LDS church, lawmakers threatened with lawsuit over Prop 2 compromise bill

Jack Gerard, center, a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks with reporters following a news conference with opponents of Utah's medical marijuana ballot initiative, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Aug. 23, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

ST. GEORGE Medical marijuana advocates and supporters are threatening state lawmakers and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a lawsuit over the compromise bill meant to replace the recently passed Proposition 2.

Gov. Gary Herbert addresses state leaders, medical experts, clergy and others gathered on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 4, 2018, to announce a compromise to Proposition 2. | File photo courtesy of Intellectual Reserve Inc. / The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George News

A coalition of the advocacy groups TRUCE (Together of Responsible Use and Cannabis Education), the Epilepsy Association of Utah, as well as individuals Doug Rice and Christine Stenquist, sent a letter Wednesday to members of the Legislature, LDS church lobbyists and others involved in crafting the compromise bill that accuses lawmakers of bending to the will of the LDS church.

The coalition is represented by former Salt Lake City Mayor and attorney Rocky Anderson.

Read more: ‘We are stoked’: Father of epileptic son who supported ballot initiative excited at Prop 2’s passing

“We were contacted by these people and organizations for the first time during the past two days,” the letter states. “We are investigating a legal challenge to (1) the calling of a special session of the Utah Legislature at the behest of The Church of Jesus Christ; (2) any effort, in collusion with or at the behest of The Church of Jesus Christ, to materially alter the initiative statute supported by a majority of voters who passed Proposition 2 in the recent election; and (3) the long-term pattern of domination of the Utah Legislature and the interference in the functions of Utah government by The Church of Jesus Christ.”

In recent years the LDS church has been credited with using its influence to secure the passage of a nondiscrimination bill protecting the housing and employment rights of the LGBTQ community. And yet, the church was also blamed for using its political clout among lawmakers to kill a hate crimes amendment bill.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“The Church of Jesus Christ”) has a long history of dominating and interfering with the government of the State of Utah, often dictating to state and municipal legislators what legislative measures or policies they are to support or oppose. That dominance and interference is prohibited by the Utah Constitution,” the letter states.

The power of The Church of Jesus Christ to control public laws and policies, and its enthusiastic exercise of that power, is recognized not only throughout the State, but far beyond Utah’s borders.”

The letter points to Gov. Gary Herbert’s calling a special legislative session – anticipated to convene Dec. 3 – at the behest of the LDS church. Church leaders called for a special session to pass medical marijuana legislation it could support in September.

Read more: LDS church asks Utah lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana by end of year

Though the church began voicing its disapproval of the ballot initiative that became Proposition 2 earlier this year, it kicked the opposition into high gear in August during a press conference in which it announced it had joined a coalition to opposing Proposition 2.

While church representatives stated the faith does not oppose the use of medical marijuana as long as it were properly regulated, it did not support how Proposition 2 proposed to distribute the product. They, along with other opponents, argue Proposition 2 is too broad and is a threat to Utah’s youth while also providing a possible avenue for a marijuana black market to form.

As a way to answer the concerns of the church and others, lawmakers, medical marijuana advocates and others met and created the medical marijuana compromise bill that was introduced in early October. Unlike Proposition 2, the compromise bill has the blessing of the church.

Read more: Medical marijuana compromise backed by LDS church; governor calls for special session

Members of the Utah House during a special session at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, April 18, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

Despite opposing arguments presented by the church, Utah voters passed Proposition 2, which is set to take effect Dec. 1.

The LDS church’s efforts to use the Legislature to undermine the citizens initiative is a violation of the state constitution, Wednesday’s letter argues.

“Although initiative statutes may be amended or repealed by the Legislature, the almost immediate extreme undermining of numerous provisions of Proposition 2 at the behest of The Church of Jesus Christ is anti-democratic and contemptuous of the recognition in the Utah Constitution that the people are to have the power to enact legislative changes,” the letter states.

“To rest on the technical ability of the Legislature to amend or repeal initiative statutes, just as it can amend or repeal its own statutes, is to make a mockery of the initiative process and constitutional recognition that the people are to have some real legislative control – and The Church of Jesus Christ is not to interfere.”

