Michelle Quist: Rocky throws a bigoted attack at a candidate for mayor

Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

In case anyone didn’t know, Salt Lake City is under attack. We face grave threats. If we do not band together to face this harrowing menace about to wreak havoc on our great city, all will be lost.

For, if you haven’t heard, “We’re threatened with the prospect of a Mormon mayor.”

For shame! Grab your women and children! Run to the hills! Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, has spoken.

Raise your hand if you even know which of the Salt Lake City mayoral candidates is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Answer: It’s Luz Escamilla.)

News flash for Rocky: You live in Utah! Many Utahns are members of the church, including your lone Democrat in the federal delegation, your friendly neighbors and very likely your trash man. Notwithstanding these people and their awful faith tradition, things seem to be running just fine.

Maybe we should have a law in this country that members of a minority race, religion, nationality or, heck, even sexual identity can only make up a certain minority percentage of a city or state’s population. That way they won’t ever have undue influence.

Lilburn Boggs, Missouri’s governor from 1836-1840, would agree.

Look, I recognize the church has outsized representation in this state. I’ve written about this before. Nine out of 10 state legislators can be an uncomfortable number.

But, as I asked earlier this year, what is the solution? Because the solution isn’t to ask political candidates what their religious affiliation is. The solution isn’t some kind of religious test oath (which I’ve also written have no place in our society). And the solution isn’t to call out a candidate on Facebook as a threat to the city because of her membership in a certain church.

Just imagine if this candidate was Jewish. No, really, just imagine it for about two seconds.

Just because a person is a member of a church doesn’t mean she’ll do that church’s bidding. And if that’s your claim, prove it.

Look, for example, at medical marijuana. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was against the medical marijuana proposition, and it passed anyway.

Speaking of medical marijuana, medical marijuana is really Rocky’s beef against the church. Well, medical marijuana and alcohol policy. That’s enough to engage in full-throated religious bigotry, isn’t it?

Rocky is a main driver behind a case in federal court that argues the state violated the Constitution when the Legislature amended Proposition 2. But a similar case just lost in front of the Supreme Court last month.

He probably blamed the ruling on the justices’ church membership.

Except that, from my own investigating, it appears that only two of the justices who decided the case are practicing members of the church. (Court of Appeals Judge Kate Appleby sat in place of Justice John Pearce, who had recused himself.)

But I realized, as I was trying to discern which justices may be members of the church, that the exercise in itself was futile and bigoted. I made my own point! I can’t very well assume which justices are members based on stereotypical ideas of who church members are and what church members do, any more than I can assume what their political leanings are or which sports teams they root for.

And it doesn’t matter. That’s the point. They are more than the sum of what you think their faith traditions label them as.

Rocky can’t profess to believe in a more progressive, non-discriminatory, superior political ideology and then shamelessly attack a candidate for her religion in a public forum.

Ironically, his Facebook page’s url is rocky.highroad. His positions, though, are definitely the lowest of the low.

Even more ironically, his Facebook post shares a memory he posted from five years ago quoting Frederick Douglass in favor of freedom.

“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”

Rocky wants crops without plowing up the ground. Rocky wants to favor his candidate of choice by resorting to low-brow religious bigotry instead of explaining why his candidate is better.

He cannot profess to favor freedom while attacking a candidate for her religion. He is, simply, a hypocrite.

If a former Democratic mayor cannot recognize the threat of lumping people together into a religious group and labeling that group as a threat to the community, then nothing he says matters. He’s the threat to Salt Lake City, not the prospect of a “Mormon mayor.”

Michelle Quist

Michelle Quist is a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.