Jason Christensen, a candidate for the Utah state Senate running on the Independent American Party candidate ticket, ruffled more than a few feathers when he attacked the life and death of a gay 19-year-old who committed suicide. Jason Christensen reportedly posted hateful and hurtful online comments directly on a link to the teen’s obituary that had been posted on Facebook, generating outrage and anger
Other viewers of the deceased teen’s obituary were so offended by the comments made by Utah Senate candidate Jason Christensen that they took screenshots of the comment exchange and posted them to Reddit, reports Fox 13 Now.
What did Christensen, a self-proclaimed member of the Mormon church and even Mormon temple worker, have to say about the deceased gay teen that has made people so angry? According to Utah Senate candidate Jason Christensen, the tortured teen who felt that ending his life was the only way to end his pain had been a sinner many times over and included among his “sins” was the sin of “murder.”
Almost immediately after the Utah Senate candidate posted his hateful comment, shocked Facebook users came to the deceased teen’s defense, calling out Jason Christensen for his “judgement, ignorance and cruelty.” Despite the response to his controversial post, Christensen continued to defend his words, telling his critics to “read the scriptures” and asserting that suicide is, in fact, murder.
“Read the scriptures, stop denying the scriptures. I do feel bad for him and his sins. But one must recognize what’s(sic) sins and what is not sin. One must live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not the Gospel of the Devil.”
On Friday, after his unbelievably insensitive comments about the suicide of a gay teen had gone viral, Jason Christensen publicly apologized for the comments he made online. He didn’t, however, give any indication that his beliefs about homosexuality or suicide being “murder” had changed. The very derogatory statements made online by the Utah Senate candidate have many locals deeply concerned about Christensen’s political aspirations.
Among those concerned is current Utah Senator Curt Bramble, a Republican in Provo’s Utah Senate District 16 and the very man whose seat Christensen is trying to win. According to Bramble, Jason Christensen’s words were, among other things, vulgar.
“The incivility, the vulgarness, the insensitivity of those comments, there’s no place for that in a political campaign, there’s no place for that in Utah Legislature, and, frankly, there’s no place for that in our society.”
While many local news sites declined to comment on the specific nature of the 19-year-old teenager’s death by suicide, TowelRoad has reported more extensively on the life and death of the teen, Braxton Taylor. According to their report, the teen whose death was so cruelly trolled by Utah Senate candidate Jason Christensen committed “LGBT suicide,” something that has been reaffirmed by many ex-Mormon websites.
“People close to the case…have called Taylor’s death an ‘LGBT suicide’ on various ‘ex-Mormon’ websites.”
The Facebook thread that Jason Christensen originally posted his hateful comments on was that of a neighbor of the deceased teen who shared his obituary, adding that he’d gone to school with her kids. The Facebook poster chose to use her social media presence to send out condolences, and instead of being able to do so, her post was reportedly hijacked by a Utah Senate candidate who chose hate over love.
In the aftermath of Jason Christensen’s cruelty, he has been subjected to some serious public censure and even reportedly received death threats. Despite his apology, which appeared to be more of a case of doing damage control than having any sincere regret for his words or stance, the Utah Senate candidate isn’t getting much love or forgiveness. Above all, the local LGBTQ community has taken his words to heart, with many members taking to social media to share their anger and disbelief.
Equality Utah, a not-for-profit advocacy group that works on behalf of LGBTQ individuals in Utah, spoke out about the thoughtless and insensitive comments made by Utah Senate candidate Jason Christensen via the organization’s Executive Director.
“The comments that Jason Christensen made about a young, 19-year old man who had committed suicide are vile and cruel, and unbecoming of anyone who aspires to represent Utahns in state government.”
Utah is a notoriously conservative and predominantly Mormon state, and it has played an integral role in the fight against LGBTQ rights in the United States. The state fought desperately to protect its definition of marriage as being solely between “one man and one woman” for years, reports Fox 13 News. The Mormon Church, which wields an incredible level of political influence in Utah, even went so far as to try to influence same-sex marriage laws in California, famously contributing money to that state’s Proposition 8 battle.
The State of Utah took its fight against LGBTQ rights all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, ultimately only losing its battle to circumvent the civil rights of same-sex couples who wished to wed when the highest court in the nation made a historic decision in June 2015, a decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Even after that final and unequivocal decision by the SCOTUS, Utah Governor Gary Herbert continued to wage psychological war on LGBTQ Utahns.
Following the decision by the SCOTUS to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, the Mormon Church (of which Utah Senate candidate Jason Christensen is a member) began implementing policy changes that many felt unduly punished not just LGBTQ Mormons, but their children, too. As People reports, in November of 2015, the Mormon Church changed its rules to ban the children of same-sex couples from being baptized into the religion.
That decision prompted a mass resignation from the church, many thousands of members strong. Most of those who left the church as a result of the new policy weren’t LGBTQ at all but stood in solidarity with the LGBTQ community against discrimination.
Utah is in the midst of a teen suicide epidemic, with suicide now being the number one killer of children between the ages of 11 and 17. As KUTVNews reports, the teen suicide rate in Utah has tripled in the last decade. Those teens who do kill themselves are largely members of the LGBTQ community and Mormon.
“I am gay, I am 32 and I struggle weekly to find my place in this world because I struggled for so long to find my place in God’s plan.”
While the rate of suicides among Utah’s youth has skyrocketed in the last 10 years, seemingly right alongside the efforts of both the state and Mormon Church to oppress the LGBTQ community and to deny those who identify as LGBTQ both rights and compassion, the Utah State Health Department claims that the rise in teen suicide rates doesn’t appear to be tied to the Mormon Church’s announcements about the LGBTQ community. At least not directly.
“We have been closely watching our rates since various events that happened in Utah relating to the LDS church. We have not seen an increase tied to those announcements.”
Whatever the reasons, Utah’s gay teens are taking their own lives at a record-setting pace. It has become a crisis situation for the entire state, and the trend is showing no signs of stopping, something evidenced by the recent suicide of gay Utah teen Braxton Taylor. A teen whose death was shockingly mocked and used as a catalyst for more of the hate he reportedly endured throughout his life by Utah Senate candidate Jason Christensen.
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