Tuesday, April 26, 2005

FAIR, Lighthouse Ministry DON'T reach detente

Article Last Updated: 04/26/2005 12:51:12 AM

Ministry files suit over Web sitesLighthouse: The group says a pro-LDS foundation is infringing on its trademarks By Pamela Manson The Salt Lake Tribune

A Salt Lake City organization that is critical of the LDS Church filed suit Monday accusing a pro-Mormon foundation of trademark infringement and unfair competition. The suit by Utah Lighthouse Ministry Inc. accuses The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) of registering 13 Internet domain names associated with UTLM, including those of founders Jerald and Sandra Tanner, to create confusion. The Tanners are former members and longtime critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while FAIR says it is "dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS [Mormon] doctrine, belief and practice."

The alleged cybersquatting - the practice of registering or using Internet domain names with the intent of profiting from the good will associated with someone else's trademark - takes visitors looking for UTLM publications to a selection of hyperlinks to articles posted on FAIR's Web site instead, the suit contends. In addition, it says, these Internet sites "bear a remarkable resemblance of 'look and feel' to the UTLM Web site." The ministry's site is utlm.org; FAIR has been using the names fairlds.org and blacklds.org. The names in dispute include utahlighthouseministry.com, utahlighthouseministry.org, sandratanner.com and gerald tanner.com.

The suit, filed in U.S. Advertisement document.writeln(AAMB6); District Court, names as defendants FAIR, which has addresses in New York City and Mesa, Ariz.; FAIR president Scott Gordon of Davis, Calif.; Discovery Computing Inc. of Mesa, which provides Web services to FAIR; and Discovery officers Allen L. Wyatt and Debra M. Wyatt. The legal action seeks transfer to UTLM of the 13 domain names, which were registered in 2003 and 2004 by Allen Wyatt, and triple the unspecified monetary damages suffered by the ministry. Wyatt said he has not seen the suit, but contended that viewers could tell the difference between the FAIR and UTLM sites.

"There's no confusion as to whether it's her [Sandra Tanner's] organization or not," he said. "I just grabbed the names because they were available." However, he acknowledged that he disagrees with the Tanners' position and said taking the domain names is a valid free speech exercise.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Mormons, Gays reach detente...

This is what can happen when opposites come together. Good job and kudos’ to all involved.

Mormon, gay advocates compromise on Hawaii housing discrimination bill


HONOLULU -- When local gay rights activists decided they needed to put through a law this year protecting the housing rights of gay and transsexual people, they looked for help from an unexpected source -- the Mormon church's Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

"They wanted to see if we could reach a compromise. And we thought that would be a great thing if we could do that," said Steve Hoag, who participated in the unprecedented negotiations as an attorney representing the church school.

The measure first introduced in 1998 passed the Legislature last week. It amends an existing law to include sexual orientation and gender identity among the criteria that can't be used as the basis for denying housing.

Another bill passed by lawmakers adds gender identity to a law banning discrimination in the work place.

While the bills still need to be reviewed by the administration, Gov. Linda Lingle has said in the past that she supports anything that reduces discrimination and is likely to support the bills, said her spokesman, Russell Pang.

BYU had consistently opposed the housing measure because it felt it could be used by residents of its dormitories to challenge the code of conduct signed by every student proscribing sexual activity outside marriage.

The result of the discussions between the advocates and BYU was an antidiscrimination law with a fairly narrow exemption for accommodations owned or operated by a religious institution or religiously affiliated higher education housing program.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia already ban sexual orientation-based discrimination in housing, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

And it is not unusual for civil rights laws, including those that don't mention sexual orientation or gender identity, to exempt religious institutions.

What is different about Hawaii's proposed housing law is the dialogue that happened between gay rights groups and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Matt Forman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The Mormon church, along with the Roman Catholic church and some evangelical Protestant congregations, have led the opposition to same-sex marriage nationwide, including Hawaii.

Discussions on the topic have been heated for each side.
"That is what I think is the most remarkable part of the story -- not so much the outcome but that in fact ... there was a genuine attempt on both sides to reach out and have a genuine human dialogue. That is something that we rarely experience," Forman said.

It was the bill's sponsor, Rep. Blake Oshiro, D-Aiea-Halawa, who suggested that rights groups sit down with BYU, said Ken Miller, executive director of The Center, an advocacy group in Honolulu.

"And once we started to go through this process we realized, 'OK. It was valid, their concerns,"' said Miller, one of a core group of about six people who advocated for the bill.

Though in an ideal world no exemptions would ever be necessary, the current bill was something its champions decided they could live with, he said.

Testimony during last year's hearing on a similar bill was contentious, so sitting down this year to talk was a happy surprise for everyone, Hoag said.

"It was nice to bury the hatchet and to work together," the lawyer said of the process of devising language each side could accept.

Protecting the First Amendment, including the expression of one's religious beliefs, is what has held the United States together for 200 years, said Steve Baines, senior organizer for religious affairs with the First Amendment advocacy group People for the American Way.

The government should not force local houses of worship to accept gay and transgender issues, said Baines, a Baptist minister.

So the effort in Hawaii would seem to be something that should be encouraged elsewhere, he said.

"I'm not naive enough to believe that we can clear all hurdles with one state's example. But I would like to be able to think that other states and ... federal elected officials would be able to say, 'This is a way, a model of which we can move nondiscrimination legislation forward in our country," Baines said.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page D3.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Mason's Luck

This has nothing to do with anything LDS, but it gave me a good chuckle and I thought I would pass it along.

