This Amicus Brief is No Friend of Mine
By Christina Taber-Kewene
Paying tithing has always been important to me. As Jesus teaches us,
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
What better reminder to put my money where my heart is than to religiously donate a set portion of my income as a share to the needy? How important it is to recall that all that I have is not earned but mostly unearned, that privilege factors more into wealth than effort, and that we have an enduring obligation to share of our wealth and surplus. Jesus underscores his point clearly on a different occasion to a young seeker:
If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
But I’m starting to feel like what should be a donation to the poor has in fact become a tithing to the church’s outside counsel, Kirton McConkie. I think that if Jesus witnessed this, he would be throwing the money changers out of the temple.
Although Kirton McConkie is independent of the corporation of the LDS church, it has acted as its outside counsel for decades. It also may be part of a plan to prevent reporting of sexual abuse claims made against the church under the shroud of legal privilege. VICE reported last year, based on information disclosed in legal proceedings against the church arising from alleged sexual abuse of minors, that calls to the LDS church’s hotline for sexual abuse surivors are routed through LDS family services and back to Kirton McConkie. Why aren’t such calls instead reported directly to legal authorities? Counsel for the claimants argues that the hotline is not a helpline to aid abuse survivors but instead a way to manage allegations before they reach legal authorities. Just the fact that my tithing dollars are going to fund Kirton McConkie as it defends the church against liability for sexual abuse claims is enough to turn my love for Jesus into disgust for lack of corporate accountability. Didn’t Jesus teach us to leave the ninety and nine and find the one? This appears to be the opposite approach, protecting the brethren at the expense of the victim.
The church has a separate but equally long history of using its counsel to push its agenda in the anti-gay marriage fights of the 1990s and 2000s. The battles were many and hard fought, with the church filing brief after brief in judicial cases and putting money behind legislative initiatives to fight gay marriage around the US in these decades. Ultimately, the church lost those legal battles, but not without great harm to individuals with differing beliefs and LGBTQ members and allies, not to mention tremendous resources spent (wasted). And most recently, Kirton McConkie filed the amicus brief arguing against extending the equal rights protections of the 14th amendment to LGBTQ employees. The Supreme Court ruled just days ago against this argument and upheld reading the amendment as extending to cover the rights of our LGBTQ siblings against discrmination.
Now the LDS church is once again using Kirton McConkie to work against our human rights, arguing in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court that it is constitutionally sound to allow organizations that present a moral or religious exemption to be free from providing birth control to covered employees. In a 7-2 ruling today, the justices found in favor of the Catholic church and against those who see this exemption as unconstitutional. I find it telling that although the LDS church filed the amicus brief in concert with several other organizations, it was submitted by Kirton McConkie. Those are the church’s fingerprints all over the deal. The brief is disturbing in multiple ways, including that it relies on faulty science to classify Plan B as an abortifacient (it is not), and, secondly, that it is arguing for a position not supported by LDS theology: we do not share the Catholic belief of life created at conception, nor do we officially legislate on birth control within the religion. Given that, I can’t imagine why our church (Is it our church, ladies?) is arguing against providing health coverage for the most fundamental of women’s health concerns.
I have my own answer: Not with my money, not anymore. Not with your anti-sexual abuse survivor agenda, not with your anti-LGBTQ agenda, not with your anti-woman agenda. I will always tithe to the poor, but I will not tithe to Kirton McConkie.
Christina Taber-Kewene is a writer, lawyer, and human with a womb who is cares about her reproductive rights.