I’ve always believed the church has a right to make a public stand on political issues. In protest of the church’s position on Prop 8, gay marriage proponents have floated a proposal that the church should stay out of politics, and should lose their tax-exempt status. Now that LDS Presiding Bishop David Burton has come out in favor of a guest worker program in Utah (ultra-conservatives call “amnesty”), at least one ultra-conservative is calling for the church to lose tax-exempt status too. According to Paul Rolly at the Salt Lake Tribune,
“I know in April, I can’t raise my hand to sustain Church leaders after their positionâ€¦” wrote one well-known tea party activist.
“They (the LDS Church) should lose their tax exempt status,” wrote a conservative Young Republican delegate heretofore loyal to the Mormon Church.
In another SL Tribune article, Peggy Fletcher Stack wrote,
Burton’s presence was an extraordinarily public endorsement for the LDS Church, which typically prefers to work in the background. And it has supporters and critics from within the faith scrambling to know how to react.
One thing is clear: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has abandoned its claims to neutrality on these bills.
And that surprised many who have been told repeatedly by the church’s spokesmen that it had no position and that its lobbyists, Bill Evans and John Taylor, were on Capitol Hill solely to answer questions.
Though Evans and Taylor assured Ron Mortensen, an ardent opponent of illegal immigration, that the church wasn’t actively lobbying on the issue, the two “spent literally the last 10 days in the back alleys of the Capitol, like full-time fixtures,” Mortensen said. “It wouldn’t have taken that much time to say the church is neutral.”
Both supporters and opponents agree that the church’s endorsement of the Utah Compact and its involvement in the legislative process was a game-changer.
If the Utah Legislature had been in session right after Arizona passed its stringent immigration law, the Beehive State “likely would have gotten the same thing,” said Paul Mero, president of the conservative Sutherland Institute.
But with LDS Church support for immigration reform, Mero said, “We’ve had a 180[-degree] turn in this state. Culturally, more and more folks understand how reasonable comprehensive reform is compared to enforcement only.”
So, what’s your take on the immigration issue, and Utah’s repudiation of the Sandstrom Bill (patterned after the controversial Arizona law)? Did the threat of limiting missionary visa’s have any effect on this legislation?