The church issued a statement about alcohol laws in Utah. The last paragraph reads:
â€œThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that Utahns, including those who work in the hospitality industry, can come together as citizens, regardless of religion or politics, to support laws and regulations that allow individual freedom of choice while preserving Utahâ€™s proven positive health and safety record on limiting the tragic consequences of overconsumption of alcohol.â€
Those in the Utah liquor industry understand the statement to be heralding a â€œchangeâ€ (a relaxation) in the churchâ€™s attitude toward alcohol in Utah. They might be right. In my opinion, one thing that the statement definitely does is recognize that â€œindividual freedom of choiceâ€ trumps oneâ€™s particular beliefs about teetotalism. What I mean is this: despite the LDS belief that no one should drink alcohol, and despite the conceivable chance that a prohibition-type law could pass in Utah given the predominantly LDS state legislature, the Church recognizes freedom of choice; alcohol should be reasonably available for those adults who choose to drink, whether or not the LDS faithful think drinking is the right thing to do. (Very few would argue that it should be completely available, given the obvious social ills of drunk driving, overconsumption, under-age drinking, etc. So, there is a line drawn between complete freedom and morality by those not of the LDS faith, as well.)
General philosophies such as freedom of choice and freedom of religion are more important than any particular religious moral stance. That makes sense to me. What I donâ€™t understand is where the line is drawn for particular moral issuesâ€”because it seems to vary.
For example: gambling. As with alcohol, most members of the church think gambling is wrong and thus no one should gamble. Yet unlike alcohol (which should be reasonably available), the church has (to the best of my knowledgeâ€”does someone know better?) regularly supported laws that do just that: prohibit the legalization of any amount of gambling, including state run lotteries. What about the line on SSM? The churchâ€™s statement from last summer recognizes that some rights should be accorded to those who choose to live in homosexual unions (ie hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights and probate rightsâ€”see church statement), though not the right to marriage. What about drug use? Once again, most Mormons donâ€™t believe any person should use illegal drugs for any reasonâ€”yet the church supported Native American groups in their use of peyote, citing freedom of religion. What about polygamy? (Iâ€™m not even attempting this one). Or, a local Provo issue: keeping the Sabbath day holy? Given the predominance of LDS officials, it is possible to legislate the use of city facilities on the Sabbath. How far should city officials go in making laws that close public facilities on Sunday? How much do they legislate the observance of the Sabbath? Or do they leave the golf course open, citing individualsâ€™ freedom of choice?
Where and why do we draw the line between freedom of choice and advocating or legislating a moral stance?
P.S. I am sure there are some people with legal backgrounds [hint, hint] who have a much better idea what Iâ€™m talking about than I do. Feel free to clear up my confusion.