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A candidate for lieutenant governor has accused Gov. Gary Herbert of trying to use religion to divide voters by claiming his opponent's public education plan could threaten the option of students to take seminary classes.
"I know how I interpreted it and I felt it was a religious wedge issue," said Rep. Sheryl Allen, a Republican who is on the Democratic gubernatorial ticket with Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.
"I do not think the religion of our governor should affect the decision they make in who they vote for," Allen said. "Utah has had a history of having governors of other religions."
But the Herbert campaign denied that they were playing on religious issues Corroon is Catholic while Herbert is Mormon when the governor raised the seminary issue.
"They can perceive it however they want. That is definitely not the intention of the Herbert campaign. The campaign needs to be about issues, not about somebody's religion," said campaign spokesman Don Olsen. "There's no overt attempt on [Herbert's] part or anybody's part to use anything like that, anything that is personal like that, as a campaign issue. It would be absolutely counterproductive to do so."
On Thursday, Herbert said Corroon's education plan which would require high school students to take an additional year of science and math to graduate would mean students would have to give up some elective courses.
"That means some arts and probably some seminary time," Herbert said. "I don't know if everyone thinks that will be a good idea to give up arts and seminary release time in order to have this more [rigorous schedule]."
Allen, who is a Republican Mormon on the Democratic ticket, reiterated Corroon's previous statement that students would still have plenty of options for seminary class. The Corroon plan would mean students would be required to take 20 courses out of the 32 they take during their four-year schooling.
In Utah and a few other states, many students who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are allowed to build a period of "release time" into their school schedule and attend religious classes at buildings adjacent to the schools.
In most other states, Mormon students often take seminary classes before or after school.
Earlier in the week, Herbert also said it was "hypocritical" for Corroon to criticize the governor's record on education when Corroon sends his children to private schools. Corroon, whose children attend a private Catholic school, said it was "unconscionable" for Herbert to call into question that decision.
Review Herbert warns of less seminary time
R On Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert said Peter Corroon's education plan would mean students would have to give up some elective courses including "seminary release time."