Friday, November 14, 2008

Envelopes with white powder were sent to the Knights of Columbus and the Mormon Church.

This is a terrorist act, no matter what the powder turns out to be:

Letters containing white powder were sent yesterday to Mormon temples in Utah and California.

The Los Angeles temple, site of a recent gay rights protest, closed yesterday after receiving the envelope.

In Salt Lake City, powder spilled from an envelope onto a clerk's hand at the downtown temple. The room was decontaminated. The clerk showed no signs of illness, but the building was closed for more than an hour. Protests have targeted the Mormon church, which encouraged its members to fight for the recently passed amendment banning gay marriage in California.
Both incidents are under investigation.

Also yesterday, a California activist filed a complaint with the state agency that regulates campaign activity, accusing the Mormon church of not reporting the value of the work it did to support Proposition 8.,5620,705263061,00.html?printView=true

Preliminary tests have found that a white powdery substance found in an envelope mailed to LDS Church headquarters is not hazardous, the FBI said.

"There is no known toxins or biological agents," FBI Special Agent Juan Becerra told the Deseret News.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' First Presidency issued a statement Friday urging respect and civility in public discourse. Gay rights groups are also condemning the threats.

Lab tests were conducted overnight to determine whether the powder that slipped out of an envelope opened in the annex of the Salt Lake Temple was ricin, anthrax, smallpox or any other deadly toxin. They came back negative, but further tests were being conducted on Friday by state health officials, Becerra said.

The FBI on Friday also said it has labeled their probe into the suspicious substances as a domestic terrorist investigation.

"Obviously it instills fear in the public eye and causes people not to feel safe," Becerra said. "It is illegal to mail something out and to threaten the use of a biological weapon or even pretend it's a biological weapon."

The LDS temples in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles received envelopes on Thursday containing a white powdery substance. So did the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization based in New Haven, Conn. Both organizations were heavy backers of Proposition 8, the measure in California that narrowly passed Nov. 4, banning same-sex marriage.

The FBI said it is a "strong possibility" that all three letters are linked, but federal investigators reiterated they have no information to point a finger of blame at the proposition and its opponents.

"The evidence does not lead to that right now and it would be irresponsible to say anything otherwise," Becerra said.

He would not say if federal agents had identified any suspects. No one has claimed responsibility for the mailings.

In a statement, the First Presidency of the LDS Church said that since the Nov. 4 election, places of worship have been targeted with protests and vandalism.

"People of faith have been intimidated for simply exercising their democratic rights. These are not actions that are worthy of the democratic ideals of our nation," the statement said. "The end of a free and fair election should not be the beginning of a hostile response in America."
The LDS Church said it was keenly aware of the "differences of opinion on this difficult and sensitive manner," but the First Presidency expressed disappointment in what it has seen since Prop. 8 passed.

"We call upon those who have honest disagreements on this issue to urge restraint upon the extreme actions of a few that are further polarizing our communities and urge them to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other," the statement said.

In its own statement, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center decried the threats.

"While the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center organized a peaceful demonstration against the involvement of the leadership of the Mormon Church in the deceitful Yes on Prop. 8 campaign, we decry the use or threat of violence," said Darrel Cummings, the center's chief of staff.
"Just as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community seeks the right to be treated equally under the law, all Americans should have the right to live lives free from fear and violence."

The gay rights group Equality Utah also issued a statement Friday condemning violence, vandalism or intimidation.

"During such an emotional time, where wounds run deep, we must remind ourselves of the greater good," executive director Mike Thompson said. "We must make efforts to forgive where forgiveness is needed and fix what needs to be fixed. We must find ways to work together — families in our community are depending on us. As the LDS Church stated, we can build a better society. Equality Utah is committed to doing just that."

Thompson reiterated his call for the LDS Church to work with them on gay rights legislation including medical rights, housing and employment rights and domestic partnerships that past church statements said LDS leaders did not oppose.

"Equality Utah remains confident that the LDS Church will be true to its past public statements that it is not anti-gay," Thompson said.

LDS temples in California, Salt Lake City and New York have been the subject of mass demonstrations over the faith's heavy involvement in the campaign to pass Proposition 8. More demonstrations are planned this weekend over marriage and gay rights — including a pair of demonstrations in Salt Lake City.

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