Friendly Fire
by Linda Sillitoe

5.
To Pray or Not to Pray

 [p.89]Michele Parish would come to see her directorship as a fulfillment of both prayer and prophecy. Ironically many Utahns regarded her as the antithesis of prayer and certainly of prophetic religion. That contrast, and other ironies, inspired local cartoonists to illustrate the prevailing conundrum—the war over public prayer plus Michele Parish.

The prayer Parish saw fulfilled in Utah was uttered in all sincerity by herself and the Reverend Wesley Parish-Pixler. She and this United Methodist minister had hyphenated their surnames when they married in 1975. She then “followed him around” for more than a decade from one parish to the next. Anticipating a move from Colorado to Utah, the couple prayed that Michele would find a job that would involve “more than being a minister’s wife” and allow her to become “her own person.”

A few years earlier at a leadership seminar, one speaker had informed the trainees that, typically, a woman experiences three levels of power in becoming effective. At first she is known by relationship, in Parish’s case as a minister’s wife and a mother. At the second stage she is known by what she does (public relations director for her church, columnist for the weekly newspaper, and a librarian). At the third stage, the speaker said, “You know you’re wielding some power because you’re referred to as ‘that bitch.’“ Parish would reach the third stage as she led the Utah affiliate, becoming its most conspicuous executive director.

Born February 7, 1950, in Muscatine, Iowa, Michele combined her [p.90]love of people, politics, and literature in a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa in 1973. Two years later she commenced graduate studies in pastoral counseling and theology at the Southern California School of Theology. Then she married a minister and “stretched the borders” of her wifely role.

While leading the Utah affiliate, Parish would think often of her confirmation verse: “Do justice and love mercy,…walk humbly with your God.” For that occasion she and her husband had commissioned an anthem to include a scripture from the Book of Philippians in the New Testament: “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, seek after those things.” The verse she chose is quoted in the Articles of Faith of the LDS church.

Given Parish’s religious orientation, she thought when she moved to Utah that she understood Mormons’ commitment to religious issues as they appeared in the public forum, even though she did not share their beliefs. Much of the populace who knew Parish primarily through sound bites on the evening news would not agree.

Freedom of religion entwined with another prime conflict during Parish’s tenure—prison conditions, a major concern while Parish had served as associate director under Robyn Blumner. Parish and DeLand, however, would quickly develop an enmity that became public, one that first bloomed over a question of prayer. The courtroom resolution brought a cherished victory to Parish. DeLand later would consider the lawsuit one of two mistakes he made during his years heading corrections.

The prayer question involved Native American inmates at the Utah State Penitentiary who wanted a sweat lodge to allow them to practice native rites. The lodge consisted of a flexible willow frame that, during ceremonies, would be covered with canvas and heated with coals baked in a fire outside the lodge. Symbolizing the dark, confining womb and ultimate rebirth, the sweat lodge represented a spiritual purge of pride and negativity and a physical purge of toxins.

Sweat lodges, which dotted the Native American landscape, were becoming accepted in prisons nationwide. Used by tribal members on reservations and even in cities, their rigor—almost torment—struck a deep and traditional chord. Now inmates and their families on the [p.91]outside wanted that cleansing available within the prison.

When the sweat lodge issue arose, DeLand said later, he felt that he already had been more than fair to Native American inmates. Conversations with attorney Gary Montana and Travis Parashonts, state executive director of the Division of Indian Affairs, had led him to soften the policy of requiring collar-length hair, DeLand said. The penitentiary would exempt Native Americans “with a legitimate need to keep long hair,” at his directive.

But next, as DeLand told it, Montana was demanding a sweat lodge, medicine bags, and so on, “and the sense seemed to be, ‘do it or I’ll sue,’” DeLand said. “The best way to get me routed toward court is to do that. I liked defending lawsuits. It’s a lab exercise for me. I teach this stuff, and going to court is how I test it.”

The sweat lodge cause later passed to another attorney, Danny Quintana, who once had worked for DeLand and his brother Loni. “When he deposed me,” Gary DeLand recalled, “I told him, ‘Danny, you’re going to lose this one and lose it big,’ and Danny said, ‘Well, Gary, I guess that’s what courts are for.’’’

Quintana took the lawsuit to the ACLU, and the affiliate filed an amicus brief written by cooperating attorney Michael O’Brien. As a result, on February 8, 1989, only days after Robyn Blumner flew east, acting executive director Michele Parish issued a press release arguing that, based on the freedom of religion, the prison should make appropriate worship facilities available to Native Americans just as it did to LDS, Catholic, Protestant, and other inmates. This would not apply to maximum security prisoners.

Throughout March, Department of Corrections officials heard from the ACLU indirectly, as the clergy of various religions lobbied for the sweat lodge. The Very Reverend William F. Maxwell wrote Governor Norm Bangerter on behalf of the Central Salt Lake City Council of Churches, urging him to influence corrections officials. The Catholic Diocese and the Congregation Kol Ami added their voices.

Meanwhile, prison officials suggested a greenhouse where prisoners could sweat but still be observed through the glass. While physical stress might be produced in a greenhouse, the impact of the dark, introspective environment would be lost. The offer was rejected.

[p.92]DeLand wanted the sweat lodge lawsuit defended vigorously. The discovery process should include questioning inmates regarding their beliefs and whether they had used sweat lodges before coming to prison, he thought. He wanted evidence presented that an inmate had been raped in a sweat lodge in another state, that another inmate had hid in one and escaped. Worries over precedent drove his resistance, he later claimed, for if corrections lost the lawsuit, religious groups might start demanding synagogues, temples, who knew what? He was disappointed when the state’s lawyer failed to prepare the kind of case he envisioned.

DeLand was not anti-Native American, he would say: “I love the Old West and reading Indian history.” He said that corrections already allowed smoke and drum ceremonies in the prison chapel, despite complaints, and that he thought the ceremonies had “a certain amount of charm.”

In contrast, the ACLU’s entry into the sweat lodge issue brought an initiation for Parish in several ways. The lawsuit was the first of several significant ACLU cases that would be heard by Judge Thomas Greene in federal court, and it represented the first lawsuit brought against the Department of Corrections under Parish’s leadership. Most important to Parish, and most private, was her invitation from Quintana to attend a sweat lodge ceremony on the Uintah-Ouray Reservation in northeastern Utah shortly before the court hearing.

