Mormons say Utah marijuana ballot initiative violates their religious freedom – file 2nd lawsuit

Most thinking individuals likely consider that being forced to comply with or abide by a religious group’s dictates is a violation of their constitutionally protected religious freedom. Unfortunately for Americans, one specific religion and its various subsidiaries believe their religious freedom entails constitutional authority to force other Americans to comply with their religious beliefs. In Utah, that idea of religious freedom is taking an extreme turn toward theocracy.

A group of Utah Mormons is attempting to exercise what they perceive is their religious freedom to silence the voice of voters and control the democratic process. They are crusading to force removal of a Utah ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana to prevent voters from exercising their right to vote; because Mormons apparently don’t like weed for wellness. It is the second time the Mormons, led by a Mormon attorney and pharmaceutical company owner, have went to court to keep the measure off the ballot in November.

The Mormon attorney financing the religious crusade, Walter Plumb III, is a friend and former legal partner with United States Senator and fellow Mormon Orin Hatch. It seems reasonable to question whether as owner of a pharmaceutical companypeddling “nutritional supplements and products,” Plumb is attempting to block any possible competition from cannabis. Unlike many supplements, cannabis is a well-documented treatment option for a variety of conditions.

After dropping the initial lawsuit, the Mormons followed the tactics of the evangelical extremist cult and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) claiming that if the Utah residents are allowed to participate in the democratic process and vote to legalize medical marijuana, it will “violate the religious freedom of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

According to Plumb and the forces behind the anti-medical marijuana group’s crusade;

If the ballot measure succeeds, Mormon landlords would be forced to rent to medical marijuana cardholders and people who use cannabis violating Mormon code.”

Although the “official” Mormon Church has refrained from openly opposing the ballot measure, it told the Salt Lake Tribune that it has “grave concerns;” it is really grave opposition.

Whether Plumb knows it or is just playing the fool, Mormon landlords already violate the Mormon code by renting to marijuana users, and cocaine users and legal opioid addicts. They also violate the Mormon code when they rent to people involved in extra-marital affairs, and people in homosexual relationships, and church members addicted to Mormon code-violating pornography.

Plumb’s group is citing a “technical” Supreme Court decision, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, because it allowed a bigot to use his religious objection as grounds to refuse making a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. However, that particular case was “decided on a technicality;” specifically that “the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was unfairly biased against Phillips.” As most sane people and the Court acknowledged, “the ruling did not directly give people a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on their religious belief.”

As bad as refusing to provide a service based on objections borne of religion is, and it is vile, the idea of using religious freedom to prevent an entire state’s voters from exercising their right to weigh in on a legal ballot measure is beyond the pale; but it should have been expected. This monstrous idea of using religious freedom as a cudgel against non-compliance in America’s lurch toward theocracy has grown to the point that maybe now the people will comprehend that no American is safe.

Here’s the thing most normal people comprehend: if Utah residents suffering various maladies are legally allowed to use cannabis for relief, it will have no impact whatsoever on Mormons or their Constitutional freedom to exercise what they call religion. They can still wear magic underwear, prepare for an afterlife on their own personal planetviolate the Christian bible with an addendum created by Joe Smith, ride bicycles two-by-two and annoy innocent strangers, and follow the teaching of an honest-to-dog charlatan reading from a magic hat.

This issue is not about whether cannabis has myriad and valid medical applications, the data is overwhelming that it does. It is also not an issue of whether the people should be allowed to vote on a legal ballot initiative, Utah law says they do. The issue is also not whether Mormon landlords are violating the Mormon Code by renting to people who obtain a medicinal marijuana card or actually use the weed for its documented medicinal purposes. It is about another religious extremist claiming his religious freedom is being violated by allowing voters to exercise their right to vote on a ballot measure. No matter how one distills it, the issue is a religious group’s attack on the democratic process.

