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Conservatives gathered Saturday at the University of Utah to discuss what some called a holy war — not the Utah-BYU football game, but what they say is a warping of constitutional freedoms on such things as public lands and the use of gold and silver as a protection against attacks on U.S. currency.

Speakers at Utah's Freedom Conference — an annual gathering co-sponsored by conservative groups including the Sutherland Institute, the John Birch Society, American Lands Council and the Utah Precious Metals Foundation — also said bills passed by the Utah Legislature are national models for solutions to such problems.

Leaders including U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, GOP Utah attorney-general nominee John Swallow, GOP congressional nominees Chris Stewart and Mia Love, and GOP state Reps. Ken Ivory and Brad Galvez urged a return to the Founding Fathers' original intent for the Constitution and other traditional values.

"I don't believe that the Founding Fathers ever would have envisioned that these independent sovereign states would ever have a majority of land within their boundaries managed and controlled and owned on a day-to-day basis by the distant federal government," Swallow said. "It means that we have warped these [constitutional] principles over time."

Swallow defended a bill passed by the Legislature this year demanding that Congress turn over to state control roughly 30 million acres of federal land within Utah's borders.

He likened federal overstepping of authority on such lands to agreements he made with his wife when he married.

"She gave me sovereignty in a very small portion of the house. I have the garage and the shed," he said. "Right now we have the federal government parking cars in the master bedroom and leaking oil in the kitchen. What we need to do is get the federal government back in the garage. They are not the enemy, they are just all over the house."

Ivory, who sponsored the bill, said many Western states are looking at copying it to combat locking up too much land or mismanaging it.

That is fueled by such things, Ivory said, as "the federal government ... managing our national forests for maximum combustion" with huge wildfires he claims are caused by its policies.

Bishop said, "In the 1990s, we realized that states were better for controlling welfare than the federal government. Someday we will realize that states are better for controlling land-policy decisions than the federal government. ... It is time for a new paradigm shift of how we deal with lands."

Convention speakers also praised recent Utah legislation that allows voluntary use of gold and silver as legal tender — saying it not only returns to constitutional wording allowing states to issue and use gold and silver coins, but also helps protect people from what some said are attacks on U.S. currency that could make it lose value.

Conservative author Kevin Freeman said, "We are in the midst of a global economic war. Not only is our government doing everything possible to destroy America and destroy our currency, but al-Qaida, [Venezuela President] Hugo Chávez, the Iranians, elements in China and elements in Russia have targeted our economy and have the intentions of turning a $100 bill" into something worthless.

He added, "Utah has some layer of protection now because of the institution of sound money" laws that allow using silver and gold as legal tender.

Galvez, who sponsored the "sound money" bills, said, "With sound money, we are creating prosperity — not just printing more money."

Congressional candidates Stewart and Love also called for a return to constitutional ideals.

"We are too important to the world to fail," Stewart said. Love added, "With Utah leading the way … I promise you we will restore that America we know and love."

Twitter: @LeeHDavidson —

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