Clad in swimming suits, Parish and the other participants crawled into the sweat lodge. Amid the heat, songs, steam, sage, and cedar, they prayed for the success of the lawsuit. Of the experience, Parish said, “It was so moving, so religious, and was such a privilege to be invited to participate.”

The afterglow continued as Judge Greene struck down the state attorney’s arguments and objections. Parish recalled how one argument—that an inmate could sneak a shank into the sweat lodge—brought sudden laughter to the courtroom. Those who had endured the almost intolerable heat knew that no metal could be hidden on the body. When Greene read his previously written decision in favor of the sweat lodge, the rumble of native drums rose in the courtroom. Parish left the hearing elated. “It was a great day for me because the case involved both religion and civil liberties—and we won.”

[p.93]DeLand wanted to appeal, but the governor dissuaded him. “He wanted to know how badly I wanted to fight this,” DeLand said. “He said, ‘I’ll back you, but … ‘and that was all I needed to hear.” The governor, DeLand understood, dealt with the tribes on water rights and other critical issues. Bangerter later said the state’s loss on the sweat lodge issue had not been major and not worth appealing since it was divisive.

In retrospect, DeLand mused that had Quintana approached him differently, he might have allowed the sweat lodge without a court fight. Instead he “let ego get in the way—but then that’s my stiff-necked approach to life.” He added, “Danny whipped my ass, but I still like him.”

DeLand’s recollection that earlier he had softened the prison’s hair length policy was curious, since this was never apparent to the public. In fact, on August 1, 1989, the ACLU filed a complaint in U.S. district court alleging that prison policy prohibiting male Native Americans from wearing long hair as a tenent of their religion violated the First and Fourth amendments. Nor could Parish resist a bit of gloating in the press release issued at that time: “This case follows on the heels of the ACLU’s success in forcing the Department of Corrections…to permit

Native Americans access to sweat lodges for religious services.…” The note of jubilation proved premature, for in September the affiliate asked the court to dismiss the claim regarding hair length, while still insisting on the principle.

The Department of Corrections itself began considering making exemptions for long hair in February 1994, years after DeLand’s tenure. Pam Elliot, a corrections administrator overseeing prison policy, checked the records and said the short hair requirement was maintained before and throughout DeLand’s years at the helm. If the line had ever softened for “legitimate causes,” no policy change was recorded. In fact, the ACLU’s inability to press the issue with corrections in 1989 allowed the department its own bit of gloating via the media.

Interestingly, the attention drawn to religious freedom at the prison brought relief to Jewish inmates and even a moment’s harmony between parties. On October 25, 1989, the Department of Corrections, the ACLU, and the Congregation Kol Ami released a statement that Jewish [p.94]inmates would now be able to “attend weekly religious services in the prison’s Wasatch Chapel as a result of an out-of-court agreement reached this week.…” The services would be “led by lay volunteers from the synagogue late Friday afternoons, and prayer books, yarmulkes, and prayer shawls provided by the synagogue will be stored by the Department of Corrections for use in the services.” This united approach to religion represented another kind of victory for the affiliate and meant a concession on DeLand’s part. Unfortunately, this first sign of accord would be the last for some time.

Early in 1989, while tackling religious issues at the penitentiary, the ACLU also defended the civil rights of the state’s most powerful religious denomination—the LDS church. Intending to promote tourism, the 1989 state legislature deliberated a bill to allow liquor in limousines and on “fun buses,” which shepherded revelers to Nevada’s nearby casinos. The bill, which Governor Bangerter supported, would simplify life for tourists by easing Utah’s complex liquor restrictions. However, making liquor accessible had never been a priority among Mormon lawmakers. The fun bus bill ran out of gas after the LDS church lobbied against it.

Typically, the Salt Lake City newspapers split on their coverage of the bill. On February 25, 1989, the Tribune headlined the story, “Liquor Bill Died After LDS Officials Phoned Senators.” Three days later the Deseret News headline modified the stale news under, “LDS Officials Say Legislators Were Contacted for Clarification.”

Cartoonist Calvin Grondahl’s interpretation appeared in Ogden’s Standard-Examiner. The cartoon depicted the gold-plated Angel Moroni statue atop the Salt Lake temple spire blowing his horn toward a dog perched on top of the Capitol. From the horn came the words, “Vote no on the fun bus.” The caption read, “His master’s voice.”

The LDS influence waxed strong on Capitol Hill since most legislators were Mormon, male, and thus often priesthood bearers and lay clergy. However, a direct contact from the hierarchy to the priesthood ranks, even in a setting of secular power, commanded such deference that the implications seemed newsworthy. The church was seldom so direct. Routinely the church’s wishes were second-guessed and filtered through lawmakers’ own opinions.

On March I Parish and the Utah affiliate issued a press release [p.95]stating that officials of the LDS church can lobby just as anyone else can. Parish followed up with a letter to Richard Lindsey, managing director of the LDS Special Affairs Committee, the body in charge of the church’s political interests. Although the press release was consonant with the ACLU’s commitment to free speech, the ironies were apparent in the affiliate defending the resident titan. Parish framed Grondahl’s cartoon and tacked it on her office wall, where it would soon gain company.

The following month, April 1989, the new acting director tackled another LDS-related religious issue. In this one, the historical implications set the affiliate at odds not only with the contemporary Mormon church, but with the national ACLU.

Two months into Parish’s tenure, the Utah ACLU filed an amicus curiae brief in the Utah Supreme Court on behalf of a polygamist couple, Vaughn and Sharene Fischer. They sought to adopt six children, the offspring of Vaughn Fischer’s third wife, who had died of cancer. The Fischers maintained that before her death the mother had asked her husband and his legal wife to adopt the children. However, the mother’s sisters, horrified by polygamy, had contested the adoption. The Fifth District Court ruled in their favor based on the illegality of polygamy.

Parish wrote in a press release that the ACLU had a history of insisting, based on privacy, that non-traditional lifestyles and family arrangements “should not automatically disqualify adults from adopting children if the adoption can be demonstrated to be in the best interests of the child.…” In this case, she continued, involving “a polygamist family, where the practice is based on sincerely held religious beliefs, First Amendment issues of freedom of religion enter in, as well.”

