Poll Shows Strong LDS Support for Religious Liberties Legislation

Want to divide Utah society along religious lines, ask them this question:

Do you favor or oppose a state law “that would seek to uphold a person’s individual religious liberty in expression and action, even to the point where a person could refuse to provide goods or services to individuals or groups whose actions violate personal religious beliefs?”

Bam!

Good Mormons on one side, everyone else on the other.

So finds a new UtahPolicy poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates.

There are no bills currently being considered in the Utah Legislature – now with only two days left before adjournment – that exactly fit the above situation.

But certainly the topic described above has been talked about in State Capitol hallways over the last 43 days.

Perhaps the closest was HB322 as originally introduced by Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper – at least opponents of that bill may say so.

But Christensen has drastically changed it in a new substitute, and it is unclear if the above situations would apply today.

In any case, Jones finds that “very active” Mormons would be interested in a state law that would allow them, in certain situations, to refuse to provide goods and services to an individual or group, if actions by those persons or groups somehow infringed on the good Mormons’ religious expression.

Sixty-seven percent of “very active” members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said they “strongly” or “somewhat” would favor such a law.

Only 25 percent of good Mormons oppose such a law while 8 percent didn’t know.

The first week of the Legislature, Mormon leaders held a press conference to say that while they support a statewide law protecting gays and lesbians in housing and employment, they also believe that religious liberties in Utah and the nation are being trampled upon as society seeks to protect the rights of others.

People of good intentions can, and must, work together to seek protections of rights of all, the leaders said.

And in that vein, SB296 was put together. And in a press conference last week, for the first-time anyone can remember, two members of the LDS Church’s Quorum of The Twelve attended a Capitol press conference announcing SB296 and its compromises.

Christensen was not involved in the drafting of SB296, nor did he stand with those in the press conference.

But, says House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, Christensen has worked hard and long in his attempt to provide some enhanced rights to religious freedoms, without harming anyone else’s rights and liberties.

After the original HB322 had been introduced, a number of groups and individuals came out opposed to it, saying among other things it was a threat to the compromises in SB296.

Christensen and Hughes say that is not the case – with Hughes emphasizing Tuesday that Christensen’s bill in no way harms achievements made in SB296.

But clearly, most “very active” Mormons are interested in a state law that would protect religious liberties, even if that means people of faith can deny goods and services to those they may not agree with on religious issues.

Jones found that among all Utahns: 48 percent favor such a law, 45 percent oppose and 7 percent didn’t know.

But when you break out the respondents along religious lines, real differences show up:

— “Very active” Mormons, 67 percent favor, 25 percent oppose, 8 percent don’t know.

— “Somewhat active” Mormons, 42 percent favor, 50 percent oppose, 8 percent don’t know.

— “Not active” Mormons, 44 percent favor, 50 percent oppose, 5 percent don’t know.

— Those who said they are Catholics, 26 percent favor, 74 percent oppose.

— Protestants, 22 percent favor, 78 percent oppose.

— Those of other faiths, 20 percent favor, 76 percent oppose, 4 percent don’t know.

— And among those who said they have no religion, 21 percent favor, 74 percent oppose and 6 percent don’t know.

So, it is clear.

If you want to divide Utahns along religious lines all you have to do is push a bill through the Legislature that would provide some kind of religious freedom guarantees and liberties, while at the same time allowing people of strong religious beliefs to refuse to provide goods and services to those they disagree with on religious grounds.