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.

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

A win for public prayer, and freedom, at Supreme Court – Mero Moment, 5/13/14

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

800px-United_states_supreme_court_building

In the May 5 U.S. Supreme Court decision City of Greece, New York v. Galloway, the court saved public prayers in legislative settings and, in doing so, reminded Americans that freedom transcends modern progressivism.

In the court’s decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority, “The Court is not persuaded that the town of Greece, through the act of offering a brief, solemn, and respectful prayer to open its monthly meetings, compelled its citizens to engage in a religious observance.”

Secularists, represented by Americans United For the Separation of Church and State, claimed that public prayer violated the Establishment Clause and offended the sensibilities of non-believers.

The court responded, “As a practice that has long endured, legislative prayer has become part of our heritage and tradition, part of our expressive idiom, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, inaugural prayer, or the recitation of ‘God save the United States and this honorable Court’ at the opening of this Court’s sessions.”

The court continued, “It is presumed that the reasonable observer is acquainted with this tradition and understands that its purposes are to lend gravity to public proceedings and to acknowledge the place religion holds in the lives of many private citizens, not to afford government an opportunity to proselytize or force truant constituents into the pews. That many appreciate these acknowledgments of the divine in our public institutions does not suggest that those who disagree are compelled to join the expression or approve its content.”

The court concluded, “The principal audience for these invocations is not, indeed, the public but lawmakers themselves, who may find that a moment of prayer or quiet reflection sets the mind to a higher purpose and thereby eases the task of governing.”

Early in my career I had the privilege of working on legislation to reinstate prayer in public schools. Our argument was simple: Prayer, in any public setting, is an acknowledgement of a higher authority and this acknowledgement is essential to freedom. In fact, this acknowledgment has a very secular justification for public prayer.

Opponents of public prayer are concerned with any gesture that suggests a preference for one religion over another religion. Indeed, many opponents of public prayer, especially atheists, cringe at the idea of any acknowledgement that, to them, seems irrational. But, irrational or not, recognition of a higher authority in government has its virtue. It regularly reminds legislators – hopefully even humbles legislators – that the exercise of their political power has limits.

Opponents of public prayer also claim that such religious expressions are divisive. But any divisiveness exists from opponents only. They choose to be offended and freedom will not long endure if a choice to be offended is the governing doctrine in a free society.

The new progressive religion worships idealistic harmony and seeks to enforce its sensitivities very insensitively upon anyone who disagrees with them. Conservatives believe in “live and let live.” The new progressive religion does not. The court is right to defend a rational basis in public prayer.

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

Receive the Mero Moment each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here.

Receive the Mero Moment each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here. – See more at: http://sutherlandinstitute.org/news/#sthash.U4TrwSKm.dpuf
This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. – See more at: http://sutherlandinstitute.org/news/#sthash.U4TrwSKm.dpuf
This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. – See more at: http://sutherlandinstitute.org/news/#sthash.U4TrwSKm.dpuf

Video: Senators Cruz, Lee speak at Sutherland dinner

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas urged a defense of “the tradition of sacrifice and religious freedom that our country was built on” as he spoke last week at Sutherland Institute’s 2014 Annual Dinner at The Grand America Hotel.

In a concise speech laced with humor, Senator Cruz praised religious freedom and the rule of law. “Religious liberty should not be treated like a redheaded stepchild, as a less valuable right than the rest of the Bill of Rights.”

He took President Obama to task for setting aside various parts of Obamacare by fiat despite the fact that Congress had passed the health care law.

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks April 25 at Sutherland dinner in Salt Lake City.

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks April 25 at Sutherland dinner in Salt Lake City.

Senator Cruz compared today’s climate to that of the late 1970s – economic malaise, ineffective foreign policy, high spending and taxes: “If there’s one person on the Earth glad of the job Barack Obama’s doing, it’s Jimmy Carter.”

Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who introduced his colleague, spoke about the meaning of freedom, emphasizing that free markets and strong institutions of civil society create opportunities for upward economic mobility.

“We have an understanding in our country that freedom ultimately does not mean ‘you’re all on your own.’ Freedom, properly understood, means ‘we’re all in this together.’”

Click here to watch Senator Cruz’s speech.

Click here for Senator Lee’s speech.

Elder Oaks urges mutual understanding on religious freedom issues

Elder Dallin H. Oaks speaks at Harvard Law School in 2010.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks speaks at Harvard Law School in 2010.

I have heard people rant and rave and bellow
That we’re done and we might as well be dead,
But I’m only a cockeyed optimist
And I can’t get it into my head

Elder Dallin H. Oaks quoted these lyrics from South Pacific last week in a speech at Utah Valley University, explaining that he is “optimistic in the long run” despite the current threats to religious freedom from our courts and popular culture.

Elder Oaks, a lawyer who served as a Utah Supreme Court justice before becoming a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church, said,

In this country we have a history of tolerant diversity — not perfect but mostly effective at allowing persons with competing visions to live together in peace. We all want to live together in happiness and harmony. We all want effective ways to resolve differences without anger or contention and with mutual understanding and accommodation.

There are points of disagreement between those who insist on free exercise of religion and those who feel threatened by it. Similar disagreements exist between those who insist on nondiscrimination and those who feel that some of its results threaten their religious liberty. There are no winners in such disagreements. Whatever the outcome in one particular case, other disagreements persist, and we are all losers from the atmosphere of anger and contention. In this circumstance of contending religious rights and civil rights, all parties need to learn to live together in a community of goodwill, patience, and understanding. …

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