The affiliate encouraged the court to conclude that polygamy alone should not determine the adoption decision. “In the event that the court chooses to base…[its] ruling solely on the grounds that polygamy is against the law, we challenge the constitutionality of such a law, as a violation of [the] First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.” Parish related the current lawsuit to its roots in nineteenth-century Mormon history, when Supreme Court rulings outlawed polygamy, resulting in “relentless persecution of Mormon families. Unfortunately, there was no American Civil Liberties Union at that time to stand up [p.96]against this religious persecution.”

No sooner, however, had Parish attempted to remedy in a small way a century-old injustice, but a spate of concerned telephone calls from other affiliate directors informed her that donors were upset by her challenge to National policy. True, the policy stated that religious belief in plural marriage was protected by the Bill of Rights. However, due to criminal statutes, the practice of polygamy was not defended by the ACLU.

Belatedly Parish reviewed the policy, deciding it allowed the freedom to “talk about it as long as you don’t do it.” She declared, “Most religious people will tell you it is impossible to have free exercise of religion if you are not allowed to ‘practice what you preach.’” Conceding that the Utah affiliate clearly, if unknowingly, had contradicted National policy, Parish then proposed that National conform to the Utah position. The Utah policy stated “that the right to advocate and practice plural marriage is constitutionally protected.”

She explained its underlying assumption that personal relationships between consenting adults were protected by the Constitution and that freedom of religion and freedom of expression were fundamental rights. “Criminal and civil laws prohibiting the advocacy or practice of plural marriage are constitutionally defective.” Eventually she won the point.

In a profound irony the ACLU’s intervention, which might have seemed a literal godsend to nineteenth-century Mormons, set the affiliate directly at odds with the modern LDS church which avoided any reminder of polygamy. While the state occasionally brought civil sanctions against polygamists, since the 1950s it had abandoned criminal prosecutions. The LDS church, however, viewed the practice or advocacy of plural marriage as excommunicable.

The affiliate’s reasoning was anathema to current LDS policy, as well, which opposed adoptive rights of non-traditional families including homosexuals and single parents. The church frequently emphasized its support of the traditional, patriarchal, nuclear family, discouraged divorce, and excommunicated homosexuals.

The Utah Supreme Court declined to rule on the religious question but essentially upheld the ACLU’s argument that the best interests of the child should prevail and that the practice of polygamy should not [p.97]singly prohibit adoption. The case was remanded to the lower court, whereupon the Fischers obtained custody and the aunts and grandparents received visitation rights.

Amid these controversies, Michele found Wes, her husband, courted by the local powers in a way not proffered to the Parish-Pixler who ran the ACLU. He was invited to pray in Salt Lake City Council meetings and invited to attend the LDS church’s general conference. Impressed by this ecumenical spirit, the reverend could not understand why his wife viewed such overtures with suspicion. “Our house often seemed like a sitcom except it was too unbelievable,” Michele sighed.

Thus far Parish’s tenure had been lively and productive, and in September the board of directors voted to make her executive director. Her beginning salary of $28,000 as acting director would eventually rise to $38,000 as her experience increased and donations flowed into the affiliate’s treasury. In announcing Parish’s appointment, both Salt Lake newspapers noted the current prison and church/state issues that Parish was handling.

When she addressed the forty-sixth annual ministerial luncheon, Parish chose as her topic “Separation of Church and State in Utah: Fact or Fiction?” Within her speech she clearly outlined the differences between the Utah ACLU and the LDS church.

According to a Tribune report, Parish “spoke openly of the role the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints plays in affecting public policy, telling the clergy the ACLU has opposed some things the church has done, but defended others.” Currently, Parish explained, “The ACLU is challenging the constitutionality of a law which gives state powers to BYU campus police, because church employees should not be empowered to be state police.…” It continued: “The ACLU is opposed to prayers in government meetings or at schools and opposes the use of public funds for religious displays. It also opposed giving graduation credits for seminary classes.” The article noted her support of the LDS church to speak “on political issues, such as alcohol … use in limousines and buses.…”

Former board president Michael Rudick and executive directors Shirley Pedler and Robyn Blumner had addressed similar themes in the past. Yet Parish’s comments provoked listeners and readers, perhaps [p.98]due to her logical but blunt approach. “In answer to a question from the audience, [she] suggested that if people did not like the influence of the LDS church on the legislature, they should elect officials who do not listen to the church.”

Deseret News staffer Dennis Lythgoe—formerly a historian from the Boston area—found his interest piqued. Rather naively, he said later, he wrote a feature on Parish. Editors found fault with the first submission, which seemed too favorable. Pressured to “balance the story,” Lythgoe sought comment from Parish’s opponents—Gary DeLand, his new sidekick Scott McAlister, and LDS church representatives.

LDS public relations director Bruce Olsen confirmed that regarding the liquor/limousine bill, the affiliate “did indeed speak out in favor of the church.” But, Lythogoe wrote, while press spokesman Jerry Cahill “hesitates to call the ACLU the church’s enemy, he says the church ‘is not excited’ about some issues the ACLU has promoted.”

Lythgoe continued: “Most notably, Cahill remembers the effort to defeat the released-time program for seminary students, an issue decided in the church’s favor in 1981.” Cahill viewed the church triumphant since released time for religious studies had continued. He did not mention that graduation credit for classes was denied and ACLU attorneys had been awarded substantial fees. Cahill objected to the ACLU’s insistence on secular holiday displays in public settings instead of Christmas nativities or religious music.

Parish found religious displays objectionable if the government paid for them. As for seminary, she said: “Everybody’s schedule seems to revolve around released time for that one church.”

With that statement from Parish, Lythgoe captured a profound contrast in perspective. Parish’s puzzlement might be expressed by many an “outsider”—but few Utahns, Mormon or not, would refer to Mormonism as “that one church” or openly question the activities and traditions that revolved around it.

Her years as a minister’s wife had prepared Parish for the spotlight of her post. As she began to be recognized in public, she compared it to living in a small town when “people would say to me, ‘Oh, I’m glad you pull up the curtains on your windows. The last minister’s wife didn’t.’ Or, ‘You left your air conditioner on all night last night.’”

[p.99]Forging into the fray on issues that had long jangled local nerves and tempers brought more than casual comments. Parish found a solid and quick-witted ally in civil rights attorney Brian Barnard, who liked Michele’s activism. “Brian’s attitude seemed to be, ‘Oh, good, finally here’s someone to play with.’” Both frequently worked late hours, and the telephone lines between their offices glowed as Barnard watched Parish “build up a tolerance for controversy.” Because she lacked the law degree Robyn Blumner held, he felt Parish “had to talk louder and faster” to be heard.

