This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Consider this hypothetical.
Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, in the future has unexpected circumstances in his life and finds it necessary to rent an apartment for him and his family. But the landlord of his chosen abode is a fundamentalist Christian who believes Mormons are derived from Satan and doesn't want someone of that faith living on his property, so he denies the lease.
The landlord then defends this blatant discrimination of LaVar Christensen by citing a Utah law, sponsored by Christensen himself.
In reality, Christensen has introduced HB109, the "Religious Liberty Recognition and Protection Act," which says that religious liberty is a "valid defense to claims of discrimination by others."
Christensen had been a speaker at an event hosted by the conservative think tank, the Sutherland Institute, which called on the Legislature to expand an exemption from nondiscrimination ordinances to include not just religious organizations but also religious adherents.
Gay and lesbian organizations believe Christensen's bill will allow landlords and employers to discriminate against gays on religious grounds. But it could also open the door for discrimination against Mormons on religious grounds.
This law of unintended consequences arose a few years ago when East High School tried to ban a gay and lesbian club. The school was prohibited from banning the club because of a federal law that had been passed earlier, co-sponsored by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. That law said religious clubs could not be denied access to public school facilities if other clubs were given access.
The Salt Lake City School District then reacted by banning all non-curricular clubs in the district, depriving thousands of students the opportunity to participate in a social club just so East could ban the gay club.
Déjà vu? • Draper Republican Sen. Howard Stephenson's proposed SB119, which eases restrictions on who could be appointed local school district superintendents, seems vaguely familiar.
The bill would require the state school board, at the request of the local school board, to authorize a person with "outstanding professional qualifications" but no administrative/supervisory license, to serve as superintendent.
A similar bill addressing the requirements for state schools superintendent passed the Legislature 25 years ago.
That bill removed the requirement that the state superintendent have an administrator's certificate.
The same year that bill passed in 1986, guess who then was appointed as state schools superintendent without having an administrator's certificate?
One of the legislators, of course.
James R. Moss was in the House of Representatives at the time the bill passed and was named schools superintendent six months later.
He had a law degree, but his experience in education instruction was limited to teaching LDS religion classes at BYU.
So if Stephenson's bill passes this year, think of all the well-qualified lawmakers who could suddenly become available to be local school district superintendents.
Support Walmart on a full stomach • Salt Lake City residents who are on a Walmart mailing list received e-mails recently offering them dinner if they attend the Salt Lake City Planning Commission hearing Wednesday and voice their support for a zoning change that would open the door for a new Walmart store on Parleys Way.
"We are in the process of finalizing details for a complementary dinner prior to the meeting. When we finalize our plans, you will receive an update to let you know when and where we will be hosting our meal. Feel free to bring your friends, family and neighbors who are also supportive of the project," the e-mail said.
Last October, selected residents were treated to a free dinner and a $60 Walmart voucher for attending an East Bench Community Council meeting and expressing support for the project.