Confused Mormons whine about ‘Zion curtain’


A new Facebook group has popped up: Utah Mormons Against the Zion Curtain.

The “Zion curtain” is what Utah’s pro-liquor lobby – and now, it seems, confused Latter-day Saints – calls the physical partition in some eating establishments between the mixing of alcoholic drinks and the serving of them. Not quite a cause worthy of the ominous “iron curtain” metaphor, but a serious subject for some people.

Rather than arguing alcohol-sales policies – which it looks like Sutherland will be forced to do if state legislators move to “privatize” liquor stores during the 2012 legislative session – I think it’s worth discussing right now why this libertarian claptrap is, much like a drunken driver’s judgment, the result of clouded thinking.

The information page on this Facebook site explains,

“We do not believe it just to amingle [sic] religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.” (D&C 134:9)

We feel like the new requirement that Utah Restaurants hide all of their alcohol is against free-market principles that Utah supposedly espouses. We feel that if Utah residents don’t want their children seeing alcohol being served, then those residents shouldn’t patronize those businesses.

We also recognize that the Zion Curtain harms the image of our state and our religion.

One friendly posting added this to the conversation,

From Utah Constitution, Article I Section 4: “There shall be no union of Church and State, nor shall any church dominate the State or interfere with its functions”

Doctrinally, based on their interpretation of Latter-day Saint scripture, it seems this group is under the presumption that religious-minded people shouldn’t be involved in politics. Or at least Mormons shouldn’t be involved in Utah politics – probably the most immature, least realistic, least constitutional, least democratic-oriented thought in this Facebook group.

For instance, if Utah were founded by Unitarian Universalists, who are very progressive in their political leanings, and the state population were currently 60 percent Unitarian Universalist, I’m pretty sure non-religious political progressives wouldn’t complain about “church and state” issues. We wouldn’t hear those political progressives screaming about how that church ought to stay out of politics because its “involvement” somehow violates the Utah Constitution. We didn’t hear it from progressives when the Rev. Martin Luther King marched for civil rights or when the LDS Church came out on the side of state-based comprehensive immigration reform.

So let’s get to the libertarian crux of the matter. Evidently true champions of liberty let people do whatever, whenever and wherever they want. It doesn’t matter to these libertarians that such abstract liberty doesn’t exist on the face of the earth, nor has it ever existed (not for long … without turning into human atrocities … think Reign of Terror); what matters to them is that “liberty” has some meaning that transcends human nature and experience. It’s the principle of the thing, dammit!

Well, actually, like all sacred libertarian doctrines, it’s the selfishness of the thing, it’s the imprudence of the thing, it’s the total disregard for the consequences of the thing. Liberty alone must trump every other consideration, dammit! (Even if other, conflicting, considerations are the basis of liberty?) And, in this case, it’s the inebriation of the thing – like there’s some principle of American liberty, some right established by the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, to imbibe.

This selfishness is best expressed in this statement from the information page: “We feel that if Utah residents don’t want their children seeing alcohol being served, then those residents shouldn’t patronize those businesses.”

Huh. Why? Why is that opinion of greater value than the opposite opinion? (We’re going to have to let that question hang out there indefinitely because libertarians, old-fashioned or newfangled, never have had an answer to the “value” dilemma.)

Removing the “Zion curtain” might make good sense for a variety of practical, even commercial, reasons. But whiny and immature reasons like “it’s unfair,” “it makes us look backwards and silly,” or “Mormons can’t tell us what to do” aren’t in the arsenals of truly thinking people. Liquor laws, regulations and proscriptions exist for one very good reason: Liquor hasn’t made one human being a better person. Ever. Societies allow liquor sales because we allow people to self-medicate from life’s woes – actually a very reasonable and tolerant permission within a free society. That said, free societies (and reasonable people) regularly regulate harmful substances, liquor not the least of them.

For faithful Latter-day Saints to join or “like” a Facebook group in support of the liquor culture is a sign they either don’t know their faith, or their civics, or both.

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  • Chiefsalsa

    Sorry, but to say that “Liquor hasn’t made one human being a better person. Ever.” is speculative.

    And maybe religion has made some people better; but it has also been used to rape, murder and persecute countless millions of people in the history of the world—heck in the present day world as well!

    Mormons know their religion well enough to know that people feel animosity towards them and their religion if it is the basis for arcane, supercilious laws.

    And the Zion Curtain qualifies.

