This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A firestorm was raised recently on social media and in some news stories by an Independent American Party candidate in Utah County who lectured on Facebook a woman who posted grievances over the suicide of a gay teenager.

The candidate's attitude seems to be a sanctimonious, if not bigoted, theme and the Utah-based party he represents demonstrates the dangers of having religious fanatics involved in government policy making.

I am not condemning any religion or religious people here. I'm condemning those who skew the teachings of a legitimate religion for their own political agenda.

When a woman in Davis County posted on Facebook her grieving for a 19-year-old gay man who had gone to junior high school with her children, describing him as a "beautiful boy," Jason Christensen, the Independent American Party candidate in Provo's Senate District 16, responded: "Yes this is sad, and hopefully God will have mercy on both sins that this boy committed. The sins of homosexuality and the sins of murder," Christensen commented.

The comment immediately drew criticism on social media, with the original poster grieving for the young man, responding: "Jason Christensen get off my thread now. Not able to lock you now but will ASAP. How dare you! Get the hell off."

That and other criticism of Christensen's insensitivity left him undeterred. In fact, he doubled down.

"When you take a life what you call it? It's still murder." Christensen told KUTV News. "Read the scriptures, stop denying the scriptures. I do feel bad for him and his sins. But one must recognize what's sin and what is not sin. One must live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not the Gospel of the Devil."

He later posted on Facebook: "Don't forget to contribute if you are a Christian. Do you want God or Satan in Senate 16. Satan is winning, but God can win with your donation."

So apparently, he is God and his opponent, Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, is Satan.

Here's what Bramble said in response to Christensen's diatribe against the suicide victim: "One of the great tragedies of our time is the loss of life of our youth. It is a heartbreaking tragedy to the family, friends, community and state."

He expressed condolences to the family and promised legislation in the next session to address the epidemic of teen suicide.

Christensen then posted on Facebook: "Curt Bramble ­­— Utah Senator is an opportunist who panders to the homosexual community and other apostates."

Christensen has said his inspiration comes from the writings of former Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Ezra Taft Benson and others. So he clearly is using the Mormon Church as justification for his political agenda.

The Independent American Party has drawn scrutiny in the past for claiming its rightful place in the political spectrum is based on quotes from past Mormon leaders about the Constitution hanging by a thread and being saved by the righteous. Obviously, those touting that argument see themselves as the righteous.

There is a national Independent American Party that doesn't subscribe to the religious doctrine espoused by the Utah party, which is an offshoot of an earlier Utah Independent American Party.

I don't see much difference to those of that ilk and the street preachers I wrote about last week who heckled Mormons walking to LDS General Conference for not being the right kind of Christians.

The Independent American Party's Utah gubernatorial candidate is Superdell Schanze (which is how he listed his name for the ballot).

This is what he said on his candidate profile form:

"Ninety-one percent of Utah consider themselves Christian but again the government ignores what's right and forces all of your kids to go to schools where God is banned and where they don't learn any real skill. The constitution is being utterly mocked by our current governor and your only hope is to vote for a real person that you know will stand up against pure evil and do what's right. While the evil media tells you every lie they can come up with about SUPERDELL it's up to you to follow God in doing what's right."

In contrast to this self-appointed God scenario, Bramble is working with several other legislators, including Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy; Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City; and Rep. Brad King, D-Salt Lake City, to enact legislation addressing suicide.

Prospective bills include setting up a three-digit hotline people in crisis can call, funding a position at the State Health Department that would be a liaison between that department and the state medical examiner to research suicide victims and the possible factors leading to their deaths and for funding to staff more professionals fielding calls at the current crisis telephone number at the University of Utah Medical Center. That number, by the way, is 801-587-3000.

Eliason tells me that every legislator he has talked to who is passionate about this issue does not care whether the suicide victim is gay or straight. Every life, he says, is precious.

And those legislators who feel that way are practicing Mormons who, I suspect, attend church as regularly as Christensen or Schanze. —

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