you imagine I said.

  147. Sterling says:

    HP/JDC,

    Did you see this latest piece of news about the Cheney visit to BYU? It took the BYU administrators only about a day to approve the students’ request for an ON-CAMPUS PROTEST. Why do you think they approved this unprecedented event so quickly?

  148. A terrifying and wonderful Dickens quote, Eric.

    Hellmut,

    What effort did you put forth to justify your response to *my* comment? Aside from your attempt to convey something having to do the deeper meaning of “kicking a**” the only thing you really conveyed was the idea that those who believe the war can be won are in denial. Now does such a *blanket* statement trump all simply because you said it? C’mon, let’s play fair.

  149. And furthermore, I wouldn’t doubt for a second that if the same “professionals” were put to the task of determining our chances for winning the Revolutionary War, they’d all be hollering for us to give it up as a lost cause.

  150. Sterling,
    I don’t have a single idea, but I don’t ever have a clue regarding what you are talking about. You have advanced beyond me, young Paduwan.

  151. That’s a fair point, Jack, but a different question. If Eric had criticized that statement then he would have been right.

  152. Sterling says:

    HP/JDC,

    I don’t know why either, but I thought it was worth asking. I thought I had given some clues, but maybe my facts didn’t count. How about some more questions? There are no necessarily right answers, so hopefully you won’t have to consider me more advance.

    Does BYU want to rescue itself from the embarrassment it suffered when its employees began using university resources to support the Romney campaign?

    Was President Hinckley’s condemnation of war in general on Oct 31, 2006, a clever way of letting people assume (without giving them definite proof) that he was opposed to the war in Iraq?

    Why did the Salt Lake Tribune wait two months to publicize the fact that, as of January 2007, nearly half of Utah Mormons disagreed with the president’s handling of the war?

    Did the church know that these poll figures would be released around the same time that the media found out about Cheney and commencement?

    Why did the Cheney announcement hit the news so soon after the media coverage of how BYU filed criminal charges against Soulforce?

    Is it possible BYU administrators saw the Cheney announcement as an opportunity to change the protest policy at BYU?

    Is it possible BYU administrators saw the Cheney announcement as an opportunity to affirm that the on-campus protest, when initiated by students and not by outside agitators, could be legimitate?

    Is it possible the brethren saw the Cheney announcement as an opportunity to distance the Church from the wartime policies of the White House?

    Is it possible the brethren and administrators who invited Cheney to speak fully intended to rapidly approve the student requests for on-campus protests?

  153. Hellmut,

    You’re too nice–I was trying to stir the pot a little. However, I don’t think Eric was totally off base. He never said that you said the Iraqi army could win. He said (in so many words) that because we can’t win–as per your comment–that the Iraqi army doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of winning as they need our support to have any chance at all. And because they need our support, it would be utterly immoral for us to leave them to certain failure–especially when we share in the responsibility for creating the mess over there.

  154. In comment 0, I speculated that it may be part of the “unwritten order of things” that LDS in the US should vote and act as republicans. I suggested that the only way to avoid this implication of Cheney’s invitation would be if the Brethren reaffirmed the Church’s political neutrality and/or if a equivalently prominent democrat were invited to speak to the University as a whole.

    I was glad to learn (1) that today the Church has reaffirmed its political neutrality in the context of the invitation, and (2) that Senator Reid has been invited to speak to a Universitywide audience. I was also happy to learn that the BYU democrats will be permitted to protest on campus on the day of the speech.

    I still object to Cheney’s policies and think it was a bad idea to invite such a controversial speaker for commencement. And I still think BYU could do a lot better in evidencing political neutrality. But I am grateful for the steps, noted above, which are in the right direction.

  155. In first line, “comment 0″ should read “comment 60″

  156. And I agree with him on the point about the Iraqi army, Jack. It is unclear, however, that a victory of the Iraqi army would either be necessary or desirable.

    Given that the surge will fail, there remain two ways to end the civil war: the Stalinist model and the Gandhi model. US forces cannot contribute to either one.

    We will not replace one population with another as Stalin did to end the insurrection of the Tartars or the Chechens (execute the men, round up the survivors, move everybody to an alien environment where the children will perish of exposure and the women of starvation. Stalin could do that. We cannot. That’s not how we conduct wars, thank heavens. Besides you need a loyal population to move into the old settlements).

    There will also be no conciliation as long as western forces occupy Iraq. The colonial era is over. Our presence legitimizes violence and thus undermines efforts of conciliation.

    The supporters of the invasion and the surge fail to understand that Iraqis interprete our presence as an imperialist effort.

    The supporters of the surge are clinging to the illusion that counter-insurgency aka the surge might work. The problems of counterinsurgency are many, some of them are insurmountable in this situation.

    Popular loyalties determine the outcome of insurgencies. Since Iraqis understand our forces as an imperial power, the occupation will never enjoy the legitimacy to win hearts and minds.

    Besides, we would have to stop spending money on Halliburton and Bechtel and spend it to create an Iraqi political machine. Our political institutions do not have the capacity to be that selfless.

    Second, counterinsurgencies cannot succeed unless one can deny the insurgents their refuge. We do not have the numbers to deny the insurgents refuge inside Iraq. Notice, only yesterday, turmoil broke out in Tal Afar, supposedly the model town of counterinsurgency efforts.

    We are moving into Baghdad and our opponents are moving their forces north and south. We are still playing whack a mole. The arrival of the remaining reinforcements will improve the force/task ratio only marginally.

    Moqtada al Sadr is apparently in Iran. Last time, he stayed there eight years. Saddam Hussein killed his father and brother and thousands of their supporters. Al Sadr was back for six weeks and he had the largest militia in the country.

    Going to Iran is the equivalent of Mao’s long march or George Washington’s Valley Forge. They can stay beyond the reach of our fire power.

    Since we cannot deny the insurgents refuge, counter-insurgency cannot work. In that respect, the operations in Iraq are fundamentally different from Malaysia where the insurgents were confined to islands and to the Chinese minority.

