Mormon Women for Ethical Government's Most Unethical Moments
Filed Under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Nonprofit Fraud
November 10, 2020. Updated November 10, 2022
Whereas partisans of all stripes often couch their beliefs in moralizing language, bludgeoning designated political enemies with dubious claims while giving favorites a free pass is the antithesis of ethics. No authentic voice of conscience crying in the wilderness denounces only the real or perceived transgressions of one party while credulously spouting the narratives of the other and even acting as its apologist. MWEG conflates ideology with virtue, channeling Herbert Marcuse over Mahatma Gandhi and Adam Schiff over Jesus Christ. The group’s pledge not to "privilege one party over another" belongs to an Orwellian dystopia.
Among the many fake “nonpartisan” groups with virtuous-sounding names, few are as egregious as the misnamed Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG). In our assessment, MWEG is a political advocacy and propaganda group which routinely engages in unethical conduct to push its agenda.
A review of MWEG’s official statements found that of 49 items taking advocacy stances, 38 (79%) censure Republican policies, platforms, and figures. None seriously critique Democrats. 39 (81%) convey leftist interpretive bias, whereas none demonstrate conservative bias. Contrary arguments and perspectives are never disclosed. Partisan claims are sometimes stated as fact. Evidence and context undermining favored narratives are withheld in 19 of 30 (63%) statements making representations of fact. Official statements of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are cherry-picked while inconvenient teachings are ignored. Few ethical issues falling outside of partisan agendas are addressed.
MWEG's record demonstrates its activism to be ideologically predicated and contrary to its public claims of nonpartisanship, normative ethics, and faith-based values. MWEG uses these false claims to gain support, influence elected officials, and receive extensive free publicity and editorial access to regional and national newspapers to which a partisan group would not be entitled. MWEG has repeatedly attempted to alter outcomes of national issues from elections to impeachment and the confirmation of Supreme Court justices by framing partisan agendas as ethical imperatives and lobbying co-religionists as potential swing votes. This is done under the fundamental deception that it is an impartial faith-based defender of ethics rather than an ideological interest group. Such behavior should concern all Americans.
While we do not begrudge the political opinions of MWEG associates, we object to the group’s modus operandi of deception and misrepresentation. The duty of the ethicist is to be fair, not to sell a narrative. Merely repackaging partisan talking points in moralizing language is propaganda, not ethics. MWEG’s unequal and discriminatory conduct would be unlawful if committed by any public agency. The group represents itself as a self-appointed ethical arbiter, yet exempts itself from the standards, transparency, and accountability of public institutions. Fair-minded centrists willing to stand up for equal treatment of all parties and to advocate broadly for ethics and human rights rather than a narrow partisan agenda have been conspicuously absent.
We call on MWEG to cease and desist from its wrongful appropriation of the Mormon name and from falsely claiming the mantles of ethics and nonpartisan impartiality. These mantles impose specific duties and are defiled when appropriated for political gain.
Among dozens of disturbing examples, here are our selections for MWEG’s Most Unethical Moments.
10. The False Origin Narrative
The propaganda version composed by founder Sharlee Mullins Glenn for the group’s web page, “Founders - The Story of MWEG,” claims that MWEG was organized in response to a call from Mormon Church leader Russell M. Nelson:
“I could no longer stay silent in the face of the distressing polarization, hyperpartisanship, and eroding ethics in our government. And so, impelled by my faith and spurred on by President Nelson's call to the sisters to ‘speak up and speak out,’ I set up a Facebook group and put in place the basic principles and guidelines that still govern MWEG today...And then I invited a few friends to join me. What happened next was miraculous and completely unexpected. Friends began adding friends who added friends, and within just a few short weeks, thousands of women had joined MWEG — strong women of faith who, in the words of founding member Melissa Dalton-Bradford, ‘refused to be complicit by being complacent.’ The original founding members ... together with a large team of extraordinary volunteer leaders, worked around the clock, day after day, week after week, month after month, prayerfully seeking God's direction at every step, to put into place a structure that could accommodate our growing membership and most effectively advance our mission, all while engaging wholeheartedly in intensive in-the-trenches advocacy work.”
Glenn repeatedly invokes the religious language to push her partisan project: “impelled by my faith,” “Spurred on by President Nelson’s call,” “miraculous,” “strong women of faith,” “prayerfully seeking God’s direction at every step.
Unfortunately, Glenn’s narrative is false. Had she been honest enough to quote Mormon leader Russell M. Nelson’s remarks in context - even with a full sentence rather than five words - it would have been clear that he was not calling her to found MWEG.
