LDS Church Files Brief Against Transgender Bathroom Case; New Survey On Same-Sex Attraction; And More!

News Nibble

LDS Church Joins Friend of the Court Briefs for Transgender Bathroom Case

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has united with five other faith groups in filing a joint “friend of the court” brief with the Supreme Court opposing the federal rule allowing transgender students to use restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

Church spokesman Eric Hawkins made it clear the brief does not signal a change of stance on transgender issues, but is simply “a restatement of our belief — with many other faith traditions — that gender is an eternal characteristic.”

The LDS Church is joined on the brief by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Christian Legal Society.

“Despite disagreements on many points of faith, we are united in supporting the vigorous free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. The religious liberty we cherish is threatened by the Fourth Circuit’s decision adopting the Department of Education’s expansion of Title IX beyond any plausible interpretation. We submit this brief to inform the Court about the sharp clashes with religious belief and practice that will arise if the Court interprets the term ‘sex’ in Title IX to include gender identity,” Alexander Dushku and R. Shawn Gunnerson of the Utah law firm Kirton McConkie wrote in the filing.

The transgender bathroom debacle has been making headlines since 2014, when a 17-year-old female who identified as male sued the school board to use her preferred bathroom. In response, the Obama administration advised school systems allow transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms in line with their gender identity. Thirteen states sued, causing a federal judge to block the guidance nationwide.

Though former-President Obama attempted to reduce the federal blockade to thirteen suing states, President Trump has cancelled the Obama Administration’s appeals.

The state of Utah has filed a separate “friend of the court” brief in opposition to the U.S. Department of Education’s directive. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is joined by several other state attorneys in arguing the federal funding issues.

“If the federal government may change States’ obligations decades after they first agree to receive funds, the federal government will have the power to leverage the States’ longstanding reliance on such funds into accepting any number of conditions,” the brief states.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the arguments next month.

Read more at Fox 13 News.

Mormon Chasm Crossed For New Survey On Same-Sex Attraction and Religion

Clinical psychologist and former Latter-day Saint, Lee Beckstead, is probably most well known for his testimony against conversion or “reparative” therapy (a method of therapy in which participants with same-sex attraction remain celibate or attempt to alter their sexual orientation).

Beckstead has been an ardent voice in pushing the American Psychology Association to recognize the dangers of so-called “change therapy” tactics. Because of this, he’s pretty sure orthodox Mormons in the gay community hate him.

Despite the feelings of animosity that may or may not exist between Beckstead and his religious peers, the psychologist recruited faith based therapists to join him in creating a survey for LDS and other gays with religious upbringings.

“I needed their buy-in so I could understand their perspective … and feedback on bias,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune. “And I didn’t want them to criticize it.”

This collaboration lead to the recently published 4 Options Survey. The four options include “those who experience (or have experienced) same-sex attractions and identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB), heterosexual, or with another sexual identity or reject a label.”

The team hopes the survey will shed light on how religion and sexuality weave together, which therapies have helped respondents, and which have harmed them.

The survey, approved by Idaho State University, utilizes “snowball sampling,” meaning respondents are gathered through word of mouth. However interesting the findings of this study may be, the lack of proper scientific methods means it is neither definitive nor reflective of the entire religously-raised gay population.

Nevertheless, Beckstead believes the survey holds “potential to significantly change how we address these issues clinically, in research, personally, within families and communities.”

Beckstead hopes information gathered by this survey will eventually lead to the eradication of unhelpful and harmful therapies offered to those with same-sex attraction.

Read more at the Salt Lake Tribune.

Pew Research Study: Attitudes Towards Mormons Change

America has come a long way since June of 2014 — in its attitudes towards Latter-day Saints, at least.

A recent Pew Research Report found an overall “warming” trend in the nation’s attitude toward religious groups in general. The study took into account the survey responses of 4,248 adults who were asked to rate their feelings toward nine religious groups on a scale of 0 to 100. The results were then charted a feeling “thermometer” and compared to findings from 2014.

For Mormons, this meant an upward shift from 48 in 2014, to a current score of 54.

Matthew Bowman, Mormon Historian and associate professor of history at Henderson State University, finds the ratings (overall and the breakdowns by demographic) to be wholly unsurprising.

Bowman remarked that the ratings demonstrate spreading polarization, cultural wars, and political hostility.

“Some of the factors include a general drift in American culture, individualistic expression and a distrust of institutions, from governments to organized religions,” Bowman told Deseret News.

Breaking down responses by age revealed cooler feelings from younger populations (18 to 29 year-olds) for all nine religious groups. The oldest group (65 and older) expressed the warmest feelings towards Mormons.

Thirty-percent of total survey participants gave Mormons “warmer” score of 67 or higher, with 48 percent giving the group a “neutral” score between 33 and and 66. Twenty-one percent of participants gave Mormons a “chilly” score between 0 and 33.

The warming trend demonstrated by the overall score is much more substantial this year than what was seen in a separate study from 2012 — the year of Romney,“The Book of Mormon” musical on Broadway, Time magazine’s “Mormon moment,” and various Church promotional campaigns.

Read more at Pew Research Center.

Gabriella is a psychology major, Westfalia-dweller, and expert bean-eater. Having spent the majority of her life living in the great Latin-American metropoles of Guatemala and Mexico, Gabriella continues to grapple with the eccentricities of suburban living.