Leaders of a California organization that opposed Proposition 8 and the LDS Church's involvement in the campaign against same-sex marriage there filed a formal complaint Thursday with California elections officials, alleging the church failed to detail and report "non-monetary contributions" to the campaign.
Church spokesman Scott Trotter said the allegations are "false" and the complaint filed by Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate has "many errors and misstatements."
Other protesters angry with the church are trying to put pressure on Salt Lake businesses and may have hacked into a Web site for church members.
Karger claimed the church's activities went beyond communicating with its own members and targeted California voters. He said that by not reporting "non-monetary contributions," the church violated the state's Political Reform Act.
Trotter said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "has fully complied with the reporting requirements of the California Political Reform Act ...
"Claims that the church has violated the act and failed to report political expenditures made by the church are false. The church has, in fact, filed four reports with California authorities; these reports are a matter of public record. A further report will be filed on or before its due date, Jan. 30, 2009," Trotter said.
Karger filed the complaint with the enforcement division of the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He said that among other things the church organized phone banks from Utah and Idaho, sent direct mail to voters, transported people to California over several weekends, used the church's Public Affairs office to send news releases to non-members, distributed thousands of lawn signs and produced commercials supporting Prop. 8.
He said the church also:
• Walked precincts.
• Ran a speakers bureau.
• Organized a "surge to election day."
• Paid church leaders' travel to California.
• Set up Web sites.
• Conducted at least two satellite simulcasts over five Western states.
The day after the election, when Prop. 8 was approved by 52 percent of California voters, Elder L. Whitney Clayton, a California attorney and member of the church's Presidency of the Seventy, said the church did not contribute money to the campaign, other than paying for travel for church officials from Salt Lake City.
Utah Attorney General spokesman Paul Murphy said his office did receive a faxed copy of the complaint Thursday afternoon, and that he had forwarded it on to an attorney that deals with election law. He said it's questionable whether the Utah Attorney General's Office would have any role in dealing with the complaint if it simply involves California election laws.
Karger's organization is the group responsible for a controversial commercial that aired in California on the eve of the election, showing LDS missionaries entering the home of a lesbian couple, confiscating their wedding rings and tearing up their marriage certificate. Several religious and public policy organizations condemned the ad.
The group has also called for boycotts of organizations that are connected with donors to the Prop. 8 campaign, seeking to divert business from hotels and other organizations whose executives gave money to combat same-sex marriage.
Other protesters angry with the church posted messages on the popular Democratic blog Daily Kos asking people to put pressure on Nordstrom and Macy's to pull out as anchor stores of City Creek Center the residential, retail and office development under construction in downtown Salt Lake City.
The estimated $1.5 billion project is being independently funded by City Creek Reserve Inc., a development arm of the LDS Church.
Bishop H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the LDS Church, said such boycotts being proposed on Internet blogs are "not a concern at all."
Brooke White, spokeswoman for Nordstrom Inc., said the company had received only one letter complaining about its business dealings with the LDS Church as of Thursday, adding that the retailer has "no concerns" about being part of City Creek Center.
"We've served the entire community there," White said, "and we're excited to be part of City Creek Center."
Owners of a Web site that specializes in advice and information for LDS Church members say their site was attacked the day following passage of Prop. 8 by people they believe opposed the measure.
Scott Proctor of Meridian magazine said the site was hacked into early Nov. 5, and its home page was replaced with "horrible, explicit lesbian films placed all over the cover." Engineers took the site down immediately after the break-in was discovered, he said.
The company's Internet technology director said the electronic breach occurred in "a very elegant way. They had to have someone who really knew what they were doing to accomplish it the way they did it."
The Web site was down for half a day as engineers worked to remove the pornographic material, he said. Proctor and his wife, Maurine, founded the site several years ago as a forum for information of interest to Latter-day Saints, and Maurine Proctor often writes articles about issues of importance to the LDS Church that are posted there.
"We feel like this was very specific targeting," by people who oppose the Web site's conservative content. The church's support of Prop. 8 has been among a variety of topics chronicled on the site. "We get hate mail all the time over this issue," Proctor said.
"It's like they have a little network that they e-mail and ask people to send mail in. Every time we post something (about same-sex marriage) we get a few dozen letters with the same tone, similar wording, and the most horrible language and hatred."