Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Booze in the Mormon theocracy of Utah

Reason TV interviews a bartender in Utah about the absurd neo-prohibitionist legislation which the Mormons have inflicted on the state. I went to one "bar" in Utah years ago, in Salt Lake City, and had to sign up as a "member" to be allowed in -- even though I was only ordering soft drinks.

What many people don't know is the Mormon cult calls the state legislators to a private meeting once a year. They like to pretend this is not unusual. In fact the Mormon sect is the only church that does this. While individual legislators may meet with various religious leaders no church summons the state legislator to appear before them -- except the Mormons. And because the Utah legislator is dominated by this cult they obey. One columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune describes what happens:
After consulting the oracles, the Senate president and House speaker reported back: LDS Church leaders might be willing to do away with private club memberships if lawmakers come up with a system for scanning driver licenses.
Utahns are so used to it, we don't even blink anymore. It was a routine news story, rather than an unconstitutional outrage.
"There's not much separation of church and state going on there," says Joe Conn, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "It is a clear violation of American democratic principles. The implication is that one church will have more influence than any other group in the state."
More than an implication, it's reality. The ring kissing has settled into policy over generations -- from 1851, when Mormon prophet Brigham Young was inaugurated governor of the Utah Territory, to today, when more than 80 percent of lawmakers are faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Meetings at North Temple are a shortcut -- for governors hoping to end-run opposition to their plans to liberalize liquor laws, lawmakers trying to build public support for controversial legislation or gay-rights groups hoping to gather up crumbs in the wake of Prop 8. Any smart reporter first asks, "Have you checked with THE CHURCH?"
It's realpolitik.
"The overwhelming majority of legislators are LDS," says Will Carlson, public policy manager for Equality Utah. "If the LDS Church made a statement of opposition, the [Common Ground] bills would have no chance."
A church spokesman, Scott Trotter, "says the annual luncheon allows LDS leaders to 'remind' legislators of the church's political neutrality." Oh, right, much like the LDS cult was neutrel with Proposition 8 and then lied trying to cover up their extensive role in pushing that legislation. If one is neturel there is no need to remind people of it. But Mormon rhetoric and Mormon reality are often not the same thing.

Another spokesman for the sect responded to the column, and, as typical of church spokesmen, he misstated the concerns, addressed other issues, and avoided the crux of the issue. He said "churches have always had a legitimate voice in the public square." No one disputes that, but no other church, cult or sect summons legislators to appear before them. It is one thing when churches speak their mind, or what passes as a "mind" in their circles, but it is quite another thing when the legislative body is brought to them to sit at their feet and listen.

The church spokesman says: "The church's views are offered for consideration, not as a mandate." But with 80% of the legislature being members of the sect, and with the sect's heavy emphasis on obedience to church leadership, the former is often seen as the latter by church members in the state house. The Mormon leadership knows this.

Despite their protestations that they were merely a small voice in the campaign to strip gay people of some rights, recent events proved that the church leadership lied to the public about that and that they were far more involved than they admitted. Other than with their own sect members the Mormon leadership is unlikely to convince people that their public statements necessarily correspond with the facts. Based on their proven tendency to lie, skepticism about the truthfullness of Church statements, is probably wise.

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