Bishop Burton's Public Stand on Immigration

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 position…” 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?

7 comments on “Bishop Burton's Public Stand on Immigration

  1. My understanding concerning the dislike of Church’s having public stances on political issues is that people worry that when the prophet makes a stance on a political issue, he is speaking for God, because he is speaking as a representative of the Church, and that can sway the votes. Which is what happened with Prop 8.

  2. MH —

    I have some contacts in Utah governments (used to serve there).

    Here is the story I was told . .

    The Church was deeply concerned that Utah would adopt something like Arizona. They knew that the leader in Arizona was LDS and they were concerned that the issue would be linked in the public eye with the Church.

    Also, with the recession, they were concerned with boycotts hitting Utah businesses.

    Finally, the Church has reached out to the Spanish community heavily and were concerned that those efforts would be crippled.

    Apparently the strategy was to block the rush to adopt the Sandstrom bill by putting the Utah Compact together. I was told that the Church orchestrated it but stayed mostly on the side so it wouldn’t be perceived as a Mormon thing.

    The Compact worked well in derailing Sandstrom. Then, the idea emerged to put forth a comprehensive package. The Church and others encouraged legislators to bring forth alternatives. They did. And, that what was signed.

  3. Jack, I think people like/don’t like the church involved in politics because the church agrees/disagrees with their political views. Frankly, I think anyone who calls the tax-exempt status into question as a huge hypocrite.

    Steve, I appreciate the info. I think your sources sound well-connected, thoughtful, and reasonable. It sounds like a perfectly reasonable scenario to me.

  4. I could not by conscience vote for Prop 8 and I did not think it a wise choice for the Church to support it, but I do believe the Church had a right to do what it did and with the depth of feeling and belief that Church leaders had about the issue,they had an obligation to take such a position. Simply put, if people of faith do not act on their moral principals, they are, in the vernacular “neither talking the talk nor walking the walk.”

    The Civil Rights movement of the 60’s was in great part the product of the Black Church in the South. The Southern Christian Leaership Conference and individuals like the Reveend Martin Luther King and the Reverend Ralph Abernathy formed the core leadership of the movement. But it was a black church member who refused to sit in the back of the bus, black church members who would walk miles to work during the Montgomery bus boycott and black church members who marched to Selma and met the police dogs of Bull Conner. That is the gold standard by which every church must be measured.

    There are a few of us who who still remember Denise McNair, Carol Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley. Viola Liuzzo, Mickey Schwerener, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman. Those men, women and children who died way too young. Four young girls in a church bombing, one northern white woman driving along a rural highway shot while giving a ride to a black youth, and three young men lynched trying to register blacks who had been denied their franchise, all were murdered because of a moral issue of civil rights.

    I believe the church members and leaders who take stands on moral issues (even if you do not agree with them) should be honored. Though not facing the dangers like the above seven, they also “talked the talk and walked the walk.”

  5. MH,
    Your statement about like/dislike being determined by whether the church agrees/disagrees with one’s stance is probably accurate the majority of the time, but you know as well as anyone that there are many that actually believe when the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done…so they vote without thinking.

    I don’t think you are one of those, but I know several.

  6. Bishop Rick, I agree with you–apparently some of these people you speak of currently serve in the Utah legislature.

  7. the church is starting to head to the left and getting involved in politics i think bishop burton should be kicked out of his calling and i believe leadership in the church should be chastised for supporting illegal alien criminals and helping to take part in the demise of our God inspired country and constitution. Our authorities are not infallible and i will say completely wrong on this issue and i dont want to here another word about us not being involved into politcs cause that is a crock of crap!

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