Parish would wryly summarize her first year as, “Grow or die.” She drew strength from a visionary experience at her first biennial ACLU conference. Her journal on June 15, 1989, noted: “During devotions this morning the Lord put into my right hand a sword of justice, and into my left hand the keys of knowledge, enabling and empowering me for this work which is before me.” She then jotted notes on speakers and topics.

Despite the acceleration in her own sphere of activity, Parish participated in her husband’s ministry at the Hilltop United Methodist Church. She served on both a board and a task force, helping to coordinate a capital campaign that raised $500,000 for a new chapel. But the praying that concerned her most wasn’t occurring in church.

The prayer debate in Utah was complicated by the type of prayers common to LDS church members and thus frequently offered in public. Most LDS prayers were improvisational and might be given by anyone, even an unbaptized child. If the prayer did not refer specifically to church founders, leaders, or scriptures, Mormons considered it non-denominational and therefore appropriate to a secular group even by definition of the U.S. Supreme Court. By contrast, liturgical prayers fell in alien cadence upon Mormon ears.

On the other hand, non-Mormons hearing the standard “Our Father in Heaven,” followed by improvisational language but habitual phrases, and closing with “in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen,” considered these prayers Mormon. Offered in classrooms, meetings, before sports events or school plays, and at graduations, they seemed to define who was truly included and legitimate, both within the activity and before God.

In the late 1980s complainants stepped forward. Brian Barnard [p.100]represented two Brighton High School students in filing suit against Jordan School District, claiming that prayers at their graduation exercises were “blatantly denominational” and, therefore, unconstitutional. On September 26, 1989, district officials announced that they would rather discontinue commencement prayers than expend scarce resources on protracted legal battles.

Other districts, however, announced their intent to continue prayers. In January 1990 the ACLU urged attorney general Paul Van Dam to advise schools to follow Jordan District’s lead, saying that although the ACLU was prepared to undertake litigation, “we encourage an informal resolution of the matter, provided that such a resolution squares with the requirements of the United States and the Utah State Constitutions.”

On this issue, however, Utahns were ready to fight. The school prayer issue would generate more media coverage, letters to newspaper editors, and threats against the ACLU director than either of the concurrent battles over prison conditions and abortion.

Repeatedly, Parish explained to reporters that she did not oppose prayer but rather promoted the separation of church and state in order to protect religious freedom. Despite the cartoons showing a prayerful Parish petitioning God for success in preventing prayer in schools, the public response suggested that the distinction wasn’t making an impression.

Several newspapers editorialized in the ACLU’s favor. On April 8, 1990, the Tribune’s Sunday morning editorial headline read: “Prayers at Graduation Threaten Separation of Church and State.” Suggesting that the Alpine School District’s decision to continue graduation prayers was venturing “into a mine field,” the editorial warned that caution was in order considering both the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1962 court decision banning “organized prayer” in schools and the attorney general’s refusal to defend school prayer.

“Rather than deny the existence of a god, the prayer ban acknowledges that everyone is entitled to his or her spiritual beliefs. Americans are essentially free to pray as individuals when and where they want, even in school,” the editorial read, adding that when school officials “sanction praying, they run the risk of promoting one person’s religious beliefs at the expense of another’s. There simply is no prayer that [p.101]encompasses the religious beliefs of all human beings.” It offered this practical note: “For a district with more students than money to educate them, Alpine is risking too much for a misguided cause.”

On June 6 faculty editor Nancy Williams editorialized in The Cache Citizen in Logan, home of the seminary battle, the experience of non-Mormon students. She suggested that Mormons are oblivious to the discomfort they create for others.

Governor Norm Bangerter, who would lend the state’s support to school districts wishing to preserve school prayer, said later that Mormons ought to be sensitive to the feelings of others. But, he added, “There are a rare few people who really object to prayer in public places. Most are like me. I see things that make me dang mad, but I just bow my head and keep my mouth shut.”

During 1990, as the disagreement mounted between the districts and the ACLU, tensions exploded within the Utah affiliate in uncanny symmetry. A prayer issue at the prison had polarized relations between Parish and DeLand; now the heat surrounding prison battles and school prayer would spark the tinder gathering under the affiliate’s board of directors, which felt the heat of public displeasure.

John Morris, a faculty member at the University of Utah Law School and later a university administrator, joined the ACLU board of directors in 1988 and then chaired the legal panel. His counsel was often sought within the affiliate itself. “Michele was looking for someone to help her work through relationships within the board,” he recalled. “She was a lightning rod for controversy, and that’s the single most important thing Michele did for the structure of the ACLU. She had a rare ability to galvanize the membership.”

Morris’s ability to maintain a cool head and a discerning eye proved invaluable during what he called the “pyrotechnics” of Parish’s tenure. In retrospect, he would provide an insider’s thoughtful analysis. Parish’s style, Morris noted, represented a dramatic departure “even from Robyn’s time, and Robyn was no wallflower. Michele had a peculiar ability to get people to support or oppose her. She was not a consensus builder.”

In a community that valued harmony and respected authority, Mor-[p.102]ris did not view this as a fault. “In our state, I believe it’s important to have some groups that are not involved in building consensus.” Sometimes, he said, Utahns “build consensus at the cost of everything else.”

However, board president Gerald Nichols had selected for his replacement as board president the consummate consensus builder. University of Utah communications professor and administrator Boyer Jarvis had allowed Nichols to “twist his arm,” becoming president shortly after Parish became executive director.

Though a new board member, Jarvis was well known. As Morris described him, he “is one of the truly great people in this community. He has put more of himself into liberal causes and done more than almost anyone else.” He added, “He doesn’t like confrontation.” Jarvis’s strategy, Morris explained, was to set parameters around the issues, then say, “‘Let’s be friends.’ That is why he has access to so many parts of the community. And that was not Michele’s style at all.”

By the time Jarvis became president in January 1990, the Utah affiliate had filed a substantial medical lawsuit against corrections, a powerful state department, causing a strong reaction that quickly exerted pressure on the board. Jarvis supported the lawsuit and Parish publicly but let her know that he did not like her confrontational style. He also went out of his way to “make friends” with Gary DeLand.

