The Mormon church is standing behind its new rules targeting gay members and their children that generated widespread blowback from members, while providing more explanation about them.
The rules issued last week are designed first and foremost to protect kids, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ’s “tender love of children,” officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a news release Friday.
“Church leaders want to avoid putting little children in a potential tug-of-war between same-sex couples at home and teachings and activities at church,” according to the release posted online and written by the head of the faith’s public affairs office.
The rules ban baptisms for children living with gay parents until they turn 18, disavow same-sex relationships and get approval from global church leaders. They also make gay marriages a sin worthy of expulsion.
The gay marriage policy wasn’t surprising since church leaders have made clear their doctrinal opposition to such relationships. But the guidelines for children marked a jarring shift from the religion’s recent push to carve out a more compassionate stance on LGBT issues.
They prompted a flurry of discussion on Mormon websites, with the idea of targeting kids ruffling even conservative Latter-day Saints who rarely question church decisions.
After the US Supreme Court’s decision to make gay marriage legal across the United States, church leaders wanted “to draw a firm line and encourage consistency among local leaders,” the news release said.
Mormon officials also said children who have already been baptized or given priesthood duties — a common action for young Mormon boys — will not have those rescinded. For children of gay parents who have already notched those milestones, decisions about whether to grant them the next ordinances in the chain will be made by local leaders with the best interest of the child in mind.
Local leaders are encouraged to ask for guidance from senior leaders when situations fall outside the new guidelines, the church said.
They clarified that while children of gay parents won’t be given the full spectrum of ordinances, they aren’t barred from attending worship services.