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McEntee: The power of apology

Published July 15, 2009 7:29 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Took a stroll on the Main Street Plaza Wednesday, seeking out any sign of "inappropriate behavior." I struck out, but it was midmorning and a tad too early for the lunch and temple-wedding folks.

An LDS Church spokeswoman used those words to explain why a couple of tipsy lovers were ordered to leave the plaza after one of them kissed the other's cheek. They said no, suggested the security guy call the police, which he did, and the two men ended up charged with criminal trespass.

Full disclosure: I have kissed my girlfriend's cheek many times, but not as often as I have my husband's.

Now, the LDS Church has been vilified by many for its role in last year's passage of California ban on gay marriage. But after that election, the church seemed to tone things down, saying it did not object to rights for gay couples regarding health care, probate, fair housing and employment.

That seemed to evaporate just before 11 p.m. on July 9 . The men had been at a concert at the Gallivan Center and were walking home. One claimed the security people slammed him to the ground and showed photographers what appeared to be bruises inflicted by a hard grasp on the upper arm.

But the only signs I saw on the plaza warned against blading, bicycling and skateboarding. The LDS Church has declined to post a list of other rules that might apply.

I've been on the plaza when newlyweds were posing for photos, and while I can't say for sure, I'm guessing there might have been kisses, on the cheek or otherwise.

I've also covered, as a reporter or editor, the LDS Church for more than 20 years. I was thrilled to hear in 1978 that President Spencer Kimball had lifted the ban on black men becoming lay clergy. I covered the first reunion of descendents of the victims and perpetrators of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

What I have never heard is an apology, which might have been the best way for the church to handle this latest dustup.

What if the church's high-powered public relations people had considered that it's hard to abide by phantom rules? And what if the security people had simply walked with the two men to the public sidewalk and sent them on their way?

And what if church officials had simply said, "We're sorry."

That could have avoided another national story picked up by such outlets as The Huffington Post, USA Today and the Advocate , a magazine for the LGBT community and their friends and families.

It also would have avoided last Sunday's Kiss-in near the plaza, and another planned for this Sunday.

Best of all, it would have been the right thing to do.

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