‘If a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be’

Voters line up in Ohio.

Voters line up in Ohio.

These two reports, published six-plus years apart, portray the civic behavior of Utahns as notably estranged from ‘responsible citizenship,’ Utah’s unique, youthful voter-age demographics notwithstanding:

Utah among lowest in nation in political engagement, report says

Study: Utah voter turnout lowest in nation

The solution to the “problem” described in these reports is not simply a matter of increasing the number of people who complete and submit an election ballot – an effort that can merely increase and multiply the effects of ignorance – but rather to increase the level of informed awareness among those who do vote: of the actuality and operation of principles; the cause-and-effect consequences of choices and behavior; of what is required to attain and sustain healthy, functional culture and civil society.

Former Sutherland president Paul Mero often talked about “earned opinion” as being more than merely having ideas one prefers and wishes to share. The value of one’s view is not simply reposed in the fact that s/he has a personal thought or preference but is rather the product of his/her effort first to learn truth and gain some degree of comprehension of its meaning and practical application, and thereby merit the willingness of others to consider that perspective.

In ways not dissimilar, while all citizens have the right to vote, it is folly and an undermining of functional society to seek merely to “get more people to vote.” Perhaps this was a factor underlying Thomas Jefferson’s sage, and prescient, declaration that,

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be (1816, in a letter to C. Yancey).

Encouraging citizens to exercise their right and privilege to vote – a privilege won and preserved by the blood of patriots – is important and commendable. That citizens exercise this right after having earnestly and meaningfully studied the issues, candidates and predictable consequences is essential.

Strong family culture and policy help drive Utah’s dynamic economy

Family_playing_a_board_gameUtah has heard a lot of praise lately for its economic performance, and rightly so. Utah has the nation’s 2nd lowest unemployment rate (3.6 percent), 2nd highest rate of job growth (3.5 percent or 44,700 new jobs), 3rd highest household income ($59,770), and 3rd best ratio of income inequality.

This is likely due to several factors such as Utah’s cultural work ethic – our motto is “Industry,” after all – and good economic policies enacted by Governor Gary Herbert and the Utah Legislature in the years during and after the so-called “Great Recession.” But based on demographic reports and recently published research from the National Bureau of Economic Research, it is also likely due, in no small part, to Utah’s strong family culture.

In addition to Utah’s consistently high economic rankings, the state also ranks at or near the top in most (but not all) measures of family strength and creation. For example, based on the most recent data from the Census Bureau, Utah has the nation’s largest median family size (3.66 people), youngest age at first marriage (25.9 years for men, 24 years for women), highest portion of households headed by married couples (61.4 percent), highest portion of married-couple households with children (31.5 percent), and highest fertility rate (72 per 1,000 women age 15-50).

Of course, correlation is not causation, so what connects these strong family measures to Utah’s solid economic performance? One explanation is the relative youth of the state’s population and how that drives job creation through the creation of the new businesses. Read more

Paul Mero steps down as Sutherland Institute president

Sutherland Institute and Paul Mero are parting ways. After 14 years at the helm, Mero has been asked to step down as president by the Institute’s board. The decision is effective immediately, and the search for a new president will begin soon. Stanford Swim, chairman of the board, will serve as acting CEO until a new president is selected.

“Paul has served faithfully and effectively as he has led Sutherland Institute from its infancy to becoming the most influential conservative voice in Utah,” Swim said. “While the board feels this change is necessary as we move into the future, we are grateful for his dedicated service. We will continue to be guided by our seven governing principles that allow faith, family and freedom to flourish in Utah.”

Sutherland’s founder, Gaylord Swim, hired Mero in 2000, and Mero oversaw the growth of the Institute’s broad influence throughout the state. Previously, he worked for 10 years in Congress and was the founding executive vice president at The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society. Mero has been instrumental in nurturing the World Congress of Families coalition and secured Salt Lake City to host its ninth gathering next year. He will continue to serve on the executive committee for World Congress of Families IX.