    Of course, one could invade Iraq to deny al Sadr refuge but in light of the fact that we are already short of troops, we are lacking the numbers to occupy another country with seventy million people. Besides, even the invasion of Iran would contribute nothing to the pacification of the Baathist insurgents.

    Since our presence agitates violence and we lack the capacity to impose order, the best way to minimize inevitable bloodshed is to get out of the war.

    Of course, that will mean that things will get worse but that would happen regardless of when we are leaving. No government formed under the current constitution will be able to impose order either.

    The reason is that the current form of democracy is a tool to suppress Sunnis. As long as Sunnis are not safe, they cannot surrender. Peace does not imply an obligation to suicide.

    As long as we are there, Shiites have no reason to compromise. They are not paying for their intransigence. We are.

    We have herded Iraq into a dead end street and have to get out of the way to let them come out.

    Once Iraqi factions have to rely on their own means rather than hiding in the green zone or excusing their barbarism with our presence, opportunities for a negotiated settlement will emerge. That’s no guarantee for success but at least, there is a chance. As long as we are there, the chance for peace and order is around zero.

    When we are gone the balance of power will realign. As a result, all sides will have an incentive to negotiate, especially when their international allies and patrons participate. That’s no guarantee for success but it is a lot better than what we have now.

    To return to the original argument. Capacity limits moral obligation.

    If I were a murderer then my culpability does not imply an obligation to raise my victim from the dead because that is beyond my powers. Likewise, we cannot end the civil war. It is not in our power to impose order.

    Ethics is a philosophical morass but every perspective agrees that there is no ought unless there is a can. The United States cannot make the Iraqi people whole. That is the sad truth.

    We need to remember that before we want to spread “democracy” by means of war next time.

    PS: There are marginal contributions that we can make to Iraq’s security. For example, we can guarantee the territorial integrity of Iraq. We could also help the Sunnis to eliminate al Quaeda should they feel the need.

  157. cj douglass says:

    thanks for the link queno.

  158. The response misses a key concern. Dick Cheney is not the qualitative opposite of Harry Reid. Inviting the plain vanilla, Mormon Democrat Reid hardly brings balance to the Force.

    Cheney = lies, war, torture, Patriot Act, outing CIA agents.
    Reid = slightly dull.

    Anyway, I’m glad that there can be an on-campus protest, although allowing students to protest is hardly revolutionary. I just hope that shots of BYU students beaming their Mormon smiles over Cheney’s grunts about the war on terror, the march of freedom, and staying the course, can be balanced by the anti-Cheney protest.

    Salaam aleikum.

  159. Ronan, Reid is the highest ranked democrat politician in the United States.

  160. FYI, Harry Reid was the speaker at BYU Law School’s graduation ceremonies in 2004, which I attended — he did a great job. (I didn’t see a post in the bloggernacle criticizing BYU’s choice to have a prominent democrat politician speak at a graduation ceremony.)

    Also, democrat politician Tom Lantos spoke at BYU’s commencement ceremony in 2001 — not long enough ago to be in ancient history, or even the Johnson administration.

    Ronan, in your opinion, what were the thoughts of European Latter-day Saints upon learning that Lantos — a Hungarian Jewish Holocaust survivor — spoke at the Church’s flagship university?

  161. John,
    Reid is not a divisive figure, associated at home and abroad with death, war, lies, and the abuse of power.

    Re: Lantos. I think they’d be pleased. But I don’t get your point. My objection against DC is not that he’s the VP, or a Republican, but that he’s a deeply partisan and divisive figure associated with the ills I have listed above.

  162. Ronan, do the European Latter-day Saints have any sense that the Vice Presidency of the United States is also an office and not just a person?

    The point about Tom Lantos is a propos. He is very partisan and divisive, in the other direction.

    And the Reid and Lantos points are directly relevant because they show to the European Latter-day Saints exactly what you said was the deeper issue, that they need to see balance in the selection of BYU speakers and that if a republican politician is a speaker, then it has to be balanced out with a democrat politician so that it does not appear to European media that the Church is evidencing a preference for one political party over the other.

    So what do you think they make of the fact that in the last six years, two democrat politicians and one republican politician have spoken or will speak at BYU graduation ceremonies? Do they think that the Church is favoring democrat politicians? It’s two to one, Ronan, in favor of the democrats.

  163. John,

    Please pay attention to what I’m saying: Cheney vs. Reid is not balance. One is a Mormon, and a moderate democrat, the other is [fill in the litany of woes already expressed].

    Balance would be Cheney vs. Hillary. (Although Hillary’s sins and Cheney’s are, in my mind, on a vastly different scale. But that’s another conversation.) As for Lantos, I don’t know much about the guy. You say he’s divisive. This may be so, but to the scale of Dick Cheney? Divisive to the point that he is loathed the world over? Doubtful.

    This is about perception, John. Are you arguing that Cheney is not perceived appallingly in Europe? Are you arguing that the church is not perceived as Republican and bears no risk in being associated with something deeply despised in Europe (the Iraq war)? The image of BYU students cheering Cheney and his pro-war pronouncements would be devastating.

    Again, Lantos and Reid do not bring balance. Please note that in the post I write that the church must honour the VP if he invites himself; now is the time to make concerted efforts to balance him out. Reid is a start, but only a start.

  164. And isn’t Lantos’s wife Mormon? Holocaust survivor who’s wife is Mormon; Mormon Majority Leader. Yep, real controversial choices!

  165. Ronan, two democrats outbalance one republican. What you are saying is that this has nothing to do with politics at all really, since you seem to imply that it doesn’t matter that two democrat politicians have spoken at BYU graduations since 2001. This has solely to do with the individual of Dick Cheney. Thus, speaking of balance doesn’t seem appropriate. If they hate Cheney for the reasons you list, how could some other speaker ever “balance” that out? The only solution would be for the Church to disinvite him, not to invite Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy to balance him out. To accept that latter as a solution would be to make the assumption that inviting someone like those two examples would work to balance out Dick Cheney because whereas the Europeans hate Dick Cheney, they love Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, or whomever you choose to provide that balance. Is that really a valid assumption?

