Summarized by Kent Larsen
Was last minute ban due to Mormons or to Discrimination? (Family Conference Stumbles Over LDS Participation)
Salt Lake Tribune 15Nov99 N1
By Peggy Fletcher Stack: Salt Lake Tribune
Geneva conference hits roadblock
Deseret News 15Nov99 N1
By Carrie A. Moore: Deseret News religion editor
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND -- The Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune's coverage
of the first day of the Second World Congress of Families both discussed
the decision of the Swiss Reformed Church to exclude the Congress from
using its facilities for the opening session of the Congress. But the
two accounts differed about why the Congress was banned from the
historic St. Pierre's Cathedral in central Geneva.
The sponsors of the World Congress of Families arranged to use the
building months ago. Last August, the Swiss Reformed Church withdrew
their offer of the Cathedral when they learned that one of the speakers
would be a Catholic Cardinal, offering instead the Fuserie, a smaller
chapel associated with the same parrish.
The Church then asked last Wednesday if the meeting was organized by
Mormons, saying that if true, "this would be a matter of considerable
concern for us." After organizers replied that while Mormons were
participating, they were only one of a number of participating faiths,
the Swiss Reformed Church told the conference organizers, a little more
than 24 hours before the event was to begin, that the facilities were
not available to them.
Allan Carlson of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, one
of the two sponsors of the Congress, regretted the decision, "It was an
unfortunate decision. I was particularly disappointed by the lack of
The coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune gave the impression that this
attitude toward Mormons was the reason for the decision to deny the use
of the Swiss chapels. But the Deseret News includes additional
speculation, based on recent activities of a Swiss Reform Church
official, that gives the Church a political motive.
Last summer the Very Rev. William McCornish, dean of the St. Pierre
Cathedral, was part of a group that produced the "Geneval Spiritual
Appeal," which calls for "respect for the integrity of humankind" and a
commitment to "a better and more just world."
This same "Appeal" led the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to
issue a plea for religious leaders "to refuse to invoke a religious or
spiritual power to justify discrimination or exclusion." In other words,
a Church's moral position shouldn't be used to discriminate or exclude,
according to the "Appeal."
Richard Wilkins of Congress co-sponsor World Family Policy Center is
certain that this is the reason that the chapels were denyed to the
conference, "I know we lost the cathedral because they saw that
Archbishop (John) Njue and Cardinal Lopez Trujillo have been outspoken
on maintaining the traditional position that marriage is reserved for
men and women and that homosexuality is a sin. While we weren't told, we
assume that was the reason we were not allowed into the cathedral."