    • Paul Mero

      Hey Harry.   Speculative?  That would be easy to disprove, no?  I’ve given you an absolute…what’s easier to dispel than an absolute?  So give me the exception.  I was told that you said on Twitter that liquor makes people calm and that’s an example where liquor makes someone better.  Really?  I just thought the “calming” was a dissipation of mental faculties…hardly making someone a better person (unless your standards of personhood are that tolerant).

      • Bob Aagard

        Ice Cream has never made anyone a better person.  Should we start putting up an opaque wall at Baskin Robbins? 

        • Paul Mero

          With that sort of reasoning, Bob, we should take kids to the liquor store for FHE treat!  Come on, bro, you can do better.

  • Jesse Dominic Harris

    Paul, I think you’ve seen what you want to see (a chance to once again excoriate libertarian straw men) and haven’t focused on whether or not this policy is any good. There’s no clearly-defined goal behind it, and no data to support that goal. Most legislators had no idea that this was a component of the 5500-line (!) bill. Why on earth should something like that be a part of our public policy? Wouldn’t your effort be better spend discussing its efficacy and the process used to produce it?

    • Paul Mero

      Here is something I posted on a FB thread regarding “proof” that the Zion curtain mitigates some negative social effect: “You won’t find that “proof” because it isn’t quantifiable. What is quantifiable are the consequences of keeping liquor out of the mouths of drinkers. The “Zion curtain” is part of a counter-cultural assault, if you will, on the liquor culture in the state…nothing more, nothing less…part of a package of measures designed to mitigate drinking. In other words, the real fight isn’t over a stupid piece of cloudy glass…it’s about Utah’s liquor culture.”  Jesse, the reality is we either regulate liquor or we don’t…and once we choose to regulate it, we open ourselves up to all sorts of ideas.  Generally, from a freedom-loving perspective, we choose to not open such cans of worms.  But liquor is the worm here and we’re choosing to open that can.  Stuff like the “Zion curtain” shouldn’t be the focus of the debate…the focus should be the regulation, or not, of liquor…and THAT point is what I addressed regarding the libertarian complaint.

      • Anonymous

        The opposite of “no regulations” is not “any and all regulations” but intelligent regulations that actually accomplish the goals you have set, at a price that is not too steep. The “Zion Curtain” is and should be the focus of the debate which is, in this case, does the “Zion Curtain” make any sense. Few people want no regulations of alcohol. To pass rules that might cause one person somewhere to have one fewer drink is an abuse of government power. Rules must be reasonable or they will be flouted. And the harm to others (economically for one) must be taken into account. To say otherwise is the equivalent of saying because one person murdered someone with a gun means that all of us must lose our right to own guns, or because one person libeled another we must all lose our freedom of speech. 

        • Derek Monson


          You’re right that the harm to others must be taken into account…like the harm that alcohol causes by impairing people’s capacity for good judgment and rational thinking.  There’s nothing intrinsic about guns or freedom of speech that encourage people to murder or libel someone.  There is something intrinsic about alcohol (its impact on the brain, and hence human behavior) that encourages behavior that harms individuals and families, and thus society as a whole.

          • Anonymous

            Wrong again. I’ve been drinking wine since I was 18 (legally, back then) and I haven’t harmed an individual, a family, or society as a whole. Abuse of alcohol, like abuse of guns and abuse of speech is what causes harm. And besides, the issue we’re discussing here is not drinking. It’s an occasional glance at someone mixing a drink or pouring it. No judgment is impaired here except on the part of the state legislature. 

        • Griffin Kearns

          “To pass rules that might cause one person somewhere to have one fewer drink is an abuse of government power. ”

          Let’s apply this statement to various other laws to see if it makes sense.

          Traffic: “To pass rules that might cause one person somewhere to [drive slower] is an abuse of government power.”

          Narcotics: “To pass rules that might cause one person somewhere to [not smoke crack] is an abuse of government power. ”

          “To pass rules that might cause one person somewhere to [not physically or sexually assault another human being] is an abuse of government power. ”

          Nope. It’s a stupid statement any way you slice it.

      • Jesse Dominic Harris

        Paul, I don’t see it as a binary choice. I’m not the wild-eyed “deregulate everything” anarchist that you may believe many libertarians to be. Unregulated alcohol hasn’t worked out so well for Nevada; I know, I lived there for 14 years. I think it’s a bit of a stretch, though, to claim that the law created their culture. Even the converse isn’t entirely true.

        For me, it comes down to two things: reducing the abuse of alcohol (including drunk driving), and reducing underage drinking. Law can do some things in these regards, but they are a poor substitute for personal responsibility in the home. This move to put alcohol out of sight is an extension of pretending it isn’t there, the product of the misguided notion that if we ignore it, it will go away.

