The LDS Church (more commonly known as the Mormon Church) is an ever-growing religious influence in the United States. In the Mormon stronghold of Utah, the church is known by locals to have a bit of sway regarding legislation, despite the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion (or from religion) given to U.S. citizens. Recently, the Mormon Church made substantial headlines for its fight against marriage equality, both in the state of Utah and throughout the nation. Despite the money and time spent by the Mormon Church to prevent same-sex marriage, it is now legal in Utah and nationwide.
Within recent months, the church has even gone so far as to update its doctrine in such a way that the minor children of same-sex couples are no longer allowed to become members. In order for the child of a same-sex couple to become a member of the Mormon Church, they must reach the age of majority (18), then disavow their parents’ lifestyle.
Following the announcement of the new membership guidelines by the Mormon Church, over three thousand members resigned from the church in a mass resignation event.
Even Stevens, a small local sandwich shop with an excellent reputation in the community, was denied a variance for a liquor license. The business, which is known locally for donating a percentage of its profits to ensure that the hungry in the community are fed, requested a license to serve beer and wine at its location in Ogden, Utah. That location happens to be within a few hundred feet of a Mormon temple (Utah is home to 14 Mormon temples), and as such, the Mormon church wrote a letter to the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission opposing the application, said DABC Commission Chairman John Nielson.
“They are voicing strong opposition to this and do not agree to the variance.”
As a result of the influence of the Mormon Church, the business was denied the liquor license that would have allowed them to serve beer and wine to their customers.
In Utah, establishments must be more than 200 feet from “community locations” to serve liquor, including wine and beer. Community locations include locations such as schools and churches. If a business is within 600 feet of a community location, the business owner can request the community location to sign a variance, or the business can request consent for a variance from the local city counsel and DABC.
The DABC Chairman went on to note that there were other establishments in the vicinity that had been granted liquor licenses, indicating that there was no need to issue another.
“There are about 30 liquor outlets of one form or another within a short distance from Even Stevens,” he said. “So the requirement for an unmet need doesn’t seem to be there.”
The Mormon Church has been criticized for its interference in what should be secular, state-handled matters before, including its interference in the process of liquor licensing in the state of Utah in general. Mormon News Room reported that when the state of Utah previously wanted to make changes to its very stringent liquor licensing laws, the Mormon Church also went on record with its opinion regarding the changes.
The Mormon Church expressly opposed changes to the laws that would increase the number of liquor licenses issued per capita.
“The Church is opposed to any legislation that will weaken Utah’s alcohol laws and regulations, including (1) privatization of the alcoholic beverage control system; (2) increases in alcohol license quotas; (3) permitting sales of heavy beer, wine and distilled spirits in grocery and convenience stores or allowing direct distribution of these products outside the state control system; and (4) any other proposals that would promote increased sales or consumption of alcoholic products in Utah.”
Following the decision of the DABC to deny Even Stevens a liquor license, the Mormon Church declined to comment to the media, as did the business itself. Therefore, there is no word as to why the Mormon Church decided to vehemently oppose a liquor license for a business that donates a portion of its proceeds to feed the hungry.
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