Sutherland’s Education Vision

Reform requires vision. Leaders who want to transform education must know where they want to go and why they want to go there. They spread their vision by elevating public dialogue to the level of values, principles and ideals – the “attainment of the highest things.” They avoid the temptation to only oppose bad ideas without offering bold new ones, recognizing that without the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the Boston Tea Party would not have been even a footnote in history. To this end, Sutherland Institute offers its vision for education: how we view human learning, what we believe to be the purpose of education, and what education should look like once it is transformed.

Read our complete Education Vision!

Utah ranks #1 for family prosperity

A joint project by Sutherland Institute and the American Conservative Union Foundation found Utah ranks first in the nation according to the Family Prosperity Index, or FPI. The FPI measures more than 50 of the economic and social factors that indicate family prosperity, including but not limited to marriage and divorce rates, crime rates, STD rates and household income. A state that scores well on the FPI is one that is moving toward the goal of creating family prosperity. 

This new study found Utah dominates the 2016 Family Prosperity Index, not only ranking at the top but also holding commanding leads over the second-ranked state and the national average. In fact, Utah’s FPI score has increased by 3.6 percent over the last five indexes – from 7.12 in 2012 to 7.38 in 2016. The FPI national average is normalized at 5.0. 

 

 

From Sutherland Institute President Boyd Matheson:

“Of all the awards and accolades Utah has received, this may very well be the most significant. While Utah has long recognized family as a critical social engine, this report illustrates the power of the family as an economic engine. Lawmakers would be wise to recognize that just as a strong economy helps families, strong families strengthen economies.” 

From Sutherland Institute Director of Public Policy Derek Monson:

“Rather than measuring and ranking a stand-alone niche of Utah’s economy that many never see or experience, the Family Prosperity Index measures whether Utah’s economic prosperity is reaching Utah’s families, and how Utah’s families are driving Utah’s economic prosperity. Clearly, Utah has room to improve in its most populous county when it comes to the related issues of drug use and suicide – and these are critically important things that demand our attention. But Utahns can be proud in our understanding that we lead the nation economically because we lead the nation in how we create, build and devote ourselves to our families, and by extension our communities.”

From American Conservative Union Foundation Chairman Matt Schlapp: 

“The Family Prosperity Index provides a blueprint for creating an environment for families to flourish, and Utah, with its No. 1 rank on the 2016 FPI, has set the standard for the rest of the country. I hope leaders across the county will come to understand the factors driving Utah’s success and use the FPI as a tool to expand prosperity in their own states.”

Notes: 

  • Six indexes (and their corresponding sub-indexes) make up the FPI: Economics, Demographics, Family Self-Sufficiency, Family Structure, Family Culture, and Family Health. All sub-indexes can be viewed in the attachment.
  • Utah takes the lead in every index aside from Economics, where North Dakota comes in first. This data was impacted by North Dakota’s fracking boom, which has since slowed.
  • An area of concern for Utah includes the drop in the Family Health index caused by the self-mortality sub-index, which consists of suicide and drug overdoses as a percent of population. Utah has higher-than-average rates.
  • Additionally, a county-level FPI analysis raises alarms for Salt Lake County. Negative trends are noted when it comes to children in poverty, violent crime rate, property crime rate, the level of married taxpayers, and unwed child birth.

 

Vision for Religious Freedom

True equality requires the protection of religious liberty. Religious freedom ensures equal treatment for all of God’s children.

To understand the former, one need only contemplate the contradiction in values, morals and logic contained in this scenario: A demand for equality leads to legal protection of an individual’s right to their core belief and expression regarding sexuality, but leads to legal prosecution of another individual for exercising their right to their core belief and expression regarding God. That is, in fact, a form of intolerance and inequality masquerading as equality.

To understand the latter, one need only ponder the historical fact that religion was a driving force behind the abolition of the English slave trade, the emancipation of American slaves, and the American civil rights movement. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. did not lead America’s civil rights movement in spite of his religious identity, but because of it.