  166. I’m just saying that it’ll take more than a Mormon and the husband of a Mormon to balance out Cheney’s bad ka (and the uncomfortable Republicanphilic perception of the global LDS church).

  167. “the uncomfortable Republicanphilic perception” — this is where the sticking point seems to be. If BYU has had two democrat politicians and only one republican speak at graduation ceremonies in the recent past, then how can the republican speaking be perceived as adding to the republican perception of the global Church?

    My best guess is that the European press didn’t report it when democrat politicians spoke at BYU graduation ceremonies. Thus, European Latter-day Saints don’t know that having a republican politician as a speaker is not out of balance. Perhaps things are out of balance on the ground, i.e. more U.S. Latter-day Saints vote for candidates put forward by the republican party than the democrat party. But the speaker at BYU graduations doesn’t seem to be the proper indicator of that, whether it’s Dick Cheney or not. What this comes down to is disapproval of a specific individual and that individual’s policy choices rather than what political party a speaker comes from. Cheney is more reviled than Lantos or Reid and happens to be a republican. But the fact remains that democrats have also been speaking at BYU graduations.

  168. OK, well scratch Republicanphilic and replace it with NeoconRepublicanPhoneyWarGuantanamoValeriePlameOutingPhilic and you might, if you’re willing to give it a fair shot, understand the objection.

    (Not that the church should be considered any of those things, of course, but if you hang around Cheney you’re likely to get shot in the face, so to speak.)

  169. Ronan, I’m not talking about that. You can hate Cheney all you want. It’s a free world — at least in some countries.

    If European Latter-day Saints view Cheney speaking at BYU graduation as the Church’s endorsement of or close-relationship with the American Republican Party, then it must be simply because they do not know about the democrats who have recently spoken at BYU graduations.

    None of this means that having Cheney speak is a good idea; but it is not a bad idea because it makes the Church look too close to the Republican party. It’s a bad idea because it makes the Church look like it supports unpopular policies of the current Administration. Since we are so PR focused, it might be a good idea to avoid sending such a message. Whether we should be so PR focused is a different debate, one which I suspect would see some shifting of sides from this debate (i.e. I imagine that many who argue here that Cheney speaking at BYU is very bad would likely argue on a thread about the Church’s use of PR that it should tone down its emphasis on PR).

  170. Eric Russell says:

    Hellmut, your previous comments make sense in light of your further comments in #159. Thank you.

    I suppose my only disagreement is with your general pessimism as stated here: “Of course, that will mean that things will get worse but that would happen regardless of when we are leaving.” I see a near certainty of worsened situations now versus the possibility that, in time, attitudes will change as we continue to turn local leaders one by one. We can’t give up yet.

  171. Peter LLC says:

    If BYU has had two democrat politicians and only one republican speak at graduation ceremonies in the recent past, then how can the republican speaking be perceived as adding to the republican perception of the global Church?

    Confirmation bias is obviously part of the answer. But that’s not to say that the association between the BYU, the Church and the Republican party/ideology/etc. is imaginary or the result of a single speaker in the last few years.

  172. Ronan: “This is about perception.” Well Ronan, you’re back to the PR argument. Such arguments ought to be seen as malicious. Let me show you why:

    (1) Cheney is a liar a cheat and every bad thing I can think of to Eruopeans (no proof needed, it’s about perception)

    (2) The Church ought to maximize it palatability and PR.

    (3) Therefore, the church ought to distance itself from Cheney.

    Now, replace (1) with this:

    (1*) Europeans and Americans despise JS because he was a dishonest con-man who hoodwinked young females into polygamy (no proof needed, it’s about perception).

    If that’s your argument (and it seems that it once again is) then I suggest it ought to be thrown out because it places any institution in such a double bind that it cannot avoid being damned.

  173. Blake,

    I have reiterated several times that I’m not suggesting the church should have refused his invitation, so your argument does not reflect my position. It is only a greater and concerted effort to show political balance that I would like to see.

    And anyway, the church does care about how it is perceived, so I don’t know what you’re objecting to.

  174. Eric #177, in terms of murder and mayhem things have been getting worse in Iraq every quarter since the war started. There is a spiral of fear and aggression that our presence agitates.

    Unfortunately, the aggression has veered far beyond resistance to the occupation, which means that lifting the occupation will not be sufficient to short circuit the spiral. However, removing our agitating presence is a necessary condition for creating opportunities of reconciliation.

    The Iraqi “government” has been refusing for almost three years to negotiate a constitution that would guarantee the survival of the Sunni minority. In part, they can afford to beat Sunnis over the head with majority rule because Shiites get to hide behind our broad shoulders.

    Add to that the legitimate concerns about the nature of the occupation and it is clear that our presence is making things worse, not better.

    In a cycle of fear and aggression, people’s attitudes will not change. Right now, no one has an incentive to break the cycle. Incentives would shift as we withdraw to the perimeters of Iraq. Once Shiites will realize that they cannot vanquish their Sunni opponents but may well loose, self-interest will facilitate meaningful negotiations.

    At that point, the United States will be in a position to make a contribution. Right now, we are only demonstrating our impotence to the benefit of Iran and al Quaeda.

  175. Leveraging Joseph Smith’s prestige on behalf of Cheney only besmirches Joseph Smith, Blake. Although that move might serve Cheney, it does not serve Mormonism.

  176. Wow — Great way to express how much you truly despise Cheney, Hellmut! You say that he makes JS look good by comparison, and we all know how you feel about JS.

  177. john f. I think you’ve been chided elsewhere (I think T & S) about your continued use of the word “democrat” to describe a member of the democratic party. What’s the deal. Why do you persist?

