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Washington • The new national spokeswoman for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump claimed this week that the Department of Justice investigated and closed down "Mormon churches" as she argued there is a precedent for the government to shutter mosques with terrorist ties.
"This is no different than a Christian church, it's not different than a Mormon church," Trump's new national spokeswoman Katrina Pierson told Fox News' Megyn Kelly on Wednesday. "You've had the DOJ investigate Mormon churches and shut them down and Seventh-day Adventist churches."
While Pierson didn't clarify what she meant when referencing "Mormon churches," the Justice Department has investigated the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a breakaway sect of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The FLDS Church is not affiliated with the much larger and more widely known Salt Lake City-based LDS Church, sometimes called the Mormon church.
The Justice Department has accused the polygamous communities of Hildale and Colorado City on the Utah-Arizona line of discriminating against those who are not FLDS. Even if the Justice Department prevails in that lawsuit, the FLDS Church will continue operating because the case is filed against the towns, not the faith.
Pierson did not respond to emailed questions from The Salt Lale Tribune nor did another Trump spokeswoman.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he would be glad to sit down with the Trump folks for a "little history lesson."
Chaffetz, who is LDS, said he was not offended by the incorrect comment about Mormon church closings, but he had a big problem with Trump's notion that the government should monitor mosques and possibly shut down some deemed dangerous.
"As an American, that's nuts," said Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and who is so far neutral in the GOP presidential race. "The whole foundation of our nation was to allow for religious liberties and I have no interest in shutting down churches. That's ridiculous. … If there are individuals engaged in nefarious activities, then go arrest them. I don't care of they're Mormons, Muslims or Jews. But places of worship should be encouraged."
Trump said earlier this week that he would support shutting down some mosques after the terrorist attacks in Paris killed 129 people and injured hundreds more. The militant Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
"Well, you're going to have to watch and study the mosques because a lot of talk is going on at the mosques," Trump said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
French officials have said they would consider closing some mosques with radical leaders, and Trump agreed he would look at the same move if he were president.
"Well, I would hate it do it, but it's something that you're going to have to strongly consider because some of the ideas and some of the hatred, the absolute hatred, is coming from these areas and you know, in New York City as an example," Trump said. "We had a group of people from what I understand, that really knew what they were doing, that were really studying the situation, and they're not doing that anymore."