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Mormon aid for Calif. gay-marriage ban generates complaint

By The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A California gay-rights activist filed a complaint yesterday accusing the Mormon church of failing to report the full value of the work it did to support the state's new ban on same-sex marriage.

Fred Karger, the founder of Californians Against Hate, submitted the complaint to the enforcement division of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the agency that regulates campaign activity.

Karger alleges that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ran out-of-state phone banks, produced commercials and provided other services that must be reported as contributions to the Proposition 8 campaign.

"Let's be transparent here. If they are going to play in the political process, they need to abide by the rules like everyone else," he said.

Karger also notified the attorneys general of California and Utah, where the Mormon church is based.

Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said the church had complied with all campaign-finance laws and was confident an investigation would prove that.

Last month, the church reported making an in-kind donation of $2,078.97 to the coalition of faith organizations and conservative groups that sponsored California’s Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that overturned the state Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. It's the only donation listed under the church's name in support of the measure.

Based on in-kind contributions reported by other religious groups, Karger estimates that the Mormon church actually spent hundreds of thousands of dollars backing the marriage ban.

The Fair Political Practices Commission has 14 days to respond to Karger's allegations. The agency could decide to open an investigation, to warn the party named in the complaint or conclude no action is needed, according to commission spokesman Roman Porter.

Protests in the wake of the amendment's passage have focused largely on the Mormon church, which encouraged its members to support the ban.

Meanwhile, letters containing a suspicious white powder were sent yesterday to Mormon temples in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City that were the sites of protests against the church's support of the gay-marriage ban.

The temple in the Westwood area of Los Angeles was evacuated before a hazardous-materials crew determined the envelope's contents were not toxic, said FBI spokesman Jason Pack.

The temple in downtown Salt Lake City, where the church is based, received a similar envelope containing a white powder that spilled onto a clerk's hand.

The room was decontaminated and the envelope taken by the FBI for testing. The clerk showed no signs of illness, but the scare shut down a building at Temple Square for more than an hour, said Scott Freitag, a spokesman for the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

None of the writing on the envelope was threatening, and the church received no calls or messages related to the package, Freitag said.

Authorities are looking into several theories on who sent the letters and why, Pack said.


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