        Well, it won’t. I may not have a lot of parenting experience, but I darn well know that talking to kids about these kinds of things and their negative consequences will be more effective and require a lot less effort than trying to make them invisible. (There’s a lot of studies out there showing the same thing, and not just about alcohol.) This is really the libertarian ethos, that trying to use laws to make up for parental shortcomings is largely ineffective and inefficient.

        If we really want to “think of the children”, let’s educate them on the negative effects of alcohol. Personally, I was scared silly of my grandfather’s alcoholism (and potential genetic causes) long before I became LDS. Then I would hear stories that started with “dude, I was so wasted…” and usually ended with shame, embarrassment, and vomiting (often documented in pictures that would render any future political aspirations moot).

        • Derek Monson


          I think you’re making an assumption that laws like the “Zion Curtain” must be an attempt “to make up for parental shortcomings.”  I don’t think that is the case.  Rather, they are an attempt to assist responsible parents in their efforts to discourage underage drinking by reinforcing the message (and the reality) that their are things, such as preparing and consuming alcoholic beverages, that are not appropriate for children.

          • Jesse Harris

            Here’s the problem: just as with the position that retailers should be forced to play cop with video game ratings (which, much like MPAA ratings, are highly subjective and often unhelpful for evaluating content), there is zero proof to show that this measure does anything to accomplish the ends you desire. And in a Kafka-esque twist, you’re saying “well, prove it shouldn’t exist” when no such burden of proof was placed upon passing it in the first place. It’s a level of double standards and incongruity that makes my blood boil just a little bit. (Not so coincidentally, same-sex marriage advocates use the exact same tactics. Ironic, methinks.)

            There’s enough of an outrage about this silliness (and enough legislators blindsided by the unknown provision) that odds are good that it will be turned over. I fully expect anyone pushing to maintain this policy to provide some kind of data showing that it has some kind of effect far beyond the obvious economic repercussions.

  • Anonymous

    Regardless of whether this is a libertarian or Mormon  issue, exactly what purpose does this legislation serve? No person, young or old, has ever chosen to drink alcohol simply because he or she can see it. And if you are so opposed to it, work to ban it. That would accomplish something (though less than thought, because we tried that and people still drank). But nothing except irritation and ridicule is brought about by this legislation. And while I agree that legislators do have a reason to support what their constituents want, religious based or not, I doubt the majority of the population in Utah supports this nonsense. Just because someone does not drink does not mean they want to prevent everyone else from drinking.

    • Paul Mero

      Thanks, Larry.  Liquor regulations surely cannot interfere with moral agency…they can, and do, interfere with access and consumption.  Restaurants have brightly-colored drink menus precisely because people “see” a drink and think it looks yummy.  I can understand why a legislator could reasonably assume that keeping “fun-looking” drinks out of the view of minors would play one small part in reducing the liquor culture.

      • Anonymous

        Has there ever been an instance of a minor seeing a pretty drink who then wants one? Besides, if the menus look pretty, they are still in view. And once the pretty drink is made, it is still seen by the minor. To “reasonably assume” that preparing a drink out of sight helps reduce the “liquor culture” is sheer nonsense. If your kid drinks as a result of that assumed visual stimulus, it’s your fault, not mine. If a kid steals a car and hurts or kills someone driving it, I don’t lose my driver’s license. Why, if a kid sees a pretty drink picture, do I lose my “drinker’s license”? Nonsense, even if reasonably assumed, is still nonsense.

        Aside from the quality of life here being reduced, the economic harm to the state with this idiotic legislation is tangible. Many people do not come to Utah because of it’s approach to liquor laws, and many residents avoid local restaurants because of these silly rules. Even your use of the phrase “liquor culture” ignores the pleasures and benefits a glass of wine or a cocktail brings to an evening of dinner out with family and friends.

        • Paul Mero

          In a cultural context, I think children see “pretty” things all of the time and want them.  So I don’t think the reasonable assumption, even if you disagree with it is “nonsense.”

          And, alas, your “pleasure” can be another man’s poison….and not often a “victimless” poison.

          • Anonymous

            You are right, my pleasure can be another man’s poison. So he should be stopped from taking poison, while I should be allowed to continue enjoying my Cabernet Sauvignon or my dry martini. 

            If children see pretty things all the time and want them, then you, as their parent, should say no to them, not to me. 

        • Derek Monson


          To assume that preparing a drink out of sight helps reduce the liquor culture is not “sheer nonsense.”  The fact is that, as human beings, what we see and observe happening around us affects us, both as individuals and as groups.  Everything we do or don’t do has consequences.

