ST. GEORGE – Recording a personal conversation without the other party’s knowledge could become a crime in Utah if a bill proposed by a Southern Utah legislator passes. Since being made public Monday evening, the bill has gained attention due to Mormon church lobbyists approaching legislators about supporting the bill.
The bill numbered HB 330 proposes communication interception amendments to current law. The bill is sponsored by Rep. V. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, and is co-sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler. It would make recording a private conversation without the other party’s consent a possible misdemeanor or third-degree felony with fines attached.
Utah’s current law only requires that one party – presumably the person making the recording – knows a recording is being made at the time of the conversation.
“Call me a traditionalist and a little bit old fashioned,” Snow said, “but unless someone tells me they’re recording (me over the phone), I think its a private conversation.”
Snow initially mentioned the bill in passing during a legislative preview breakfast held by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce in January. At the time, he said he had been approached by the Salt Lake Chamber about creating a two-party recording law.
“In the business arena, companies have an interest in protecting their information, product and expansion plans, conversations in strategic meetings,” Snow said. “There is an expectation of protecting that information.”
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It was reported by The Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday that a representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had also visited Snow about the bill.
A church lobbyist visited with him “briefly” about the bill while he was still drafting it, Snow told St. George News Tuesday. Through the lobbyist, he said, the church expressed “an interest” in the legislation; Snow said he “didn’t ask what their interest was.”
Former state Sen. Steve Urquhart told the Tribune Monday that a legislator related to him said that the church is asking for a bill that would require two-party consent on recordings. The legislator in question told Urquhart he wanted to remain anonymous.
“Church representatives have spoken with legislators to express support for House Bill 330, which is intended to protect the confidentiality of sensitive private conversations, including those between ecclesiastical leaders and their members,” LDS church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement Tuesday. “In other states, business, legal, religious and law enforcement organizations have supported similar laws to safeguard confidential conversations for the same reasons.”
The bill could put a wrench in the plans of individuals who would otherwise record interviews with LDS church leaders.
There has been recent uproar over LDS bishops asking teens about their personal matters and sexual conduct, questions asked behind closed doors during annual interviews. Sam Young, a former LDS bishop, started a petition asking the church to end the practice. The petition has since garnered nearly 14,500 signatures.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, John Dehlin, of the “Mormon Stories” podcast, wrote on Facebook Monday evening that the proposed law will make it impossible to record LDS church leaders during interviews in an attempt to keep them accountable.
Dehlin, who was excommunicated from the LDS church in 2015, went on to say he believes the bill is a response to Mormon Stories and Young’s efforts to get the church to end the practice of bishops and stake presidents asking minors about sex-related issues during interviews.
The bill would apply to any religious institution, Snow said, not just the LDS church. It would also go both ways, as it would be illegal for church leaders to record parishioners during the same interviews.
“On closed-door sessions, there is an expectation of privacy on both sides,” Snow said.
There are exemptions to the proposed law, however.
Public officials and employees can be recorded in relation to their public duties. Snow said he wanted that included for reasons of transparency.
Additional exemptions include recordings of communications related to emergencies or disasters; communications likely to be fraudulent, obscene or harassing in nature; communications involving threats of extortion, blackmail and physical or psychological abuse; communications establishing an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse.
Having just been numbered and made public, Snow said the bill is in its earliest stages and will likely face revisions and amending as it passes through the Legislature.
While Snow’s proposed legislation only covers audio recordings, he said the law could extend to video recordings at some point. Utah’s current law was adopted when the ability to secretly record conversations was relatively new, he said.
Other states that employ two-party recording laws include California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. While it is legal in Nevada to record a face-to-face conservation without consent, Nevada law requires consent to record phone calls.
- Read the bill: Utah 2018 House Bill 330 – Communication Interception Amendments
- Contact legislators
- Bill sponsor: Rep. V. Lowry Snow | Senate sponsor: Sen. Todd Weiler
- Southern Utah Sens. Evan Vickers, Don Ipson, David Hinkins and Ralph Okerlund | Listing of all senators.
- Southern Utah Reps. Jon Stanard, Bradley Last, V. Lowry Snow, Walt Brooks, John Westwood, Merrill Nelson and Michael Noel | Listing of all members of the House of Representatives.
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