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.

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Sutherland applauds Supreme Court decision on town-meeting prayer

800px-United_states_supreme_court_buildingSutherland Institute believes the United States Supreme Court made the correct decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. In ruling that government should not become “supervisors and censors of religious speech” when it comes to prayer offered at the start of a legislative meeting, the court both rightly affirmed past Supreme Court precedent and bolstered protections for religious freedom and freedom of speech.

The court wisely rejected the feigned tolerance so prevalent in politics today – claiming “tolerance” on the one hand while striving to silence dissenting views on the other. Instead, the court stated that such prayers represent “the idea that people of many faiths may be united in a community of tolerance.”

In doing so the court embraced an authentically tolerant perspective: one in which members of society seek for ways to maintain civil and healthy relationships despite publicly expressing and maintaining fundamentally opposed views, and while defending each other’s right to hold and express those views.

The court also recognized the reality that ceremonial prayer and the laws that allow them were not established to “exclude or coerce nonbelievers.” They are natural community expressions of faith that provide “civic recognition” to the benefits of religion in society by “acknowledge[ing] religious leaders and the institutions they represent.”

We hope this ruling will encourage Utahns and their elected officials to genuinely tolerate opposing political and philosophical views and engage them in candid debate and dialogue, rather than seek to marginalize, delegitimize and silence them.

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Utah’s ‘inner rings’: the healthy and the sinister – Mero Moment, 4/29/14

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

Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Self-Portrait_in_a_Circle_of_Friends_from_MantuaDuring the Memorial Lecture at King’s College in 1944, famed Christian apologist C.S. Lewis delivered remarks titled “The Inner Ring.” His purpose was to share with those college students a psychological force in their lives even greater than sexual desire. C.S. Lewis described the “inner ring” as the desire to be on the inside of whatever social or economic group provides us with status, prestige or wealth.

Lewis remarked that these “inner rings” are quite natural and many are personally useful and socially constructive. Think of people of faith. Here in Utah many Latter-day Saints make sacred covenants placing them within an “inner ring” of their faith community. College students join fraternities and sororities. Country clubs are a type of “inner ring.” So too are sports teams and high school clubs. Even in our close circle of friends there are certain friends who we count on and trust. These are our “inner rings.”

The fact is that human beings have a natural attraction to associate in groups like families and friends. Nobody wants to be an “outsider” when it comes to the things we love most. Even in politics, insider relationships are what matter most if influence is to be found.

But as Lewis warns, not all “inner rings” are useful and constructive. Some are nefarious, even evil. In the world of politics, we call these sinister groups by many names. We hear tales of evil doings inside America’s greatest philanthropic foundations and among the nation’s wealthiest people – and, to a certain degree, everyone buys into the idea that evils are perpetrated every day to benefit a few wealthy individuals. The progressive left now calls them the “1 percent.”

The most predominant and unhealthy “inner rings” in Utah are what I refer to as “cronyism.” There are certain businessmen in Utah who feel as if they are the adults in the room, our caretakers who know what is best for the rest of us and why Utah needs to be more enlightened and progressive. They know what “real” cities look like and how enlightened people are supposed to think. They envision Utah for everyone else while they live how they want regardless of the common good.

While Utah is filled with many wonderful people who use their wealth to serve those in need and relieve suffering, cronies of the “inner ring” use legal plunder, through the force of government, to get gain and become wealthy through government positions, contracts and taxpayer-financed business schemes that primarily benefit them and their friends.

They thrive on political power and only scandal reveals their circles. And when they’re out of power they do everything they can to get it back. I have spent my career fighting against these cronies and, fortunately, many good and decent people have formed their own circles of influence to promote the common good. But these two worlds do collide and when they do it’s sometimes hard to tell the wheat from the chaff. After all, the insiders need to look distinguished and sound respectable to get gain. Ronald Reagan warned us about people who say, “I’m from the government; I’m here to help.” You might also keep your eye on Utah businessmen and their cronies who require tax dollars to do their business.

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

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

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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.

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Could blended learning fend off tuition increases?

graduationA recent Deseret News story reported that the Utah Board of Regents approved a statewide college tuition hike of four percent for the 2014-2015 school year, with increases up to 5.5 or 6 percent at the University of Utah, Utah State University, and Snow College. This was reported to be the “smallest tuition increase in more than a decade” and was celebrated by higher education officials, in large part because it represented larger increases in taxpayer funding for Utah’s colleges and universities than have typically occurred in recent years.

If you really want to, I guess you can spin as a good thing the fact that Utah college students will “only” be paying $378, $290, and $208 more per year to attend University of Utah, USU, and SUU, respectively. But in the end, they’re still paying more money for the same college education they could have gotten for less the year before, and I’m not sure that is something to tout.