The letter goes on to advise those named therein to preserve all documents and records related to the medical marijuana compromise in the event of a lawsuit.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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22 Comments

  • Utahguns November 15, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    I’ll modify my comment from Howard Sierer’s article to fit this one….

    There’s a significant population of people out there who strongly believe in the benefits of Medical marijuana and marijuana byproducts.
    Their voices were exercised, heard and markedly voted in favor of Prop 2 and the usage of Medical Marijuana.

    Yet, we see now the Mormon church stifling the passage of Prop 2. Even Governor Herbert has come out saying that “Prop 2 has flaws”.
    Give me a break Governor, there was many heads (no pun here…) from both sides of the aisle, that put the 28 pages of Prop 2 together.
    Now you say it’s flawed? Are you receiving a discount now on tithing to make this statement?

    My issue comes from obvious emotional manipulation that the Mormon leaders are doing. And now, there’s the possibility of a proposed “negotiable” change in Prop 2 that’s clearly being driven by the Mormon leadership.
    This action of the Mormon church can only come from two places in my opinion. The first comes a financial standpoint, as it has become prominently apparent, the church has massive amounts of money invested in pharmaceutical companies. The same companies that would take a financial hit at the legalization of marijuana.

    The second issue is also obvious, it comes from a place of bigotry and judgment.
    Marijuana has had a bad reputation since the “War on Drugs” began. Members and leaders of the Church dislike drugs because they have preconceived notions about those who use or may use drugs. Now, society has been consistently professing, along with millions of patient testimonials, the benefits of medical marijuana and marijuana products.

    Yet, as a non-Mormon with lots of Mormon friends, I witness many Church members who use cannabis products. Several of these “users” I have personally driven down to Mesquite to purchase CBD products, because their afflictions cause them not to be able to drive.

    From either viewpoint, I believe that in this situation, the Mormon leaders have acted in a fashion that shows corruptness and unkindness.
    I also believe that members of the LDS Church need to realize and recognize that while they may not like something, it should not be illegal.

    Even the Constitution of the state of Utah written when Utah became a state, clearly specifies the “separation of church and state”.
    It states: “There shall be no union of Church and State, nor shall any church dominate the State or interfere with its functions. No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or for the support of any ecclesiastical establishment.”

    Those who are suffering and sick deserve treatment, and a religion, no matter who’s, should have no say in that.
    Mormon’s, get out of the way…..

  • Comment November 15, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    So they’ve pulled out the ol’ “protecting the youth” card again, huh? I’ve noticed about every single thing my church does is either about making money or making sure they don’t lose money. They always seem to have some sort of underhanded angle to everything they do. Most churches are like this though. It’s all just business. They’re selling you a product that’s actually imaginary–a fanciful delusion.

    • ladybugavenger November 17, 2018 at 8:59 am

      You still claim the church? You should denounce it and move on.

  • Jmfixitman November 15, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    The Mormon church is to Utah, what the gaming commission is to Nevada… A self serving business with no true interest for the State.

  • bikeandfish November 15, 2018 at 11:36 pm

    Does a possible lawsuit even have merit? If so, I get suing the state as they are thr ones prohibited from engaging in certain behavior but I’m not sure how the church is prohibited. Anybody familiar with such legal issues? Is there a law that prohibits an immediate amendment to a proposition.

    I would ultimately love to see the church’s influence diminished but I just don’t know how that happens in this case.

  • Henry November 16, 2018 at 12:23 am

    I’ve lived in SGU all of my life. I find it amusing that the Mormon church has decided that my vote doesn’t matter, and claim to worry that kids will get ahold of marijuana if it’s legal. Anyone can buy it; I’ve been smoking in Utah for over 25 years. Don’t have to go out of state, it’s readily available.

    Our children have access to heroin, spice, crack, alcoholism, meth… Why doesn’t the church use its considerable resources to help the members of our community deal with the problems we actually face, instead of pretending to worry about Pot? Not only are there medicinal uses, it’s used (and enjoyed) by many. There are few side effects, an overdose causes sleep and it’s no more a “gateway drug” than any other medication.

