Letter cites past horrific discrimination against Mormons as reason to veto bill
PHOENIX – Today a group of over 100 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) sent an open letter to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and state legislators condemning the recently-passed bill that would allow businesses to refuse services to the LGBT community on the basis of religious freedom. In the letter, which was facilitated by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Religion and Faith Program, the Mormon signatories cite an 1838 Extermination Order by Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs, declaring that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated from the State,” in their call for a veto of Arizona’s horrific bill.
The letter goes on to say, “As Mormons, our religious freedoms were undeniably threatened by Governor Boggs. Thus, we strongly feel we should be able to exercise and protect our own religious rights. However, it is also in our culture not to use government to impose our will on anyone who worships differently. We echo the words of our founding prophet, Joseph Smith.”
Recipient: Gov. Janice Brewer, State Sen. Andy Biggs, State Rep. Kelly Townsend, State
Rep. Chad Campbell, State Rep. David Gowan, State Rep. Rick Gray, State Rep.
Andy Tobin, State Rep. Bruce Wheeler, State Sen. Adam Driggs, State Sen. Steve
Gallardo, and State Sen. John McComish
We are a collection of individual members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
Day Saints who strongly oppose SB 1062. As Mormons, we feel a call to “mourn
with those that mourn... comfort those that stand in need of comfort” and protect
the persecuted from persecution. (Mosiah 18) We express sadness that many
LGBTQ individuals, even in our own community, have endured significant pain
when encountering conflicting beliefs, misunderstanding, and often fear from
Latter-Day Saints. We are appalled to see this fear codified into Arizona statute
under the guise of protecting religious freedom.
In 1838, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs issued an Extermination Order declaring
that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated from
the State.” We were violently forced out of our homes, many of us killed. We were
unpopular, part of a minority, and unable to fight for fair and equal treatment. We
lived in a country founded on freedom of religion, but were not permitted to
practice our own. The only way to survive was for us to flee to the West, with
many eventually settling in the Arizona we live in today.
As Mormons, our religious freedoms were undeniably threatened by Governor
Boggs. Thus, we strongly feel we should be able to exercise and protect our own
religious rights. However, it is also in our culture not to use government to impose
our will on anyone who worships differently. We echo the words of our founding
prophet, Joseph Smith.
“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our
own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how,
where, or what they may.” (Articles of Faith)
“We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government,
whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual
privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.” D&C
It is not our place to judge others. Nor is it our place to cast our own beliefs on to
those who see differently than we do. This bill, however, allows us and others to do
just that. We are sensitive to the desire to protect religious freedom, but these
amendments are missing the mark. The amended language in SB 1062 is
unnecessarily vague and goes to the extreme, especially in transitioning protection
of religious freedom from individuals and religious institutions to corporations,
trusts, and other associations. It is our strong opinion that beyond the intent to
protect religious freedoms, this bill reflects fear and misunderstanding, opening the
door for discrimination in the name of religious freedom. Religious freedom should
be a protected right for everyone, but it should never usurp the right of any human
being. For this reason, we add our voice in asking for a veto of SB 1062.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.