          Consider obscenity, for example.  When we see obscenity (e.g. pornography, lewdness, etc.) it has a negative impact on people and culture, especially for people like children.  Hence, we restrict people’s ability to view obscenity, particularly in public. 

          When a child sees things happening all around him or her, without any effort to discourage it, there is an implicit message is that whatever is happening is okay.  After all, “everyone is doing it,” right?  You can see this phenomenon in our increasingly sexualized pop culture.  Children see adults doing things that send implicit or explicit sexual messages (e.g. the way they dress) with little public effort to discourage such behavior, and low and behold the children start doing it as well.

          I see no reason why alcohol consumption is an exception to this rule of human social behavior.  If businesses can prepare and serve drinks wherever and however they want, and society does not discourage it, children (and adults, for that matter) will pick up on that and act accordingly and predictably.  Not everyone will do so, of course, but many will.

          This assumption and acknowledgment about human behavior is completely reasonable and defensible.

          • Ryan

            This same argument could be used to abolish gun rights. A child can see guns clearly displayed at Wal-Mart. What if I find hunting morally wrong and don’t want them to ever hunt or own a gun? Should it be Wal-Mart’s responsibility to remove guns from where my child can see them so as not to pique their interest? You could say this about anything you don’t like that is seen as culturally acceptable. If my child sees a mixed drink and wants one I will tell him he can’t until he is 21. Just like he can’t drive until he is 16 even if he sees other people driving and really, really wants to. And he will be punished if he tries to do either before those ages. I still don’t see why this is even an argument…

          • Anonymous

            Actually, it is sheer nonsense. People do see and observe. And so do children. But a parent has to determine behavior. Because something is not appropriate for children is NOT a reason to deny that to adults. And besides, even if children can’t see a drink being prepared, they can see other people drinking it. And those people can say “Oh, this drink is delicious. I love it.” And that can have consequences for children too.  To deny an adult an experience because you think that somewhere somehow a child will want that experience is total nonsense in addition to being an abuse of government power. If your child drinks, it’s your fault, not mine.  

          • Shaunty Linton

            Why is it that parents now feel that they should never have to undergo the experience of telling their child no any more? I’m sorry, but on a daily basis a child sees and wants things that aren’t good for them. They hear words that are inappropriate for a child to repeat, candy they shouldn’t eat, people driving cars that they can’t etc. But it is the job of the PARENT to educate and guide the childs development. It is for the parent to teach the child that while other people may think something is ok it is not right for them. This applies to everything from alcohol to modest dress to eating snacks too close to dinner.

            Children see others doing things they are too young to do all the time as well, and the parent must teach the child to deal with that disappointment. “No Suzy, you can’t open that present, it’s not your birthday”…”Sorry Jon, but you’re to short to go on this ride, you could get hurt.”…”I’m sorry Dave, but that drink is for adults. Let’s get you a fancy drink that’s all for you!”

            In fact, taking this away is taking a learning opportunity away from child and parent. It is vital in the raising of a child that a parent establish rules and boundaries that the child must follow even if they seem arbitrary. Otherwise, how will the child deal with it when similar rules and standards are enacted in the work place? Not only is it important to their future, but, as any episode of SuperNanny will tell you, children crave these boundaries, they help them understand the world, and many behavorial problems are due to the parents not expressing clear expectations. Children want this guidance from the PARENT not the STATE.

  • Paul Mero

    And by the way, gang, don’t overlook what I conceded in my initial remarks: “Removing the ‘Zion curtain’ might make good sense for a variety of practical, even commercial, reasons.”  You guys would make more headway if you addressed some of those reasons (and not the whiny ones I also listed).

    Liquor regulations are not like mortorcycle helmut laws…the drunk driver can kill a motorcyclist who wears a helmut or doesn’t.  Liquor regulation is not a nanny state concept…unless you want to consider society the nanny to drunks and then you might have a point.

    • Bekkieann

      Paul, what do you think of this regarding DUI checkpoints this Labor Day weekend?

      “UHP Sgt. Ted Tingey said in two spots, officers found no drunk drivers out of approximately 1,000 vehicles that came through each checkpoint. “It’s a great opportunity to see that people maybe finally are getting the message to either have a designated driver, take a taxi ride home, or call a sober friend to come pick them up,” he said. ”

      Highway deaths in our state are more likely to be cause by inattentive or aggressive drivers, speed, and drowsiness.  Your words in an earlier comment reveal your real motivation–it’s not to prevent children from seeing pretty drinks or to reduce highway deaths.  Your aim is to directly take on what you call “the liquor culture” in our state.  You said:

      “What is quantifiable are the consequences of keeping liquor out of the
      mouths of drinkers. The “Zion curtain” is part of a counter-cultural
      assault, if you will, on the liquor culture in the state…nothing more,
      nothing less…part of a package of measures designed to mitigate
      drinking. In other words, the real fight isn’t over a stupid piece of
      cloudy glass…it’s about Utah’s liquor culture.”