“Disagreements often arise between a CEO and board, and this is what happened here,” Mero said. “While disappointing, it became necessary. I have enjoyed every success and learned from every failure. Utah is a better place to live, work and raise a family because of Sutherland Institute.”

Heading into the 2015 legislative session, Sutherland is working with elected officials and policy colleagues on issues that have a significant impact on Utahns. These include:

  • Alcohol policy
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Dependence on federal funds
  • Environmental regulations
  • Marriage and family policy
  • Medicaid reform
  • Religious freedom
  • Public lands
  • State budget policy
  • Utah economic policy

Sutherland Institute is a nonpartisan, independent public policy organization located in Salt Lake City. As a state-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit, its mission is to protect the cause of freedom, constructively influence Utah’s decision-makers, and promote responsible citizenship. Sutherland Institute is recognized as the leading conservative think tank in the state of Utah.

Getting your money’s worth: Which states are best?

Maps published by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation offer a concise depiction of the cost of living in Utah compared with other states. Or as the foundation puts it: “Which states offer the biggest bang for your buck?”

Utah lies somewhere in the middle when it comes to purchasing power. The states or areas where your money buys the least are urban and coastal: Washington D.C., Hawaii, New York, New Jersey and California. The states that offer the most for your dollar are in the Midwest and South: Mississippi,
Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama and South Dakota.


An accompanying map compares purchasing power at the more detailed level of metro areas:

Metro Price Parity_0

Another angle on natural law

Nature's_SymmetryIn our writings at Sutherland Institute we occasionally use the term “natural law,” referring to the common foundations of justice and fairness innate to each of us.

An article in the Intercollegiate Review (excerpted from The Perspective of Love: Natural Law in a New Mode by R.J. Snell) has an interesting angle on natural law:

[I]t might appear quite unreasonable to maintain belief in natural law or natural right, for the intellectual substructure is, as Alasdair MacIntyre put it, echoed by David Bentley Hart, “unacceptable by the dominant standards of modernity.” Yet the cultural and scientific developments noted by Strauss have not resulted in the withering away of either natural right or natural law but instead contributed to a renewed vitality as some thinkers deepen the commonplaces of the tradition while others develop or stretch the tradition in new directions. This is to be expected, for challenges to a tradition cause crisis, irrational and wooden traditions either capitulating or refusing to engage while more supple and reasonable traditions ask new questions, pose new answers, transpose old answers, and articulate themselves in new and productive directions.

This is not the first time that natural law has developed in response to a crisis presented by some theoretical or social challenge, so we should not be surprised to find it developing previously. And in each of these moments of challenge, I suggest, the crisis has been occasioned by the meaning of “nature.” What is so natural about the natural law; what is nature?

Click here to read more of “The Meaning(s) of Natural Law” at the Intercollegiate Review.

Will U.S. intervene in the Middle East? Mero Moment, 7/29/14

Missile_attack_on_Sderot_in_2014This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

As I speak these words the Gaza Strip in the Middle East is literally exploding. Even a cursory review of the news demonstrates how crazy this world has become. Amidst ongoing international turmoil, the United States has some important decisions to make – not the least of which is the answer to the question of our role in the world.

The state of Israel is capable of taking care of its own defense in limited ways. But what would the United States do if the entire Muslim world united in Israel’s destruction? Would we step back and watch the entire Middle East become engulfed in the chaos created by tactical nuclear war? Would we intervene on behalf of Israel? In other words, would we send American men and women to fight and die in Israel’s defense? We have sent Americans to fight and die for a lot less reason than Israel’s future.

Early America was distinctly non-interventionist. George Washington famously warned about foreign entanglements in Europe. James Monroe created a doctrine of foreign policy that limited U.S. interests to the Western Hemisphere. Only more progressive leaders began to intervene in world affairs – Woodrow Wilson in World War I and Franklin Roosevelt in World War II. And, even then, conservatives were hard to convince that America should step foot on European soil. Of course, few of us today would look back on those events and regret our involvement.

