Sunday, November 9, 2008
Faith Or Hate: Former WordPerfect Business Partners Bruce Bastian And Alan Ashton Personify Split Over California Proposition 8
Rarely do I agree with anything written by the Salt Lake Tribune's hard left columnist Rebecca Walsh. She seems to draw more philosophical inspiration from Karl Marx than George Washington.
But on November 9th, 2008, Walsh published an extremely insightful and thought-provoking commentary on how California Proposition 8 has divided families and destroyed friendships. And she cites a superb example - the story of WordPerfect co-founders Alan Ashton and Bruce Bastian. First, they enjoyed a "mentor" relationship, then a co-worker relationship. And now, thanks to Proposition 8, no relationship. Read the full column HERE.
In summary, here's how their relationship evolved. Ashton and Bastian first met at BYU. Ashton mentored Bastian, and together they invented the computer program which ultimately became WordPerfect at the company's founding in 1978. By the time they sold the company to Novell in 1994, each had made a fortune. But the personal relationship began to slowly unravel after they sold the company.
Both Ashton and Bastian were devout Latter-day Saints. But while Ashton, a grandson of the late Church President David O. McKay, remained devout, Bastian took a different road. Bastian had been struggling with sexual identity problems all of his life; finally, he grew tired of the struggle and came out as a gay man. The decision cost him his family and his Church membership. This can be quite traumatic for a person growing up in a church which preaches "families are forever"; it is not unlike having half the foundation of your own home suddenly liquify beneath your feet as a result of an earthquake.
The two began contributing financially to political causes that are antagonistic from time to time. But the final split occurred during the Proposition 8 campaign, when each donated to a different side. While Bastian gave just over $1 million to fight California's Proposition 8, Ashton donated a similar amount to the campaign to amend that state's Constitution to ban gay marriage.
And Bastian takes it quite personally. "It's a personal slap in the face from people I was close to, people I worked so hard for and stood up for in so many ways," says Bastian. "People I thought were my friends and saw me as an equal have helped push me back. They consider me second class". The fact that Bastian and Ashton worked together successfully for so many years doesn't seem to matter to Bastian.
Bastian also feels a sense of betrayal that he believes Ashton does not understand. He figures Ashton and his wife have taken the "love the sinner/hate the sin" approach many Mormons do. "It is all really painful for me," he says. "It hurts more than they will ever understand".
But here's the Achilles heel of Bastian's position. He believes his feelings are so important that he wants the LDS Church to change its doctrine and "love the sin". And he's willing to assume that Ashton hates him simply because he disagrees with the practice of homsexuality, regardless of how Ashton treated him in the past. This is a common denominator within much of the gay community; sexual identity takes precedence over ALL ELSE. Gay obsession with sexual identity scares the greater community and misleads them into believing that gay people pose a threat to kids, when the truth is that ordinary gays are probably not much more of a threat to kids than heterosexuals (read one of my posts on the D.J. Bell case to find out what happens when anti-gay paranoia runs amok).
In contrast, Alan Ashton insists, "I've always had the highest regard and respect and love for Bruce. He's been a very good partner". The disparate reaction by the two leads me to believe that Bruce Bastien was the catalyst in the breakdown of the relationship between the two. But in the final analysis, Bastian grudgingly concedes that Ashton "is not a bad man", noting that when WordPerfect became one of the first companies in Utah to extend benefits to lesbian and gay partners of its employees, Ashton did not object.
So back to the original question - faith or hate? The LDS Church has made it perfectly clear that they do NOT seek to overturn California Family Code 297.5, the California law permitting domestic partners to register their partnerships to qualify for spousal benefits. Their sole motivation was to establish a constitutional definition of marriage consistent not only with their own doctrine, but also consistent with the law of the land that has been enshrined since Edmunds-Tucker. And this is fully within the charter of any church or non-profit organization; they can promote causes, but not specific candidates. This is why charities like the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association are allowed to promote specific anti-smoking ordinances without jeopardizing their tax exemptions. Why should the LDS Church be judged by a different standard?
In response, many of the opponents of Proposition 8 have played the "hate" card. They equivocate disagreement with "hate". They insist that marriage is a "civil right" which cannot be voted on democratically, but must be imposed from the top down judicially. While the LDS Church and its numerous allies merely supported the establishment of Proposition 8 democratically through the popular vote, opponents now seek to overturn it undemocratically through the intercession of unelected judges. In addition, John Aravais, the editor of the AmericaBlog, has launched a campaign to boycott Utah and stamp out the "Utah brand" (which almost reminds me, in spirit, of Lilburn W. Boggs "Extermination Order" in 1838). Such extremist reactions heighten fears among the mainstream population that the gay marriage campaign is merely one more step towards the political disenfranchisement of heterosexuals and the promotion of gay supremacy, as illustrated by the campaign against Canadian pastor Stephen Boissoin, rather than merely "leveling the playing field".
- Has the LDS Church or its allies attempted to boycott gay venues and stamp out the "gay brand"? No.
- Has the LDS Church or its allies vandalized any Metropolitan Community Church facilities or any other gay facilites with "Yes On 8" slogans? No.
- Did 3,500 Mormons recently march around Salt Lake's Temple Square to protest the existence of gays in Utah? No.
- Has the LDS Church disciplined all Mormons who opposed Proposition 8? No, only those who publicly opposed the Church. And the proposed disciplinary council against Andrew Callahan has already been postponed once, although he has flagrantly opposed the Church in public. The Church calls a discplinary council only as a last result, and with the utmost reluctance.
So it should be quite obvious at this point who's promoting "faith" and who's promoting "hate". The LDS Church and its allies aren't the ones promoting "hate". Consequently, I see no further steps the LDS Church can take to mitigate this dispute, short of changing their doctrine. And that is an illogical expectation; although blacks were denied the Priesthood until 1978 because of their race, gays can enjoy all membership privileges simply by not practicing homosexuality.
Thus the burden of proof clearly resides on the shoulders of the gay rights activists and their allies to show that they are not the purveyors of hate. To do this, they must consider the following concessions:
- Respect the traditional definition of marriage. Work towards establishing alternative laws such as California Family Code 297.5 rather than forcing their definition of marriage upon the rest of us.
- Narrow their concept of "civil rights" to a more constructionist view. If everything is a "right", can anything be a "right"?
- Return to the constitutional definition of the judiciary being one of three co-equal branches of government, rather than promote the Marxist-oriented idea that the judiciary is the pre-eminent branch of government.
- Target an idea for activism rather than a specific organization. The specific targeting of the LDS Church is too reminiscent of the German National Socialists' targeting of the Jews or the Soviets' targeting of the kulaks. Oppose ideas rather than people.
This dispute is not insoluble if people will attempt to understand the other side's positions and not personalize the issue.