A while ago I posted on my blog, discussing whether a good Mormon can also be a good member of the ACLU. (I concluded that it is possible to be both — see the four-part discussion, 1, 2, 3 and 4; see also links to further discussion here). That multi-post discussion in turn kicked off a lengthy e-mail discussion on the LDS-Law list.
Now, a reader of this blog e-mails in with an interesting piece of information: This reader was an ACLU member before baptism. Since joining the church, he reports that in his temple recommend interviews, he is asked if he is still affiliated with the ACLU.
This is relevant for me, because I have always considered the temple recommend interview to be a distilled litmus test of commandment-keeping. (For example, note my wife’s comment here.) If church leaders are predicating granting of a temple recommend on repudiation of ACLU membership, that is a disturbing development.
Either these leaders have added new questions to the interview (unlikely, I would hope), or they consider the ACLU to be an anti-Mormon or apostate organization. As I wrote here, I strongly disagree with a characterization of the ACLU as an anti-Mormon organization. In fact, the ACLU has defended the rights of church students not to be harrassed by members of other religions.
I don’t think the church would allow leaders to ask a member about his or her political views during the recommend interview. And I don’t believe it is proper to ask about ACLU membership during the temple recommend interview, presumably with the requirement that the member renounce ACLU membership as a condition of receiving the recommend. (I have never been asked in a temple recommend interview whether I support the ACLU; I have similarly never been asked whether I am a Democrat or a Republican, or any other political questions.)
If my ACLU membership stood between me and the temple, I would have to give it up. But I would find such an outcome deeply dissatisfying. In my observation, many church members believe the ACLU is primarily dedicated to attacking religious groups. In fact, the ACLU is involved in many different areas, defending prisoners’ rights, immigrants’ rights, free speech, privacy, voting rights, and a number of other issues (in my observation, in any given ACLU e-mail newsletter, it is as likely as not that religion will not be mentioned at all). (For a list of issues the ACLU is involved in, see their web site).
I don’t agree with everything the ACLU does, but I think that it is a very useful and important group. ACLU membership is consistent with church membership, and should not be a bar to temple attendance.