    Ronan: Do you think the Church’s official statement helps the Church in the PR nightmare of the Cheney invitation? It does seem to concede members can and do should have differences of political opinion. Couple that with the Church allowing an on campus protest against Mr. Cheney.

  178. Frnakly, since its all about perception, and I don’t care about perception but instead truth, I don’t care. I believe that education about the facts of the matter is far better than simply saying let’s demonize Cheney — which no matter how this bread gets buttered is what it is really about.

  179. Blake, your JS analogy has backfired on you. Whether or not you believe he was a POG, its certainly clear that the church has always skipped over the less “acceptable” portions of his life. Why? To present him in a more favorable light with main stream christianity. If there ever was an example of the church’s desire to have good PR, its in our selective church history.

  180. Guy,
    The statement is pretty good, the protest is pretty good, but I still don’t think that Cheney’s partisanship is negated by Harry Reid’s visit.

    But now I’m starting to repeat myself over and over. Time to enjoy this beautiful evening in socialist Vienna, methinks…

  181. The more I think about it, BYU and Cheney deserve each other. Jay Bybee got his “education” from BYU and went on to write the Bybee Memo. Kyle Sampson got his “education” from BYU and he went on to lie to America, and use the unconstitutional Patriot Act to place “loyal Bushies” in battleground states for 2008’s election. It seems BYU is the perfect place for Cheney.

    Looks like the men coming down from the mountains to “save the Constitution hanging by a thread” certainly are not coming from BYU!

  182. Ronan, I agree that nothing would counterbalance Cheney’s partisanship. Though I am pleased to see that Sen. Reid has been invited to BYU. I think the Church’s statement and the protest on campus speaks volumes.

    Enjoy your socialist evening out.

  183. Apart from Ronan’s point, Harry Reid’s speaking at a BYU law school graduation in 2004 is not nearly equivalent to Cheney’s speaking at a commencement. The commencement covers all the colleges and schools, with several thousand graduates, not just one of them, with fewer than 200. Moreover, at the time Reid spoke, he was not the majority leader and not even the minority leader of the Senate. And neither he (nor Lantos) are lightening rods.

    I realize that among most LDS, Cheney is probably perceived as a moderate (after all, he does not support the proposed amendment to ban same sex marriage), noncontroversial, and even a hero. Thus, I can see why the University (and many commenters) are mystified that anyone could possibly think that Cheney is a controversial, partisan figure. After all, among students who attend the University and among LDS in the US there is overwhelming support for the GOP and, until recently, the Iraq war.

    For ardent republicans who wonder why many of us have strong feelings about the Cheney invitation, imagine the following:

    Around the time of the impeachment proceedings, Bill Clinton invites himself to speak at a BYU commencement proceeding to which all graduates, friends and family are invited to attend, and the University extends the formal invitation. Is it possible that many (or most) LDS would have perceived this as a tacit endorsement and show of support for Clinton, in spite of his dishonesty and violation of marital vows?

  184. Guy, look at the time stamps brutha. I wrote my comments here and at T&S in which I use the term “democrat” hours before you all were even awake. By the time Jeremiah accused me of McCarthyism for using the term “democrat”, these BCC comments had long been written. So, there is no “persisting” to be found here.

  185. re 185 — I had the impression that Sampson was telling the truth in his testimony. At least he didn’t seem to be going out of his way to corroborate Gonzales’ story.

  186. I suppose you put education in scare quotes because you believe an education from BYU is not a real education.

  187. john f. Thanks for the correction/clarification. I had no idea you were simply trying to be “accurate” rather than “disrespectful”. I’m sure that’s what George Bush and other “prominent” republicans are doing when they do the same thing. That said, “Mcarthyism” was a bit much I admit.

  188. john f.

    I’m being snidish. The fact that both Bybee and Sampson got their degrees from BYU and have done so much to prop up this administration and its horrendous policies just gives me even more reasons to regret ever even considering stepping foot on that campus.

  189. as for Sampson telling the truth…well, that depends, how many questions did he answer with an “I don’t remember?” what, do you suppose would have been the answer if he were to have “remembered?”

  190. Dan, unless you have some specific evidence to the contrary, how does I don’t remember = lying?

  191. If you never step foot on BYU campus because of your prejudices and political ideology, then you are missing out. It is a beautiful place full of wonderful people.

    (Also, your strident judgment of Bybee might be unjust; at the very least, it does seem extremely judgmental.)

  192. Did he answer a lot of questions with “I don’t remember”? I read his statement in PDF form but didn’t get to see the hearings. I only read the CNN reports of it and don’t remember a statement that he was evasive. If he wasn’t evasive or didn’t answer numerous questions with “I don’t remember”, then what would be your reason for assuming that he did? What would cause you to assume that he did?

  193. DavidH,

    I remember GBH visiting the Whitehouse and giving a copy of Clintons genealogy and then praying with Clinton in the late 1990’s.

    I remember being OK with it.

  194. john,

    I graduated from BYU in International Politics. I lived there. I experienced the prejudice. I was a member of the Democratic Club. I studied politics there. I participated in the Soap Box (when the had it, I don’t know if they still do). I regret ever going there.

  195. john, Guy,

    here you go. He said “I don’t remember” 122 times.

  196. page 2 has all the good stuff:

    “I can’t pretend to know or remember every fact that may be of relevance,” he warned at the start — and he wasn’t kidding. He used the phrase “I don’t remember” a memorable 122 times.

    It may have been a tactical effort to limit his risk of perjury, but Sampson displayed the recall of a man who recently fell off a ladder.

    “Since the 2004 election, did you speak with the president about replacing U.S. attorneys?” Leahy asked.

    “I don’t ever remember speaking to the president after the 2004 election,” he said. (He later remembered that he had.) “Did you have further communications with the White House regarding the plan to regard and replace several U.S. attorneys?”

    “I don’t remember specifically.”