“The first time I met Michele,” Jarvis recalled later, “I went to a board retreat.… I perceived Michele as a sort of rambunctious person who was talking beyond her talents.… She was certainly dedicated, but I was not particularly impressed with Michele like I had been with Robyn and Shirley.”

Within his few months’ tenure as board president, Jarvis was disturbed by disagreements within the organization. One arose, he said, when affiliate secretary Mary Dickson protested that Parish edited the minutes of board meetings, which Dickson, a professional journalist, had taken, written up, and signed. Jarvis tried to get the two to work out their differences. Parish might at least contact Dickson if she felt information needed to be protected or conflicts kept quiet. But ultimately Dickson resigned.

Jarvis said, “I knew it wouldn’t be easy for me, the way I am, to work with Michele,” who, he said, “thrives on confrontation. I am not [p.103]confrontive.” Some people, Jarvis said, might even call him passive-aggressive. “When I come across something I don’t agree with or support, instead of getting into a confrontation, I recede. I may disengage entirely or try to start working from another point.…”

To confront or to conciliate—the two styles inherent in the affiliate’s History—now found expression concurrently in two personalities leading the affiliate—the board president and the executive director. An incident that might otherwise have seemed a classic case of much ado about nothing dramatically demonstrated the issues of power and its dynamics in Utah.

Style, in fact, was openly named the target—Michele Parish’s versus Boyer Jarvis’s—when the artillery erupted. But that was an easy façade, propped up before the less-discussed bulwarks of authority, deference, and tradition. Who would exercise influence, and how? Who would speak with whom? The emotional landscape of school prayer possessed at its core the more cosmic issue of who could importune God, when, and how. Finally, the feud-turned-family made good media copy.

Oddly enough, the tempest began in a friendly “teacup” shared by Michele Parish and LDS general authority John K. Carmack. The two had struck up a correspondence regarding public prayer. Carmack, a California attorney before he had entered high church leadership, enclosed with his letter of November 6, 1989, a copy of a speech by Apostle Dallin Oaks. Speaking in Boise, Idaho, Oaks had criticized the “religious censorship” of organizations that resisted prayer in schools, including the ACLU.

When Parish responded to Carmack’s letter, she explained her views without mentioning Oaks’s speech. In January 1990 Carmack replied, writing that he considered Parish’s view “consistent and responsible,” but emphasizing the “legal reasoning” in Oaks’s Boise talk. Ultimately, Carmack asserted, the matter of prayer must be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Again Parish responded without mentioning Oaks. While an apostle’s speech carried weight among Mormons, Parish didn’t pay much attention until a version of it appeared in the Wall Street Journal and suddenly reached a far wider audience.

In his speech Oaks said: “Religion should have a place in the public [p.104]life of our nation.” Specifically, he wrote: “To honor this principle with prayers in the graduation exercises of high school students is to honor the religious plurality of our nation and the religious liberty it was founded to protect.”

Immediately Parish “wrote a strong response” in a letter to the Wall Street Journal and sent a courtesy copy to the LDS public information office. She did so, she said later, as a matter of course. Her approach was consistent with ACLU goals and within her purview as executive director.

The letter itself was vintage Parish, grounded in fact but penned with more passion than diplomacy. She wrote:

What Mormon religious leader Dallin Oaks blithely disregards in his recent…article on school prayer, is that if there is any state government which should avoid even the appearance of an establishment of religion, it is Utah, where the patterns and practices of theocracy die hard; the only state where all non-LDS persons—Christians, Jews, Unitarians, Muslims, atheists alike—are derisively known as “gentiles”;

Where public school students are subjected to formulaic LDS prayers, proselytizing, and often the teaching of academically discredited LDS versions of history and anthropology;

Where school counselors reportedly pressure students to participate in “release time” daily religious indoctrination classes at LDS “seminary” buildings, always conveniently located adjacent to public school property;

Where coaches require athletes to kneel in the locker rooms and on the playing field before and after games; where prayers before student theater productions, dance recitals, awards banquets, school assemblies, PTA, faculty meetings, and school board sessions are commonplace;

Where parents, students, and teachers who object are told, “The majority rules.” Newcomers from other parts of the country who never quite understood the Supreme Court’s ban on prayer in school become ardent defenders of secular public education after moving to Utah, as they discover firsthand what religious minorities have always known: that [p.105]the free exercise of religion is in direct proportion to the separation of church and state.

The ACLU will continue to fight for freedom of religion in Utah until it becomes a reality.

Although the Journal did not print Parish’s letter, Oaks quickly responded after his subordinates received their copy. Oaks did not contact Parish to complain. He sought out the board president.

Jarvis first heard of Parish’s letter when he received a telephone call from Bill Evans, staff for the church’s Special Affairs Committee. Did Boyer happen to know the name of the president of the local ACLU board of directors? Yes, Jarvis answered, and soon received an angry letter from Oaks, which enclosed a copy of the letter Parish had sent to the Journal.

Oaks wrote briefly, but with passion similar to Parish’s, on church letterhead dated June 22, 1990: “Are the ACLU’s legal arguments so weak that its executive director must exaggerate and distort the facts in an ad hominem attack upon my church and the public school counselors, coaches, and teachers of this state?”

Reading through the pages of correspondence, Jarvis was miffed that Parish had written to the Journal without his knowledge, especially a letter that he “agreed was intemperate and disrespectful—not disrespectful to an apostle but to anyone, to the mayor, or to Gary DeLand.”

Immediately Jarvis wrote back to Oaks, sending a copy to Parish. He told the apostle that he had been unaware of Parish’s Journal letter. He explained up front that he had no problem supporting the ACLU attorneys’ intention to take the school prayer argument into the courts. “On the other hand,” Jarvis continued, “I am chagrined by [Parish’s] Letter.… If I were in your shoes, I would feel insulted more by the blatantly provocative tone than by the meager content of her letter.” This dismissive comment was followed by an affirmation of Parish’s commitment to the Bill of Rights, “even though she seems to prefer to be challenging and confrontive in situations where I myself would strive for conciliation and compromise.” In closing, Jarvis reminded Oaks that Parish had defended the church’s right to lobby against the liquor/limousine bill.

After posting the letter, Jarvis went to the Boston Building office to [p.106]see Parish. She was unhappy that he had responded to Oaks without her knowledge.