The remarks Glenn is referring to come from then-Apostle Russell M. Nelson’s talk on on October 4, 2015, over 15 months before MWEG was organized. Glenn misquoted Apostle Nelson’s call to “speak up and speak out.” His actual statement was: “We need you to speak up and speak out in ward and stake councils” of the Mormon Church. A 2015 article in the Salt Lake Tribune provides additional context for Nelson’s talk, which is very different from Glenn’s representation. Nor did Glenn, hearing Apostle Nelson’s remarks in 2015, organize an activist group to oppose the human rights abuses, scandals, and war against accountability by the then-Obama administration.
A more truthful account of MWEG’s origins is contained in Glenn’s op-ed in the New York times, which acknowledges that MWEG was organized to oppose Donald Trump. In her essay, Glenn invokes leftist tropes to frame “fear” as the bugbear of contemporary American conservatism. Leftism, in contrast, represents “love,” even as Glenn ignores the hate-mongering and fear-mongering of the far left that have incited violent unrest and spurred civic dysfunction.
Glenn’s contradictory accounts are mutually exclusive. Her account to the New York Times makes no mention of any call from the faith’s leaders. Her founding narrative on the group’s website falsely claimed that the MWEG was founded in response to a call by a leader of the faith (it was not) while withholding the truth that MWEG was founded as a partisan group to oppose a specific political figure, contrary to the terms of the group’s nonprofit status.
Lying about the circumstances of a group’s founding seems like an exceptionally poor portent for a group ostensibly based on ethical principles and religious values. Falsely representing statements out of context and withholding contrary data have been MWEG’s normal operating procedure.
During the first Trump impeachment hearings, MWEG lionized former ambassador Marie Yovanovich and National Security Council Deputy Fiona Hill in devotional tones. They were characterized as “remarkable public servants” allegedly “personifying courage and competence” in advocating for ethical government.
Subsequent revelations have demonstrated that Yovanovich gave false testimony on at least two counts. Yovanovich claimed that she had no direct contact and little knowledge of Burisma, the company for which Hunter Biden worked. In fact, she had met directly with a Burisma representative after Trump’s election and received multiple letters from the company.
Declassified documents show that under Yovanovich, the US embassy in Ukraine illegally monitored Americans who apparently had been deemed political enemies. Yovanovich claimed in sworn testimony that the monitoring stopped because of “lack of resources,” whereas documents indicate that the practice was actually stopped because of legal review by the State Department, which noted that it was “barred by law.”
Fiona Hill had worked for a Clinton-associated think tank and co-authored a paper with Igor Danchenko. Danchenko is the Democratic operative who admitted to fabricating allegations that became the primary source for the discredited Steele dossier, which spawned now-discredited Trump-Russia collusion claims and the Mueller investigation.
These material revelations evoked no call from MWEG for investigation, no pontifications about the legitimacy of the Congressional impeachment hearings being called into question by perjured testimony, no calls for investigation of potential conflicts of interest. Should Yovanovich be prosecuted for perjury – on at least two documented counts - and for illegal monitoring of American citizens, when a Trump associate has been prosecuted on lesser grounds notwithstanding the impression of the interviewing FBI agents that he did not lie? Hill’s relationship with Danchenko raises additional questions warranting exploration.
MWEG’s endorsement of the testimonies was premature at the time, and more so in light of subsequent revelations. It is unfortunate that dishonesty and partisanship are deemed to model “courage and competence” for MWEG. False testimony cannot be noble or courageous.
8. Social Media Disinformation: MWEG’s “Corrections” Make It Worse
Worse than poorly-informed opinion pieces us partisan disinformation masquerading as fact. This social media propaganda piece of MWEG founder Sharlee Glenn under the guise of addressing “misinformation” on social media is less accurate and more partisan than the piece it attempts to “correct.”
Out of ten response items in Glenn’s piece that could be evaluated for factual accuracy, six of ten (60%) contained narratives that were mostly or entirely false. Two replies were rated as mostly false, three were rated as false, and one was rated as “blatant falsehood with no merit” and was additionally cited for gaslighting. An additional two represented disputed partisan allegations as fact for a total of 80% of statements (eight of ten) that were false or unsubstantiated.
Five replies were rated as distracting, misleading, or involving gross misrepresentation. Valid or partially valid counterpoints were wrongly dismissed on five items. One item was cited for extreme partisanship with the claim of a religious mandate for political partisanship.
