God and Country
Politics in Utah
Jeffery E. Sells, editor
Hardback / 384 Pages. / 1-56085-183-X / $34.95
The consensus is that Utah is a theocracy. From there, opinions diverge as to whether, for instance, the religious influence in Utah indicates a healthy regional democracy (the Founding Fathers’ intent) or whether, especially for those not of the dominant church, Utah presents (1) minor inconveniences compared to colonial America, when Puritans were regularly beheading Quakers or (2) an intolerable, oppressive climate—exactly what the Constitution intended to prohibit. In this volume, some of the most respected legal, historical, philosophical, and theological minds in Utah approach these questions from various perspectives.
The Rev. Dr. Jeffery E. Sells is Rector of St. David of Wales Church in Shelton, Washington. He is the former communications director and Associate Priest at the Cathedral of St. Mark, Salt Lake City, where he served for fifteen years (1987-2002), and past editor of the monthly newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, the Diocesan Dialogue. He holds degrees from the University of New Mexico (B.S.), Church Divinity School of the Pacific (M.Div.), and the University of Utah (M.S., Ph.D.); he was an Adjunct Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Utah School of Medicine from 1989-1999 and a psychologist at Salt Lake City Veterans Hospital during the same period. He was also the founding Vicar of the Holy Apostles Church in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and has been a priest, rector, or curate in parishes in Wyoming, Nevada, and Oregon. He is the author of La Fiesta y el Esqueleto: Dia de los Muertos and of the instructional video Coriendo hacia la Fe: La Religion Popular.
From the jacket flap:
For the first two decades after creation of the Territory of Utah, elections were consistently one percentage point shy of unanimous: 99 percent in favor of Mormon church-approved candidates. The legislature’s record was equally striking—a nearly unanimous vote on all issues during the same period.
In the twenty-first century, a majority of Utahns still look to the Latter-day Saint (LDS) church for political direction, and the church obliges by weighing in on matters it considers to be “moral issues”—also flexing its political muscle in recent years by trying to gain control of the Salt Lake Tribune and successfully acquiring a downtown block of Main Street, among other examples.
Opponents of religious influence in civic affairs have appealed to the doctrine of separation of church and state even though strict constructionists say the U.S. Constitution retrains government only, not the ability of churches to influence politics. This reality, as interpreted recently by the U.S. Supreme Court, leaves civil libertarians and churches uncertain about what path to follow. Ironically, even though the Constitution of the State of Utah is more explicit in prohibiting church influence in politics, attorneys have been reluctant to appeal to state courts, which tend to be more protective of religion than the federal courts.
But is the role of the church in America limited to what is legally permissible? Here is where theologians and ethicists weigh in by acknowledging that historically much of the grief in the world has been the result of ecclesiastical hubris. Even so, none prefer a world that is devoid of the moral guidance offered by religion.
Ultimately, the question may be, not what is legal, but how churches, politicians, and individuals might consider what is best for all beyond the narrow self-interest of any particular group, with deference to the moral teachers of the various religious traditions and the vision of the American Founding Fathers, all of whom expressed concern for minority interests and freedom to act according to conscience. In the end, what is best for all is also in the best interest of everyone individually.
THE LATE DR. PETER C. APPLEBY
former Professor of Philosophy, University of Utah
SHEIKH MAQBOOL AHMED
currently of Kaysville, Utah
THE HONORABLE JUDITH S. H. ATHERTON
Judge of the Third Judicial District
DR. HAROLD J. BERMAN
Professor Emeritus of Law, Harvard University
STEPHEN C. CLARK, J.D.
former Legal Director, ACLU of Utah
REV. FRANCE A. DAVIS
Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, Salt Lake City
political reporter, KUTV Channel 2, Salt Lake City
DR. EDWIN BROWN FIRMAGE
Professor Emeritus of Law, University of Utah
DR. JOHN J. FLYNN
Professor Emeritus of Law, University of Utah
JOHN W. GALLIVAN SR.
former Publisher, The Salt Lake Tribune
THE LATE CRADDOCK MATTHEW GILMOUR, J.D.
former Senior Warden, St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
REV. THOMAS R. GOLDSMITH
First Unitarian Church, Salt Lake City
DR. L. JACKSON NEWELL
Professor Emeritus of Liberal Education, U. of Utah
THE VERY REV. JACK POTTER
former Dean, St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
DR. D. MICHAEL QUINN
former Professor of History, Brigham Young University
THE HONORABLE CALVIN L. RAMPTON
former Governor of the State of Utah
REV. DR. JEFFERY E. SELLS
former Assistant Priest, St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
DR. JAN SHIPPS
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Indiana-Purdue
RABBI EMERITUS FREDERICK L. WENGER
Congregation Kol Ami, Salt Lake City
THE HONORABLE MICHAEL D. ZIMMERMAN
former Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court