“I said, ‘Boyer, you should have talked to me first,’” Parish recalled. “He said, ‘I didn’t because I was afraid you’d talk me out of it.’”

Jarvis told her he resented her writing to the Journal without his knowledge and took the opportunity to make other differences known. “In that conversation,” Jarvis said, “we really kind of had at each other for a while.” Jarvis said maybe he ought to resign, but Parish didn’t want him to. She suggested weekly lunches to improve their communication. Jarvis recalled that as he left, Parish said, “Boyer, I have just one request—that you not talk to anyone in the media.”

Jarvis, who had not the slightest intention of calling a reporter, agreed, assuming the promise went both ways. Parish meant it both ways but had already mentioned Oaks’s complaint to a Channel 2 reporter, and an apostle’s wrath directed at the ACLU quickly became a story. The day after Jarvis and Parish met, a small article ran in the Tribune under the byline of Dawn House, a friend of Michele’s.

Opening his newspaper that morning, Jarvis said, “I knew it was all over. I had a serious conversation with myself about the best next step. I could call a meeting of the board and ask their support to fire Michele, or I could resign. I decided it was in the best interest of the ACLU not to have a big blow-up, and so I resigned.”

Now Jarvis wrote to Parish: “The fact that you have publicly drawn me into your controversy with Dallin Oaks…makes it impossible for me to continue as president of the board of directors.…” He added, “Please be assured, however, that I will continue to be a dues-paying, card-carrying member of the ACLU.”

Interestingly, not only had Jarvis written conciliatory words to Oaks, but now he sent a copy of his resignation letter to DeLand’s deputy director, Nick Morgan, a personal friend. He wanted to let Morgan know, Jarvis later explained, that their talks about prison conditions would come to an end. According to DeLand, Jarvis also sent him a copy of his resignation letter.

In any case, Parish first heard from a reporter that not only had she added an enemy in the LDS hierarchy to her war with the corrections chief but that her own board president had quit in exasperation. Further-[p.107]more, church, state, and the ACLU board president seemed remarkably in touch with one another in deploring her actions.

Not surprisingly, Jarvis’s resignation prompted a new ripple of media interest. Now both Oaks’s speech and parts of Parish’s unpublished letter saw print in Utah. Parish explained to the Tribune: “When the state is not able to separate itself from the people who run the church, it is a problem. And I said the truth. In Utah, there is a blurring of the line.”

To that point in her explanation, many Utahns might agree. Yet her [mal statement flicked like a whip. “In Utah, there are people who don’t believe in separation of church and state, who don’t believe in the Bill of Rights.”

Explaining his resignation, Jarvis told the Tribune: “I don’t go out of my way to be offensive. I would not write a letter that way.” Because his own style “differed completely” from Parish’s, Jarvis said, he had decided to resign. Later Jarvis distinguished between his conflict with Parish and feeling pressured by an LDS apostle. Had the issue not become public, Jarvis might well have smoothed relations with Oaks as he had with DeLand.

“Most people inferred that my decision to resign was because someone in the Mormon hierarchy was speaking to me; nothing could be further from the truth,” Jarvis insisted. “I’m as willing to offend Dallin Oaks as anyone, maybe more so than Michele Parish would be.” Nevertheless, just as Parish revealed naiveté regarding the risks in issuing a public challenge to an apostle, Jarvis exposed his preference to avoid offending anyone.

Within the affiliate, the earth trembled. John Morris emerged, at Parish’s request, as board chairman. Morris had replaced Jarvis, upon retirement, in his administrative position at the university. Now he telephoned Jarvis to explain that he would follow as board president, but he didn’t want that to come between them. It didn’t, he learned. Boyer wasn’t interested in hurting the ACLU.

Morris then held a press conference in conjunction with Parish and took on the venerable feed-or-fight-them issue. “My personal background allows me to be confrontational without being uncomfortable,” [p.108]he said, as reported in the Tribune. “I have no interest in insulting Dallin Oaks or the LDS church, I want to make that clear. On the other hand, these are issues that tend to bring out sharp statements, and sometimes that’s useful in a debate.” Morris predicted that the ACLU might well bring litigation regarding both school prayer and prison issues, which he defined as its most pressing concerns.

Privately Morris observed the differences between two ACLU leaders he liked and admired. Boyer, he noted, couldn’t understand why Michele needed clash. After the split, Michele mistrusted Mormon males, no matter how liberal. Try as he might, Morris could not get her to invite another to join the board. When the going got tough, she believed, they would not confront the opposition. What’s more, her experience with Oaks, Jarvis, and DeLand left her convinced that any male authority held in common would adhere.

During the summer as the Utah affiliate readied its lawsuit, the school prayer question reached the U.S. Supreme Court via a Rhode Island ACLU case. After the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled graduation prayers unconstitutional in Lee v. Weisman, the Rhode Island school district had appealed to the high court. If the Supreme Court denied the appeal, the unconstitutionality ruling would answer the question of school prayer for Utah and all states.

However, prayer advocates in Utah noted that the Rhode Island case related to prayers offered by clergy, while in Utah the prayers were given by students. Whether that difference would prove significant remained unclear, but the Utah ACLU readied a brief clarifying the dominance and orthodoxy of prayers given in Utah. Ultimately the amicus brief would be discouraged by the Rhode Island ACLU, which was concerned about appearing to pad the page limit allowed by the court.

The confusion regarding clergy versus students became apparent in mid-July when the Deseret News reported that a group called Families Alert was threatening its own lawsuit. The pro-prayer entity would sue school districts “that do not allow students their constitutional right to pray privately in schools as established by recent U.S. Supreme Court guidelines.” Executive director Joy Beech, known for her crusades against cable television and pornography, told the newspaper that if [p.109]students were not allowed to pray on their own in school, in contrast to “school-sponsored” prayers, then the group would sue.

The article quoted Parish saying, “Families Alert doesn’t understand the prayer versus public school issue. The ACLU will announce its plans to seek legal action against districts in which teachers and administrators have coerced pupils to participate in prayer.”

Again Parish tried to explain: “They can’t organize themselves into prayer during school hours. If they want to do it after school and want to pray individually and privately, that’s fine too. But when they’re in school, they’re supposed to be studying.…” She added, “Prayer is wonderful but you can’t have the state endorsing religion.…”

Beech replied in the Tribune that she had a “two-inch file on the ACLU” as a left-wing group bent on opposing religious principles. “If you destroy religion and people’s concept of religion, especially among youth, then we think that they are fighting right at the root of what we stand for.”

