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On Rioting and Religious Hatred

Denis GrasskaBy Msgr. Dennis L. Mikulanis

During the night of Nov. 9, 1938, hooligans and thugs throughout Germany attacked Jewish places of business, homes, individuals and synagogues. There was so much broken glass on the streets after the attacks ended that the event was called Kristallnacht, or “Crystal Night.” The Jews were attacked because they were Jews, and because they were offensive to the Nazis simply because they existed. To the shame of the nation, not one single public official spoke out against this outrage. In fact, many public officials, if not outright encouraging the violence, implicitly supported it by their silence.

In the days following Nov. 4, 2008 and the passing of Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to limit marriage to one man and one woman, people took to the streets in protest, and hooligans and thugs who opposed the proposition began terrorizing Mormon people and institutions, whom the thugs blamed for the proposition’s success.

Never mind the fact that this was a contentious and hard-fought battle, with the pro-8 backers coming from way behind in the initial polls to win 52 percent to 48 percent. Never mind the fact that this is a country of laws and that the laws were followed to place the proposition on the ballot, despite the underhanded actions of the state attorney general, who changed the wording in an attempt to influence the outcome. Never mind the fact that evangelical Christians, Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Mormons worked together in an unprecedented way to see that Proposition 8 passed. None of that matters, it seems, because no sooner had it passed than there were huge demonstrations in the streets protesting the passage, lawsuits filed attempting to overturn the passage and pro-8 people vilified in the press.

Most outrageous of all have been the attacks on the Mormon people and property, vile comments publicly hurled at Mormons, and the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles vandalized and graffitied. The Mormons have been attacked on the video-sharing Web site YouTube and in The New York Times, and some have called for the burning of Mormon stake houses [churches]. To their shame, not one single public official has gone on record condemning this reaction, from our mayors to the governor of our state. Does the rule of law mean nothing? Or is it now the way that, if an election doesn’t turn out the way a group wants, hatred and lawlessness may be used to press their opposition? Why are these things not being dealt with as hate crimes? What is different from Germany, 1938?

Though we do not accept or believe Mormon dogma and teaching, common decency and Christian morality demand that we stand by them in solidarity and support. If we allow the Mormons to be vilified simply because they were part of a coalition that won a political contest by legal means, when will their opponents turn their hate-filled actions against us?

As Catholic people, we condemn the attacks against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and call on our civil authorities to abide by the law they are sworn to uphold and protect the rights and dignity of everyone, not just a special interest group they select.

The Southern Cross

This commentary first appeared in the November 2008 issue of The Southern Cross.

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