Very early on in America’s history, Alexis de Tocqueville noted: “Religion, which, among Americans, never mixes directly in the government of society, should therefore be considered as the first of their political institutions; for if it does not give them a taste for freedom, it singularly facilitates their use of it.”[1] Part of what Tocqueville meant is that religion shapes the experience of citizenship. It is easy to see then, why the freedom to practice religion is critical to the nation’s order and character.

The interconnectedness of religion, equality and freedom is uniquely American. Other nations have viewed religious freedom in different ways. The French Revolution’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man had a “religious freedom” provision, which subordinated the right to the perceived interests of the state: “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.” This approach allowed for unfettered freedom to believe, but severely constricted the ability to act on or express that belief.

Even the charter of the Soviet Union guaranteed “freedom of religious worship,” which looked nothing like what Americans would recognize as freedom. The governing principle of Communist Russia was that everyone was free to believe what they would like, but with the caveat that expressing those beliefs in contradiction to the laws and will of the state would be severely punished. In practice, even the guarantee of freedom of belief was never honored.

Contrast the foreign ideas of freedom of religious views and religious worship to the American principle of religious freedom. Religious freedom is core to the way Americans constitute ourselves as a people. The pursuit of religious liberty motivated the establishment of America’s second English colony in 1620 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Religious freedom also holds a unique place in our constitutional order: It is literally the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights.

Religious freedom in the Constitution is found in two places. The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” There is also a provision in the text of the original Constitution, less remarked upon, but no less important. Article VI says that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Taken together, these provisions, and similar ones in the constitutions of each state, show that the American ideal is one of robust protection for religious belief, worship and expression in the public square. These protections include three connected principles:

  1. All human beings should be free in their religious beliefs and practices without suffering persecution or official discrimination, except in the rare instances where a religious practice compromises a compelling governmental interest (e.g., protecting innocent life).
  2. Religious organizations must be free to determine doctrines and practices, including standards for membership, and to carry out their activities without government interference.
  3. No one should be forced by the government to affirm or support beliefs to which they do not freely ascribe.

Despite the robustness of the American principle of religious freedom contained in the Constitution, limited conceptions of religious freedom have their advocates in the modern United States. There has been a rhetorical shift among some to speak of a “freedom of worship.” This means that churches and individuals can believe and teach what they like, and perhaps even select their own clergy and perform their own ceremonies, but this “freedom” essentially ends outside the door of the meetinghouse, mosque, cathedral or synagogue.

For instance, a prominent government official recently argued that religious freedom was merely a “code word” for darker motives, such as hate for a particular group of people – the implicit suggestion being that the government can restrict the freedom of people of faith if their beliefs conflict with the official government-endorsed ideology: discriminating against religious people because of their beliefs, in the name of anti-discrimination.

A related notion is that other protections, like freedom of speech, are adequate to protect religious people. Thus, a recent Supreme Court decision dismissed concerns about religious organizations and individuals being asked to facilitate conduct at odds with their beliefs by saying that they still have the ability to verbally express their teachings. But the freedom to state one’s core beliefs becomes largely meaningless without its intended companion: freedom to live according to those core beliefs.

A free society prioritizes religious freedom. It recognizes what Tocqueville observed, that religious devotion fosters accountability that, in turn, secures the qualities in citizens that allows for a broadly tolerant and pluralistic community that is both safe and open. It also recognizes America’s historical reality: that religion is tied to equality, and without religious freedom equality would not exist in its current form in America.

With very rare exceptions – the damaging effects of which can be alleviated by existing constitutional principles – religion inculcates in its adherents a spirit of civility and public-spiritedness that allows a free society to flourish. It motivates individuals to come together to care for those who are less fortunate and to protect those otherwise excluded from the bounties of a prosperous nation.

Religious freedom is a foundation of a decent, equal and free society.

 

[1] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 280 (translated by Harvey C. Mansfield & Delba Winthrop, 2000).