The next day newspapers reported that the prayer issue might do more than tweak Utahns’ religious sensibilities. Property taxes might be raised to enable school districts to cover court costs. The ACLU was considering suing the Alpine, Jordan, Granite, Emery, Logan, and North Summit school districts, which meant taxpayers would feel the ache in their pocketbooks. Nevertheless, the school districts were not going to retreat.

July 1990 ended with the ACLU’s announcement that it would, in fact, sue Granite District in Salt Lake County and Alpine District in Utah County. The lawsuit named Granite High School for allowing prayers at graduation and among cast members and faculty prior to plays and Eisenhower Junior High for allowing graduation prayers. In Utah County, Lehi High School was named for prayers at graduation, school assemblies, and pep rallies, while Orem High School would be sued for prayers at graduation, baccalaureate, and choir rehearsals and performances. The civil complaint filed in U.S. district court alleged violations of the First and Fourteenth amendments of the Constitution and the Utah Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion and separation of church and state.

The Tribune quoted Parish: “The Utah affiliate will spend as much [p.110]money and will take the lawsuits as far as the districts and Governor Norm Bangerter want to go,” she said. “All our efforts to resolve these problems out of court have been rejected and we feel we have no alternative but to submit our complaints to the courts for a final resolution.”

Interestingly Elder Oaks’s Wall Street Journal article rose again in this news report. His argument was used at Orem High School when a school counselor and other faculty members objected to graduation prayer. Apostle M. Russell Ballard also publicly supported prayer in school, the article said. A rather clear line was thus drawn with two LDS apostles on one side and the ACLU on the other.

Joining the LDS church on the pro-prayer side of the line, Bangerter and the State Office of Education quickly offered support to the school districts that were “under attack from the ACLU.” On the other side, the Salt Lake City Central Council of Churches, which did not include the LDS church, protested that school prayers tended to manipulate students and their beliefs.

The Tribune editorialized regarding the state’s entry into the prayer battle:

Governor Norm Bangerter’s needless entry into the graduation prayer lawsuits with a “defense fund” would squander state dollars and aggravate whatever religious hostility exists in Utah. There are more pragmatic—and less divisive—ways for the Utah majority to make its wishes known.

The governor claims that state money in the form of a supplemental appropriation is needed to defend school districts from “attacks by the ACLU.”

In fact, the Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has tried for years to persuade districts to honor the constitutional prohibition against school prayer. Only after those districts repeatedly defied those requests—and the law—did the ACLU finally file suit against Alpine and Granite school districts Monday.

In 1994 a mellowed and retired Bangerter would describe the school prayer issue as “kind of a yawner,” saying that he could live with or without prayer in school. Either way he’d taught his own children and didn’t depend on the schools. “The ultra left and ultra right choose to [p.111]make battles where most of us prefer to have a discussion,” he explained. He demurred at calling the ACLU ultra-left except that—“some of the issues they choose in Utah seem that way.” Nevertheless in 1990 he committed the financial resources and power of the state.

In Ogden the Standard-Examiner took another tack, wanting prayer defended but not by public funds. Claiming the lawsuit “launched an attack on the fundamental value systems of Utah,” the editorial claimed:

However enormous the legal costs, Utah must stand on principle and defend this challenge in the federal court system. It can be done without digging into the pockets of taxpayers.

Since the ACLU filed the suit against Granite and Alpine school districts, there has been a swelling of support flowing from all directions. Offers of financial assistance as well as Utah attorneys stepping forward to offer services free or at minimal fees have been forthcoming.

Utah has been propelled into the national spotlight with a lawsuit that wrongly leaves impressions of pervasive religious biases. What it amounts to simply stated is telling a student body president that it is constitutionally wrong to ask a graduating classmate to lead in a moment of reverence or saying that praying aloud does not have constitutional protection.

The school prayer fight was reported throughout the nation. For instance the Chicago Tribune datelined an article by Jim Robbins Salt Lake City, Utah:

The long-simmering differences between Mormons and non-Mormons in Utah—where virtually every aspect of life is dominated by the Mormon church—have come to a full boil.

Angry and bitter public debate was sparked when a lawsuit aimed at ending Mormon prayer in public schools was filed this summer by the Utah affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It’s about time somebody polarized the community,” said Michele Parish, executive director of the Utah ACLU. “It’s been festering for years. It’s time to get the poison out.”

Mormons claim, however, that they are the victims of the discrimination in their Utah homeland, which they refer to as Zion.

[p.112]“There’s an element of religious bigotry in the state directed against Mormons,” said Bud Scruggs, Bangerter’s chief of staff. “The ACLU is trying to capitalize on this. They’re hostile to religion.”

The article further advised readers that 70 percent of Utah’s population was Mormon, with an even higher proportion comprising the government and power structure.

Locally the prayer fight was illustrated almost daily with cartoons, editorials, and letters to the editor. After retirement, Bangerter would dismiss the furor as primarily media-generated: “How many letters?—a few hundred? That’s nothing.”

One letter writer derided the sentiment to squander a tight state budget in social services and education, adding:

Pray any time you want, to yourself, to your own God, but leave tax money which is given by all people of this diverse state alone. The Mormon Church most clearly has an agenda. It is not satisfied with running the state legislature, they want to run the schools and force non-Mormon children to listen to their prayers.

A Provo reader wrote: “It seems to me that the ACLU is trying to take away the freedoms our ancestors fought for and I myself fought for in World War II.… Why should we bow to the wishes of less than one percent of the people in this great state?”

Another reader answered the majority rule argument by reminiscing: “When I was in elementary school, classes were shut down during the weekday session of the LDS general conference, and the proceedings were broadcast throughout the school for the teachers’ benefit.”

The letter continued: “By the time I entered high school that practice, along with teacher prayers, had stopped. But every event, be it a basketball game, class play, pep rally or assembly, began with a student prayer.” He was harassed for refusing to pray at a pep rally. The writer concluded: “Before anyone starts throwing labels at me, I am not an atheist. I am a devout Christian who believes in America. I should have the right to pray—or not to pray—as I wish. Utah is still part of the United States, isn’t it?”