Iis it really worth celebrating that we chose to increase the financial pain of paying for a college education for students, while simultaneously choosing to increase the financial pain on taxpayers more than normal? Especially when tuition and fees in Utah’s public four-year colleges and universities has gone up by 46 percent in less than 10 years (between 2004-05 and 2013-14) – after adjusting for inflation.

That sounds like pretty institutionalized, inside-the-box thinking – which perhaps we ought to expect from institutions of higher education. But it seems that a genuine accomplishment truly worthy of celebration would be figuring out to decrease tuition and lower the funding required from taxpayers for higher education, by using the ingenuity and innovative thinking that should typify higher learning.

Enter digital learning.

A recent study published by the National Bureau of Education Research randomly assigned (the “gold standard” method in social science research) 725 subjects to either a traditional introductory economics class, with two in-class lectures of 75 minutes each, or a “hybrid format,” with only one in-class lecture of 75 minutes. Importantly, the two college professors that taught the courses each taught a traditional and a hybrid section, with identical curriculum materials available to students across formats. Continue reading

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Dueling perspectives on the minimum legal drinking age

alcohol babyHere’s the opinion-based conjecture perspective (provided by Camille Paglia and Time):

A drinking age of 21 is responsible for …

  1. Making the U.S. like Third World countries
  2. The global drug trade
  3. Cruelty to young people
  4. College binge drinking
  5. Date rape
  6. Drug use among teenagers and homosexual men
  7. Unexplained suicides and massacres
  8. Prescription drug abuse
  9. The social disconnect of youth
  10. Hardcore sexting
  11. The collapse of “arts and letters”
  12. Tyrannical and dictatorial repression of civil liberties

Here’s the research-based fact perspective (provided by Duke University economist Philip J. Cook):

A drinking age of 21 is likely responsible for …

  1. Lowering rates of traffic accidents
  2. Reducing traffic deaths among teenagers and young adults
  3. Decreasing STD rates among adolescents
  4. Fewer instances of alcohol abuse by young people
  5. Lowering suicide rates for young men
  6. Improving economic productivity and outcomes due to fewer social problems from alcohol

Just a quick reminder of the need to keep public policy in the proper perspective.

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Sorry, this is not ‘Jim Crow’ – Mero Moment, 4/22/14

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

JimCrowDrinkingFountainDuring the recent oral arguments before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the marriage laws of Utah and Oklahoma, Judge Jerome Holmes, an African-American, entertained the plaintiffs’ comparison between prohibitions against marriages based on race and prohibitions based on same-sex relationships. Basically, he asked the defendants, “What’s the difference?”

Judge Holmes referred to a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case addressing a Virginia law preventing a black woman and a white man from marrying. The Court overturned the state law and, in the process, described the fundamental right to marry under the law. Plaintiffs challenging Utah’s marriage law argue the same thing. They claim that two men or two women (or any consenting adults) have a fundamental right to marry, and the Loving case is Exhibit A to justify their claim.

Of course, the answer to Judge Holmes’ question and to the plaintiffs’ claim is that the Loving case was about racism, not marriage. Marriage has a specific definition that Loving did not change. Marriage is between a man and a woman. The Loving case was about marriage between a man and a woman. Once the Court conquered racism, it justifiably ruled in favor of the mixed-race couple.

But this whole analogy brings up the real question: Is there a legitimate argument in favor of same-sex marriage by equating racial civil rights and “gay rights”?

From the end of the Civil War until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, black Americans were subject to degrading and unjust “Jim Crow” laws that treated them as “separate but equal.” Here are some examples of how black Americans were treated under “Jim Crow” laws:

  • White female nurses were not allowed to treat black men
  • Bus stations were required to have separate waiting areas for whites and blacks
  • Railroad passenger cars were segregated
  • Restaurants had to have separate dining areas and entrances for whites and blacks
  • Cohabitation between the races was prohibited
  • Black children were separated from white children in public schools
  • Black and white public school children couldn’t even share the same textbooks – a textbook used first by a black child was forever to be used by black children
  • Public parks were segregated
  • Mixed housing was a crime
  • Not only were lunch counters segregated, so too were telephone booths Continue reading
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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. …

Continue reading

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Bundy family: Right issue, wrong argument – Mero Moment, 4/15/14

Sutherland is focused on helping western states regain control of their land. Visit for more information.

Sutherland is focused on helping western states regain control of their land. Visit for more information.

