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1.SCHOLARS ADDRESS PROBLEMS WITH NO-FAULT DIVORCE

Since 1987, Utahns have been able to divorce without regard to innocence or fault.  In fact, the current law actually creates incentives for a party unhappy in his or her marriage to seek a divorce knowing that they cannot effectively be opposed and may, in fact, be rewarded regardless of their conduct during the marriage.  Sutherland Institute scholars, Dr. Bryce J. Christensen and William C. Duncan, J.D., have teamed to produce a series of essays that focus on the problems with Utah’s no-fault divorce law.  The second in the series, released today, addresses the subject of child support.

 

Accountability in Child Support examines the no-fault divorce regime that allows unfaithful spouses to divorce innocent spouses, gain custody of children, and receive support payments – with no obligation to account for the use of those funds.  Christensen and Duncan recommend that the law should require custodial parents who receive child support to account for how they spend that money, and to honor their obligations as to visitation by the non-custodial parent.

 

“Since the government now actively works to make the dissolution of marriage as easy as possible, at the very least it ought not create incentives to divorce or reward those who cause marriages to end.”

 

To read, download, or print the second essay in this series, click here.

 

2.SCHOLARSHIP AWARD WINNERS RECOGNIZED

Winners of Sutherland Institute’s Transparency Scholarship Essay Contest were recognized at an awards reception held in their honor on Tuesday evening, Dec. 15, at Sutherland’s offices in downtown Salt Lake City.

 

The Honorable State Senator Wayne Niederhauser and Lynne Ward, director of the Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP), addressed the winners and their families.

 

Senator Niederhauser commended the students for their extra work outside their normal studies and talked about his experience in sponsoring the legislation that created the state’s new transparency web site.  He explained that the United States of America is a country based on a “bottom-up” philosophy of government, meaning that the power lies in the people to dictate the affairs of the nation, not in the government to dictate the affairs of the people.  He said financial transparency in government arms the populace with necessary information, then congratulated the winners for informing themselves on the subject.

 

Because the winners will be awarded their scholarships in the form of UESP accounts, Ward talked about the benefits of the UESP, indicating that the program is consistently one of the most successful state education savings plans in the country.  The UESP controls approximately $2.9 billion, most of which comes from out of state.  She also congratulated the authors of the winning essays, and offered her services to the students’ families as they choose the investment plan best suited for their needs.

 

All five winning essays will be published at www.sutherlandinstitute.org in the coming weeks.

 

3.SUTHERLAND HIRES DEVELOPMENT MANAGER

Sutherland announced on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009 the hiring of Allison Holmes as its new development manager.

 

Allison Holmes graduated from Brigham Young University in 2009 with a BA in Political Science and a Business minor.  She previously worked for State Representative Greg Hughes in support of his campaign and legislative efforts.  Allison concurrently worked with the Conservative Caucus handling fundraising and administrative duties.  She also worked with Parents for Choice in Education where she was heavily involved in the education voucher referendum campaign.  Allison has helped numerous candidates in their bids for election and participated in grassroots efforts for education reform.

 

4.SUTHERLAND RECOMMENDS STRENGTHENING SLC’S NONDISCRIMINATION ORDINANCES

Sutherland Institute has called on the Utah State Legislature to strengthen Salt Lake City’s nondiscrimination ordinances during the upcoming legislative session.

 

The recommendation to “perfect” the ordinances was made during the Institute’s Religious Freedom Forum on Thursday evening, Dec. 10.  Paul Mero, president of Sutherland Institute, and former State Representative LaVar Christensen addressed “Negotiating Church and State in Utah” during the event.

 

“We call on the State Legislature to build upon constructive elements within the Salt Lake City nondiscrimination ordinances during the upcoming legislative session,” Mero said. “Specifically, we call on the State Legislature to expand the religious exemption to include the constitutional rights of a church’s adherents.”

 

Mero made the case for “perfecting” the nondiscrimination ordinances passed by the Salt Lake City Council in November by extending protection to adherents of churches and not just the religious institutions themselves.

 

“Salt Lake City’s nondiscrimination ordinances clearly infringe on religious freedom,” he said.  “Were it not so, there would be no need for the religious exemption.  It is only ‘fair and reasonable’ to preserve these same protections for all people of faith in Utah.”

 

On November 10, 2009, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presented a statement in support of the nondiscrimination ordinances, indicating that the ordinances are “fair and reasonable” and that they do “no violence to the institution of marriage.”  The ordinances offer protection for religious institutions and exempt them from any measures put forth in the ordinances.

 

Mero explained the difference between a church’s doctrines and public policy, “As we continue to improve our understanding of the relationship between church and state … let’s remember that all public policies are matters of the state.  Certainly most religious denominations understand this distinction.  You get this sense, too, from the Church’s statement — the religious exemption is a clear indication that the specific language of the ordinances is policy, not doctrine.”

 

Mero said protecting a religion’s adherents the same way in which the religious institution itself is protected keeps the religious freedom of all Utahns on a “level playing field.”

 

“If a gay employee or gay tenant can unilaterally invoke the protections of these ordinances, unconditionally, it is only fair and reasonable that a person of faith should be allowed to unilaterally invoke the same laws’ protections, unconditionally, just as that person’s church is allowed to do,” Mero stated.

 

Christensen set the stage for Mero’s comments by outlining the religious history of American politics.  He referenced secularism and “irreligion” as new state religions that suppress the traditional religious nature of America and its citizens.

 

He detailed the history of the phrase “separation of church and state” and explained that it was originally meant to protect religions from state encroachment, not vice versa.

 

While honoring and encouraging the positive influence of religion in Utah’s civic affairs, Mero acknowledged that the Church is “in the business of saving souls” and Sutherland is in the business of promoting the cause of freedom in Utah.  He praised the Church for its involvement in the Salt Lake City nondiscrimination ordinances and urged the State Legislature to build on the spirit and letter of the Church’s statement and strengthen religious freedom for all Utahns.

 

A complete transcript of Mero’s speech is available at:http://sutherlandinstitute.org/uploads/Religious_Freedom_Mero_12-10-09.pdf.

 

A webcast of the event is available at: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/2893090.