Cartoonist Calvin Grondahl encapsulated the issue by draping a [p.113]caricature of Bangerter in a flag reading “School Prayer” alongside U.S. president George Bush, wrapped in the American flag. “Very becoming, Governor,” Bush was saying, while Bangerter replied, “Thank you.”

By 1990’s end various diplomats, including University of Utah law professor Edwin B. Firmage and Democratic state representative Grant Protzman, encouraged the adoption of a moment of silence to resolve the divisive issue. Moments of silent prayer had already been ruled unconstitutional, but Protzman said his moment would provide quiet “without requiring anything.”

In the Standard-Examiner Parish responded for the ACLU: “I hate to always be saying something negative, but I think this is really nothing more than an attempt to do an end run on the U.S. Constitution and slide prayer through the back door.…” Parish, the Standard added, “questioned whether the moment of silence would even be legal,” adding, “but ‘Whether or not something is legal doesn’t really have anything to do with what passes in Utah,’ she said.” Her comment was not necessarily untrue, but it was again, by local standards, not nice.

As the battle raged, Brian Barnard celebrated the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights by giving the ACLU a $1,000 investment certificate. Having fired the first shot in the prayer battle by suing Jordan District, Barnard was quoted in the Tribune: “Given the need for eternal vigilance to protect civil rights, I’m sure the ACLU will be serving an important function two hundred years from now.… And I’m equally sure the Bill of Rights will still need protection.”

Looking back over the years of Barnard’s support, both public and private, Parish would comment, “If there’s any hero in all this, it’s Brian. He’s worked with every executive director. Despite our friendly rivalry to see who could get the most press, he was always there for me.”

Barnard’s practical foresight was justified when, in May, the Deseret News reported that U.S. district judge Thomas Greene had denied a preliminary injunction prohibiting prayer at an Orem High School graduation. “The ruling means the judge was not convinced that the American Civil Liberties Union is likely to win its lawsuit against graduation prayers in Granite and Alpine school districts,” the News reported. “Students at Granite and Olympus voted not to have prayer at their graduations. Granite High students have chosen instead to include [p.114]a poem or thought in the ceremony. Olympus students opted for a moment of silence.”

As the controversy simmered, Barnard continued battling on another front, “this time representing the Society of Separationists. They had sued the Salt Lake City Council for opening meetings with prayer. The council responded with guidelines for prayers that encouraged diversity in those who offered them.

Prayer at city council meetings was ruled unconstitutional by Third District Court judge J. Dennis Frederick. Parish had sent more than 200 letters to government officials over this issue, urging them “to clean up the church/state stuff.”

The Deseret News quoted Parish saying: “We can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way. I’m fully prepared for either way… But I expect there will be some officials who want to use taxpayers’ money to fund their own religious point of view. They will end up in court.” The Tribune reported that some city councils planned to continue praying. Woods Cross voluntarily discontinued prayers, and Parish commended city officials.

The strategy of prayer proponents in Utah began shifting. If prayers offered in schools and government meetings were unconstitutional, the thinking went, why not change the content of the state—or even the national—constitution? The News began to editorialize that “it should not be difficult to draft” an amendment, adding, “the simpler the language the better.”

The language that needed to be amended appeared in Section Four of the state constitution:

The State shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. There shall be no union of Church or State, nor shall any church dominate the State or interfere with its functions. No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or for the support of any ecclesiastical establishment. …

The latter sentence, in particular, was cited by Frederick in finding city council prayers in violation. Public time and, therefore, money were spent on arranging and offering prayers. After Frederick’s decision a [p.115]truce ensued while the Salt Lake City Council appealed to the Utah Supreme Court.

Now Bangerter encouraged legislators to seek a special session to resolve the issue. If the courts would not allow the practice, perhaps a legislative solution was in order, as suggested by the News.

Under the governor’s supervision a group was organized to consider an amendment. Known as the Religious Liberties Amendment committee, its first four members were all Republican, all male, and all LDS. This caused a predictable stir, and Democrats and non-Mormons were added, eventually including clergy from most of the state’s denominations.

Thus the groundwork was laid for continuing public prayer in Utah even as the U.S. Supreme Court issued its anxiously-awaited ruling on Lee v. Weisman in the summer of 1992. The high court determined that prayer at high school graduations violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. This resounding ACLU victory halted prayers in Utah’s schools except when an occasional student leapt to the podium, prayed, and then was applauded.

In Utah the larger issue was not yet decided, for both the high court or the legislature could act to re-open government meetings to prayer. In December 1992 the Utah Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the Salt Lake City Council lawsuit. City attorney Roger Cutler maintained that prayer had a secular purpose and should be allowed since it was not “necessarily a religious exercise.”

Brian Barnard insisted that Utah should be tolerant of religion but intolerant of government-supported prayer. The Deseret News quoted ACLU attorney Kathryn Kendell that such prayers were “an impermissible endorsement of religion.”

While the Utah Supreme Court deliberated, the drive to amend the constitution gathered energy. Astonished, the Utah ACLU realized that the public prayer battle might lie not in the past but in the future. The rhetoric changed quickly. Rather than threatening litigation, representatives of the ACLU and the Separationists began urging caution and due process. Why rush into anything as fundamental as a constitutional amendment? Why risk offending Utahns who were not Mormon at the least, or at worst hazard igniting a religious war? The question was [p.116) before the Utah Supreme Court. Certainly any constitutional change should wait for that ruling, they suggested. The court’s ruling, however, would not come swiftly.

The December 1992 issue of Church & State, published in Maryland by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, featured the Utah controversy in a cover story by Rob Boston entitled “Whither Zion.” The article began:

Chris Allen never intended to spark a constitutional crisis in Utah. The 46-year-old Park City resident simply wanted government officials to abide by the Utah Constitution’s church-state separation provisions.

“The language of the Utah Constitution was being violated all over the place,” charges Allen, director of the Society of Separationists, a statewide church-state separation group affiliated with Texas-based atheist leader Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

After giving background on the lawsuit against the Salt Lake City Council, the article continued: “Their surprise courtroom victory earlier this year brought an unexpected backlash: efforts by the state legislators to rewrite the Utah Constitution. As a result, Utah is now locked in a heated debate that could bring big changes in religious liberty for residents of the Beehive State.”

As usual, within that debate the ACLU would talk as loudly and fast as anyone.