Bill would prohibit secret recordings of telephone conversations; LDS Church may support the change

A GOP lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make it a crime to record a personal conversation or telephone call without telling the other party you are doing so.

And leaders of the LDS Church could well end up endorsing the bill, as a way to stop the secret recording of their local lay leaders during various kinds of “interviews,” including those with teenagers recently criticized publicly.

Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, told Tuesday morning that he opened HB330 initially at the request of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.

“The business leaders were worried about having some of their conversations recorded without their knowledge or approval” as part of routine business practices, he said.

But after Snow started working on the bill he got a call from an LDS Church official, saying the church was interested in the topic and may, upon seeing the final product, support it publically.

In any case, HB330 would be a significant change in Utah communications law, which for years has allowed such recording as long as one person (presumably the recorder) knows about it.

Already, some on Capitol Hill are wondering if the bill is about the recent social upheaval surrounding the LDS Church’s practice of “bishop interviews,” and whether the bill is aimed at stopping secret recording of the annual requirements of teenage Mormons to meet with their congregational leader to discuss all kinds of personal activity, even sexual conduct.

Lowry, a well-known Southern Utah lawyer, said, in fact, his bill would protect both sides in a religious-setting private conversation.

“It would apply, also, to a member of the congregation, who would hope that their very sensitive conversation would not be recorded” by their religious leader or counselor, or even a third party.

Most states either have no laws about one party taping a telephone or verbal person-to-person conversation.

Or they have laws similar to Utah’s: Where if one person on the call or in the person-to-person interview know they are recording, they don’t have to tell the other person or persons.

It used to be a technically awkward process to record either kind of conversation, but modern technology has made such recordings easier to do, even having such things as pens or pins on clothing being able to produce good quality recordings, and available publicly at reasonable prices.

Snow already has some exemptions in his bill.

For example, public officials and public employees conversations would be exempt from the Class B misdemeanor penalties in the proposed bill.

“In doing their public work, officials should be more transparent in their conversations,” said Snow.

He has already been contacted by representatives of other groups seeking to be exempt and is willing to listen to all sides as his bill progresses.

Speaking about the LDS Church’s interest in HB330: “This would apply to all religious” contexts, not just the Mormon Church and so-called “bishop interviews.”

All folks involved in such interviews – or confessions in other religions – should believe they are safe from being recorded, he added.

“Bishop interviews” are now the subject of some public criticism, with one group getting online signatures asking the LDS Church to stop such interviews with teenagers, or allow a parent or other adult be in the room with the ecclesiastic leader.