Saturday, November 08, 2008

Save kids, or bash gays, which did the Mormons pick.

The Mormon-funded Prop 8 campaign argued that they were bashing equality before the law for the sake of children. It had nothing to do with their intense dislike of homosexual but everything to do with the children. Yet, when a gay reporter revealed that a Mormon missionary was assaulting kids the Mormon leaders in that area, instead of defending the kids, began an assault on the reputation of the reporter.

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PBS ran an interesting story about how the Mormon Church in Idaho dealt with problems of child rape. You can watch both parts of the presentation right here. In this case a Boy Scout leader was attacking boys. I do not mean seducing them, but literally forcing them to have sex. When the matter came before the courts the court records were suppressed.

A local reporter, Peter Zuckerman, learned that something was going on and started digging further. He then discovered that the attacks had been going on and that local Mormon leaders were helping cover up the truth. His articles raised the ire of the Mormons in town and Zuckerman found himself under attack because he is gay.

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Instead of asking whether Zuckerman’s story was accurate the local Mormons claimed that no gay person could be expected to write objectively on this matter and that he was pushing the so-called “gay agenda”. Local Mormons funded an advertising campaign targeting the reporter for being gay and claiming he was lying.

The problem was that the molester, Brad Stowell, a former Mormon missionary, had admitted to the attacks. And the Mormon church was aware of his activities since he was 16-years-old and admitted to having attacked a six-year-old. Stowell’s court confession was that he would sneak into tents and attack sleeping boys. He said he felt “invincible” because he was allowed to get away with it. Numerous reports to LDS church leaders and Boy Scout leaders (often the same people) were ignored.

Even after Stowell’s actions were reported to the LDS Church they sent him to Alaska on a church mission. Stowell says he used the church sponsorship to attack at least one other child. One Mormon father who knew of Stowell wrote repeated letters to the church leadership. They finally answered him after years of ignoring his letters. At that time they told him that the matter didn’t warrant any attention and that it had been investigated.

When one Mormon official pushed the Scouts to investigate they reported back to him that Stowell had been cleared and approved by two different Mormon bishops.

Zuckerman’s series of articles did contain false information but not about the facts of the case. Zuckerman did buy the claim that sex offenders can’t be “cured” and reoffend. This simply is not true and is one of the major myths around such cases. But the facts about the case itself were accurate.

How local Mormons responded to the case is indicative of their tactics. Zuckerman was targeted with attacks focusing on the fact that he was gay. Meanwhile the Mormons were defending someone who actually sexually attacked unwilling children. But Stowell, who is married, does not identify as gay while Zuckerman does. Some priorities. Zuckerman eventually decided he had to leave town due to the harassment. He is now living in Portland, Oregon where his partner was just elected mayor.

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