      The fact is, Paul you cannot quantify those consequences.  Nor can you show where any of Utah’s silly regulations have served to mitigate drinking.  People who want to drink will do so–even in an outright prohibition.  Most people are responsible citizens and that extends to their use of alcohol.  Those who are irresponsible are not stopped by silly laws like where a drink gets poured. 

      No, this whole thing is about power, control, and the imposition of one’s (your) moral view onto society.

      Paul, give us your honest answer to this.  Are you simply interested in making sure drinkers are responsible or would you like to see all alcohol consumption in our state abolished?

      By the way, could you please define what you mean by “the liquor culture” in our state?

      • Paul Mero

        While it is very difficult, if not impossible sometimes, to quantify correlation (let alone causation) between a single policy intended to mitigate drinking (like the “Zion curtain”), it is easy to quantify the consequences of liquor consumption and a host of social ills and tragedies…such as domestic abuse, broken homes, and traffic accidents.

        Frankly, I’m a bit shocked at how no defender of the liquor culture addresses those casulties.  You might reflect that Prohibition wasn’t passed in this nation because the nation was filled with moralistic prigs…it was passed beacuse liquor was ruining lives (not blessing lives as some of you are arguing).  Which is why I asked, what regulations on liquor should exist (and why)?

        I’m not interested in “responsible” drinkers any more than I’m interested in “responsible” marijuana users or “responsible” pre-marital sex among youths.  Neither am I interested in bringing back Prohibition as public policy.  I am interested in public policy that keeps down public consumption and does not contribute to Utah’s growing liquor culture.

        By “liquor culture” I mean the general attitude that alcohol consumption is 1) what reasonable and “normal”  people do, 2) needed to ensure the Utah economy, and 3) a pretension to express anti-Mormon sentiments.

        Is that plain enough?

        • Jesse Dominic Harris

          Paul, I understand your argument to be that a removal of various legal restrictions on distribution and access to alcohol results in increased consumption and that the converse, maintaining or extending said restrictions, leads to decreased consumption. Given the wide variety of legal frameworks governing both the sale and consumption of alcohol, shouldn’t it be easy to try and measure the effects of such laws? And yet, most of your argument is entirely based on a fuzzy “it feels right” kind of argument with no hard data. If the goal is to reduce consumption (which I don’t think is a bad goal), you need to find data to back up your proposals to do so, both to achieve your goal and sell your solution.

          It’s too convenient to say that establishing correlation and/or causation can’t be done, and then do whatever “feels right” without regard to consequences. (And yes, it cuts both ways.) There are numerous other states where liquor regulations have changed decades ago and the effects can be measured. Not doing so because it is difficult is to eschew good data-driven public policy. You should (and can) be better than that.

          • Paul Mero

            Thanks, Jesse.  I have said that measuring a component of liquor regulation designed to affect future behavior (that can only be measured through longitudinal analyses…if such research were begun right now), such as the “Zion curtain,” is impossible to quantify in the short-term given its intention, its policy reasoning…like not posting a picture of a naked, sexy woman in your son’s room as he grows to puberty — chances are, in the course of you trying to guide his perceptions of women, you can’t measure the effect of keeping such visions from him but you’re reasonably sure that what you did for him early on helped mitigate his future negative perceptions of women.

            There’s plenty of data to suggest consumption of liquor has deep social and criminal consequences.  Do I really have to post tons of links right here for you?

          • Jesse Harris

            I don’t think the parallel quite matches up. A picture is designed to be visual stimuli, alcohol is not. I have a hard time buying the argument that putting it “out of sight” affects consumption when the product is still available. I think it would be much more effective to place the effort into showing the negative consequences of alcohol consumption and dispelling the myths about positive effects. Creating an air of mystique about it by hiding it only piques curiosity. A good example is sex education. There is a strong correlation between more in-depth sex education and increased rates of abstinence. Having a command of the facts empowers good decision-making, and public policy should embrace this.

          • Matthew Piccolo

            I agree that having the facts can empower good decision-making, but sex education just isn’t a good example, at least not sex education in public schools.  Do you mean there’s a strong correlation between abstinence education or “comprehensive” or something else?  In my review of the research, you can find studies that support either side, but, overall, the research suggests that sex education (both abstinence and comprehensive, or a combination of the two) in public schools has only a minor effect on adolescent behavior, if any at all.