    “I wish you did remember,” Leahy finally said. “I would hope that you would search your memory as we go along.”

    Sampson searched. He came up empty.

    After Schumer elicited three consecutive I-don’t-remembers, John Cornyn (R-Tex.) objected to the questioning style.

    Leahy overruled him. “We’re trying to find what in heaven’s name he does remember,” the chairman said.

    Schumer persisted, eventually asking the witness a question about Rove’s role. “I don’t remember,” Sampson said. “I don’t remember anything like that. I don’t think so. I don’t remember. I don’t remember.”

  197. Dan, I don’t doubt he so testified. My question is a bit more narrow. Absent evidence to the contrary, how does I don’t remember = lying under oath in a Congressional hearing?

  198. John Taber says:

    Daniel:

    I was a freshman when Ronald Reagan came – and the campus was shut down for it at 2 pm on a Friday. The administration deliberately scheduled it when Sesame Street Live was in town so that only the 10,000 most devoted would be there.

    I was a sophomore when Rosa Parks came. Somehow, despite the fact that she spoke on Tuesday at 11 it wasn’t considered a forum, they held it in the auditorium of the then-new JSB, and they didn’t shut down campus. (And in his usual effort to rig the Q-and-A, President Lee tried to embarrass Mrs. Parks.)

    I was in the MTC when George H. W. Bush came. Somehow the administration had forgotten it was election season – in July 1992 – and the event turned into Democrat-bashing. They then sheepishly tried to invite Bill Clinton, who declined. Bo Gritz (who was a member then) tried to invite himself. The Deseret News today tried to spin that as “Both were invited, Bush accepted, Clinton declined.”

    I was a senior when Margaret Thatcher came. Not only were things shut down for that hour, but for the hour before as well.

    I don’t regret having gone to BYU – in fact these days I’m more upset about the opportunities I squandered when I was there more than anything that was already on the ground when I got there. But I do wish that the Church leadership would get a clue about the pattern here. I really feel sorry for Scott #114 and those like him.

    I graduated in December so I didn’t go to commencement – apparently, I didn’t miss much.

  199. While I do consider his justification of the firings ethically and constitutionally unacceptable, I actually admire Kyle Sampson for taking responsibility. Here is what the Washington Post reported:

    That’s too bad for the GOP, because Sampson seemed content to fall on his sword rather than naming names when he was questioned about the prosecutor mess. Only the red felt on the witness table concealed the blood. “I could have and should have helped to prevent this,” Sampson offered. “I let the attorney general and the department down. . . . I failed to organize a more effective response. . . . It was a failure on my part. . . . I will hold myself responsible. . . . I wish we could do it all over again.”

    Later, the article mentions that Sampson said 122 times “I don’t remember.” However, if one reads the article carefully then it is clear that Sampson was under pressure and in danger of perjury. Therefore I am willing to cut him some slack.

    That doesn’t change the fact that the dismissal of prosecutors in the middle of the president’s terms is a threat to the rule of law. The fact that Sampson still does not get that raises serious questions about his moral commitments. Apparently, he is more committed to the Bush team than to the principles that uphold liberal democracy. I can see how this facilitates a career but it is not in the interest of the American people who need independent prosecutors.

  200. Here’s the issue, a man in a position as Mr. Sampson doesn’t have to rely on his memory on whether or not he did certain things partaining to his job. There is a paper trail. He should, if he really is a good honest and forthright man, have gone back to his paper trail and made sure he knew what he was talking about.

    But his purpose in testifying in front of Congress is not to reveal the answers to questions that Congress has, but to avoid answering the questions that might reveal what the White House does not want revealed. By simply stating “I don’t remember,” you do not implicate yourself or perjur yourself, but you also don’t reveal what should be revealed if you are an honest man.

    Sorry, but Mr. Sampson, though he may be a member (and from some rumors a bishop), he is not an honest man.

  201. If I am in Mr. Sampson’s position, and I was an honest man, I would have with me all the evidence, in paper sitting right in front of my face on my desk next to the microphone. When someone asks if I talked to the president about this or that, and I can’t recall, I will look at my evidence, and say, “oh yeah, I talked to the president on such and such date about this and that.”

    now THAT’S an honest answer!

  202. Daniel:

    I am sorry you are so bitter about your BYU experience. You sound really unhappy.

    -Pete

  203. I see. You are right that he said he doesn’t remember some of the facts. I didn’t get the sense that he was dishonest but we can agree to disagree.

    Are you saying, however, that we can know he is dishonest because he has degrees from BYU and the University of Chicago?

    As for your feelings toward BYU, it is too bad that you didn’t allow yourself to see the beautiful things about it and to enjoy your time there. (If I understand correctly, even Hellmut liked BYU since he didn’t know about the September Six at the time.) Are you saying you didn’t like BYU because you considered yourself to be less influential as a campus democrat than you might have been as a campus republican? I hope you can at least agree that those who chose to affiliate with republican politics while at BYU have as much right to do so as you do to affiliate with the Democratic Party.

    I can’t resist asking you whether your conclusions and/or logic with regard to BYU require you to conclude that any republican must necessarily despise Berkley or the University of Michigan or myriad other schools known for being overwhelmingly in accord with the Democratic Party? It seems that this type of reasoning underlies your feelings toward BYU.

  204. (If I understand correctly, even Hellmut liked BYU since he didn’t know about the September Six at the time.)

    Chuckle.

  205. re 203, Hellmut, I wonder whether one problem here might be that the civil service here is not exactly the same as being a “Beamter” in Germany. Here, these individuals were still at will political appointees. It would be nice if we had a strong apolitical “civil service” mentality here in the states like exists in Germany but that is not the case.

  206. Daniel: sorry the Y was such a downer. I loved my experience there and got a world-class education.

    cj douglass: You are of course correct that JS married some young girls as plural wives. How you and I will assess that is very different it appears to me. One thing I know, however, is that it would be totally unreasonable to expect BYU to not invite Joseph Smith to speak (supposing he were avaiable) because of your or any other person’s judgment that somehow that fact makes JS simply a charaltan or liar or immoral.

