The Mormon Church has spoken out against a proposed hate crime law in Utah – claiming it would violate religious freedom.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke out about the Hate Crimes Amendments bill submitted in the state senate.
The bill is fairly standard hate crime legislation, expanding the field of protected characteristics from “religion, ancestry, national origin or ethnicity” to “ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation“.
However, despite simply protecting people based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the same way that religion is already protected, the Mormon Church thinks it’s taking it too far on LGBT equality.
A statement from LDS spokesperson Dale Jones cited anti-discrimination legislation which provided an exemption for ‘religious freedom’ as a better model.
He said: “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.”
It’s unclear how a ‘religious freedom’ exemption in hate crime legislation could possibly work – as it would presumably allow gay-bashers to get off lighter by arguing that God told them to beat up gay people.
Republican Todd Weiler, who is one of the lawmakers opposing the bill, told KSL he worried about what gay people might demand next, if they get away with asking for the same hate crime protections as every other minority group.
The terrified lawmaker said: “What I think a lot of people are asking was, if they get hate crimes this year, then what are they going to be coming back next year for and then the year after that.
“I think that’s certainly one of the factors at play here.”
The Church recently revealed harsh new policies in its updated guidebooks, which state that gay people who marry are ‘apostates’ – meaning they are viewed as having abandoned the Church.
The new rules also affirmed that all children living with same-sex parents or guardians will be barred from being baptised or becoming Church members, unless they “disavow” their parents’ relationship.
One of the Church leaders insists that “only God” can decide whether the policies will harm LGBT youth.