Colorado parish votes to pursue charges against Mormons
SAN LUIS, Colorado ” Members of the Sangre de Christo parish of the Roman Catholic Church voted Sunday to pursue criminal charges against three Mormon missionaries who allegedly vandalized a shrine and committed sacrilegious acts in the church.
Although the incidents occurred in 2006, they only came to the attention of the parish when they were seen on the Internet site “Photobucket.”
Alonzo Payne, a parishioner and lawyer, said he was asking the Costilla County Sheriff to pursue charges on behalf of the parish.
Sheriff’s Cpl. Scott Powell told the Pueblo Chieftain the men, who were not identified, could face up to six charges, including felonies for criminal mischief and conspiracy.
Robert Fotheringham, in charge of the LDS church’s missionary program in parts of four states, and whose region includes the San Luis Valley, declined to release names of the missionaries. He confirmed the three missionaries seen in the photos, which have been removed from the Internet, were Mormon missionaries. He said they would be disciplined, though he declined to go into detail.
“We’re just mortified this has happened. This is not what we’re about,” he said.
The Internet photos showed the three vandalizing the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs in 2006 and mocking the Roman Catholic faith.
One missionary was seen holding the severed head of a statue. The head was found and restored.
Another photo showed a missionary appearing to preach from the Book of Mormon inside the Chapel of All Saints. A third photo showed one missionary pretending to sacrifice another on the altar at the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs.
Members of the parish built the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs, which has become a tourist attraction. No damage estimate was available.
“What they did was extremely imprudent, extremely uncharitable and inflammatory,” the Rev. Pat Valdez told parishioners at a meeting Friday night. “You have worked hard and this whole community has worked hard to build that shrine as an expression of our faith and an expression of our love of God.”
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