Religion enters Salt Lake City politics as mayoral candidates face both criticism and support

Deseret News composite photo

Both candidates denounce religious “bigotry” and express hope that Salt Lake City voters focus on policy stances, track records and experience.

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s an issue both candidates running to become mayor of Utah’s capital would rather avoid, eager to keep the race issues-focused.

And yet, in recent days, religion has emerged as a hot-button topic in the race — to both candidates’ disappointment.

Now both women are denouncing religious “bigotry” and expressing hope that Salt Lake City voters won’t hinge their votes based on their religion, but rather their policy stances, track records and experience.

“There is no space for religious bigotry in 2019, and I’m shocked that it’s happening,” candidate Luz Escamilla said in an interview this week, noting that throughout her 12 years of public service it has never been an issue.

Said her opponent, Erin Mendenhall: “At the end of the day, I judge lawmakers on how they vote, not on how or whether they pray. And I hope other voters do the same.”

The issue of religion — and bigotry — came to light last week when Rocky Anderson, a former Salt Lake City mayor, posted on Facebook that Salt Lake residents are “threatened with the prospect of a Mormon mayor, (Luz Escamilla), who seems willing to do the bidding of the church, the developers, and the bank where she has been employed (and which employs so many elected officials — and not because they’re bankers!)”

Steve Griffin, Deseret News
State Sen. Luz Escamilla smiles as she talks with members of the media at her campaign headquarters in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019.Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall talks with members of the media during her mayoral primary election night event in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019.

Anderson’s comments prompted columnist Michelle Quist to write a response in the Salt Lake Tribune accusing Anderson of throwing a “bigoted attack” at Escamilla because she is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and “resorting to low-brow religious bigotry instead of explaining why his candidate is better.”

“Just imagine if this candidate was Jewish. No really, just imagine it for about two seconds,” Quist wrote. “Just because a person is a member of the church doesn’t mean she’ll do that church’s bidding. And if that’s your claim, prove it.”

Anderson lashed back at Quist, accusing her on Facebook of taking the sentence out of context and factual errors, saying he “never attacked anyone for her religion” but he’s rather “pointing out that we don’t need any more Utah politicians who do the bidding of the dominant church … or developers.”

Escamilla has remained mostly silent on social media about the issue — save for thanking her opponent, Salt Lake City Councilwoman Mendenhall, in a comment in response to Mendenhall’s post denouncing Anderson’s comments without …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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