A letter penned by Utah’s Catholic Bishop Oscar Solis voiced support for a new hate crimes bill in the state legislature. A number of prominent local religious leaders added their signatures to the statement which called Utah a “gathering place” for all.
The letter released this week points to an FBI statistic from back in 2013 when there were 47 racially-based crimes in Utah. Last year’s bomb threat to the Wagner Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake is mentioned and then it takes a wider view — Muslim women afraid to wear headscarves in public and graffiti swastikas becoming more common.
What seems to be a major point of the letter is Utah’s own religious roots — the martyrdom of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum and the pioneers' eventual trek west.
If passed, the measure sponsored by Utah Senator Daniel Thatcher (R-West Valley) would increase punishments for hate-driven crimes based on gender, religion or race.
23 religious leaders signed the letter but noticeably missing from the letter is a signature from the LDS Church. Mormon leaders in the past have supported anti-discrimination legislation, but have yet to do the same for this bill.