Evidently, the justness of the cause determines our involvement. Or not.

As an example, I remember counseling my congressional boss in 1991 to vote no on the resolution to support President Bush’s decision to engage the first Gulf War. I felt strongly that the war was simply about blood for oil. I thought it was immoral. By the time of the second Gulf War, I had changed my mind. The threat of weapons of mass destruction made all the difference in the world to me.

So what cause reaches the threshold for Americans to engage overseas? Is it the million-plus genocide in the Sudan? Is the current threat from North Korea any less than the threat posed formerly by Saddam Hussein? Read more

The #YesAllWomen non sequitur

crime sceneHere’s what I don’t get.

I agree with much of the sentiment behind #YesAllWomen. I think all women, or darn close, are subject to sexual objectification and harassment. It’s common and often subtle enough that men don’t see it, and often women don’t really notice it either. We are subconsciously conditioned to expect it.

But what does this have to do with last week’s killings in Southern California? The killer took the lives of more men than women. He was filled with rage toward women, yes, but also rage toward his male roommates – in fact, he killed them with a knife, which (arguably) can be seen as a more personal act of violence than shooting someone. And he nurtured feelings of inferiority that translated into rage toward the world in general.

In the YouTube rant posted the day before his killing spree, he said, “Tomorrow is the day of retribution. The day in which I will have my revenge against humanity, against all of you.” This is not an issue of misogyny. This is an issue of mental illness and of evil.

How can women seize upon this dreadful slaughter to say, “It’s all about us! This guy hated women, and hey, men are bad to us!”? Are sane men not horrified by this crime as well? (If you cut them, do they not bleed? If you stab them, do they not die?)

The hijacking of this tragedy to serve another agenda is narcissistic, or at least misguided.

The families of the men slain in this rampage – how do they feel about #YesAllWomen? I can’t help but wonder what they think about this hue and cry, which has more to do with the evil that (some) men perpetrate against (many) women than the actual bloody deaths perpetrated against their sons and brothers.

There’s no lack of crimes that stem from objectification of women. If you want to tie an atrocity to #YesAllWomen, try these:

Two teenage girls in India were raped and killed after going into the fields to relieve themselves because there was no toilet in their home (warning: disturbing images) (Associated Press)

In Pakistan, 1,000 women die in ‘honor killings’ annually – including a pregnant woman whose family stoned her for her choice of husband (Washington Post)

To understand YWCA’s report on Utah women, read it backward – Mero Moment, 5/6/14


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

Friends YoungThe Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) was established in the United States just prior to the Civil War and just around the time that Utah’s pioneers settled these valleys – and at a time when the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, altering the family unit forever.

America needed the YWCA in 1858. The Industrial Revolution, as much as any other historic influence, challenged traditional family structures. Factory life urbanized the nation and encouraged women out of the home. Men, women and children spent their days apart and evenings exhausted, recovering from being apart. Women were spread thin – physically, emotionally and economically.

The YWCA stepped in to help women. Its community centers became safe refuges and its programs educated women to assume leadership in a rapidly changing world. But then something changed for the YWCA. It went from a charitable refuge to a politicized advocacy group. It went from doing everything it could to keep families together to advocating for women’s rights that often subordinate family and the common good.

Its modern mission statement sounds like any other liberal group: “The YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.” Today, the YWCA specifically emphasizes better lives “for all women” (progressive code for feminism) and proudly admits that “…we have changed as women have changed, as the needs of our families have changed, and as our world has changed.”

So it’s unsurprising to read a new study promoted by the YWCA about the plight of women in Utah. The “Well-Being of Women in Utah” report is the statistics of feminism and, like every other left-leaning analysis about anything, the report focuses on what’s wrong with Utah and not what is exceptionally right. For the uninitiated, you correctly read a progressive study in reverse – from the recommendations backward – to understand what is really being said.