Subject: Accident Report Possibly the funniest story in a long while. This is a bricklayer's accident report, which was printed in the newsletter of the Australian equivalent of the Workers' Compensation board. This is a true story.
Had this guy died, he'd have received a Darwin Award for sure...
Dear Sir "I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Block 3 of the accident report form. I put "poor planning" as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following details will be sufficient.

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six story building. When I completed my work, I found that I had some bricks left over which, when weighed later were found to be slightly in excess of 500 lbs Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley, which was attached to the side of the building on the sixth floor. Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to ensure a slow descent of the bricks. You will note in Block 11 of the accident report form that I weigh 135 lbs. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building.

In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel which was now proceeding downward at an equal, impressive speed. This explained the fractured skull, minor abrasions and the broken collar bone, as listed in section 3 of the accident report form. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley. Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of beginning to experience pain.
At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, that barrel weighed approximately 50 lbs. I refer you again to my weight. As you can imagine, I began a rapid descent, down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and several lacerations of my legs and lower body. Here my luck began to change slightly. The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, as I lay there on the pile of bricks, in pain, unable to move, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope and I lay there watching the empty barrel begin its journey back down onto me. This explains the two broken legs.

"I hope this answers your inquiry."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Jews, Mormons tackle 'proxy baptism'

From the Jerusalem Post:

Jewish and Mormon leaders avoided a potential crisis in relations after a meeting this week over the practice of proxy baptisms for deceased Jews. Although the meeting produced little in the way of practical results, participants from both sides told The Jerusalem Post that the meeting was deeply emotional and ultimately fruitful, with both sides coming away with a deeper understanding of the other.
Representatives of Holocaust survivor groups and Jewish genealogical societies have been at odds with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), the official name of the Mormon church, ever since the discovery over a decade ago of hundreds of thousands of Holocaust victims' names in the church's baptism database.
In the proxy baptisms, church members stand in for the deceased non-Mormons, a ritual the church says is required for the dead to reach heaven. Even beyond the grave, the church believes, individuals have the ability to choose their religion.
The Mormons call the ritual "a gift of love." But not everyone sees it that way.
Rabbi Ernest Michel, an Auschwitz survivor and the chairman of the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, has been the most outspoken critic of the practice and a leading member of delegations to the church.
In 1995, Michel and other Jewish leaders signed an agreement with the Mormon leadership which called for an immediate halt to unwanted proxy baptisms. After evidence was found in the church's massive International Genealogical Index that the baptisms for many Jews – including Anne Frank, David Ben-Gurion and Albert Einstein – continued, the agreement was reaffirmed in 2002.
However, recent evidence that thousands of Holocaust victims were still in the baptism lists reignited the controversy, bringing Michel and others to the church's headquarters in Salt Lake City for another meeting this week.
As a result of that meeting, the church has reaffirmed its commitment to the 1995 agreement, and vowed to enforce church president Gordon B. Hinckley's directive to members to limit their submissions for proxy baptisms to people in their own family lines. Also, the sides agreed to establish a joint oversight committee to be convened in roughly 60-90 days to explore reasons why the names keep popping up on the IGI list.
Gary Mokotoff, the past president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies who will head the Jewish side of the joint commission, said that individual church members had managed to circumvent the current monitoring process by misspelling names.
"There's guaranteed to be a trickle going through the screen," he said, "but it's been very embarrassing for the Mormons."
Mike Otterson, director of media relations for the church, told the Post that the church was working on creating a mechanism to prevent "overzealous members" from violating the agreement.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson – a member of the church's Presidency of the Seventy – added that the church could not practice any sort of "unbaptism rite" to undo unwanted proxy baptisms, but he said that the church would "remove from public view any reminder that that was ever done in the past."
Throughout the past decade, Mormons have been wary of Jewish criticism because of their history of persecution at the hands of other Christian groups and American officials over their religious beliefs. Likewise, the Jewish groups that have complained about the posthumous baptisms have been extremely sensitive about the memory of their forefathers and their own history of religious persecution.
"Everyone walked into the meeting with such anxiety, with a feeling of being victimized by the other," said David Elcott, US director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, who served as a mediator for the meeting. "The Jews felt that the 1995 agreement was being ignored, and the Mormon church felt that it was being attacked and impugned for its beliefs."
The Mormons were also deeply concerned, Elcott said, "about the way the Jewish community politicizes issues, using political power to try to get our way."
Mormons are generally very supportive of Jews and Israel, a fact that Jewish leaders have recognized in their dealings with the church.
Mokotoff said he had gone to Salt Lake City to convey how important the issue was to Jews, and to make the point that "we won't allow it to simply go away." But he was impressed, he said, at the sincerity shown by the high-level Mormon delegates.
"Most Christians dismiss Mormons as heretics," said Elcott. "So what I tried to explain to them was that we had come there because we take them seriously. And because of that, this issue means something for us."
After the church leaders heard that, Elcott said, "then they took us seriously."
"Part of our meeting was to define understanding," said Christofferson, "not just to define consensus, but to understand.
"The fact that we're both minorities and that we both have experienced persecution... makes us more open to each other," added Otterson. "There's work to do yet, and we'll be continuing our talks. But I feel [our relationship] is on a sound footing."
"The whole reason we're in this," concluded Christofferson, "is because of the sensitivity we have for Jews."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Mormons, Jews reach detente

More dialogue on baptisms for the dead between Jews and Mormons. Come back and share your thoughts.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Jews, Mormons to discuss baptism for the dead

Baptisms for deceased Jews alive and well? I would love to hear your comments.

LDS take capital steps

Great article on the influence being generated by well-placed, powerful members of the Church