ST. GEORGE – Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are asking members in four western states to vote down ballot measures proposing the legalization of recreational marijuana and assisted suicide in a pair of letters sent out Wednesday.
A letter related to the recreational marijuana bills – signed by the First Presidency of the church, Presidents Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring and Deiter F. Uchtdorf – were sent to LDS leaders in Arizona, California and Nevada. The letter asks LDS members in those states “to let their voices be heard in opposition to to the legalization of recreational marijuana use.”
“Drug abuse in the United States is at epidemic proportions, and the dangers of marijuana are well documented,” the letter states. “Recent studies have shed light particularly on the risks that marijuana use poses to brain development in youth. The accessibility of recreational marijuana in the home is a danger to children.”
Earlier this year the church also opposed a bill sponsored by then Republican Sen. Mark Madesn, of Eagle Mountain, that would allow the whole of a marijuana plant to be used for medicinal purposes. Church leaders said they were worried about “unintended consequences” if the legislation passed.
After making the statement of opposition to Madsen’s bill, it died in the Legislature. A related bill in the Legislature that was more restrictive – which the church did not oppose – and only allowed access to a marijuana-infused oil also failed to pass.
Many of Utah Legislators are members of the LDS Church.
The second letter, which was sent to LDS Church members in Colorado, opposes a ballot measure that would allow for physician-assisted suicide for terminally-ill patients if passed.
“The Church maintains a firm belief in the sanctity of human life and opposes deliberately taking the life of a person even when the person may be suffering from an incurable disease,” the church leaders said in the letter. “Life is a sacred gift and should be cherished even in difficult circumstances.”
Though assisted suicide is permitted in some counties and states, the letter continues, church leaders claim it “can endanger the vulnerable, erode trust in the medical profession, and cheapen human life and dignity.”
However, the request to oppose the ballot measure in Colorado is followed up with the statement that church members should not feel obligated to extend someone’s life through “unreasonable” means.
An assisted-suicide bill was proposed in the Legislature last year and did not pass. The LDS Church also opposed this bill.
It is anticipated that end-of-life legislation, along with medical marijuana, will return during the 2017 Legislative session.
Churches and nonprofits are prohibited from engaging in activities that could potentially endorse or intervene with the campaigns of political candidates in order to maintain their tax-exempt status.
However, according to the IRS:
Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.
As long as the church is providing what amounts to nonpartisan voter information in a neutral manner and does not favor or oppose any political candidate, its tax-exempt status is not considered violated or at risk.
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