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

Cliven Bundy’s family roots in Nevada stretch back to the 1880s but his awkward articulation of constitutional rights and federalism are hurting his case and the broader case for greater self-determination in western lands management. Our western states are severely handicapped by the federal government’s ownership of massive amounts of land. It is true. And it is high time that citizens in these western states do something about it. Unfortunately, Cliven Bundy’s justifications and methods are politically counterproductive and legally, well, wrong.

Our western states have plenty of tragic examples where federal encroachment is destroying economic prosperity and driving generations of families from the lands they’ve called home. Bundy’s mistake is that he’s shifted the focus from that legitimate argument to arcane constitutional polemics that few Americans understand or are comfortable with.

In complaining about the federal government to entertainment conservative Sean Hannity, Mr. Bundy stated, “What they have done is seized Nevada statehood, Nevada law, Clark County public land, [and] access to the land….” To The Guardian newspaper he’s quoted as saying, “We definitely don’t recognize [Bureau of Land Management] jurisdiction or authority….” During an interview on the radio program “The Dana Show,” Mr. Bundy told listeners, “I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.”

Well, he’s wrong. And even if he were right, he’d still lose with that argument. Continue reading

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Where your tax dollars are going … and what you’re (not) getting in return


A reminder of where your federal income tax dollars are going … and what you’re (not) getting in return.  Happy tax day.

Graph courtesy of this Cato Institute policy report.

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A review of the Utah marriage amendment oral arguments presented to the Tenth Circuit


Sutherland’s Director of the Center for Family and Society Bill Duncan reviews the oral arguments heard by the panel of three judges at the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the judges’ questions and comments, and what it might mean for the expected June ruling.

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Filing taxes? Utah’s burden is 2nd highest among Mountain States

This time of year, most Utahns’ minds turn toward thoughts of … their state and federal income taxes.

state local tax burdens

During the joyful process of filing a tax return, it is natural (and healthy for the sake of freedom) to be a bit concerned about with how much time (e.g. filing taxes) and money it takes to fund government. And it’s natural to wonder whether government elsewhere requires a smaller bite of your income, even if you have no intention of moving.

Enter the Tax Foundation’s “Annual State-Local Tax Burden Ranking.”

According to this year’s Tax Burden Ranking (based on 2011 data – the most recent data available) Utah had the 28th highest state and local tax burden in the country, at 9.4 percent of income. This reflects the conservative lean of Utah policymakers relative to the rest of the nation, to the benefit of Utah taxpayers.

When compared only to its Mountain States neighbors, on the other hand, Utah’s state-local tax burden comes in second out of eight.

Continue reading

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Who’s next to be ‘Eiched’? – Mero Moment, 4/8/14

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


Brendan Eich, creator of JavaScript, was CEO of Mozilla for all of 11 days. He resigned after relentless hounding over a $1,000 donation he made to California’s Prop 8.

Here is a name you won’t soon forget: Brendan Eich. Like so many other success stories out of Silicon Valley, Brendan Eich is a computer programmer who struck it big. He created a popular web browser language called JavaScript. In 1988, Eich co-founded a tech project that turned into the Mozilla Corporation that owns the web browser Firefox. Mozilla named him its new CEO on March 24 where he remained for eleven days when he unceremoniously resigned his position on April 3.

After two decades of brilliant work inside a corporation he built, what sort of scandal must have befallen Brendan Eich to get him to resign his post in only eleven days? What caused him to resign his prestigious job is that six years ago he donated $1,000 to Proposition 8 in California – and, for that high crime, homosexual activists drove him from office. In his resignation letter, Eich said, “Under the present circumstance, I cannot be an effective leader.”

You won’t soon forget Brendan Eich’s name because, no doubt, it will assume immortality in the political lexicon as a verb – as in, “You’ve just been Eiched.” One important lesson for the rest of us is to not cower in the face of political correctness but to fight back and stand up for what you believe. It doesn’t mean you won’t lose your job but it does mean you refuse to be bullied – Brendan Eich never apologized for his Prop 8 donation.

As someone who plays in this sandbox daily, I can tell you what really rubs me the wrong way. It’s not homosexual activists. I expect them to behave this way. I certainly don’t blame Eich. He did what he felt was best for the good of the company he built. My problem is with Eich’s corporate colleagues who didn’t have his back. Those people are the cowards who flame irrational protests. Furthermore, they’re hypocrites. In the name of pushing Eich out the door, they invoke tolerance and inclusiveness as their motivating principle.

Continue reading

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Video: A citizen’s guide to the Utah marriage case, Part 2


Bill Duncan, Sutherland Institute’s director of the Center for Family and Society and executive director of the Marriage Law Foundation, provides a citizen’s guide to the key arguments before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Utah marriage amendment case. Below is an an outline of what Bill explains in the Part 2 video. (Click here to see Part 1.)