In this case, the YWCA’s “Well-Being of Women in Utah” report recommends that Utah public policy “ensure access to quality and affordable health care,” strengthen efforts to prevent “violence against women,” “increase supports” for higher education, give women preferential treatment to close the “gender wage gap,” increase “work-family supports” for single moms and “women of color,” and, of course, support Utah organizations that “provide networking and training” for women in politics.

It’s easy to breakdown these politicized studies. For progressives, the height of human dignity is found independent of faith, family and community experiences. Women only have dignity outside of the confines of faith and family. That’s a progressive credo. The truth is that authentic dignity for men, women and children – everyone – only exists inside the constructs of faith and family and every constructively binding human institution.

Men, women and children across the board are better off in Utah than in most places. Utah is exceptional for women, and the women for whom it’s not currently exceptional can find refuge in the original charitable purposes of the YWCA, not its currently politicized mission.

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

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

We were wrong

My friend Quinn McKay has helped facilitate several sessions in Sutherland Institute’s Transcend Series. Quinn’s focus is honesty and integrity. Early in each session Quinn invites a member of the audience to stand and asks the person, “Have you ever lied?” Usually, with a bit of nervous context added, the person says, “Of course, I have.” Whereupon Quinn asks the person, “So, do you think it is factual for me to introduce you to others as a liar? – as in, ‘Hey, this is Bob, he’s an admitted liar.’ ” Everyone in the room understands the point Quinn makes.

In his book The Bottom Line on Integrity Quinn quotes author Robert Louis Stevenson, “To tell the truth, rightly understood, is not just to state the true facts, but to convey a true impression.” Quinn adds, “In other words, when I fail to convey a true impression, by whatever means, I am lying.”

I raise this issue because I have been accused of lying about “gay rights,” same-sex relationships and nondiscrimination laws – and through me, Sutherland Institute.

As a part of Sutherland Institute’s First Freedoms campaign, we paid for three television ads speaking generally about nondiscrimination laws. One of the ads mentions the potentially difficult situation for landlords who contract with a religious college to house students – a not-so-subtle reference to Brigham Young University private student housing. The text of the commercial states,

Nondiscrimination laws might sound reasonable. We all care about fairness, and they sound fair. But imagine you’re a landlord, renting to private university students in accordance with the university’s honor code and a young man decides that he wants to live in women’s housing. Those special rights would trump your rights as a landlord and, ultimately, the honor code. How fair is that? We can do better here in Utah. Visit FairtoAll.org for more information.

Late last night (January 29), I saw a comment on Twitter to the effect that the ad is inaccurate – that Senator Urquhart’s nondiscrimination bill would not permit that result. I contested, confidently. As it turned, much to my chagrin, the critic was correct. I knew Urquhart had amended his current bill, SB 100, to exempt “approved” housing that would cover the situation described in the television ad – and I thought he had amended the bill recently. Turns out, the “approved” housing exemption was in last year’s version as well.

I was wrong. I immediately apologized and thanked the critic for pointing it out and mentioned that we would pull that particular ad.

Trust me, I felt awful. I don’t claim to know everything about a lot of things, but I do pride myself in accuracy about what I do know. I felt sick – mostly for me – it’s a pride thing. But we move on. We immediately pulled the ad from You Tube and from our FairToAll.org web site. No problem. The process to pull the ad from airing on television is more complicated[i], but it’s being done.

For my public confession and immediate actions to correct my mistake, I am now a “liar,” at least according to some homosexual activists with a proven record of animus toward me and Sutherland Institute’s work in defense of traditional marriage and the natural family. Here’s what that sounds like:

From @EricEthington: “@paulmero & @SutherlandInst admit they’re lying to Utah about nondiscrimination laws.”

From @EricEthington: “@Brooke4Trib @BenWinslow Did you see Sutherland’s @paulmero admit their pro-discrimination TV ads are false?”

