Elevate Difference

Exposing One of the Greatest Intrusions of Religion into American Politics

Interview with Reed Cowan

Some interviews are more timely than others. In this one, producer and filmmaker Reed Cowan explained his underlying motivation for writing, directing, and producing the critically acclaimed documentary film 8: The Mormon Proposition. Cowan also talked about the “holy war” of the Mormon Church: the fight against marriage equality.

What was your motivation for writing, directing, and producing 8:The Mormon Proposition?

I was raised a Mormon, and I still have many high level friends who are Mormon. I’ve watched and been aware of their involvement in political campaigns for a long time, like their involvement in campaigning against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and early 1980s, and now their involvement in any campaign against same-sex marriage. I wanted to tell the truth about their involvement, especially since a key strategy of theirs has been to remain in the background. Their campaign to support Proposition 8 and other measures like it has been one of the greatest intrusions of religion into politics in America, and it has been swept under the rug. I wanted to tell the truth and expose “the man behind the curtain.”

The PR department of the Mormon Church openly told us that they were “invited to participate in a coalition of faiths,” when in fact they were the ones who were doing the inviting. They invited Catholics and other religious groups to participate in a coalition to support Proposition 8. In their efforts to remain in the background while pulling all the strings, the Mormon Church has done a great disservice to other religions. I have my issues with other religions and their stance against the LGBT community as well, but what the Mormon Church has done is to send others into the battle for them. This is almost spineless, to let others take the bullets for you in what is essentially your fight. I wanted to expose that.

A key part of the documentary is exposing the financial contributions the Mormon Church made or encouraged for the “Yes on 8” campaign. To your knowledge, has the church been similarly active in campaigns in other US states where marriage equality was on the ballot?

The records that we have show Mormon involvement all over the US, and in other countries as well; most recently, in Argentina, for example. Any place where the issue of same-sex marriage comes up, the Mormon Church is active. Luckily, in Argentina, their efforts were not successful.

Marriage equality is a controversial and divisive issue, not just within the Mormon Church. Have there been any personal ramifications for you since making this documentary?

I lost my family over this film. It was like dropping a nuclear bomb on family relationships. The relationship with my sister is irreparable. The relationship with my father is irreparable. The other part of it is the hate mail, and a lot of them mention my son, Wesley. He died in a swing set accident a few years ago, and I have gotten a lot of hate mail where people mention this and tell me that I deserve what happened and that I will never see my son again.

Two days ago, a federal judge rules that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. What is your personal reaction to this ruling?

I am thrilled that documents from our film were part of the evidence in this case and part of the debate in court. I am thrilled that this has become part of the public discourse about Proposition 8. I also feel like the LGBT community now has traction again. The ruling has given us hope. It will no doubt go all the way to the Supreme Court, so there are still more steps to be taken along the way, but it has given us hope.

Based on your knowledge of the Mormon Church and their strategies, do you expect them to continue or even ramp up their efforts in supporting the “Yes on 8” side as this case moves to the Supreme Court?

You bet! They not only have said as much, but all of the evidence we have shows that they will never stop. This is a holy war for them. They will never stop, which is why it was so important to make this film and to show what they are really all about.

Written by: Annette Przygoda, August 28th 2010