  • Michael Jolley

    So Paul. Do you oppose repealing the “Zion Curtain” provision?

    • Paul Mero

      Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal to me.  It’s the reasoning for and against that I’m more interested in.  If I were a legislator and really wanted to make liquor regulation my thing, I would vote for it.

  • Jason

    Obesity and diabetes are killing hundreds of thousands every year. I think it’s time we in Utah put a curtain in front of bakers and doughnut makers, so our kids don’t see the sin that will kill them when they’re 35 of a heart attack.

    Oh, but that’s ridiculous…. Yup, so is this large government, anti-GOP’s political theocracy. (Because they are indeed pro business, anti large government, right?)

    • Paul Mero

      I’ve never seen a man eat a donut and then, beacuse of it, beat his wife.

      • David Buer

        But I have seen a man sell his soul to the devil for a donut. Witness one Homer Simpson…

      • Ryan

        I have been drinking alcohol since I turned 21 and have never beat my wife. The thought has never crossed my mind while drunk or sober. Also, there are people who have beat their wives while stone sober. There are people who can eat donuts every once in a while and maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are also people who balloon up to 500 lbs and die of heart disease at a young age. How can we have one vice regulated and not all vices without being hypocritical?

  • Jason

    Also, where was the curtain when Jesus made water into wine? I don’t recall a single scripture mentioning such a moronic premise.

    Psst. I’m LDS, and I’m a good enough parent to explain to my kids right and wrong without the government’s interference.

  • Tyler Riggs

    Paul is correct in his point that the arguments against the “Zion Curtain” law (or other parts of Utah’s liquor policy) should not include “it makes Utah look weird,” “it is just another way for the Church to control the state,” or “it’s just unfair.” 

    What should be included in arguments are the indisputable facts that Utah’s regulation (and now arguably over-regulation) of liquor in this state is anti-business and contrary to concepts of limited government. 

    Utah, with a solid majority of residents members of the Latter-day Saint faith, should expect to have tighter liquor regulations than most, if not every, other state. This point should be conceded. The question is, however, why is all the regulation put on the “front end” of the liquor process where the ability of an individual — be it someone looking to drink with a meal, or a business owner looking to add alcohol to his/her menu — instead of the “back end.” 

    In Utah we have the following anti-limited government and anti-business “front end” laws:

    1) The State fully controls the distribution of liquor and high-point beer. 
    2) The State fully controls the retail aspect of selling liquor and high-point beer.
    3) The State fully controls the taxation of liquor and high-point beer.
    4) Independently owned restaurateurs or bar owners who sell liquor and/or beer are controlled by the state in how much they can charge for items on their menu, what types of items they can offer on their menu, and when they can offer items on their menu. Along with this, the state is now exercising control over the physical design of businesses who choose to operate in this realm.

    Encompassed in No. 4 is a wealth of laws and regulations, including the Zion Curtain, which have arrived at the point where businesses are choosing to no longer operate in Utah, or have long decided to never come to Utah in the first place. Reputable national businesses like Trader Joes, Old Chicago, and Buffalo Wild Wings have all said they will not open their businesses in Utah because they are not willing to compromise their business models to fit Utah’s outlier liquor laws.

    So we have all these “front end” things I’ve mentioned, but what do these laws do in reality? The only net result is they hurt the business owners who are trying to responsibly sell a legal product and make a profit. These laws do nothing to limit over consumption. If anyone has data to say they do, I would love to see it.

    Earlier this week on KXRK radio, Sen. John Valentine used the statistic that Utah has the lowest DUI rates in the country as evidence that laws like his Zion Curtain law are working. To establish that correlation equals causation here is absolutely absurd. I would submit that Utah has the lowest DUI rates in the country because Utah has the fewest drinkers, per 1,000 people, in the country. It is the demographic makeup of our state that results in that statistic. 

    “Well, then we should represent the values of that majority and limit alcohol use,” you might retort. The reality is, you cannot effectively accomplish that goal without violating supposed other values of being pro-business and allowing people to make their own decisions — liberty. If you go to the extreme — prohibition — you will find people still accessing alcohol and in fact abusing it at equal, if not higher, rates due to its inaccessibility. I hypothesize that if Utah were to prohibit alcohol sales entirely, DUI rates would increase, as access to alcohol would be within a 60-mile drive of 85 percent of Utah’s population, and would result in them traveling out of state to buy more, and consume more at one time due to the lesser availability. 

