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.