    Many of the people you meet use marijuana – including Utahns – and it’s becoming legal across the country. I’ll support the Mormon church telling me what to do when they address the “silent” social problems of sex crimes, child abuse, pay disparity and domestic abuse. Wikipedia says that 41% of Utahns are active members of the Mormon church (2007) and with more people moving here that # will surely continue to decrease. Why does the church spend so much time trying to legislate our behaviors when they can’t even deal with their own members’ issues?

  • Milo November 16, 2018 at 5:42 am

    This is a “Duh” moment. Oppose Medical Weed by hiding behind “too broad”?
    BS…. here is the truth: The LDS church owns over One Billion $ of Pharma Stock

    https://www.civilized.life/articles/mormon-church-big-pharma-stocks/

  • jpff November 16, 2018 at 6:39 am

    Those wanting to use pot for recreational use saw this Prop 2 as a ‘foot in the door” strategy that would allow them to have open use of marijuana in a relatively short amount of time. The compromise by the legislature will still provide for the use of cannabis to help people suffering from disorders that the drug has been proven to effectively help. This will be a great victory for those who need the medicinal portions of an otherwise dangerous plant. Citing such people to prove the “wrongs” of the LDS church, governor, and legislatures is inappropriate and approaches misrepresentation. The people needing the drug for medicinal use will soon have that drug in their homes.
    As usual, when an inappropriate activity is opposed by the LDS church, factions begin to throw their tantrums when the church expresses concern over such activity. It is as if an organization of religious people is not supposed to dare voice their feelings and concerns if those statements get into the way of societal acceptance of what most churches deem improper or immoral. The “offended writers” make the same lame accusation that the people in Utah follow their ecclesiastical words like lambs. Members of the LDS faith do not need to apologize to others for making their decisions based upon their beliefs any more than Protestants in the Southern belt should for their strong beliefs that often reach the ballot boxes in their states’ issues.

    • bikeandfish November 16, 2018 at 9:31 am

      If this is an issue of Mormon’s internalize and acting upon their faith than why is the Church involved at all? Shouldn’t the church trust their followers to act according to the clear directive of their faith?

      The irony to your claims is we know many Mormon’s voted for the Proposition. We also know many Mormon’s who supported the proposition initially acquiesced after the church published its statement. I don’t call followers sheep but the heirarchy of the church has a definite influence of its members when it comes to these social issues.

      PS…. thanks for the comparison to the bible belt and Evangelical faiths. The LDS church spent decades distancing itself from public controversy but most of us knew it was always a player. Its good to see an openness about that reality. And you can expect many of us to use legal options to stop a religion from degrading basic liberties.

    • zd November 16, 2018 at 10:16 am

      Although I agree (somewhat), that a few saw “prop 2” as a foot in the door; I would say the majority saw it as a sensible way to get the much needed natural -plant- in the hands of those that need it most. Medical cannabis helps people period! As with anything in life, people find ways to abuse things; but that should never, ever, prevent the ones that need it.
      Just for clarification what is your source on “dangerous plant”? Are you meaning how it can hurt the brain development of an adolescent, or its impairment properties? Those the only “dangerous” aspects I have ever seen. If there are more examples, please elaborate, I am truly interested.

      Bottom line, the people spoke, a Utah State ran ( not only regulated ) “cannabis pharmacy” is just bad., government needs to get out of business and stay in its lane; all religious beliefs aside.

      • bikeandfish November 16, 2018 at 11:47 am

        Thanks for a thoughtful rebuttal. The foot in the door argument is just a slippery slope argument.

        Ed challenged my original understanding of marijuana and actually showed this “dangerous plant” has many beneficial aspects to our bodies, even our lungs from inhalation. That doesn’t change the fact that it also has negatives but the classic stereotypes like “dangerous plants” just don’t hold up under scrutiny.

        Not to mention we allow adults to utilize “dangerous plants” all the time: tobacco, coffee/caffeine, etc. Citizens are expected to analyze risk/reward all of the time in the US. Not to mention the pharmaceutical industry uses “dangerous plants” all the time hence the old adage “the dose makes the poison”.

