Category Archives: Editorial Commentaries

The ironies of the LDS Church weaponizing religious freedom

As someone who has had a long and successful career in politics and public policy largely built upon weaponizing every idea from values to ethics to morals to faith and beyond, I know the weaponization of an idea when I hear it.

My most recent example is the speech by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Dallin H. Oaks, delivered recently at the University of Virginia on the occasion of the 2021 Joseph Smith Lecture. If you ever want to listen to a classic presentation on how to weaponize religious freedom, you should take a moment to review Oaks’ speech. read more

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Fairness for All is a failed strategy to protect religious freedom

The contention between religious freedom and gay rights is and always has been binary. The “Utah Compromise” of 2015 was a mirage and its illusory light distantly refracting for dull visionaries now gives hope to an identical federal proposal by U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart. But it too will disappoint.

Here is why: Can you imagine Martin Luther King Jr. settling for a “Southern Compromise” wherein blacks gain all civil rights except among certain segments of society? Regarding the Utah Compromise, if everyone is being honest, the LGBT community got hoodwinked for a hug at the state Capitol — a disappointing accomplishment as viewed by astute national LGBT advocates who well understood the problems of legalized discrimination. read more

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Impeachment inquiry is a moral and constitutional obligation

We now know that Trump extorted Ukraine, a U.S. ally with critical strategic value in a tumultuous region, in an attempt to gain an edge on a domestic political opponent. While the president and his supporters have attempted to hide behind false claims about the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation, this time around Congress has an opportunity and duty to uncover the truth as the American public looks on.

As we continue to hear testimony from distinguished career diplomats and decorated armed service members, the search for the truth must be the top priority of Congress. Presidential invitations to foreign nations to dig for dirt on American political candidates cannot be tolerated by voters, let alone by Congress. Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s math was shockingly clear: two-plus-two equals four. read more

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Romney’s faith should move him to a humane immigration policy

Sen. Mitt Romney says America has become an “asylum magnet” for immigrants on our southern border. I say, good for us! If refugees cannot find asylum in the United States, we stop being Americans.

Salt Lake Tribune

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How to lower prescription drug prices without government intervention

Prescription drug prices have skyrocketed and the immense harm to families and businesses is leading some public officials to propose outrageous “solutions.” For example, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, now a 2020 presidential candidate, suggests the federal government get into the business of manufacturing medications. And that begs one to ask, how’s that going for Venezuela where the government controls all aspects of business?

Extreme interference in the private sector isn’t right for Utah. Fortunately, our state legislators are considering their own ambitious, market-based measures to bring down prescription drug prices and if the legislation passes, Utah will become the leader in solving this urgent problem. read more

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Utah needs a child-centered approach to fighting poverty

Utah is proud to be a data-driven state. Our policymakers want to make good decisions based on good data. But new research focused on teenagers living in intergenerational poverty (IGP) seems to reveal that Utah’s long-standing approach is outdated and missing the mark.

New multi-state research commissioned by the Georgia Center for Opportunity and Utah’s Next Generation Freedom Fund suggests it’s time to reevaluate state IGP policy goals. The new research, conducted by Heart+Mind Strategies just this fall, interviewed teenagers (12-18) living in IGP and their parents. The study’s objective was to really know and understand the IGP “customer” from the inside out. read more

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Who Speaks for God?

Secularists have an odd way of arguing with people of faith – odd in that they even try. Their frames of reference are too different. A secularist telling a person of faith what God thinks in the very same breath the secularist decries a person of faith for proclaiming what God thinks is, well, absurd. But it happens time and again and, in Utah, typically within the esteemed pages of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Most recently, George Pyle and, to a certain degree, Robert Gehrke have risen in defense of people of faith for whom they feel have been slighted, insulted or oppressed by other people of faith. This week’s offender before their secular court of justice is President Dallin H. Oaks, a prominent leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His crime? Telling people of the same faith what God thinks about His plan for His children.

The secular premise in play here is that regardless of what God may or may not think, He certainly does not hurt people or make them feel uncomfortable. Pastor Gehrke knows what God thinks. He knows God thinks that Dallin Oaks pretends to love Jesus and feigns piety while condemning as satanic a family with a transgender son – because, of course, Jesus never would look to hurt anyone’s feelings about how to live and behave (except for Dallin Oaks). Pastor Gehrke is the true saint. He is “not going to disparage Oaks.” He’ll allow the father of the transgender boy to do it.

Preacher Pyle simply wants to ensure that everyone, especially people of faith, do not fall “for the argument that someone who seeks to tell you what to think or do is really telling you what God wants you to think or do.” After all, there is no difference between Pope Francis, Russell M. Nelson and Brain David Mitchell, the latter having kidnapped and brutally raped Elizabeth Smart. Don’t they all claim to speak for God, Preacher Pyle wonders aloud?

In their secular church, Preacher Pyle and Pastor Gehrke will not “pound the Bible” to foment “institutionalized cruelty.” But they will speak for God about Dallin Oaks, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its plan of salvation and its doctrinal understanding of gender and sex. Be clear: God does not condone anything perceived as hurtful to others from the mouths of these Mormons.

I like and respect George Pyle and Robert Gehrke. They have been true to their secular faith and never have given me offense. I do not ascribe to them ill motives. I understand how difficult it must be for them to reconcile ideas, words and behaviors from people of faith that seem to them to be irreconcilable. They see illegitimate or false paradoxes from people of faith such as Dallin Oaks. What does he mean by conjoining love and law?

But neither good man should kid himself about their Latter-day Saint problem. Either somebody speaks for God or nobody does. They choose nobody – the only possible choice for them as they so freely associate a prophet, a pope and a pedophile rapist. Meanwhile, millions of people of faith know the difference between a prophet and a pedophile.

Just because my friends do not believe in my God does not mean my faith is incorrect. It simply means we don’t agree. I no more impose my will on other people than they do. They choose the private behaviors and public laws they want for the reasons they champion and so do I. The fundamental difference between us in these matters is that I think they are merely wrong, while they think I, and my kind, are intentionally insolent.

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Five steps to build a transcendent political culture in Utah

My political sins, if you will, have been on full display for decades. Through the pages of my career’s open book, I have been anything but transcendent – although not for a lack of trying. By the time I arrived in Utah 18 years ago, I was determined to lead differently. In time, I created the Transcend Series at Sutherland Institute to help elected officials and community leaders overcome politics as usual. I often reached across the philosophical aisle in an attempt to raise civil dialogue. read more

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Mitt Romney has a Dreamer problem

Mitt Romney’s stated desire to kick Dreamer kids out of the country is disconcerting and disappointing — and a policy that is Trumpian, not conservative.

For a man who once excoriated Donald Trump for being “very very not smart,” Mitt is very very not smart about immigration policy generally and how Utahns view undocumented immigrants specifically.

I cannot look the other way any more. As a voice for thoughtful conservatism in Utah, I now revoke his pass.

Salt Lake Tribune

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It’s time to fight poverty the ‘Utah way’

The Utah Compact was the work of many to express the heart of how we feel about strangers in our midst. It certifiably established Utah as a welcoming state.

As a part of that transcendent moment, I have since wondered why that same spirit could not impact other public policies. For instance, is it possible to recreate the Utah Compact for poverty-related issues? What are our commensurate values regarding the poor? Are there values upon which conservatives and liberals (and everyone in between) can agree? And, if we were able to identify those values, would Utah policymakers find the courage to ensure that poverty policies match those values? read more

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