Yesterday, a man walked into a meeting house of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Visalia, California and shot a bishop(a congregational leader). According to all reports, this man was not a member of that faith, he was visibly agitated. And he was armed. He entered the building and asked for a church leader.
Here is the puzzling part. By all reports, the gunman waited outside the office until the various interviews were done, then attacked. Shooting the unarmed man in the foot, dragging him the foyer and shooting him several times, including the face.
No matter the denomination, this is a tragedy for the victim and the perpetrator (he too has a family, and they have to live with the aftermath of his choices). People should be safe in their places of worship. Safe to worship without fear.
What makes me angry are the comments on the national news sites that chose to carry this story. You see, Mormons are the targeted religion du jour, the religion to smear, make fun of or just berate. Mormons are it. It’s cool to make fun of something not understood.
If you ask the person making the derogatory comments where they get their information, very seldom can they give you a straight answer. They heard it from ‘Joe’ who heard it from ‘Sally’ who heard it from some one they knew. Wow, that’s comforting. All this hate being fueled by conjecture and gossip.
For the hateful comments that are posted online for any other religion, the ACLU or any other civil rights organization would be all over it citing violations of civil liberties and hate crimes. But for Mormons, it’s okay. After all, they don’t count.
What happened yesterday was an act of a disturbed individual. We won’t know until the investigation is completed if it was a hate crime or an solitary act. The facts are clear, an armed man targeted and shot a religious leader in a calculated fashion. Then, identified himself to the local authorities and provoked an armed stand off that ended in the gunman’s death.
As we speak, very few media outlets are leading with this story. Because it’s the Mormons and according to the vile comments posted on the few articles ‘they deserve what they get’.
I’m a Mormon, I will stand and scream that I count. What I believe in is just as valid as what you believe in. I am not to be reviled by the uneducated, the fearful or the angry. I will not allow fear to influence how I worship or how I represent myself.
If you ask me what I believe? I will tell you. But you need to ask me, not speculate, not postulate, not guess. I’m willing to have an open and honest dialogue.
Just ask me.