    Let’s ask ourselves why Utah never focuses on the “back end” of liquor regulation. Why does Utah not put more effort into establishing the strictest, most punishing DUI laws in the country? Why do we allow people who have three, four, or five DUIs to still drive their cars? Why is a first DUI essentially a slap on the wrist to offenders? 

    I would once again hypothesize that lawmakers are more interested in passing “visible” laws that make them feel like they are legislating values, and deliver the appearance of caring about the issue, than passing “less visible” laws that do more to control the problem. 

    It is an absolute disgrace that Utah Republicans — a group which portends to be pro-business, pro-liberty, and anti-big government — continuously support state control of a full retail industry, reaching of government tentacles into businesses to the level where they are controlling prices, facilities, operations, and more, and ultimately are harming the ability of an individual Utah resident to make their own choices. 

    Paul is correct: We need arguments against the Zion Curtain to be more mature. But we also need Utah lawmakers to be more mature and more responsible with the laws they pass. It is clear that the liquor realm is a sensitive area to the 40 percent of the state who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as to those members of the LDS Church who have aligned with the Facebook group referenced in Paul’s post. It is the responsibility of the elected lawmakers to weigh the legitimate concerns of those not in the majority, as they rule in a majority setting. 

    In this area, as well as many others, it seems the Utah GOP has let the super majority go to their heads, and rational Utahns are the ones suffering.

    Tyler Riggs

    • Paul Mero

      Now that’s an argument…civil, intelligent…a passionate appeal.

    • Derek Monson

      Quick question for you Tyler.  Do you have any data supporting your assertion that “these laws do nothing to limit over consumption”?  Since you argue that “if anyone has data to say they do, I would love to see it,” I think it is only reasonable and fair that you produce data supporting your position as well…to practice what you preach, as it were.  To ask others to support their arguments with data when you don’t do so yourself makes it hard to take this point seriously.

      • Kevin

         I propose we require every citizen to erect a giant statue of Elvis on their front lawn. This will reduce the incidence of traffic accidents, which is an undeniable societal good.

        If you disagree, please provide data (peer-reviewed, please) which indicates that giant statues of Elvis do not prevent traffic accidents.

      • Tyler Riggs

        Sure thing Derek. The metric I will use is the ratio of dollars of liquor sold by the state to number of DUI arrests. This is done with the believe that state liquor sales dollars is an accurate representation of the amount of the general amount of consumption that is taking place between liquor, wine, and heavy beer at restaurants, bars, and from liquor stores/military bases. The DUI arrests are the best metric I can think of for “overconsumption” since public safety is generally the issue of concern with alcohol regulation, at least that is the stated area of concern. 

        I am sourcing my alcohol sales data from the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control and my DUI data from the annual reports of the Utah Commission of Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

        You can see the chart with the data here:

        What this tells me is that Utah’s liquor sales have more than doubled since 1998 (to be expected with an increase in population) but DUIs have not increased. In effect, we are consuming more alcohol, but are not committing more DUIs. 

        Perhaps it is the case that the people of Utah, given freedom to choose to consume alcohol responsibly, will by and large be responsible. There is a certain element who is going to overconsume  irrespective of the laws Utah puts in place. If they need to travel to Idaho and Wyoming to purchase their alcohol, they will, and they will still be irresponsible. 

    • Shaunty Linton

      I disagree largely with one point, it should not be expected that the presence of LDS constituents should result in tighter liquor laws. As a minority the law is supposed to protect me and allow me the pursuit of happiness so long as I don’t hurt someone else in doing so.  Laws like this restrict the freedom of the minorities with little, if any, real benefit to the majority. Laws(in America, at least) are not supposed to be based purely on what some people think is right or wrong, particularly if those beliefs are based in religious morals. Our country was founded on the concept of religious freedom. The instant you have any law based on the religious beliefs of any one sect you are infringing on the rights of any others that disagree.

      For instance, let’s say we had chosen to legislate Buddhism instead of the Book of Mormon. Did you kill the spider that was “threatening” your wife last night? What about those weeds in your garden? Looks like jail time for you, because we believe that all life is equally sacred, so you might as well have murdered those thirty three plants…too bad it was so many, looks like you’re never coming out!

      Back to Utahs situation, should I now be able to fined for wearing a top that shows the teensiest bit of cleavage? How about swearing? A lot of mormons feel so strongly about that. Oh, and while we’re at telling everyone else what they can drink, Starbucks needs to start pouring their drinks out of sight. It’s been shown that caffeine is terrible for young children, and it falls under hot drink in the word of wisdom! Can’t have them tempting our youngins!