Bears Ears National Monument designation

From Sutherland Policy Analyst Matt Anderson:

   “We call on the President-elect and Congress to rescind this national monument designation and allow local voices to be heard and incorporated into how the Bears Ears region will be protected. Furthermore, we call on these elected officials to amend the Antiquities Act to require congressional approval for future monument designations. 

   Pleas for the president to stay his hand from Utah’s entire congressional delegation, Governor Gary Herbert, the State Legislature, local Native American groups and all of San Juan County’s commissioners and city councils fell on deaf ears. Instead, the President’s legacy and the demands of extreme environmental and corporate interests are now reflected in how more than 1 million acres of San Juan County will be managed.”

From Sutherland President Boyd Matheson:

   “The fact that the president is designating the Bears Ears National Monument at 6 p.m. Eastern on the Wednesday of Christmas vacation — and from 3,000 miles away in Hawaii no less — shows complete disrespect for the people of San Juan County. The citizens of this nation make monuments to honor true statesmen. President Obama declaring a monument unto himself with the stroke of a pen is not only unstatesman-like, it is undemocratic. The people of America should expect more and the people of San Juan County deserve better.

BearsEars1 copy

Op-ed: Bears Ears Monument runs counter to American ideals

Originally published in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Earlier this week, news broke that President Barack Obama intends to lock up wide swaths of Utah’s public lands by designating 1.4 to 1.9 million acres as the Bears Ears National Monument.

It appears that Utahns’ calls – from our entire congressional delegation, Gov. Gary Herbert, the state Legislature, local Native American groups and all of San Juan County’s commissioners and city councils – for the president to stay his hand have fallen on deaf and apathetic ears.

Unfortunately, such action is not a new phenomenon but has played out time and again as presidents across the political spectrum have imposed their will through an unjust and un-American law.

Since 1906, all but three presidents have used the Antiquities Act to bypass congressional and local opposition to designate national monuments. These presidential proclamations secure their signers’ place in history through the political speeches, bronze plaques and fanfare surrounding them. What history neglects to reflect, however, is that such unilateral designations fly in the face of the democratic process and often hurt rural communities.

The turn of the 20th century saw widespread destruction, looting and desecration of our nation’s historical sites and natural wonders. In an attempt to preserve these cultural resources, President Theodore Roosevelt and Congress acted collaboratively to pass the Antiquities Act. In addition to making the disturbance or destruction of our nation’s cultural resources illegal and punishable by a fine and imprisonment, it also gave the president authority to set aside national monuments with just the stroke of a pen. These designations were to be “confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” While the intent to preserve and protect our nation’s treasures was pure, this legislation subverted the democratic process and paved the way for presidential abuse.

In recent decades the good intentions of the Antiquities Act have been abused and exploited to promote self-interest and engage in political gamesmanship. National monument designations have become a way for presidents to leave their mark on history and gain favor with environmental groups. These accolades encourage presidents to deviate from historical norms and designate more monuments of greater and greater size. According to National Park Service data, newly designated monuments averaged 15,573 acres in 1906. National monuments designated in 2016 average 715,258 acres – more than 45 times the size of those created 110 years ago. The power that was intended to protect limited areas has turned into a mechanism for presidents to glorify their names. This mentality shows little care for the interests of the rural communities that neighbor national monuments and of the people who are most impacted by their creation.

For example, President Bill Clinton’s 1.7-million-acre designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah’s Kane and Garfield counties has economically devastated the region. A once-thriving ranching industry is becoming a shadow of its former self. Twenty years after the designation, the number of animals grazing on the monument has declined by almost a third, corresponding with lost jobs and an annual loss to the local economy of more than $9 million. For the small rural counties of Kane and Garfield, whose combined population numbers less than 15,000, this has had a profound and lasting impact.

Those ranchers still in the area face an uphill battle. They struggle to extend or move water lines within their allotments, fence riparian areas, maintain roads or take other necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of their livestock. This has slowly pushed cattle off the range and ranchers off the land their families have worked for generations. In 2015, Garfield County was forced to declare an economic and scholastic state of emergency, as many of its residents have left seeking employment elsewhere.

