This archived article was written by: Alex Holt
Many across the nation associate Utah with three things: Moab, skiing and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This article sadly isn’t about Moab or skiing, so we will move right along to the influence that the LDS Church has in Utah’s politics, particularly in the 2016 Utah Legislative Session that ended March 10.
It is important to note that even though it is said that there is a complete separation of church and state, sometimes the LDS religion weighs in on some issues like SB73 and SB107.
SB73 was introduced in late January: the Medical Cannabis Act, which would legalize medical marijuana upon recommendation from the patient’s doctor. Senator Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs) proposed the bill.
Soon after it was introduced, it competed against another bill sponsored by Sen. Evan Vickers (R-Cedar City). The difference between the bills was the extraction of the psychoactive chemical THC.
Then, the LDS Church came out against Sen. Madsen’s bill releasing this statement by spokesman Eric Hawkins, “Along with others, we have expressed concern about the unintended consequences that may accompany the legalization of medical marijuana, we have expressed opposition to Sen. Madsen’s bill because of that concern. We are raising no objection to the other bill that addresses this issue.”
Sen. Madsen later said that because of the church’s statement, two senators had switched sides and started to oppose the bill, which was later defeated.
KUTV reported that after the bill was defeated it denied the opportunity for at least one family to return to their home in Utah, as the provisions of the bill would allow whole use of the plant.
Having full use of the plant helps control stroke and seizure symptoms and does not have the same side effects as prescription medicine.
SB107 is a bill that amended modified provisions regarding hate crimes in Utah; it was sponsored by Sen. Stephan H. Urquhart (R-St. George).
SB107 was designed to strengthen the weak laws that govern hate crimes in Utah because current laws didn’t include protections for gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability.
The Church moved against the bill and released a prepared statement given by church spokesman Dale Jones, “The Utah Legislature achieved something extraordinary last year in arriving at legislation that protected both religious liberty rights and LGBT rights. Interests from both ends of the political spectrum are attempting to alter that balance. We believe that the careful balance achieved through being fair to all should be maintained.”
While the LDS Church opposed the bill, Equality Utah, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, and the Statewide Association of Prosecutors and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, endorsed it.
Sen. Urquhart later apologized for the Church’s statement and was disappointed when the bill was defeated in early March.
These two bills, SB73 and SB107, were defeated by the power that the Mormon Church has in the state’s politics and whether that is good or bad is up to Utahans to decide.
What Utah must decide for the 2017 session is whether or not the Church should have this role and it is entirely up to you when you vote for your state senators and representatives this November.