This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Paul Rolly would benefit from an afternoon in law school and a quick refresher on American history. He claims the LDS Church's public expression of concern about two bills in the Utah Legislature defies the Utah Constitution. That's absurd.
First, some law. The First Amendment grants churches the same right as ordinary citizens, newspaper columnists and the PTA to express their views about legislation or anything else. Who says? The United States Supreme Court: "churches, as much as secular bodies and private citizens," the Court ruled in Walz v. Tax Commission, have the right "to take strong positions on public issues."
The Utah Constitution was never intended to strip any religious organization, including the LDS Church, of its First Amendment rights. Nor could it under our constitutional system.
Of course, citizens and legislators are free to believe and vote as they think best. Sens. Mark Madsen and Steven Urquhart, sponsors of the two bills Rolly mentions and both Mormon, felt perfectly free to reject the LDS Church's concerns. That's their right. Madsen's medical marijuana bill went on to receive majority support in a key Senate vote and Urquhart's may yet pass. That's democracy.
What about history? Isn't it at least bad form for churches and religious leaders to influence legislation? That notion would certainly come as a surprise to the abolitionist and women's suffrage movements, which were heavily influenced by religion. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, critical moral and political voices in the civil rights movement, would also be shocked by Rolly's novel idea. Indeed, churches were a driving force behind the American Revolution itself. The pulpits of Boston had as much to do with 1776 as anything the Sons of Liberty had to say.
So write your columns and debate the issues and keep those politicians honest. But please, Rolly, no more silly handwringing about churches speaking out on the issues of the day. Few things are more American than religious people, leaders and institutions exercising their fundamental right to raise their voices on matters of public concern.
Alexander Dushku is an attorney at the Salt Lake City law firm of Kirton McConkie.