Defamation of the church and its members is hardly anything new. It began, in fact, before the church had even been formally organized in 1830, and has continued more or less unabated until today (see, for example, Givens, Viper on the Hearth, 1997). The current political campaign sometimes includes a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) anti-Mormon undertones.
As I was walking on my way to class today, my department chairman laughingly told me he had received letters from several people denouncing me regarding the recent scandal at the Maxwell Institute–”the blogosphere is afire” he chuckled, adding he had ignored the letters. I suspect the same, or similar letters have also been written to my dean and the university president, and perhaps even a general authority.
What I find interesting about this brief encounter is that it represents what seems to have become a new standard operating procedure of apostates and anti-Mormons. If anyone dares to criticize them, publish a negative review, respond to their claims, or stand up to their attacks against the church and its members, the new standard apostate tactic is to relentlessly defame that person on their message boards, and to send defamatory letters to general authorities, work supervisors, editors, journalists–anyone who might listen to them. Their clear goal in this matter is to silence their critics by whatever means possible.
These letters are always anonymous and/or secret. Their victim rarely knows what is said about him by the apostates. The victim likewise has no chance to respond to the defamation. The apostates and anti-Mormons don’t, in fact want to engage the issues and ideas of their critics; their goal is to suppress and censor the publication of ideas they dislike, while defaming the authors. Indeed, the last thing they want is for the issues discussed openly and publicly in the marketplace of ideas. They rarely respond to the actual arguments; instead they claim their critics are nothing more than ad hominem bullies and liars.
They continue to do this because they believe these tactics have been successful in the past year. They have done it to Will Schryver, Greg Smith, Dan Peterson, and are now trying it on me. Undoubtedly anyone else who dares criticize them will be subjected to similar tactics in the future, because the apostates believe their tactics work. And perhaps they do.
On the other hand, I have obviously been critical of Jerry Bradford’s activities at the Maxwell Institute. However, I published my criticisms under my own name in a public forum, to which Bradford has had a full opportunity to respond if he’d like. I sent no letters to Bradford’s superiors at work, nor to any general authorities. I would never think of doing so. This simply represents a serious difference of opinion regarding the policies of the Maxwell Institute, playing out as an extended open public rational discourse and argument, not secret attempts at censorship and defamation.
My concern is not about public criticism of me by apostates and anti-Mormons. That is an integral part of the academic enterprise. The problem is the secret (and often anonymous) defamation of people through poison pen letters sent to general authorities, work supervisors, or journalists designed to suppress debate and censor and silence people who disagree with and criticize the apostates. In my opinion, these practices need to be publicly exposed and vigorously opposed.