Such economic loss is not unique to southeastern Utah. It has played out across the West time and again alongside national monument designations. It can, however, be avoided in the future by incorporating the democratic process into monument designations through congressional oversight and local input.

The protection of our nation’s historic, cultural and natural resources is among the noblest of pursuits. However, turning our backs on the democratic process to do so undermines who we are as Americans. Despite what extreme environmental groups may preach, representation and conservation are not mutually exclusive. Checks and balances have produced principled and cooperative legislation for more than two centuries, and land policy does not have to be an exception.

Adding the voices of locals and their representatives who care for and love public lands the most will improve the monument designation process by mitigating the selfish disregard that presidents have shown for rural Americans. This is about more than just land; it is about people — and about preserving the ideals on which our nation was built.

This image was created to illustrate a father's guidance to his children using the Bible.

Op-ed: A new dialogue of fairness and hope on religious freedom

Originally published in the Deseret News.

This election season was full of highs and lows. On religious freedom, perhaps the lowest point came when the presidentially appointed chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights embraced extreme, ideological rhetoric by labeling religious liberty and religious freedom as “code words” for “discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”

Contrast that with the more thoughtful words of President Barack Obama: “Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.”

The truth behind the president’s comment, and the truth found in America’s founding documents, point toward a new dialogue in our communities about religious freedom, grounded in the principles and values of equality, liberty, tolerance and fairness.

Our Constitution affirms the principle of religious freedom in Article VI, which prohibits religion-based qualifications for public office, and the First Amendment, which forbids the creation of an official state church and prevents interference with the free exercise of religion by citizens.

These protections have been supplemented more recently by laws that prevent the government from placing substantial burdens on religious practice without a compelling reason, like protecting public health or safety.

These laws reflect America’s understanding of the vital role of religion in a society of free and equal individuals. Religion builds strong communities, cultivates moral people who respect one another’s differences and cares for people with needs beyond the limits of government assistance. Historically, religion also generated much of the fervor for the civil rights movement, the abolition of slavery and even the nation’s founding.

Respect for human dignity requires that we extend the equality, liberty and fairness sought by all Americans to the core beliefs, identity and expression of religious individuals. If the principle of nondiscrimination becomes a tool for undermining the equal rights of religious Americans in the workplace, housing, criminal proceedings and exchanges in the market, we will simply have traded one form of inequality, unfairness and intolerance for another.

A renewed dialogue on religious freedom will explore how religious belief and expression can be protected and encouraged alongside accommodations for differing views, identities and lifestyles by applying the principles of equality, fairness, tolerance and liberty.

Equality means that privileges available to all citizens should not be denied to religious people solely because of their beliefs. For instance, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops should not be excluded — solely because the conference does not support abortions — from participating in a program that provides grants to organizations fighting human trafficking. Similarly, individuals’ faith should not be a factor in considerations for government office or public employment.

Fairness means that religious organizations should be protected in their right to adopt and maintain standards for conduct. Faith-based nonprofits must be free to require employees or participants to respect church teachings. Religious schools ought to be free to hire teachers who will faithfully support the school’s teaching, and they should be able to ask their students to obey the religious teachings of the school without government interference.

Tolerance means that in professions that are legally regulated by the government (such as through licensing or accreditation), new regulations should be structured to accommodate the religious exercise of those being regulated. They must also not create religious tests or requirements that exclude people of faith from employment within the profession.

Liberty means that religious organizations’ tax-exempt status should be protected like the status of other nonprofit organizations. Such status protects these organizations from oppressive ideological or doctrinal tests for eligibility.

If citizens will engage in an elevated dialogue on the meaning of equality, fairness, tolerance and liberty in regard to religious freedom in their communities, we will find the hope that comes through increased understanding and unexpected agreement. That will create an environment where solutions to America’s most controversial issues will be found.

Dallas, Louisiana, Minnesota—and you

To see Boyd Matheson deliver this via a Facebook Live video, click here.