MWEG purports to educate its members regarding “how to address misinformation on social media.” Unfortunately, the factual unreliability and extreme partisanship of Glenn’s piece is typical of the numerous social media advocacy pieces by various MWEG authors we examined. As Glenn acknowledged in her sanitized and embellished founding narrative, MWEG was born through like-minded partisans rallying to her Facebook posts. Here again we see the group’s gross disregard for factual integrity in pushing false assertions and dubious partisan narratives to support its political agenda. The group’s training of members to respond to social media “misinformation” relied heavily on Glenn’s example.
In case after case, Glenn and her MWEG associates demonstrate themselves to be shameless propagandists pushing disinformation, not “courageous” activists for ethics and virtue.
7. No One is Above the Law - Except Favorites
MWEG has repeatedly implied that conservatives should be punished more harshly than others, while giving a free pass to ideological allies and favored groups. Unlimited illegal immigration? MWEG fails to forthrightly acknowledge that laws have been broken or to assert that existing laws should be enforced. Violent left-wing anarchism and extremism? Far-left radicals throwing bombs into federal courthouses? According to MWEG, these acts are society’s fault and Trump’s fault because he was president. Of course, the explosion of crime, inflation, economic meltdown, Russia’s war against Ukraine, the failed US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and other disasters of the Biden presidency have never been attributed by MWEG to his leadership.
Supposed executive overreach by conservatives evokes calls to action from MWEG, even while far more massive overreach by leftist figures resulted in MWEG’s vocal support, as for executive overreach on DREAMers that Obama admitted to be unconstitutional at the time and was ultimately declared to be illegal by a federal appeals court, or silence, as with the massive student loan cancelation by executive order flagrantly violating the very law the Biden administration cited as support.
As with any partisan group, for MWEG it’s about propaganda, not principles. Just as MWEG engages in the shameless weaponization of religion for political gain, the group has advocated for politicization of the justice system by the left.
6. Pushing Fake Precedents, Ignoring Real Ones
MWEG repeatedly presents fake precedents as inviolable. For instance, MWEG objected to objecting to Republicans filling a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year with Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, despite that this has been done historically 18 out of 19 times when the same party controls the Presidency and the Senate.
Yet Democratic threats to pack the Supreme Court" that have been in the works since 2016 elicited no objection from MWEG. The Senate filibuster requiring a 60-vote "supermajority" for the passage of legislation is a 214-year old practice (since 1806) that has been an essential element of the American system of checks and balances to prevent "tyranny of the majority." The filibuster is intended to require bipartisan support representing Americans broadly for the passage of legislation. Biden has expressed willingness, in collusion with other Democrats, to eliminate the filibuster when Democrats control the Senate to cut Republicans out entirely and eliminate the need for bipartisan compromise.
Proposals to pack the Supreme Court and eliminate the Senate filibuster pose existential threats to the balance and separation of powers, precedent, bipartisanship, and could even pave the way for authoritarian one-party rule, disenfranchising nearly half of Americans from a voice in national government and threatening basic freedoms.
Democrats’ passage of partisan bills in the House of Representatives (and blocked only in the Senate) to federalize elections would erode electoral safeguards, drastically change the electoral landscape, and deprive states of their constitutional rights to regulate the “time, place, and manner” of their own elections. Yet MWEG has not raised a word of objection about any of these “threats to democracy” – because these agendas have been advocated from the left.
5. Pushing Conspiracy Theories
MWEG has pushed numerous conspiracy theories of the radical left with gross disregard for basic fact-finding and its false claim of “nonpartisan” fairness.
One of the many absurd conspiracy theories pushed by MWEG is their “call to action” to “Speak Up for Transparency in COVID-19 Data.” As opposed to most MWEG statements which merely state a (partisan political) position, the “call to action” is an “all hands on deck” mobilization for its affiliates to an aggressive campaign of political activism.
In this “call to action,” MWEG attacks the then-Republican administration for following the CDC director’s recommendation to make a long-overdue upgrade to the Covid database to be able to more efficiently handle and transmit public health data.
There was never any evidence of a nefarious conspiracy to hide data from the public as MWEG breathlessly alleged. The lack of substance did not prevent MWEG from promoting hysteria.
The transition was merely a “blip on the screen” compared to the catastrophic failures following the rollout of Obamacare which reflected poor leadership rather than technological failure and led oversight officials to ask "why the administration spent significant taxpayer money on a product that is entirely dysfunctional and puts their personal information at risk.”