    Ronan: What I dislike is the demonizing of the VP of the United States, the sheer judgment without context, the assessment that it doesn’t matter whether any of that is true, what matters is whether you and others have a perception that will get in the way of the Church’s reputation. If Joseph Smith didn’t get in the Church’s way among those who care only about perception, then nothing will. Cheney is a drop in the bucket compared to the demonizing of Joseph Smith done in Europe.

    There are folks at BYU and elsewhere who have a very different assessment of Cheney than many on this list, and it is unreasonable to expect that BYU must accept such judgments. I believe that Cheney may have made it very uncomfortable for BYU to say “no”; but just because the Brits have a bad judgment about Cheney is no reason for BYU not to accept the invitation of the VP of the United States to speak at commencment.

  207. Daniel, in the long run you are probably right. I am not sure, however, that it is realistic to expect that of Sampson in this particular hearing.

    For starters, Sampson has resigned. He might not have access to the paper trail at this moment. Second, the paper trail probably consists of tens of thousands of pages. It is not that easy to reach in and pull out just the right sheet.

    Sampson came in the company of six attorneys. That should give us some appreciation of how difficult these situations are.

    Third, the committee is really interested in information that is not in the paper trail. Fourth, in light of the size of the paper trail, there is the real chance of honest mistakes, which might nonetheless be seen as perjury.

    Fifth, I can tell you from personal experience, when I work eighty hour work weeks (only as a lowly campaign worker or on military maneuvres, which are probably less intense than Sampson’s tasks), my memory is shot. I find that often I cannot remember what I did a few hours ago and the memory of yesterday is merely a haze.

    In that situation, I have to rely on meticulous note taking. Otherwise, I would not be able to follow up on the most simple tasks.

    May be, your memory is better than mine but I guarantee you that the best memory will take a performance hit when you work in excess of sixty hours week after week.

    If I had been in Sampson’s position then I don’t know how many times I might have been compelled to say: “I don’t remember,” probably more than 122 times.

    I find Sampson’s position ethically flawed but in light of my personal experience, I can sympathize with his performance during the hearing. Of course, it appears to be ridiculous if you have to say “I don’t remember” 122 times but if I imagine myself in his place, I can imagine having to do the same thing for the right reasons.

  208. If Joseph Smith didn’t get in the Church’s way among those who care only about perception, then nothing will. Cheney is a drop in the bucket compared to the demonizing of Joseph Smith done in Europe.

    That claim is empirically false. Hardly anybody in Europe cares about Joseph Smith. You might be able to find some outrageous statements about Joseph Smith. You will have a much harder time finding Europeans who read that stuff.

    We can pick random people in the most conservative communities in Europe and almost everyone will give you an ear full about Cheney. And most of the complaints are actually grounded in fact.

  209. cj douglass says:

    Blake,
    I never suggested that I found certain
    portions of JS’s life “unacceptable”. I simply
    suggested that many others in the world do and
    that is why the church chooses to skip over them.
    (I never said I disagreed with that either). I
    believe he was a Prophet of God and understandingthat he had weaknesses does not change that.

  210. 207:

    Are you saying, however, that we can know he is dishonest because he has degrees from BYU and the University of Chicago?

    Why drag UofC into all of this?

    210:

    sorry the Y was such a downer. I loved my experience there and got a world-class education.

    Sure, just don’t put it on your resume.

    What I dislike is the demonizing of the VP of the United States, the sheer judgment without context, the assessment that it doesn’t matter whether any of that is true, what matters is whether you and others have a perception that will get in the way of the Church’s reputation…. There are folks at BYU and elsewhere who have a very different assessment of Cheney than many on this list, and it is unreasonable to expect that BYU must accept such judgments.

    Meanwhile, the folks at BYU are busy assessing and screening potential speakers to avoid any perception that will get in the way of the Church’s reputation:

    No speaker will be invited to campus whose expression of personal or political values would demean the principles of BYU

  211. This is what I’ve been saying:

    http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,660207397,00.html

    I never realized how spiritually in tune I was with the church before. My butt is as gold as my daughter’s.

  212. Peter: Your simple prejudice and bigotry against BYU alum is very revealing. I graduated from BYU therefore Peter concludes I am dishonest. Where did you study logic? I want to go get my degree there so that I can get a job like you and be able to reason too.

  213. Kevin Gee says:

    I am going to abandon my normal anonymity for just a second.

    My fondest memory of BYU graduation was walking with my wife, the only art major to collect her diploma with the CS majors, and sister and sister-in-law, and my in-laws leading the processional. I had a double major and could have elected to pick up my diploma cover from either of my colleges. I opted to join my Computer Science comrades, but then I found out too late that the Spanish department had the better post-grad party.

    It was Bateman’s installation and the processional was led by representatives of the nation’s universities. My in-laws represented Harvard, so they got to walk in front.

    They actually had better seats to the commencement than my wife and I did.

    I’ve had 5 other siblings graduate from BYU; another sibling is a student and one is a professor there. I’ve had 8 aunts/uncles graduate from BYU. Despite my issues with BYU football, I’ve got a certain fondness for BYU.

    I share some concerns over the Cheney invitation, but at the end of the day, it’s a bit unfair to brand BYU as some backwater institution because of how certain academic departments function. The vast majority of the campus is top-notch and internationally respected. Don’t negatively profile it because of a couple of problematic departments that most of the campus and alumni don’t care about. English and philosophy departments by themselves do not a university make. Some of my CS classes had very wide-ranging discussions on public policy (and some very un-Republican viewpoints were allowed to thrive). In the Spanish Department, we used to joke that our conversations would have been just as controversial as the English Department; it was just that the administration couldn’t understand us.

