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Posted 14 May 2001   For week ended May 11, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 11May01

By Kent Larsen

Gilbert Arizona Study Finds 'Religious Separatism,' Racism, Homophobia

GILBERT, ARIZONA -- A diversity task force co-chaired by a stake president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued its findings, showing that the town has a problem with racism, homophobia and religious separatism. The task force spent eight months studying diversity in Gilbert, and according to the task force's other co-chair, Annette Ward, the town is sitting on a time bomb.

"We can either deal with it preventatively or put our heads in the sand and wait for the big explosion." said Ward, who is president of Chandler-Gilbert Community College. The group will present its findings to the Gilbert Town Council on Tuesday, and the Council will then vote on creating a permanent town Human Rights Commission.

The findings show that religious separatism and perceptions about the dominance of Mormons are among the difficulties the town and a Human Rights Commission would face. LDS Church members make up 25% of Gilbert's population, and they are very visible in the town, for the many similar-looking LDS chapels and seminary buildings (next to most high schools), if for nothing else.

Stake President John Lewis, who was the task force's co-chair, acknowledged that the perception of favoritism towards Mormonism is part of the problem. He says that the task force discovered "that in high schools, groups are identified as LDS, Catholic and others." To try and bridge the gap between these groups, Lewis started a youth service program two years ago that brought together LDS and Catholic youth to work on service projects. "There needs to be more of those kinds of efforts to promote cooperation and understanding," he said.

The problem also extends to politics in the town. According to the report a majority of Gilbert residents believe that a correlation exists between political and social power in the town and religious affiliation. While no faith was mentioned, Mormonism is generally considered the dominant faith, and the town's mayor, Cynthia Dunham, who formed the task force, is Mormon. As a result, the task force discussed Mormons in leadership roles in the town.

While the report generally doesn't mention specific incidents, it does mention the often violent actions of the Devil Dogs gang, which was last year tied to a organized crime scheme led by former New York mobster turned informant Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano.


Tension rife in Gilbert, diversity panel says
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 11May01 D4
By Edythe Jensen: The Arizona Republic

See also:

LA Times Says Mormons in Gilbert, AZ In Denial Over Gang Violence

Gilbert Stake President in Diversity Effort

Gilbert Arizona Mayor Names LDS Stake President to Diversity Task Force

Mormons dispute favoritism in Gilbert

LDS Accused Of Bias In Arizona

LDS in Gilbert, Arizona find way to teach character


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