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Mormon Church Strangely OK With Hate Crimes, Because 'Fairness'
Image by Sara Phillips & Neil DaCosta, "Mormon Missionary Positions"
[contextly_sidebar id="BHtOmGAhGU8SdQ6JaK4psmwICt5EeInF"]Those Wacky Mormons (a sitcom coming never to ABC) just can't seem to figure out what they really think about discrimination against LGBT people. Last year, the LDS church surprised us by supporting a Utah law banning discrimination against gays as long as "religious freedom" was protected -- so no firing people for being gay, but no forcing anyone to perform gay weddings against their will. For Utah, it was pretty progressive. Now, however, the LDS church officially opposes a new hate-crimes bill, claiming it would upset the "balance" between religious freedom and protection from discrimination. You have to appreciate the fine balance of thinking there: discrimination's bad, but protection from hate crimes might result in Sodom on Salt Lake?
Just to add to the weirdness, the bill, SB 107, was introduced by a nice Mormon Republican, state Sen. Stephen Urquhart, and given Utah's recent crime statistics, it would actually provide more protection to victims of religiously motivated crimes than it would to victims of anti-LGBT violence. SB 107 would enhance Utah's currently vague hate-crimes law by defining a hate crime as an offense motivated against a victim because of their “ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation.”
As the Daily Beast's Samantha Allen points out:
[Far] more anti-religious crimes are currently reported in Utah than anti-LGBT ones. Nineteen of the 62 hate crimes reported by the Utah Department of Public Safety in 2014 were anti-religious in nature: three anti-Protestant, two anti-Muslim, one anti-Catholic, one anti-Jewish, and 12 “anti-other religion.” This presumably includes Mormonism, which is not considered to be a Protestant form of Christianity. Only two of the 62 reported hate crimes were anti-LGBT.
The upshot is that the bill would more likely be used to prosecute anti-religious crimes than anti-gay crimes, as Sen. Urquhart said in support of his proposal, citing the history of religious persecution which drove Mormons to Utah in the first place:
We're here because Mormons were lynched, Mormons were persecuted, Mormons were driven out of states. That's worthy of protection.
Urquhart's appeals to Mormon history apparently didn't convince the church that protection from hate crimes was such a great idea, because reasons. A church statement fretted the bill would mess up the "balance" supposedly achieved by last year's anti-discrimination law:
The Utah Legislature achieved something extraordinary last year in arriving at legislation that protected both religious liberty rights and LGBT rights ... Interests from both ends of the political spectrum are attempting to alter that balance. We believe that the careful balance achieved through being fair to all should be maintained.
[contextly_sidebar id="VVxsVbSbxoqWPTTovAaVPohhOQ4boL0b"]The church was happy with the earlier law, also sponsored by Sen. Urquhart, in part because religious organizations were exempted from its protections for LGBT employees. Then again, all that happened before the Supreme Court crammed gay marriage down everyone's throat, after which the LDS hierarchy decided to excommunicate not only the gay-marrieds, but also their sinful, sinful children, a move that led to thousands of Mormons saying, "That's it, we're out -- of the church, we mean." So it looks like the window of not-quite-hating the gays so much has closed, and now the LDS church would rather not have anti-Mormon crimes considered hate crimes at all, if it might mean Utah would also protect those icky gay people. That's some fairness, that LDS fairness!
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert offered the same old argument against hate-crimes legislation we've always heard, right out of the Big Book of Homophobic Excuses:
If I kill you, you’re just as dead whether I hated you or I love you and killed you. I don’t understand how that works. Certainly, I think it’s worth a discussion, but we keep creating categories.
Strangely, Gov. Herbert didn't follow his explanation with a call for eliminating the distinctions between first degree murder, second degree murder, and manslaughter, since you're just as dead either way. Sometimes motivation matters, and sometimes not so much.
As for Sen. Urquhart, he's finding himself feeling rather let down by the official LDS opposition, which is likely to kill off any chance SB 107 may have had:
“When I was a child in a dark situation, the Mormon Church shined a light in my life,” Urquhart said at his press conference last Thursday. “But since then, that light has flickered.”
We can see how that would be a disappointment, finding out the patriarchal, historically racist, officially anti-gay church that once gave him so much solace has suddenly turned out to be surprisingly intolerant after all.