4. Election Denial
In MWEG Official Statement #21 and MWEG Official Statement #24, MWEG pushes talking points of far-left election denier Stacey Abrams in making allegations of “voter suppression, disenfranchisement…and unethical practices” without evidence and impugning the legitimacy of the 2018 midterm election. Abrams never acknowledged that she fairly lost the election. But instead of calling her out, MWEG pushed her baseless conspiracy theories and attacked the integrity of her opponent..
Abram’s sister, an Obama appointed judge, struck a blow to the rule of law in preventing Georgia counties from implementing legal processes for voting. Yet MWEG did not call for her to recuse herself or impugn her ethics.
Obama-appointed judge Steven Jones ruled against Abram’s election lawsuit as entirely baseless, writing that “the challenged practices violate neither the constitution nor the [Voting Rights Act] VRA.” Yet MWEG has never apologized for its election denial, attacks against the rule of law, and baseless attacks against conservative public servants.
3. Political Opponent as the Anti-Christ
MWEG’s “Pledge Not to Leverage or Weaponize Faith for Political Gain,” trumpeted in the group’s editorial in the far-left Salt Lake Tribune was written, apparently, to bludgeon another partisan group which claimed faith-based mandate for its political views. The Pledge states: "We hereby pledge to never...morally condemn individuals for their personal political expressions or imply that any candidate or party has doctrinal, Church, or divine support." This pledge applies to the personal conduct of signatory individuals as well as to the organization.
The ink had scarcely dried on the pledge when MWEG’s founder circulated a bizarre misinformation post on social media. In response to an anonymous post stating “I’m voting for good and against evil," Glenn replied:
“Me too. Which is why I cannot under any circumstances vote for someone like Donald Trump, the very antithesis of our Savior and of everything that He taught.”
Glenn paints Trump as anti-Christ, "the very antithesis of our Savior." Religious faith is evoked to support political partisanship, which is zealously proclaimed as a new gospel. There is no possibility for balance or fairness, no nuance in this Manichaean world in which Trump is the incarnate Satan, and Biden is the implied savior figure.
For us, the issue is not about which candidate one preferred in the 2020 election. We had serious concerns about both Trump and Biden, notwithstanding the record turnout and record support that both experienced. It is rather that weaponization of faith for political gain is unethical and off-limits according to MWEG’s own stated principles. Glenn’s statements demonstrate a dangerous conflation of political partisanship with religious virtue with the erasure of ethical boundaries.
If MWEG actually opposed weaponization of faith, we would expect the organization to roundly condemn Glenn’s blatantly inappropriate post among dozens if not hundreds of others like it. Instead, her post was widely applauded and amplified, receiving over 250 “likes” and dozens of shares, including by many MWEG affiliates.
We wrote to MWEG’s executive director to express concern. Her response? That it was unfair for us to expect Glenn, who had stepped down as MWEG president, to abide by the organization’s stated principles. Yet Glenn claimed in her false founding narrative that MWEG is governed today by the principles she established.
MWEG has no problem with the weaponization of faith, so long as it is done in the service of favored causes. This has been MWEG’s modus operandi from its inception. Without weaponizing and leveraging faith for political gain, MWEG would not exist.
2. Designated Opponents Must Prove Themselves Innocent Beyond “Any Possible Doubt.”
Judeo-Christian tradition for millennia has required substantiation of allegations by credible witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15), disallows hearsay, and punishes those bearing false witness. Presumption of innocence is central to Western jurisprudence, with the burden of proof falling squarely on the prosecution. These legal presumptions carry over to other areas of the public sphere.
Nonetheless, Mormon Women for Ethical Government rejects religious precepts, fair jurisprudence, and precedent to invent its own impossible “standard” against designated political enemies. MWEG flips the burden of proof, demanding that unfavored individuals prove themselves innocent: a tactic of totalitarian regimes repudiated in all democratic nations and contrary to principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Contrary to MWEG’s pledge to seek “clear, objective, verifiable facts” and to eschew “distorted information” from biased partisans, MWEG pushed allegations without evidence against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Without evidence and despite numerous contradictions, MWEG declared Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford to be a “credible witness.” In contrast to palpable hostility towards Judge Kavanaugh, MWEG acted as a Blasey Ford apologist, noting that the content of her leaked letter should not be used to discredit her while failing to note that her letter was leaked by Democrats.
