As Usual, Utah’s Old Testament Sins Fall On the Mormon Church

Granted, media bias is a favorite chew-toy for bloggers. And while it certainly exists, its probably best to grin and bear it and move on with more important things.

However, I think it’s appropriate to call out a journalist when they have a pattern of deeply unfair stories. The Associated Press’ Jennifer Dobner certainly falls into that category with stories that repeatedly give Church critics a platform to bash the Church, no matter how out of place or unfair (e.g. President Monson’s calling as prophet or gay activist protests against the Church).

Dobner’s latest offense occurs in covering today’s news that a Utah judge approved a convicted murderer’s execution and the convict’s choice of method: firing squad.

Lydia Kalish, Amnesty International’s death penalty abolition coordinator for Utah said her organization opposes the state’s effort to see Gardner executed. But despite Utah’s strong religious roots — it’s the home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — most here support the use of the death penalty.

“I think in Utah, when it suits their purposes, they go back to the Old Testament and the ‘eye for an eye’ kind of thing,” Kalish said. “These people may be the worst of the worst, but if the best we can do is repeat the same thing, it’s so obviously wrong.”

(Gardner gets to choose death by firing squad since he was convicted before the state removed the option in 2004.)

Yes, the state of Utah still has the death penalty, but so do 34 other states. Never mind that in the “modern era” of U.S. capital punishment, Utah has only executed 6 people in the past 34 years and the last one was in 1999. In order to advance the notion that Utah’s – and the LDS Church’s – “eye for an eye” bloodlust, it might be helpful to compare its record to the 19 other states that have had more executions in that same period.

Since mentioning Utah apparently requires mentioning religion, Dobner injects her personal assumption that there is a contradiction between a community of “strong religious roots” that supports capital punishment. Pardon my link to Wikipedia (as an outraged defensive blogger it’s a requirement), but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

If the Church is going to be inexplicably dragged into this coverage, it might be useful to ask the Church for a comment or at least mention that the LDS Church officially has no policy on capital punishment, neither promoting or opposing it. But apparently an Amnesty International spokesperson was sufficient.

It’s hard to get exercised when over-the-top South Park gang set their target on the Church for satire, because any reasonable person won’t take them (too) seriously. But it is frustrating when the supposedly serious Associated Press acts just as clownish.

6 thoughts on “As Usual, Utah’s Old Testament Sins Fall On the Mormon Church

  1. Daniel Ortner

    Utah is obviously not as big of a state as Florida or Texas so of course there are fewer executions in the state.

    The firing squad is in my view cruel and unusual punishment in that it has a high likelihood of failing and leaving an individual maimed or of leaving a person alive, dying and in pain for a sustained period of time.

    Getting to the substance of the death penalty question, it is quite sad that members have moved so far away from Joseph Smith’s prison reform platform articulated in his 1844 platform. The death penalty is based on the notion that some individuals are beyond redemption and thus warrant our judgement of death. I’d suggest this view is incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ in which we are to treat others as sons and daughters with infinite potential. It is for god to judge and to wipe away the stains of our sins.

  2. Persecuted Mormon

    Imagine for a moment that you are a non-Mormon who has never lived in Utah. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear about Utah? Mormon!

    Sure, the journalist may have gone too far bringing the Church into the story, but it’s not as inexplicable as you make it out to be.

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