    When I did my diagnostic exam with my PhD committee, they were stunned at the depth of education of BYU’s undergraduate CS program. I understand that Penn State had graduate programs in physics/acoustics and Spanish that routinely recruit BYU graduates.

    So for those who claim that BYU is just some backwater institution, I would suggest adding your department as a qualifier.

  214. bbell,

    re: comment 197. The visit of President Hinckley to President Clinton in the White House was in November 1995. While that was the month Clinton began his sexual relationship with Lewinsky, the Drudge Report and other media did not make public the allegations until January 1998. Clinton did not admit an improper relationship until August 1998. http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1998/resources/lewinsky/timeline/

    I am glad most conservative LDS did not object to President Hinckley’s visiting a democratic president in the White House and presenting him with information on his family history. I don’t think those of us who have signed the petition have, or have had, any objection to the First Presidency’s meeting with any governmental leaders of any party.

    Again, imagine, if it is possible, that in 1998 or 1999, while impeachmint proceedings were pending or in process, President Clinton, because of his position as President of the United States, had been approved to speak at BYU’s commencement.

    Perhaps most conservative Latter-day Saints would not have objected, but I would have objected and signed a petition like the Cheney petition, and I wasn’t even a republican, much less a conservative one. And I am pretty confident Orson Scott Card, a democrat who wrote scathing critiques of Clinton, would have objected as well. (And while I would not have objected to a visit by the First Presidency to the White House in the midst of the impeachment proceedings, I might have wondered about its advisability.)

  215. Kevin Gee says:

    Peter (re 214), I’ve found that in my field, BYU has opened more doors that I could have hoped for otherwise.

  216. cew-smoke says:

    The only thing that ever seems to change with these conversations is the number of adjectives used in a sentence to describe people that folks hate.

    The world is not going to suddenly be imbalanced and the lying, thieving, cheating, backstabbing, evil, murderer, torturer, villainous, baby-killers are not going to suddenly eat your children and convert your pets to the Republican party. It’s one teeny-tiny speech and three months from now it will be talked about just as much as people still discuss the color of the last soda cracker they ate.

    The church is not making some grand political statement one way or another. They are simply extending a courtesy to a high ranking member of the US government. Just because you think the guy is the anti-christ doesn’t mean that everyone feels the same way.

    It is ridiculous to even allude to the fact that the church is somehow alienating every member outside of the US because of this. Any more than they would be alienating people here in the US if a controversial socialist leader were invited to speak at a secular gathering of church members in South America somewhere. You can bet your bottom dollar that those who invited Cheney will ask to see a copy of his speech (standard practice) to make sure he is not going to say something outrageously moronic.

  217. I can guarantee, though, that he’ll get a standing ovation. Margaret Thatcher got a standing ovation in 1996 (of course, it helped when the president of the Church made a joke about how many people in the U.S. would like to see her run for president).

    Question is, will any media outlets bother to show the standing ovations? (I mean, any media outlets that anyone pays attention to?)

  218. Hellmut,

    I appreciate your well thought-out responses, though I think your forcasting is a little too axiomatic. Are there no possibilities other than the Stalinist or Gandhi models? How about the “money talks and B—S— walks” model? IMO, in order to beat them militarily we have to beat them economically as well. None of those regimes exist for purely altruistic purposes. And none of them are as sectarian as they are political in terms of their bias (though talking about your average joe down in the trenches might be a different story–and I say “might” because there are tens of thousands of inter-sectarian marraiges, for example). They’re really in it for the cash.

    And so, IMO, we need to hit Iran hard right where it hurts–and that’s in the pocketbook. We need to make it economically impossible (or at least very difficult) for Iran to feed the insurgents.

  219. Time to give the Daily Universe(farce) some credit for publishing a fair representation of some of their letters:

    http://nn.byu.edu/story.cfm/63809

  220. Jack,

    We need to make it economically impossible (or at least very difficult) for Iran to feed the insurgents.

    The insurgents are Sunni. Iran is Shi’ite. Sunni Iraq started the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, killing hundreds of thousands of Shi’ite Iranians. And you are telling me the Iranians now are funding the Sunni insurgents to kill Shi’ite Iraqis? Please. You’ve bought the Bush administration’s propaganda yet again, hook line and sinker.

  221. Now in response to many who replied to my comment about my regrets of studying at BYU…

    I enjoyed my education. I had great professors who taught me well the world of International Politics. I enjoyed the classroom and research experience, and wouldn’t trade that education experience. That’s not what I regret. I regret that I had to get it at BYU. I never thought that BYU would be such a bubble. I mean hello, you’ve got returned missionaries from all over the world. You’d think they would be more tolerant of others’ views. But no.

    Take one incident as an example. A member of the Republican club invited me to a debate between he and I for PoliSci 100 (the introductory class). This would be a debate showing the differences between the two parties on various issues. We chose five controversial topics (like gay couples adopting, death penalty, etc). I got up to present and stated, on the issue of gay couples adopting that I felt that it would be better for a child to grow up with two loving gay parents than in a heterosexual home with abusive parents. And you wouldn’t believe the response to that.

    Or another time when talking with someone about abortion, I bested him in the debate and he got angry and began calling me a Korihor.

    This comes at a backdrop of both my mom and my sister leaving the church (while on my mission) because of how they were treated by members of the church in Utah.

    Maybe I would enjoy BYU a little more these days, but back then it was a horrible time that makes me regret ever going there.

  222. Dan, once again, sorry about the bad experiences at BYU. I read your blog about your mother going inactive. Very sad. I know that can be very hurtful. I have had members of my family go inactive. It is a heart-wrenching experience. One question. Did your mission give you comfort during this difficult time?

  223. prez,

    My sister sent me a small package on my mission, when I had five months left. In the package she sent a letter where she explained that she was leaving the church. In the package she sent some material from anti-Mormons about Joseph Smith, hoping that I would see “the light.”

