Thursday, March 05, 2009

Utah Legislature and the LDS Church

I live in Utah. Living in Utah means you get to hear A LOT about the Mormon/LDS church. This can annoy a lot of non-LDS folks (and some LDS too). Because of this, I think the LDS get a a lot of undeserved criticism. To some, no matter what the LDS church does, it is wrong.

Not that occasions don't exist when criticism is deserved. An article I read in the Salt Lake Tribune today demonstrated one of those occasions.

Utah has some "quirky" liquor laws. Most prominent among these is a requirement that you be a member of whatever bar at which you would like to order a drink. Just walking into a pub and showing your ID is not sufficient. You have to become a member. It is not overly intrusive, but it is very tedious. Utahns who want to defend these laws often point out that there are other states that have a quirky liquor law or two. I have never considered it a good reason to continue a bad practice simply because someone else also participates in a bad practice.

The Utah legislature is in session right now and one of the items they are considering (thanks to the prompting of our governor) is a removal of the pub membership requirement. There was a meeting about it this week and according to today's Salt Lake Tribune:

Representatives of the House, the Senate, bar owners, restaurants, the governor's office and the LDS Church hammered out the framework during intense closed-door negotiations this week.

Now the teacher in me wants to put forth a multiple choice question.

Class, which group above does not fit in the context of the set? Is it:

A. Representatives of the House

B. State Senators

C. Bar Owners

D. Restaurant owners

E. Representatives from the Governor's Office

F. The LDS Church

Ding-Ding! Time's up, pencils down! If you answered F, you are correct!!

What business does the LDS church have in these meetings? I am particularly interested in the opinions of non-Utahns. I may not recall correctly, but I do not seem to remember officials of the Catholic church being involved in meetings like these back in Michigan. In fact, I would venture a guess that it does not happen in any other state (though Southern states may give a couple seats to a Televangelist or two). :)

I know that the typical defensive response here in Utah is that since the LDS church is so large here, they have a vested interest in decisions like these (Mormons don't even drink). I don't buy this. The vast majority of our state legislature is already Mormon due to their large percentage. The LDS church has voice through its elected representatives... just like everyone else. Injecting themselves at this level is simply inappropriate.

The LDS church members are represented in these meetings by their duly elected representatives; in this, there is an equal playing field. For the LDS church to be given special representation in these meetings (and so many others) it just announces that, in the Utah legislature, the LDS church is more equal than others.


Chad said...

I sometimes forget some of the footbullets of my old faith. Between them and scientology, I don't know who gets laughed at more often from those of us peeking in from other parts of the country. Doesn't the church have better things to do, I would be a little miffed if my tithes went towards this, alas I'm just a lowly ex-pat.

marianne Marty said...

Oh dear, I could never live in Utah!!!!!!! A member requirement?! Bizarro! I can't even picture how that works! Going out on a whim for a drink is one of life's sublime pleasures. Me and Jeff went out at 10:30 last Saturday from my house in the middle of a good TN snow. I can't imagine having to fuss with "memberships."


Kay said...

Oh the joys of living in Utah. I don't go to bars much anymore, so the dumb-ass laws don't bother me now, but when I was a wild 21 year old it drove me freakin' nuts. (Freakin' is a Utah swear word.)

Bob said...

I guess I'm a little ambivalent on this one. While I certainly agree that the LDS church (or any church for that matter) could better spend its time, I don't see anything "inappropriate" in their participation. They make up a group of citizens, so why not?

Hard to believe a law like this is still on the books.

Andrew said...

Bob - I agree... and I would be cool with it, if they were not closed door sessions.

Bob said...

You know, you're right. I think I missed the "closed door" part when I first read this. Weird.

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