The Church, the State (of Utah), and Welfare

On Thursday, ProPublica and the Salt Lake Tribune published a fascinating article detailing a link between Utah, the church, and welfare payments. I assume most readers here have already read it. If not, you really need to read it. Maybe before reading this post but, if not before, definitely right after.

The tl;dr of the article is this: since about 2009, Utah has underspent on its social safety net. Also, based on an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) it signed with the church, it has counted volunteer hours performed for the church in calculating how much it has spent.

Reading the article the first time, though, left me with questions. And it turns out I’m not the only one who didn’t entirely understand what was going on: on Friday, the Editorial Board of the Tribune published an unsigned op-ed, the heart of which were these three paragraphs:

As an independent, non-government organization, the LDS Church is unquestionably free to give or deny aid to whomever it wishes, for whatever reasons it wishes.

But once a church’s welfare system gets tied to the state’s federally funded welfare operation, in the way the LDS Church’s efforts are linked to Utah’s, it is not so independent any more. It becomes a de facto arm of the state that, in these instances, pushes people to follow the rules of, or even formally affiliate themselves with, a religious organization in order to receive benefits they need to survive.

That is an obvious violation of the First Amendment’s ban on the establishment of religion in America.

It turns out that the Editorial Board entirely misunderstood what the relevance of the story it published was. Now, I don’t know anybody on the editorial board of the Trib, but I’ve been lucky enough to converse with a number of its reporters. And honestly, if the Editorial Board is half as smart, inquisitive, and engaged as the paper’s reporters, its missing the boat like that suggests that an explainer is in order.

A caveat first, though: U.S. welfare law is not my primary area of focus. Also, I don’t have any inside perspective into either the church’s or the Utah legislature’s minds. I’m basing this post primarily on the excellent ProPublic/Trib reporting, reading the MOU (which the reporters were kind enough to embed in the story and which I’ve now linked to), looking at the law, and some speculation. Where I’m speculating, I’ll say I’m speculating. Where it comes to speculation, and especially where it comes to speculation about the motives of the church and the Utah legislature, I could clearly be wrong. But I don’t think I am.

A Quick Look at the State of U.S. Welfare Law

In 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, fulfilling his campaign promise to “end welfare as we know it.” For our purposes, the signal accomplishment of the law was replacing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Under AFDC, the federal government reimbursed a portion of state welfare payments. Under AFDC, states were required to provide aid to all state residents within certain federally-defined classes and whose income and assets were within state-defined ranges.

TANF shifted the rules states faced significantly. Under TANF, states get a block grant that they can use almost however they want. (I exaggerate a little, but not much.) Even under TANF, though, there were rules: in most cases, states have to spend at least 80% of what they spent on welfare in 1994, before the TANF program was instituted. (This is called the maintenance of effort (MOE) provision. You notice a lot of acronyms? It turns out attorneys and lawmakers like acronyms!)

What happens if a state doesn’t meet its MOE requirements? The following year, the federal government will reduce its TANF block grant dollar-for-dollar by the amount the state failed to spend.

And this leads us to the agreement between Utah and the church:

What’s in it for the Church?

When I first read the story, my big question was, what’s in it for the church? Why is it agreeing to this MOU?

I mean, it’s clear what’s in it for the state: the state is counting donations to the church toward its MOE requirements. Specifically, the church agreed to allow the state to count volunteer hours at, for example, Welfare Square toward its MOE requirements. (In fact, a significant number of pages in the MOU between Utah and the church is dedicated to calculating the monetary value of donated services.)

The ProPublica/Tribune article points out that, by counting these service hours (up to a value of $15 million per year), the state of Utah has managed to spend $75 million less than it otherwise would have needed to spend.

But how about the church? It’s not like the state is paying it for the use of volunteer hours. And it’s not like members are volunteering more because it counts toward the state’s obligations. I suspect that with or without the MOU, church members would have volunteered precisely the same service.

And, as people interviewed in the story point out, the service members provided didn’t necessarily accrue to Utah’s poor; the numbers may count humanitarian aid that is shipped out of state.

The answer to the question of what the church gets out of it, I suspect, is the final bullet point on page 3 of the MOU. In part, it reads: “As a condition of use of Welfare Services expenditures, DWS or the state of Utah will not reduce spending on services eligible under the TANF program or other services for poor and needy individuals and families in the state of Utah as a result of the TANF MOE documented through this agreement.”