    • Henry November 16, 2018 at 2:01 pm

      People have been using marijuana for hundreds of years. It’s already being used in Utah for both medicinal and recreational use. The foot, and entire body, are in the door. I don’t believe that anyone is asking for the Mormon Church Members to apologize for making decisions upon their beliefs – we are asking that the Mormons recognize that they aren’t the only people in Utah and that, if they hadn’t wanted this law to pass, they should have voted against it. If they voted against it – and lost – well, that’s the American system. So far as “inappropriate activities” you mention, the only thing inappropriate is the attempts by the Mormon-led legislature and Mormon Governor, with the support and direction of the Mormon Church, to attempt to circumvent the wishes of the voters of the state that they claim to represent.

      So far as the “dangerous plant” comment, if you believe the plant is dangerous, stay away. More for the rest of us.

  • NickDanger November 16, 2018 at 6:59 am

    This will be a seminal moment in Utah history. Just as the LDS Church abandoned polygamy in 1890 in order to secure statehood, they will abandon their opposition to marijuana in 2018 (or maybe early 2019) in order to avoid a costly lawsuit. The Prophet will have a vision that medical marijuana is the will of Elohim. The church will reallocate some of its portfolio into weed stock. And life will go on as “normal” in the state of Utah.

  • mattmecham November 16, 2018 at 7:26 am

    For reasons such as this, I recently resigned from the Mormon church after being a member for 46 years. While in the church, it was very easy to “just go along” with whatever the brethren said – after all, we are told that they can never lead us astray, that god won’t allow it. Now that I’m on the outside, I’m able to have a very different perspective, and what I see makes me sick and angry. The Mormon church tried to influence the voting on Prop 2. They lost, but can’t seem to lose with dignity. They need to stfu, pick up their ball, and go home.

  • Kilroywashere November 16, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    Let it go all the way to the Supreme Court. The LDS Church does not own the Democratic process in Utah. This is 2018 and the times have changed. What they are doing is a violation of the seperation of Church and State. Perhaps RICO laws dont apply but conspiracy to undermine the will of the people of Utah does appear to be the intent. And the actions of government officials, many of whom are members of this religious group, clearly support collusion. Watch,,,, my prediction is the LDS Chirch will back down realizing what is at stake. Better to let it go then making a federal mountain out of a state molehill. But then again stupid is as stupid does, so my forecast could end up being wrong. Then it will get interesting. Wait till that “go fund me page” gets started afte that.

    • bikeandfish November 16, 2018 at 5:55 pm

      Except there is nothing about “separation of church and state” in the US Constitution. I’m not aware of any federal law that prohibits states interacting with churches but I’m willing to follow the evidence if someone can show it.

  • ladybugavenger November 16, 2018 at 11:32 pm

    We should use Willie Nelson as an example. The only bad thing about marijuana is that it’s illegal. The dude is 85. Born in 1933. Smoked cigarettes and marijuana. Had to give up one of them. Gave up cigarettes. 85! You know hes smoked alot of pot and yet hes still alive!

  • jpff November 17, 2018 at 8:23 am

    To those who challenged me to show what the negative effects of marijuana are: I do not have to educate you in order that my own beliefs are justified. The documents and evidence are out there, and you can easily look them up and read them. Something tells me you will not believe the evidence that is there, so I will not waste my time looking up the sources that I have seen and share them with you.
    The compromise will provide for the availability of the marijuana extracts needed by patients in Utah…just as the extracts for legal opiates are provided from the illegal opium plants. The LDS church opposes prop 2 because it will provide the opening the potheads want to finally get free use of marijuana realized. Not one single complainer so far in these comments has shown how the compromise would stifle the availability of medical marijuana to those who need it and have it prescribed to them.

    • theone November 17, 2018 at 10:09 am

      So you don’t actually have any credible sources for your claim. Got it.

    • bikeandfish November 17, 2018 at 11:32 am

      Agreed with theone. When you make claims you are expected to be able to defend them with evidence. Its not our job to prove the opposite. You have basically forfeited.

    • ladybugavenger November 17, 2018 at 8:21 pm

      I’ll state a source for him: Willie Nelson

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