It may appear that this piece is heavily biased against Mormons; that is not the case any more than being inordinately biased against Catholics or evangelical extremists imposing their religious dictates, and forced compliance, under the guise of religious freedom. Every person in America has religious freedom, but there is only one faith and its various subsidiaries citing their religious freedom to control the rest of the population. It is a major escalation that this time the Mormon subsidiary is attempting to control a state election and it should terrify Americans that the “faithful” feel so religiously emboldened – but it won’t and it is why they continue unabated.

400-year-old trees cut down with blessings of Trump’s BLM

It is fair to claim that Republicans have done nothing positive for the American people over the past couple of decades at least; what can be termed “in the public interest” is of no use to Republicans. In fact, it is also a fair claim that Republicans have been relentless in taking away anything good about America no matter how popular or beneficial it is to the population, or how long it has been a crucial part of America.

With Trump in the White House, Republicans have been on a tear attacking anything of interest to the people, but it is not all down to dunce Don Trump. Republicans have crusaded, often in the shadows, to abolish decades-old programs created specifically for the people such as Social Security, workplace protections, social safety nets, financial regulations and anything remotely connected to FDR’s New Deal.

According to Republicans, and now Trump, there is nothing in or about America worth protecting or preserving any longer whether it is the New Deal, public land, or a 400 year old stand of trees on public, federally protected land, Nothing is sacred to Republicans or Trump if it involves the “public interest,” and a travesty in Oregon is a clarion call for action to preserve Americans’ land and their natural, national treasures.

Since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration, there has been a concerted effort to sate the land and natural resources lust of Utah Mormons and the Koch brothers who are funding the GOP’s “public land grab” for their vast lumber, mining, and fossil fuel industries’ profits. This raping and pillaging of the public’s land did not begin with Trump or his dirty Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke; it has been as important to the fossil fuel, mining, and lumber industries as the drive to wipe out the Environmental Protection Agency.  In fact, over that past few years, Republicans have enthusiastically embraced Mormon Cliven Bundy’s crusade to seize the public’s land and it is no coincidence that Trump went to Utah first to deliver precisely what the Utah Mormon’s have demanded for years – possession of federally protected public lands.

Before commenting on why there is a tiny minority of the population vehemently opposed to the concept of “public land,” and who is behind the highly-unpopular “land grab,” it is worth noting why this new policy of giving public land over to corporate interests is an atrocity.

Earlier in the month in Oregon, a private lumber company senselessly  wiped out a stand of 400-year-old trees on the public’s land. As noted by conservationists, some of the trees were old-growth cedars and Douglas firs and cannot be brought back anytime within the next two or three centuries. To make the matter that much more infuriating, the trees “were” home to an endangered species, the Northern Spotted Owl. And the denuding occurred without the public’s knowledge or input.

And just in case the public did discover what was about to transpire, Trump’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allowed the private timber company, Lone Rock Resources, to build gates to keep the public and the media from even approaching the public’s land. Local residents were not amused and complained that the entire affair was done behind closed doors; likely because the outrage and protests would have been robust.

One outraged group on Facebook fairly summed up the entire process that is going to be occurring regularly in Trump’s America to sate Utah Mormons, Republicans, and the Koch brothers. The group rightly said:

Your public lands are being handed away behind closed doors without your say so, and regardless of protest.”

The regional director for a conservation group, Cascadia Wildlands, stated how outrageous of an insult, and serious assault on natural treasures, this action was:

It’s very rare to find old-growth forests like this, and it’s going to be cut down for a senseless road.”

The private lumber company needed a “senseless road” to easily access a few acres of plantation land it intends to  clear cut (denude}, so it “legally” wiped out a stand of “rare” old-growth trees with the blessings of Trump’s Interior Department. The issue isn’t only the blatant disregard for trees older than America, or wiping out the habitat of an endangered species of owl, or that Trump’s BLM under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is keeping the public unawares that their lands, and their natural resources, are being decimated to profit a private enterprise. It is that it is being done on the public’s land and against the public’s wishes; all to profit a private company. And although that land won’t be “public ” much longer, no groups will be happier than Utah Mormons and the Koch brothers. And it is not just this author’s opinion either. And no, there is no author bias against Mormons; just their belief that the federal government cannot own and protect the public’s land.