In other words (and this part is speculation, but the documentation strongly suggests that I’m right) what the church got out of it was that Utah couldn’t reduce the TANF portion of its social safety net spending (by, for example, diverting the money other places).

The Utah Legislature Frankly Sucks

The article points out that as soon as Clinton signed TANF, Utah made significant changes to its welfare, creating a labyrinthine process that rejects a high percentage of applicants. Which leads me to further speculation that, based on the way the Utah legislature as addressed welfare, I also suspect is correct.

The article frames this as the church allowing Utah to spend $75 million less than it would have otherwise spent. But that assumes it would have spent enough on welfare to avoid federal penalties.

Now I’m not a Utahn, so I don’t have to pay close attention to the Utah legislature. But the casual attention I’ve paid suggests that on the whole it is largely indifferent to the welfare of the poor. Did the church save it from spending $75 million? That’s a fair assumption if you believe that, had the church not agreed to let the state count its members’ service, Utah would have spent the money. But if you believe Utah wouldn’t have spent the money under any circumstance, then without the MOU, the state would not only have spent $75 million less, but it would have lost another $75 million of federal matching money. Which means that, without the MOU, Utah would have spent $150 million less on welfare, not just $75 million less.

Is that legal? In the article, a spokesperson for the state says it is and that lots of states do the same thing. And I assume they’re right? Like I said, this isn’t my area of expertise, so I don’t actually know.

What I’m saying is, based on the documentation, it looks like, by allowing the state to count its volunteer hours, the church actually prevented significant welfare cuts. (In fact, the deal seems to have been brokered in 2009, in the height of the Great Recession. And the Great Recession hit Utah hard: high unemployment rates and low labor participation rates suggest that many Utahns probably needed the welfare benefits the legislature was so eager to deny them.)

So What’s Up with the Church-State Stuff?

Here’s where we get some conflation. Because the article also mentions that the state sends people who have been denied welfare to the church; the church may or may not provide non-members with welfare and it may or may not impose requirements on people who request welfare.

But the thing is, this is completely unrelated to the MOU or any other agreement between the state of Utah and the church. Here’s another place I’m speculating, but this is what I suspect is happening (and someone interviewed in the story seems to think the same thing): Utah rejects A. Lot. of applications for welfare. Like, it only provides benefits for about 10% of families living in poverty.

I assume that most caseworkers in Utah actually legitimately want to help the people who come to them who need help. And I assume that, since they don’t get to make the rules, they have to reject a lot of requests from people who need help. And I assume they don’t particularly want to reject these needs. So what do they do?

They try to suggest other places people can get help. And in Utah, one of those other places is the church.

(I’ll note here that the idea that Utah is trying to pawn off its responsibilities to care for the poor on private organizations, including the church, is a huge dereliction of its obligations and is deeply immoral. But it’s also infeasible. The church’s welfare system is pretty good for what it does. But what it does isn’t going to scale to take care of all needs. You know the church’s $100 billion fund? Yeah, that would pay for about 1/7 the amount U.S. state and local governments spent on welfare in 2018. It wouldn’t even begin to touch the amount the federal government, or non-U.S. governments, spend.)

There’s no indication that there’s an agreement between the church and Utah that the church will act as a formal backstop for the state’s irresponsibility. And as far as I can tell, even the state doesn’t have a formal policy of sending welfare applicants to the church.

Which is why, in the end, the Tribune is entirely wrong that this is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Because the church isn’t acting as an arm of the state. Its private welfare decisions are unrelated to the agreement between the church and the state. The agreement, in fact, expands the state’s ability to fund its welfare obligations. And the agreement obligates the state to provide at least a baseline.

So Are We All Good?

No. In fact, I think the church should end its MOU with the state of Utah. Not because its a constitutional violation. And not because it will cause the state to spend more on welfare. (In fact, it will likely cause the state to lose federal funds and spend less on welfare.)

But it’s not fair to let the Utah legislature use the church’s goodwill to skirt its own expenses. The legislature seems to like the idea of self-reliance. Or at least, it likes to require welfare recipients to take self-reliance courses. But the state avoids making difficult decisions (like raising taxes) because it can take advantage of other people’s money (or, rather, time and efforts).

Because there is a villain in this story. And the villain is the Utah legislature.

But here’s the problem: the villain in the story has the church–and the people of Utah–in a tough place. If the church ends the MOU, there’s no reason to believe that the legislature will start spending that $15 million per year. And if it doesn’t, that will hurt poor Utahns by $30 million per year. Meanwhile, the MOU doesn’t cost the church anything, and no cost to ensure poor Utahns get an additional $30 million a year seems like a small price.

