For some people, life sure would be a lot simpler around here if not for that goll-darned U.S. Constitution. Not long ago, a Utah state senator intoned that the Constitution was in the way of abolishing liquor advertising in Utah. Hot on his heals, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last week sent out its own missive to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control about liquor advertising. It emphasized that the First Amendment should not apply to purveyors of alcohol. The reason both were speaking out on the issue was that back on July 24—a well-known state holiday, now one with something more to celebrate—the 10th Circuit Court in Denver ruled that Utah’s advertising liquor laws were “irrational” and unconstitutional.
Whether you as a reader agree or disagree with us, whether or not you like us, we can certainly agree that this paper and all other media are here thanks to the protections of the United States Constitution. You know, a free and informed society and all that. To some, though, a free and informed society is secondary to imposing their own prejudices and beliefs on people who do not agree with them. Everyone from here to Kabul knows the LDS church advocates that its members abstain from alcohol. That’s not new. Everyone from here to Kabul also knows alcohol abuse can lead to a number of ungainly societal ills. That’s not new either.
What is new is that the LDS church is taking the position that the First Amendment doesn’t matter when it comes to alcohol advertising. That’s wrong-headed thinking, despite the church’s endless clinical pleadings that rail against the evils of alcohol. For better or worse, the Constitution remains intact and strong precisely because it affords protection to all, including protection of commercial free speech. The very same constitutional amendment, the First Amendment, allows the LDS church and all others to live and espouse their beliefs freely.
The statement the LDS church sent out last week refers several times to the “majority,” as in we are the “majority” in Utah, and since the “majority” abstains from liquor, the “majority” should have its way here. Horsepucky. Majority rule is not a democratic thesis—it is an imposition thesis. The irony cannot be lost that LDS members constitute a minority of our national population. Yet what would the reaction be if for some reason the “majority” of Americans took the posture that the rights of those members were insignificant enough to warrant restrictions on how and where they practiced their beliefs?
Attempting to silence the minority is anathema to our basic tenets (as in this case and the buyout of the Salt Lake Tribune). Among the reasonable, constitutional ways to deal with objectionable topics is to use similar forums to disseminate your information (as in Deseret News). So, here’s an offer to the LDS church: We will give you one free full page, four-color ad to use to deliver your liquor message to our readers. Many of them drink and some of them shouldn’t. They’re the ones who need talking to, not the people in the front pew. Deal?