State replies to plaintiffs’ rebuttal

  • Race analogy doesn’t work because there are actual, meaningful differences between couples who can provide a mother and a father for children and couples who can’t.
    • Also doesn’t work because of the historical differences.
    • Infertile couples still support state’s ability to encourage mothers and fathers for adopted children, and also provide an example of faithfulness that’s crucial for a successful marriage culture.
    • A lot of precedent for a state’s residents to govern themselves; no clear constitutional provision that’s being violated by the state retaining the laws of marriage that have always existed.
    • State says the Supreme Court already decided this question in Baker.
    • Plaintiffs will say the Supreme Court’s intention in Windsor essentially decided the question.
    • Both sides will tell the 10th Circuit that it doesn’t have the authority to throw out previous Supreme Court decisions.
    • Issues of federalism might come into play.
    • Utah actually values marriage, doesn’t just provide lip service. It is the state with the highest rate of children being raised by their married mother and father. Can Utah continue to live by the things it cherishes most?
    • State points out there’s a lot of reason for uncertainty about what might happen if marriage is redefined. Social science points to evidence that children raised by their mother and father do best on a range of objective social measures. Continue reading
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Video: A citizen’s guide to the Utah marriage case before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

To help Utahns get a better grasp on this historic case, Bill Duncan, Sutherland Institute’s director of the Center for Family and Society and executive director of the Marriage Law Foundation, provides a citizen’s guide to the key arguments before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Utah marriage amendment case.

In part 1, Bill discusses most of the arguments presented by the state and the plaintiffs. In part 2, which will be released tomorrow, Bill discusses the likely oral arguments, the social science arguments and the history of the changes to marriage law and the resulting consequences.

Part 1


Bill tells us that the key question for the 10th Circuit to answer is: Has the Supreme Court already decided this issue? The State submits its brief first, which Bill outlines, and then the plaintiffs respond, which Bill also explains.

  • Why is the state interested in marriage?
  • Sound social science research shows children do better when raised by a mother and a father.
  • State shows how changes to state law alter the incentives and disincentives of people to marry or not to marry.
  • The state disagrees with the plaintiffs and Judge Shelby (the Utah federal judge who struck down Amendment 3, Utah’s marriage amendment passed by 66 percent of Utah voters in 2004) when they say the state’s primary role in marriage is to approve of the lifestyle choices of its residents. The state argues that that idea has negative consequences.
  • State cites Baker case as controlling, or the case that stands as precedent for this case. In the Baker case, the Supreme Court said it isn’t going to issue a complete opinion on the case because it is so obvious there is not even a constitutional issue here. The Court said there is no federal issue; there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires us to weigh in; there’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires same-sex marriage.
  • The plaintiffs, Judge Shelby and other federal judges say law and society are evolving in our notions of what the Constitution requires and so Baker shouldn’t be controlling. State says no, the Constitution doesn’t change meaning over time.
  • The state argues that state law should be the standard of law in this case and in most cases, and that people of the state should be able to govern themselves except in exceptional cases.
  • Plaintiffs argue that the state marriage amendment is essentially like racism, and therefore should be overturned by the courts. The state disagrees with the idea that treating same-sex couples as not married is the same as not allowing white and black couples to marry. State argues it’s not the same for several reasons.
  • State explains the rationale for why it treats human relationships differently.

Plaintiffs respond:

  • Baker v. Minnesota is outmoded; a lot of things have changed since then so there’s no point in applying that case to this situation.
  • Plaintiffs try to convince 10th Circuit that U.S. Supreme Court has already essentially decided this issue in the Windsor case and therefore the Constitution requires every state to change its laws to allow same-sex couples to marry.
    • Justice Kennedy said a lot of things in support of the authority of the states, which makes this argument a challenge for the plaintiffs as they try to convince the 10th Circuit to invalidate state laws.
    • Try to establish that the Constitution really does require states to allow same-sex marriage. Rely on recent cases, especially by Justice Kennedy, which isn’t surprising because all sides know they have to convince Justice Kennedy, as he is often the swing vote in close cases.
    • Try to show that all the reasons the state cites for defining marriage as it has are irrational at best or done out of spite, hatred and animus at worst.
      • Difficult because they essentially have to say the 66 percent of Utah voters who voted for the marriage amendment did so simply to persecute same-sex couples.
      • Plaintiffs argue that the state is in control of marriage and therefore has the power to get everybody to accept that one’s sexual attractions are no different than other human characteristics.
      • The infertile couple argument put forward by the plaintiffs, and the state’s response.
      • Plaintiffs argue that the 14th Amendment is being violated — states can’t deny to individuals due process of law and equal protection under the law.
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