From @TroyWilliams: “@paulmero & @SutherlandInst have no problem lying about LGBT families.”

From @HunnerWoof: “When you can’t win with truth, I guess it’s OK to lie to get your way.”

From @betterutah: “Looks like @SutherlandInst admits anti-lgbt discrimination ads are lies. Think tank? Think not!”

From @EricEthington: “@theleftshow Waiting to hear back. Of course, there’s quite a bit dishonest in ALL of @SutherlandInst’s videos, not just the one.”

From @Jojomewing: “@SutherlandInst @paulmero Stop deceiving Utah!”

From @dhutch24: “Sutherland Institute lied!”

From @FirstRateDrew: “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness. Will you obey this commandment? Or openly defy Him?”

You get the message: “Paul Mero and Sutherland Institute are liars and purposefully ran deceptive television ads – they’re evil and can’t be trusted.” Right?

I know. Consider the sources. They are full of animus.

But what will be interesting to me is how the “mainstream” media might respond. Will it assume these critics filled with animus are correct about my and Sutherland’s motives? Or will it see it for what it is, an error, and let it go – perhaps even give us credit for unhesitatingly admitting the error and making the correction?

I ask because the “mainstream” media sometimes fails, in my opinion, to fact-check “gay rights” activists.

For instance, and this is just the big “oversight”: There’s no evidence of discrimination in Utah. Senator Urquhart and supporters of his nondiscrimination bill argue that his bill is needed to address the widespread discrimination in Utah against LGBT. But there is no evidence. On Nov. 27, 2013, the Legislature’s Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel released a memo showing that out of 18 municipalities in Utah that have passed local nondiscrimination ordinances, and over a four-year span since 2009, only three complaints of discrimination were filed (all in Salt Lake City) – all three investigated and ruled unsubstantiated.



Complaints Filed

Substantiated Complaints

Alta 0 n/a
Grand County 0 n/a
Harrisville 0 n/a
Logan 0 n/a
Marriott-Slaterville 0 n/a
Midvale 0 n/a
Moab 0 n/a
Murray 0 n/a
Ogden 0 n/a
Park City 0 n/a
Salt Lake City 3 (1 Housing, 2 Employment) 0
Salt Lake County 0 n/a
South Salt Lake 0 n/a
Springdale 0 n/a
Summit County 0 n/a
Taylorsville 0 n/a
Washington Terrace 0 n/a
West Valley City 0 n/a


Municipalities with Nondiscrimination Ordinances: 18 (Source: Equality Utah)

Housing Complaints: 1

Employment Complaints: 2

Substantiated Complaints: 0

The idea that discrimination against LGBT is rampant, or even a real concern, in Utah is misinformed. It’s not a “true impression.” And that is just one false impression among many from supporters of same-sex marriage and Senator Urquhart’s nondiscrimination bill.

To every critic of Sutherland Institute, our work is on display. One thoughtful critic found an error – and we salute him – and I apologized personally, on the spot, and we took care of it immediately. At Sutherland Institute, it’s our promise to be honest and candid in leaving true impressions, and not just isolated fact. We hope everyone working these hot-button issues tries to do the same.

But we understand how the game is played. Most opponents in policy and politics are ever ready to magnify a misstep of their adversaries in an effort to discredit everything they disagree with. We understand that’s the world of politics, but we don’t operate that way.

So we know the assaults on our integrity will continue. But that’s because Sutherland Institute is effective and has constructive educational influence in this state.

This has been a valuable lesson for us and should be a valuable lesson for everyone. Again, I apologize.

[i] Early this morning, Sutherland requested the ad in question be pulled. As a result, all stations have either pulled the spot or have a few more running through today (Jan. 30), mainly on Comcast. Comcast requires a 24-hour turnaround because its traffic center is out of market and it takes longer for the changes to occur. Dish and DirecTV require a three-day turnaround.