The horrific and senseless scenes from the tragedy in Dallas, combined with officer-involved deaths in Minnesota and Louisiana, bring us as a nation to stand in front of the mirror of evaluation.  Questions will be rightly raised in the days ahead about race relations in America, criminal justice reform, law enforcement, Second Amendment rights, police and community trust and many, many others.

We should also ask some questions individually, as communities and as a country. Who are we? What have we become? What will we be in the future? Do the brutal and despicable acts of the few taint the scores of good and honorable individuals or are they simply a reflection of where we are headed?

Many Americans have responded by sharing on social media Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Do we need to hug it out as a nation? YES! But that is not enough. Do we need to talk it out as communities? YES! But that is not enough. Do we need to listen it out with people who are different from us?  YES! But we will need more. We need a new dialogue, a new focus and a new direction for our interaction as a society.

Many Americans have expressed a sense of being powerless in the face of the tragedies of Dallas, Minnesota and Louisiana. And that is exactly what the evil and undermining forces want you to feel. You may feel powerless – but you are not. You may be asking yourself, “What can I possibly do?” We must recognize and remember that individually and collectively we are immensely powerful.

We often look to the greatest generation who rose up in a time of war to unite the nation, preserve freedom and provide a place where individuals, families and communities could thrive and prosper. The greatest generation showed just what a united America can do when everyone sacrifices, everyone gives something up, everyone helps a neighbor in need, everyone looks for the good in people, everyone discovers opportunities to make a difference.

Like the greatest generation – we too are being asked to rise up in a time of war. The war we face is different – but the consequences are every bit as real.

We face a battle against the MYTH that we are too divided as a nation to confront and defeat the challenging issues of our day. 

We are at war with the idea that we are so divided as a nation that we have no choice but to retreat to our classes, races and special interests.

Lincoln asked, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

So, what can each of us do individually? A lot! You are immensely powerful. Strident voices tell us that our society is sick and broken beyond repair. Remember, though we are individuals, together we create our culture, our society and our future.

At times such as this we often quote great leaders like Lincoln and Dr. King. We need to stop just talking about them, and start acting like them. 

What can you do? Act on these questions:

What am I sending out in my words and rhetoric?

Am I reaching out in positive ways?

What will I do today to strengthen my family and community?

Do I treat those different from me with respect and kindness?

Am I engaged in elevated dialogue?

Do I listen with an open heart and mind?

Will I admit when I am wrong?

Do I seek to serve?

Am I a good example to my children, friends and neighbors?

If we all would act on one of those questions – TODAY – we would begin to the heal the wounds in our families, neighborhoods and nation. Government is not, cannot and should not be big enough to solve these issues.

We commit to honor those we have lost by our actions, not just our words.  We pray that those who are left behind to mourn and carry on will be blessed and strengthened. We will decide that as individuals our better angels will prevail.  We will decide that our communities will become more heroic.  We will decide to celebrate the strength that comes from our diversity and our commitment to the values that are the bedrock of our nation. E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one.  “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal.”

We invite every American to be “here highly resolved that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom…”

For all of us at Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson.  Thank you.

6 doctrines of freedom – Mero Moment, 7/22/14

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

382px-U.S._flags_-_Washington_Monument_baseThere is a truism in some religious circles: Teaching doctrine changes behavior better than teaching behavior changes behavior. My business at Sutherland Institute is to teach freedom and I’ve long believed that freedom has doctrines just like a religion.

So here is my attempt to share with you some doctrines of freedom.

First, freedom has context. While everyone may have an opinion, freedom cannot mean whatever anyone needs it to mean. Freedom has a broad context that transcends even important liberty interests. Freedom can be achieved even if your individual liberty is somehow proscribed. Freedom transcends utility. Freedom’s context is that delicate balance between order and liberty.

Second, freedom requires a conscious choice to place family at the center of society. In context, family is the fundamental unit of society. It cannot be the individual, church, corporation or state and still strike an appropriate balance between order and liberty. Only the family unit provides both social stability and personal autonomy necessary for maximum freedom.