Blasey Ford was a registered Democrat, progressive donor, and Trump critic whose allegations against Brett Kavanaugh involved a changing narrative with numerous factual inconsistencies. Key claims were contradicted by Blasey Ford’s lifelong friend Leland Kayser, Ford’s long-term boyfriend, and others. Assertions initially trumpeted to bolster Ford’s credibility, such that Ford had allegedly passed a lie detector test, never materialized; others, such as reported notes from a therapist, contradicted Ford’s tale. Female prosecutor Rachel Mitchell “eviscerated” Blasey Ford’s case, pointing out numerous problems and contradictions. There was no evidence, credible or otherwise, that Blasey Ford had ever met Kavanaugh.
Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post notes that Leland Kayser, Blasey Ford’s lifetime friend and registered Democrat, is the “true hero” of the Kavanaugh saga. Kayser “became increasingly convinced that Ford’s story isn’t true and doesn’t make sense,” notwithstanding pressure from “Ford’s team of friends and advisers…to get her on board,” but stood by her convictions to tell the truth.
Ford’s story fell part fast after her testimony. New accusers brought forth by Democrats were even less credible. Blasey Ford’s attorney has subsequently acknowledged that her testimony was politically motivated, contrary to earlier claims. Accuser Julie Swetnick was referred for criminal investigation for providing false statements, obstructing congressional investigations, and conspiracy in violation of federal law. Michael Avenatti’s media circus has ended, and Avenatti is now a convicted felon. Margot Cleveland wrote in USA Today that moderate, pro-choice Republican Senator Susan Collins was “willing to proclaim the difficult truth: Ford’s claims of sexual assault were not believed because they were not believable.”
Nonetheless, MWEG demanded that the Senate “immediately suspend the confirmation proceedings until a thorough independent investigation can be conducted,” stating that “at risk is the legitimacy of the Supreme Court,” and stated that “if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed without that additional process, that doubt will linger over both him and the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.” The group wrote:
“If these statements are proved false, an investigation will prevent harm to the court’s legitimacy.” (MWEG Official Statement #17)
“If Judge Kavanaugh is indeed innocent of these charges, as he persists in claiming that he is, then he should welcome an independent investigation that could clear his name.” (#18)
“If he is innocent of these charges, then he, more than anyone, should want this investigation to take place so that his name can be cleared.” (#19)
MWEG’s moralizing was one-sided. While the group repeatedly noted that Kavanaugh should not be confirmed if accusations were believed, among other things, the group issued no warnings or calls for accountability if accusers were found to be bearing false witness.
MWEG reversed the presumption of innocence, insisting that Kavanaugh has the duty to prove innocence, but raised the bar by imposing its own contrived standard which does not exist in any normative ethical legal system. MWEG demanded that Kavanaugh to “prove” his innocence not only to the level of “preponderance of evidence” typically used in civil cases, or even to the standard of “reasonable doubt” required for criminal conviction, but beyond any doubt, no matter how baseless or absurd:
“We must ensure beyond any doubt that only those with exceptional and unassailable character and judgment are permitted to wield the power and privileges inherent in the highest offices in the land.” (#18, emphasis added)
Such “standards,” of course, are never applied by MWEG in regard to allegations against political favorites. Even sending a convict to death row only requires conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. Not all individuals are rational, and bizarrely contrived claims without evidence merit little consideration. Yet for MWEG, any possible doubt against political opponents, no matter how absurd, blatantly politically motivated, or unsubstantiated, is dignified as credible.
Even after allegations against Kavanaugh were abandoned by many of the group’s ideological allies, at MWEG there was no apology or retraction, no call for accountability against those who gave perjured testimony, but only a pivot to the next attack.
1. No One Is Allowed to Disagree
MWEG disallows others from disagreeing with its own conclusions, attributing any dissent to partisanship. In pushing the first impeachment narrative that represented the group’s agenda from the beginning, MWEG pointed at elected representatives who did not jump on the impeachment bandwagon demonstrating “rank partisanship.” No allowance was made that anyone could not support impeachment based on valid reasons of conscience because they did not feel that evidence supported the charge and that processes were not fair.
We have severe concerns about Donald Trump’s conduct and are sympathetic to the views of Senator Romney in opposing dubious conduct regardless of political affiliation. Yet we also respect the views of others like Senator Lisa Murkowski who noted the process was unfair and did not meet standards of evidence.
MWEG’s authoritarian conduct in attacking those who do not share its views as being illegitimate and motivated by partisanship is antithetical to its professed advocacy of tolerance and civil discourse. Allowing others to have different opinions is essential to a functioning democracy.