Former Republican State Representative Carl Wimmer says tension often exists between Utah lawmakers’ political ideologies and their affiliation in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Wimmer, who no longer identifies himself as a Mormon, has come out recently to acknowledge the LDS church’s strong influence over Utah politics. He cited specifically the immigration-related legislation church leaders endorsed in 2011 that he, himself opposed as well as a 2008 bill that outlawed the sale of flavored malt beverages—another bill with which he found himself at odds with the church.
Speaking Monday on KUER’s RadioWest, Wimmer described meetings behind closed doors between legislators and church lobbyists being akin to LDS Personal Priesthood Interviews.
“They did only approach me twice when it was two issues that they really, really cared about,” Wimmer said. “But when they do approach you and they care about it, they expect you to get in line.”
Quin Monson is an associate professor of political science at Brigham Young University. He told RadioWest host Doug Fabrizio that a lot of cognitive dissonance exists on the hill, where lawmakers are often pulled in different directions.
“The church’s own statements on this, even though will lobby sometimes to get legislators to take a particular position,” Monson said, “their own position on elected officials is that they should vote their conscious and they should do what they think is right to do their job.”
Officially, the LDS church says it’s neutral on party politics, but reserves the right to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church.
The church also state’s on its website it does not quote “Attempt to direct or dictate to a government leader” end-quote.