Third, because of the second point, a culture of marriage is vital to freedom. And moreover today, we need to understand the meaning of marriage. If marriage can mean anything, it means nothing. And if marriage means nothing, so does family, and then freedom means nothing. Anybody who believes in the separation of marriage and state misses the context of freedom. Marriage is an irreplaceable factor in the freedom equation. For instance, it’s why Utah argues that marriage is child-centric, not adult-centric. Its context, just like freedom, is futurity.

Fourth, freedom requires citizens to elevate civil society. The intermediate layer of society that buffers the individual from the state – faith, family, community, neighborhood, voluntary associations, etc. – must be vibrant for freedom to thrive. Without this buffer of civil society, the state not only would run roughshod over individual liberty, it would, as history has proven, become the final moral arbiter for individuals and, thus, could lead to mass human suffering.

A fifth doctrine of freedom is the healthy integration of government in our lives. Freedom requires us to see the possibility of good government – government as an extension of the values of the people. We often hear the expression, “America is great because America is good.” That is the truth. If we see government as evil or even as a necessary evil, we fail to understand why we have government in a free society. If the proper role of government is simply to enforce market contracts, we miss the big picture – we miss the true proper role of American government, the role it plays in support of human happiness. If we deny that role, we will lose our freedom.

Likewise, if we pervert that role, we will lose our freedom as well. A sixth doctrine of freedom complements the fifth point: Freedom requires limited government. When government is massive and concentrated, freedom is strained. Self-government, local government, subsidiarity and a broad sharing of powers will keep us free.

Freedom is a sacred American icon open to easy rhetorical abuses. The “what” and “how” of freedom matter. But the “why” of freedom matters most.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

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Even things forbidden will be compulsory

Jack Phillips

Jack Phillips, Colorado baker

The state of Colorado has put out a welcome mat for recreational marijuana use but is decidedly cool to private business owners who want to act on their faith as they conduct business. Last week, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered a bakery owner to make wedding cakes for same-sex marriages and to “submit quarterly reports for two years that show how he has worked to change discriminatory practices by altering company policies and training employees” and “disclose the names of any clients who are turned away.”

One irony of this is that Colorado law, approved by voters in 2006, provides that the state will not recognize same-sex marriages. So, what the state is forbidden to do, private business owners are required to do.

It would be well to remember this in the debates over discrimination laws in Utah. It’s clear that even having a law protecting marriage as the union of a husband and wife would not necessarily prevent these kinds of results here. A law protecting individual religious expression will be necessary, period, however Utah defines marriage.

Culture of traffic laws is upside down – Mero Moment, 5/27/14

speed trapThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Traffic laws are nearly precise metaphors for freedom. Driving without these laws would be unsafe – anarchy. But too many traffic laws begin to impinge on our personal liberties.

In many real ways, driving is an exercise in freedom. One of the last things taken away from us in advanced age is our privilege to drive – our mobility. Anyone who’s had to tell an aged parent or loved one that they can no longer get behind the wheel of a car knows what I’m talking about. Our personal liberty to drive a car has a broader context than simply personal liberty. There are other considerations. But those other considerations are equally important.

I have said before that if I were king for a day my very first edict would be to abolish all speed limit laws and all speed traps created to catch innocent people in the exercise of their personal liberty. Instead of speed limit laws, law enforcement would have broad power to enforce “reckless driving.” That means no more speed traps. No more creating criminals out of innocent people. That means law enforcement is out on the road as part of the regular flow of traffic.

I’m sure some study somewhere proves me wrong. I’m sure some professor at some university has studied this issue and determined beyond reasonable doubt that speed limits and speed traps are more effective at reducing traffic accidents and fatalities than laws against reckless driving. But I haven’t seen them.

Regardless, our whole culture of traffic laws is upside down. A case a few months ago out of Missouri is just one example. A man in Ellisville, Missouri, noticed a speed trap one day and proceeded to warn oncoming traffic by flashing his lights at them. The man, quite literally, was telling oncoming traffic to slow down – the exact reason used by law enforcement to justify speed traps. For his trouble, the man was cited for issuing this warning to other drivers. Read more