    I talked with my mission president (Elder Orton of the Seventy) and decided to stay the rest of the mission. The only comfort I had from the mission besides good missionaries who understood, was that I was doing the Lord’s work. I wasn’t looking forward to going home though.

  224. I can understand your not wanting to go home. That must have been really tough. Congratulations for sticking it out and persevering through your experiences at BYU. You are probably a stronger person for it. All the best with your family.

  225. Dan,

    Let me clarify as I’m not an expert in political jargon. “Insurgent” means any group that is fighting against an established government. Therefore, an underground Shiite militia technically would be an insurgent resistence.

    Now you may feel (?) that such a resistence is purely sectarian in scope and aim or purely motivated by vengence for years and years of oppression under Sunni rule. While I think this is true to a large extent, I am not convinced that it is the only motivation. Iran (and probably Saudi Arabia on the other end) is terrified at the prospect of the democratization of Iraq and is, therefore, terribly interested in keeping it unstable.

    Now, in my thinking (lacking as it may be) if we can put some kind of a lid on Iranian influence in Iraq (and who knows how pervasive it really is–I happen to think they’ve got their fingers in all sorts of pies) we will be better able (for a number of different reasons) to root out other destabilizing forces.

  226. Jack,

    Why just Iran? Why not Saudi Arabia also? We know they are funding their Sunni “brothers”, the real insurgency, the one that is undermining our presence there. Shi’ites, though their actions are violent, are a part of the government, and as such are not fighting “against” the government, but rather against another part of the people. Sectarian civil war. Shi’ites are not insurgents in Iraq. Sunnis are. And Iran is in no way funding Sunnis when Sunnis go right around to kill Shi’ites, Iranian’s “brothers.”

  227. Prez,

    Thanks. I hope you can see why I’ve totally regretted going to BYU. The education itself was a good education; they taught me well about international politics, but life there sucked for me.

  228. Dan,

    Yes, I implicated Saudi Arabia as destabilizing force in my previous comment. The Sunni insurgents are getting their weapons from somewhere and, no doubt, the Saudis would be their most viable supplier. I disagree, though, that all shiites who are fighting Sunni insurgents are “part of the government.” There are shiite terrorists, Dan.

    What I’m trying to say is that the motives of local *regimes* go beyond sectrianism. They are afraid of the emergence of democracy in Iraq as it would destabilize their own totalitarianism. And so Iran will continue to feed Shiite extremism (and who knows what else) in Iraq if for no other purpose than to keep democracy from taking hold.

  229. I totally agree with Ronan. Cheney speaking at BYU is a big mistake. Not only is it morally wrong considering that many view Cheney as the architect of the mess the U.S. is now in but from a public view standpoint Cheney is not popular not only in the U.S. but the world at large. BYU being a direct extension of a WORLDWIDE church, not a Utah church, not a U.S. church will not be looked upon kindly and in turn makes the church itself look bad. BYU should reconsider what is really at stake here. Offending a sitting, very unpopular politician or hurting the church’s and school’s reputation for year’s to come. I think the choice is obvious! Show some backbone BYU.

  230. You want more evidence of how bad a person Cheney is? Read this about the David Hicks “trial.”

  231. Is that really the kind of person BYU wants to send their graduates off with?

  232. My name is Macrae and I am currently an undergraduate at BYU. I am also a proud of member of the BYU Democrats and am in fact an officer of said organization. I must admit, reading your opinions were very interesting. It is great news to hear that people are discussing this around the world. As a club we are preparing for our upcoming demonstration in response to Cheney’s impending visit. Personally, I hope that this event will increase political dialogue at BYU and hopefully show that there are different views here in Utah. I have grown accustomed to different points of views and I hope that more people will recognize that it’s okay to be different. I’m not saying that I hope to show thousands the errors of their ways, in any way, but I am so grateful that we,as students, have a chance to show our discontent. Many people have told me that we should respect the office of the vice president however, along with the office comes the man. And right now, that man is Dick Cheney and I do not believe he is a role model I wish to follow.

  233. Macrae,
    Best wishes with your efforts.

  234. I am both mormon and a graduate of BYU. My initial reaction to Cheney speaking at BYU was horror and a frantic search for the petition so I could sign it.

    After thought and reading the discussion surrounding the invitation including the church’s official statement,I can see another point of view as well. Inviting the Senate Majority Leader (Dem)does provide some balance, and the negative reaction by so many alumni and church members shows the world that diversity exists and is accepted in the church.

    While I can see the value of having the VP speak at BYU and inviting a democratic leader to balance out and maintain neutrality and discussion, I still feel very uncomfortable having a partisan (particularly this individual) political speaking at a commencement ceremony which seems to give a more official weight behind the invitation.

  235. I am a BYU student from Turkey.
    I wish our administrators approached this matter in a different perspective but not only as an American. BYU does represent the whole global church but not only Mormon members of this great church. Half of the membership is already overseas. I can bet on it that at least 80% of oversea members do not support conservatism nor Dick Chenney.

    Thanks

  236. Mike Welch says:

    There seems to be a large amount of “yes, I agree” people on this site.

    This is a big “to do” about nothing. When Kennedy came to BYU to speak, no one made claims of the church leaning democrat. I have learned over the years that it really doesn’t matter. If one is so narrow minded to make large conclusions from small moments, they are their own problem.

  237. Hey Mike,

    You’re soooo right.

    “What’s the point?” is, like, ten times more interesting than “Yes, I agree” ….

    Geez.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] attended or currently attend BYU to sign the petition.  I also encourage you to visit and read Ronan’s post at BCC, as well as Connor’s post over at Conundrums.  Both are well done. [...]

  2. [...] have very strong feelings on the subject. There are a number of bloggernacle posts (1, 2, 3) and threads dealing specifically with that issue. If you want to discuss that controversy, please [...]

  3. Mikel Blake says:

    [...] are some interesting posts on the subject.  By Common Consent, Connor’s Conundrums Mikel @ 10:09 am [filed under [...]

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