And the Utah legislature won’t (probably) be directly hurt even if they hurt the poor in the state. Still, they need to be held accountable. And the church needs to stop subsidizing their irresponsible disregard for their obligations to the poor.

A Tangential Aside

It’s not particularly relevant to the ProPublica/Tribune story but it’s also worth noting that, if we’re interested in helping people be self-reliant, welfare provides generational benefits. And those benefits come with little if any net cost when we factor in the future taxes both beneficiaries and their children will pay.

Comments

  1. I’m curious about the church rules on providing assistance. I think they changed when I wasn’t paying close attention (mid-00s perhaps?) but it’s difficult to document change of that sort. What I remember from the 1990s is that assistance to non-members was not allowed and assistance to members not attending regularly was strongly discouraged.
    Now the GHI reads:
    “Assistance can be given regardless of whether the member regularly attends Church meetings or follows Church standards.”
    and
    “Persons who are not members of the Church are usually referred to local community resources for assistance. On rare occasions, as guided by the Spirit, the bishop may assist them with fast offerings or bishops’ orders.”

    Maybe nobody else cares, but I have always cared about how we help the least self-sufficient among us and fret about distinctions that exclude on other grounds than need. Mixing accounting with state funds heightens my concern.

  2. I am quite concerned about using, or even hinting, the qualification to receive assistance from the Church, you must join the Church. That reminds me of the disastrous sports team baptisms of the past.

    Then, there’s the “Leadership Roulette” again, by judging others for assistance. If a Bishop feeling that there is no such thing like autoimmune disease, like in the one instance of the ProPublica article, a person that is really ill can denied assistance. On a side note, Pres. George Albert Smith now appears to have had some kind of autoimmune disease.

  3. I remember reading the story and thinking two things: 1. “I hope Sam Brunson does a post about this.” and 2. “This article keeps trying to make the church look bad, when it’s really all the state.”
    I get why states would try to craft rules that say that private organization can help out with providing for the poor, but the ProPublica article really showed how it can go awry. I agree with your assessment that the problem is the Utah Legislature and not the church. Complaining that you’d have to raise taxes to meet bare minimum standards for providing for your citizens is pretty shady.

  4. Thank you for the additional information. I was honestly confused by the article, and you’ve clarified things for me. Still a bad situation, though.

  5. Tad Norman says:

    So, the Utah State Legislature is the villain and the LDS Church bears no responsibility because, of course, the LDS Church has no influence whatever in the actions of the legislature. Have I got that right?

  6. Mike H., I don’t think baseball baptisms are entirely analogous here. If the church were going out proselyting and telling people, Hey, we have welfare benefits and all you have to do is join the church to get them!, then you’d be spot on. But here it’s a non-church organization sending people to the church to get benefits. And the requirement to get benefits may be a little too loosey-goosey (I’d prefer a more centralized standard here), it’s fair that the church establishes rules for who it will help and under what circumstances. Like I said in the OP, the church’s welfare program only scales to a certain extent.

    jader3rd, I thought the ProPublica article was mostly good. It didn’t give all the context I would have liked, but it was long already and it took me a couple thousand words to give that context. And the big thing it did was actually provide the text of the MOU. I read a lot of legal journalism and it’s often really, really hard to find the legal documents the story is discussing. (There are some journalists who are an exception to that and I deeply appreciate their work.) The biggest problem was that it was telling two stories–the MOU and the state sending people to the church for welfare–which, it turns out, are unconnected other than they both stem from the state’s underinvestment in its social safety net.

    Tad, yes, basically. Actually, with a caveat–the church did exercise its influence here. To ensure that the state kept paying out a minimum amount of TANF benefits to the poor. But the implication that somehow the church is a puppetmaster controlling the legislature is stupid. The church probably has a better-than-average batting average when it lobbies but the legislature makes its own political decisions. And Utahns should hold the legislature responsible when those decisions are horrible; by blaming the church, you let legislators off the hook.

  7. Tad I am a Utah resident and I think you overestimate the church’s influence on the Utah legislature, which really is awful in many ways. Partly because the church tries hard not to do that but also because the legislature, while being overwhelmingly church members, is politically far more influenced by right wing extremism (like the republican party in general right now).

