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Caked in Religion 

How do we view religious freedom? Utah rolls out the red carpet at the public's expense. Plus, three cheers for Utah voters.

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Caked in Religion
We hate to encourage the "War on Religion" dialogue, but here goes. No, in the U.S., we don't care how crazy your religion is, we kind of like that you can believe in intergalactic supreme beings or serpentine multi-armed gods or even nothing at all. It's the American way. But lately, everyone seems to be getting into the act with differing interpretations of the Constitution. Poor Sen. Mike Lee floated a religious freedom bill, only to be condemned by those who saw the thinly veiled anti-LGBTQ provisions. The Deseret News saw fit to run a front-page story on the Sutherland Institute's take that nobody's right and we all just have to get along. That's not working, is it? Sadly, Rep. Ben McAdams got heat for the Equality Act when Rep. Chris Stewart weighed in with, "If this legislation was really about equality, it would protect religious freedom." The LDS church wants you to take to social media in defense of religion. Ultimately, it's all about cakes, and maybe Muslims. And the war continues.

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Fixin' Gimmes
Utah got a top spot in a Wall Street Journal article about "fixers" getting tax breaks to bring businesses to the states. "Georgia rolls out a red carpet for them at the Masters Golf Tournament. Kentucky gets them tickets to the Kentucky Derby. Arkansas takes them on a private duck hunt with the governor. Utah recently arranged a private ski trip with an Olympic medalist," the story begins. So, what's the big deal, other than Utah prioritizing business over people? Maybe it's the motivation. These consultants work on commission often based on the size of the incentive package. And there's little or no oversight—even though it's the public's money they're after. The Utah event referenced at the Grand America included huge gimmes and, "It was hard to find any part of the event that didn't have a state logo on it." But yeah, the argument is that everyone's doing it.

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We Rock the Vote
Utah's a red state, but it has long been progressive on voting rights. Now the Pew Charitable Trusts has moved the state up from 45th to 13th in the country for voter turnout. According to KUTV Channel 2, 2018 was the first year all counties used same-day registration and vote-at-home options. And Utah allows drivers to automatically register when they get a new driver license, though it's an opt-in deal. Turnout benefitted, and went up from 37% in 2014 to 58% last year. It's all good news unless you consider Proposition 2, the medical cannabis initiative. Now, Utah has to hope voters will sustain enthusiasm for ballot initiatives in the upcoming elections—even though the Legislature tends to step in and eviscerate them.

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About The Author

Katharine Biele

Katharine Biele

Bio:
A City Weekly contributor since 1992, Biele is the informed voice behind our Hits & Misses and Citizen Revolt columns. When not writing, you can catch her working to empower voters and defend democracy alongside the League of Women Voters.

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