Utah Religious Leaders Call on Legislature to Stem ‘Alarming’ Spread of Hate Crimes

Nearly two dozen Utah religious leaders are urging the Utah Legislature to pass SB86, which would enhance penalties for hate-driven crimes against people or property.

Under the bill, sponsored by state Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, punishment for a class A misdemeanor could be meted out at a harsher, third-degree-felony level if the crime targeted a person based on “ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation.”

The letter, with 23 signatories representing Catholic, Episcopal, Protestant, Unitarian, Islamic and Jewish congregations, was written by the Rev. Oscar A. Solis, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

On Wednesday, the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah voiced its support for the letter.

“The rate of hate crimes across the country has risen since the last time this legislation was introduced, and as such we see a clear need for swift action from the Legislature,” Josh Kanter, the alliance’s chairman and founder, said in a news release. “We have been told by our trusted law enforcement that the status quo of hate crimes law is ineffective in Utah. It is time we listen to the legal experts and faith leaders and pass SB86.”

On Wednesday, the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah voiced its support for the letter.

“The rate of hate crimes across the country has risen since the last time this legislation was introduced, and as such we see a clear need for swift action from the Legislature,” Josh Kanter, the alliance’s chairman and founder, said in a news release. “We have been told by our trusted law enforcement that the status quo of hate crimes law is ineffective in Utah. It is time we listen to the legal experts and faith leaders and pass SB86.”

In the Jan. 15 letter, drafted for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Prayer and Action to End Racism event, Solis noted that FBI data showed 47 racially based crimes in Utah in 2013.

“Swastikas are now showing up as public graffiti across the nation,” the bishop stated. “Muslim women are afraid to wear headscarves for fear of being assaulted. A bomb threat closed the [I.J. & Jeanné] Wagner Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City.”

Solis added: “These events, and countless others like them, perpetrated against single individuals and entire communities, are tragic and are alarming to those of us in the faith community.”

Read the entire article by Bob Mims here.

 

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