      I could go on, but I think I’ve made the point that laws based just on religion result in silly, unreasonable things. If you are going to restrict the freedoms of others in America you need a better reason than “Well, my god says…”

      Sorry, but to have my freedoms restricted with that as the justification has been really rubbing me the wrong way, so thanks for bearing my rant.

      • Paul Mero

        Your rights as a “minority” are not infringed because of liquor regulations…unless your minority status is based on the behavior of liquor drinking.  If that’s the case, everyone is a minority based on some personal behavior that we do but others don’t and where a law applies.

  • Korry

    RE: “Liquor hasn’t made one human being a better person. Ever.”  It is widely accepted that moderate amounts of red wine are beneficial to human health.  In fact, moderate wine drinkers have less cardiovascular disease than teetotalers.

    • Patrick

      In fact, I was told this on my mission by the area doctor. Reasonable amounts of alcohol can be beneficial. Doesn’t change the fact that Latter-day Saints have been instructed not to drink it and they should obey…but it’s silly to dismiss the truth because you’ve always assumed something and are now proven wrong.

    • Mary

      Although this really has nothing to do with Mr. Mero’s points, it’s interesting to do a little more research on this point.  You find articles like this from the American Heart Association that have more to say than just that wine is good for your heart
      It raises a lot of questions about the reliability of the studies done and also notes that simple grape juice can offer the same health benefits as wine.
      Other examples include articles from CNN
      and from the Mayo clinic

      The studies referred to in Korry’s post also don’t address the negative effects alcohol may have on other areas of a person’s health, even while possibly providing positive effects on the cardiovascular health.  For instance, liver damage or a person’s genetic disposition to become addicted which can’t be known before trying alcohol.  Do the negatives outweight the positives?

  • Patrick

    LDS, grew up in Oklahoma where I was surrounded by alcohol all the time. Never the least bit tempted to try the stuff. Moving to Utah and seeing the nanny-state in action, that makes me want to drink…

    The Zion Curtain really does make Utah look incredibly silly.

  • Paul Mero

    Try this…why regulate liquor at all?

  • Jack

    How can you so confidently say that liquor has never made someone a better person, ever? In respone, I will say:
    Neither has soda.
    Neither has religion.

    There, bet you can’t argue that.

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  • mediopicaro

    Why does it have to be called a Zion Curtain? Why is it blamed on the LDS church? There are hundreds of counties throughout the USA that are completely “dry”. Most of these are found in the south and the LDS church has practically no influence there. These individual communities have chosen to restrict alcohol for the benefit of their own communities. And the residents of Utah have chosen through the democratic process to restrict alcohol. Utah is not a dry state. But a drinker should respect the norms of the community. Or work democratically to change them. But don’t be upset if the overall community chooses to continue the restrictions.

  • Likethesocks

    I haven’t had time to read through all the comments though there are several good points. However, as a female who chooses to imbibe on occasion I think a very glaring point is being omitted in the debate of this issue. The number one rule when you’re out drinking is NEVER leave your drink unattended! The idea that my drink will be made “out of my sight” is NOT one I’m comfortable with. Im very careful of the establishments I choose, those whom I go out with and usually know my bartender but that is NOT the normal! I’m not saying that a bartender or someone on the staff is GOING to drug you but we all know it very easily could happen. Especially with an ill thought out law such as this in place. It creates a margin for error – from poor judgement to willful maliciousness – that I find unacceptable! Who are we really “protecting” with this law?

    I would hope the real goal here is preventing drunk driving and not just trying to punish those who choose to drink by forcing the “common belief” regarding alcohol consumption on them. I sincerely hope it is and think we can all agree on at least that point – If that is what we are all REALLY committed to then I offer this long pondered suggestion.

    Let’s have UTA run Trax and possibly a few major bus lines till 2 or 3 AM. I have suggested this idea to many people when out socially and all of them state that they would strongly prefer to take public transit when out drinking but cannot due to how early the services stop. Plus, getting a designated driver, friend or roomate to pick you up from the nearest Trax station at 2 AM is a much easier feat then asking them to drive all the way downtown and back! The airport line is nearing completion which will further compound the need for extended runs and hours. The real slap in the face is that they will run enhanced schedules for
    Conference weekend… but cannot accommodate the needs of the lesser
    majority of the state even when the benefit would be for ALL?

    My 2 bits and added perspective. :)

  • eddy

    Wow, what a load of crap. Yeah, preach all you want about “self medicating” whilst all the housewives in Happy Valley pop all their happy pills and state chuchislators preach about how bad it is that kids see a few bottles of booze. Utah is an amazing place. It would be even more amazing if we could get rid of the cave dwellers like the Gayle Ruzicka’s and Chris Buttars of Utah.

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