The Mormon Church said it no longer needs volunteers in Utah County to help make calls in support of a California ballot measure that prohibits gay marriage. Leaders in several Mormon wards in Provo and Springville on Sunday read a letter from Donald J. Butler, a member of the Mormon Quorum of the Seventy, saying that all those who were called to help with the initiative were released immediately. Mormon Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said the Coalition to Protect Marriage's request for help prompted the initial plea for volunteers in California and later in Utah, but "the church has since determined that such phone calls are best handled by those who are registered California voters."
Richard Davis, head of Utah County Democratic Party, was not surprised to hear the Mormon Church had decided against using Utahns in the campaign. He said he was shocked they considered doing it in the first place. "It would be more troublesome for Prop 8's public relations if non-Californians were making those calls," said Davis, who teaches political science at Brigham Young University. "If a caller says, 'Hi, I'm calling from Heber City, Utah,' that might be a turn-off to a California voter." However, there is no legal prohibition against Utahns campaigning for a California initiative, said David Magleby, head of BYU's political science department. " Freedom of speech does not end at a state's boundary." Magleby, an expert in election laws, said in the past there have been "organized voter contact made by outside entities on state questions that became visible nationally." He cited efforts by both pro-choice and anti-abortion rights groups regarding a recent abortion measure in North Carolina. Utahns working to help pass Proposition 8, Magleby said, "would not have been unprecedented."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined the Coalition to Protect Marriage in June. Since then, members in California have been actively promoting Proposition 8 by canvassing neighborhoods, putting up lawn signs and donating to the cause. Two weeks ago, Mormon authorities knocked their participation up a notch. Mormons in California and California Mormons living in Utah, Idaho and Arizona gathered at Mormon chapels to see a video presentation by two apostles and one member of the Quorum of the Seventy about ways they could help with the measure. L. Whitney Clayton, a member of the Seventy who has been the church's liaison with the coalition, laid out a three-phase plan of action to increase support for the measure before votes are cast on Nov. 4. "We are looking for 30 people in every ward in California to commit four hours each until the election," Clayton said in the video. At that time, the authorities also sought volunteers in other states willing to staff phone banks, if needed. Individual Mormons in Utah and elsewhere were asked if they would participate in call centers, said David Parker, an Mormon businessman who has a house in Sundance and works with the California coalition. "It was clearly stated that [this] had not yet been sanctioned or approved by the church. It was just a preparatory effort." by Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Trib.