Is the Anti-Gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) a Secret Mormon Front Group?

Leaked documents detailing the formation of an anti-gay front group by the Mormon Church in Hawaii over a decade ago have prompted a call for an official investigation into the church’s relationship with the National Organization for Marriage...

a group formed in 2007 to promote Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage amendment, in California last year.

The call for an inquiry was made to the California Fair Political Practices Commission by Californians Against Hate in an amendment to a complaint filed by the Los Angeles-based gay-marriage advocacy group in November. In the original filing, Californians Against Hate alleged that the Mormon Church had failed to fully disclose its contributions to Prop 8. Two months after the filing, the church reported previously undisclosed services donated to the Prop 8 campaign valued at around $190,000. The fact the church filed the disclosure in a classic late Friday news dump on Super Bowl weekend added to its critics’ suspicions that it was being evasive.

A few days after the disclosure, the church issued a non-denial in which it acknowledged reporting the donations but noted that its $189,903.58 contribution to protectmarriage.com was “less than one half of one percent of the total funds (approximately $40 million) raised for the ‘Yes on 8? campaign.” (About half the $40 million was donated by Mormons at the behest of the church leadership.)

On the heels of this apparent double-dealing comes the newly leaked documents that describe how the church secretly set up a front group similar to the National Organization for Marriage in Hawaii in the mid-1990s:

 

The new allegations are based, in part, on what [Californians Against Hate’s Fred Karger] in his sworn affidavit to the commission says are leaked internal LDS Church documents showing similarities between church efforts in California and an anti-same sex marriage campaign conducted in Hawaii 12 years ago. The group has released 11 documents, dated between Oct. 31, 1995, and Jan. 8, 1998, on the Web site mormongate.com

Church officials declined to discuss the documents or confirm their authenticity.

The memos — 10 of which appear to have been written by the late Loren C. Dunn, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy at the time — reveal key aspects of the LDS Church’s strategy in fighting same-sex marriage in Hawaii. Karger contends they also reveal a kind of electoral blueprint that the church modified for use in California.

Whether the documents bear any relevance to the Prop 8 efforts, they offer a glimpse into what appears to have been a major effort by senior church leaders at the time to battle same-sex marriage in a number of states, including Hawaii.

The memos focus on formation and operation of Hawaii’s Future Today, the main group championing Hawaii’s constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, and the church’s desire that the group’s members be drawn from diverse religious faiths.

”One reason I wanted us organized in Hawaii the way we are is because President [Gordon B.] Hinckley wanted it that way,” Dunn supposedly wrote to the late Neal A. Maxwell, then a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, in a March 6, 1996, memo. ”A coalition is hard to attack. …”

The same memo refers to a desire to publicly distance the LDS Church from the group while maintaining direct influence. “The ideas are introduced but the Church is not visible,” the memo says.

The documents also outline efforts to keep church financial support secret. “… We have shielded previous donors from recognition because of how the funds were used in the preparation of this project,” said a Dunn memo to Maxwell on March 21, 1996, ”but in the worst case scenario, current donors might be ferreted out.”

On June 5, 1996, Dunn supposedly wrote to Maxwell again, reassuring him that “[w]e have organized things so the Church contribution was used in an area of coalition activity that does not have to be reported.”

On its website, Californians Against Hate describes a web of interconnections between the Mormon Church and NOM’s leaders that sounds very similar to its secret arrangement in Hawaii 12 years ago:

In 2006, two separate and competing groups tried unsuccessfully to qualify constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage in California… Sensing an impending ruling by the California Supreme Court that could allow same-sex marriage, the Mormon Church decided to take matters into its own hands. So as it did in Hawaii, the church … established … a front group to qualify a constitutional amendment in California and attempted to hide its involvement.

As in Hawaii, it had a loyal Mormon on the board of this new organization. Matthew S. Holland, son of Jeffrey R. Holland who is one of the 12 Mormon Apostles, and the former President of BYU, served in that capacity. The younger Holland teaches political science at BYU. He received his BA in Political Science from BYU and a Masters and PHD in Political Science from Duke University.

Matthew Holland had served as a fellow in 2005 and 2006 under Princeton McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Professor Robert P. (Robby) George, a very well known and controversial national advocate against same-sex marriage…

Currently, Robby George serves as NOM Chairman. He is on the board of the Institute for American Values alongside fellow NOM board members Chuck Stetson and Kenneth Von Kohorn and mega Yes on 8 Mormon donor from Mesa, Arizona, Broc Hiatt. George is also a board member of James Dobson’s Washington, DC-based political operation, [the] Family Research Council.

Robby George organized NOM and put the staff and board in place. They are all connected to him. He hired Maggie Gallagher to be the president, and recruited friend and leading fellow anti-gay activist Brian S. Brown away from the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC) as … executive director. George serves on the FIC National Advisory Board along with fellow NOM board member, Ken Von Kohorn who is chairman of the board of the Family Institute of Connecticut.

Another NOM Board Member, Luis Tellez is president of the Witherspoon Institute also located in Princeton, NJ. Robby George serves as a senor fellow at Witherspoon….

[Any] reporting by the Mormon Church of all of its activities in setting up NOM as its California front group is missing. Did they do polling as they did in Hawaii? Did the Church incur legal bills as they did in Hawaii? How about travel expenses, as in Hawaii? What about staff time, as they reported after the fact in California? These expenses should be easy to identify as a part of the current investigation.

What to expect next: A non-denial denial from the church about its involvement in setting up NOM as a front group.

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written by Chino Blanco, April 19, 2009
Matthew Holland has now resigned from NOM's board.

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