Some Americans may recall that the main complaint of Mormon extremist Cliven Bundy of the infamous “Bundy Ranch Standoff” was what he called the abomination of “public land” under protection of the land’s owner, the federal government. That “standoff” incited Republicans to join the Mormon and Koch brothers crusade to force the federal government to cede its ownership of protected “public lands” to Republican controlled states to sell off to private interests.

Republican governors and members of Congress jumped at the opportunity to aid the Bundy Mormons’ demand that the federal government immediately cede ownership of all national forests and public lands to the states; going so far as anointing Bundy as a true American hero and patriot. Bundy’s bent about the federal government owning land was, and still is, a longstanding issue with Mormons. But Republicans joined the fight to aid the Koch brothers.

In fact, Republicans would likely write and pass legislation forcing the government to hand over its land directly to the Koch brothers, but that may raise suspicions among Americans that Utah Mormons and Republicans in Congress exist to enrich the Koch brothers. It is particularly true since several Utah Republicans have cultivated a reputation as honest-to-dog “public lands enemies.”

Where the Mormon’s believe their god-given destiny is taking all land in the West, the Kochs believe they are destined to take all of the nation’s natural resources; no matter whose land it is. As Christine Colbert confessed in an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Mormons believe religiously that their crusade to force the federal government to relinquish ownership of the public’s land is simply “an effort to ‘take back’ what they believe is rightfully theirs.” Based on the staggering amount of money the Kochs are investing in the Utah Republicans’ land grab agenda, they obviously believe the nation’s natural resources are “rightfully theirs.”

This land grab, and decimation of the public’s national treasures, is a highly unpopular proposal. To belabor the point, last year Zinke’s EPA solicited public comments hoping to find that most Americans were like Utah Mormons, but he discovered that 98 percent of respondents were not only favorable about keeping public land, monuments and national parks as they are now, they “favored” expanding them. Shortly after learning of the public’s favorable opinion about their federal land, Zinke went directly and recommended that Trump modify (read shrink) at least 10 National Parks and Monuments.

Now, if anyone is curious about which demographic makes up the 2 percent of the population opposed to public lands, parks and monuments, consider that Mormons in America make up 1.7 percent of the population. It is likely no stretch of the imagination that the remaining 3-tenths of one percent are in the mining, lumber and fossil fuel business. As noted by people keeping score, it is primarily the Mormons and Koch brothers driving the GOP’s land grab agenda and plans to sell off federal land, national parks and monuments to private enterprise.

Some Americans may think cutting down 400-year old “natural monuments” is no big deal, even if it was to profit a private timber company. But what happened in Oregon is already in the works across the nation and along its coastlines. There are big plans to begin mining highly-toxic uranium in Utah and the Grand Canyon, and besides despoiling Americans’ land, threatening their health and their national treasures, the plans will primarily benefit a Canadian uranium producer, Energy Fuels. It is unclear if Energy Fuels is following China’s and other foreign nations’ lead and bribing Trump for favors, but it is not out of the realm of possibility whatsoever.

Look, the public lands, national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas belong to all Americans; it is one of the things that really “made America great” because they benefit all the people. But what the people want is of no consequence to Trump, Republicans, Utah Mormons or the Koch brothers; especially if it is beneficial to all the people. In fact, it almost appears that Republicans are crusading to take the public’s land and hand it over to corporate ownership simply because the overwhelming majority of people have a highly-favorable opinion of their public land. But the truth is that there is big money for the Kochs, and religious satisfaction for the Mormons; neither will be sated until they have stolen the entirety of Americans’ lands to rape and pillage at their pleasure.