Dear President Hinckley,
We write you as leaders of Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons in connection with a tragic and horrifying event that has shocked the con-science of the nation. We refer to the savage beating and torture of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming last Wednesday, which ended in his untimely death this morning. It has become clear that Matthew, a be-loved young man with a bright future, suffered this horrific death solely because of the fact that he happened to be gay. This despicable act is opening the eyes of many to the full extent of the irrational hatred that gay and lesbian people face simply because of who we are. What happened to Matthew is not unique. While all murders are to be condemned, the kinds of deaths that gay men and lesbians suffer too frequently include a brutality defying all human explanation. We write, in light of this event and the national dialogue now taking place about its meaning, to challenge church leaders to step into the forefront of the effort to prevent this kind of action. Now is the time for bold state-ments and bold action.
We recognize that the church has not been an advocate of equal rights for gays and lesbians, even denying our existence and teaching that we are a danger to society and the family. We believe that such teachings, regardless of intentions, inevitably lead to suspicion, mistrust, and often violence against gays and lesbians. Surely it is no surprise when a group that is routinely condemned is treated with contempt by those who believe such condemnations. Thus, so long as the church teaches its followers to "hate the sin," it bears a special responsibility to ensure that its followers do not end up hating the sinner along with the presumed sin. In his short life Matthew Shepard worked for understanding and reconciliation of differences arising from sexual orientation. While nothing can now justify his death, it has provided us with what we believe is common ground that may yet further the work to which he committed himself, and which we trust you also believe in.
In your conference comments, you went on to say that "we cannot stand idle if [gays and lesbians] indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situa-tion. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sa-cred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families." We call on you now to issue a similar statement regarding the senseless violence and hatred directed against gays and lesbians. Surely the savagery demonstrated in the murder of Matthew Shepard must inspire at least equal indignation. Can church leaders stand idle while this kind of hate is indulged in? Is not this kind of hos-tility at least as immoral as homosexual activity itself in your eyes, and at least an equal danger to society and family? Does not this behavior make light of the sacred truth, that all humans are created in God's im-age and of equal value and worth, regardless of beliefs or actions?
The church's recent highly publicized donation of half a million dol-lars to the anti-gay marriage cause in Alaska demonstrated its willing-ness to commit its financial forces so that it not be seen as standing idle in the face of perceived immorality. We now challenge you not to stand idle and apply the same moral principles by making an equal, public contribution of $500,000 to a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons. One such organization is Community United Against Violence, located at 973 Market Street Suite 500, San Francisco CA 94103.
Similar organizations exist in many states, including Wyoming and Utah. Regardless of recipient, we believe the time is ripe and the need is pressing for the church to commit to ending senseless violence against people simply because of their sexual orientation. We would be glad to assist you in making this kind of determination. We also urge you to call on church members to write their elected representatives in support of the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and to support pas-sage of similar legislation in their home states. Such legislation de-serves the full moral support of the church and its members.
On behalf of Affirmation, we urge you not to stand idle and let this opportunity pass by. Thank you.
Scott MacKay Executive Director
Duane Jennings Senior Assistant Director
James Kent Assistant Executive Director
Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons, is a nonprofit educational fellowship group serving gay and lesbian Latter-day Saints, their fami-lies and friends since 1977. It is a place for open, honest dialogue, friendship and support. All are welcome, regardless of gender, orienta-tion or religious affiliation. Affirmation may be contacted by mail at P. O. Box 46022, Los Angeles CA, 90046, by phone at (213) 255-7251, or through the Internet at http://www.affirmation.org