  8. Tad Norman says:

    It was not my intention to let legislators off the hook. I would like to be able to applaud the church for lobbying as strenuously to correct the “state’s underinvestment in its social safety net” as it does for other interests it, apparently, deems to be more important. I don’t believe that legislators are necessarily let off the hook if the church is blamed, unless, of course, we can’t imagine more than a single culpable party. In my case, at least, I wouldn’t support a candidate whom I thought to be a puppet of the church even if I thought the church to be “a puppetmaster controlling the legislature,” which I don’t. Actual lobbying is not the only way the church influences legislation in Utah. I would like, for example, to see the doctrine? of “the evils of the dole” denounced at least as effectively as the former doctrine preventing black males from being ordained.

  9. I was asked this week by my Relief Society President/Bishop to seek out all in need of help for Christmas within my neighbor, both member and those not of our faith.

  10. Interesting and I will look more into this. The Utah legislature is, indeed, awful – and unfortunately with its most recent gerrymandering has made it more difficult for Utah residents to make it less awful.

  11. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Always a fair and even-handed analysis, Sam. Thanks.

    As for what the Church might get out of this, I have some suspicions. These are based upon my well-honed cynicism, so should be taken with a few grains of salt. It’s possible that a Church official (at some level) sees the MOU as an opportunity to funnel those not connected to, or loosely connected to, the Church for welfare assistance. It is, as has been noted, a variation of the baseball/basketball baptisms model. It’s a novel form proselytizing in a region that has been overly saturated. It also gives a Bishop more power over members of his Ward who are living a lifestyle he does not approve of. It’s also possible that, by allowing the state to count its welfare efforts, the Church has freed up these state funds to be used on projects the Church supports but can’t otherwise implement. For example, the Church can’t compel non-members to get married, or to curb their sexual activities, or to look for work, etc. (the 4-H programs supported by state funds are an example of this). But the state can do that, and does do that, and now has more welfare funding available to direct toward those efforts. Maybe Church officials are hinting at these things with a wink and a nod, but most likely they simply have their finger on the pulse of the state legislature and are confident the monies would go toward those kinds of things.

    But, on the whole, I have been impressed with how the Church typically responds to those in need. The Bishop who says “Give me a list of what they need and I’ll take care of it” is most common in my (non-Utah) experience. The response to those in need over the past 2 years has been one of the few bright spots in my perception of Church leaders during this period. But the anecdotes in the article about individual Bishop responses, while surely outliers, are entirely believable to anyone who has interacted with a few Bishops in their lifetime, and that’s they stuff that made me want to throw things while reading.

  12. Mack, your convoluted proselytizing scheme sounds more complicated than what the Missionary Dept. and Church Welfare bureaucracies could coordinate. It’s not impossible, of course, but leans too conspiratorial by my lights.

  13. Sam, I disagree that this is all the fault of the legislature. Yes, I think the legislature is awfully slimy, but the church has been caught in bed with the legislature. Now, I know society has more of a tendency to blame the woman who gets pregnant without marriage, but usually the man involved is as guilty if not more. So, let’s not blame one party and hold the other one innocent in this case of hopping into bed with each other. The church willingly went into an agreement that feels shady even if it isn’t illegal.

    And doesn’t the church count those same volunteer hours towards it own count of donations received? Strikes me as counting those hours twice, once to make the church look good (I have no problem with this) and once to save the state some money (I do have a problem with this as the volunteers are not told how their hours are counted)

  14. A Turtle Name Mack says:

    i think that’s fair, Kristine. In my cynical distrust of Church leadership I tend to overlook their inability to pull off whatever conspiratorial scheme I envision. It may be that their general incompetence and the convoluted bureaucracy they maintain are the things that prevent them from being the nefarious actors I sometimes fear them to be. I’m hoping they continue to prove me wrong. And let me emphasize, again, that I genuinely do believe that the Church’s response to those in need is generally not just impressive but has made a very real and very tangible difference in the lives of people the world over – member or otherwise.

  15. Thanks, Sam. I am a Utah resident, and all I can say is that the Utah legislature rarely does anything to help those who really need help. It is a self-serving body that has just gerrymandered itself into permanent power. Underfunded schools, unassisted poor, and culture crusades—that is the legacy of the Utah GOP legislature. But Utahns will still keep voting against their own interests because they think GOP means God’s Only Party.

  16. Former Bishop says:

    I would like to add my perspective as a former Bishop (not from the within the jello-belt, but fairly adjacent to it). I was trained to use my own judgment and not to worry about providing too much help as long as I stayed within the rules of the handbook with the caveat that welfare help is “primarily for the members”.

    Jesus said “The poor you will have with you always” and it is absolutely true, the balance comes in knowing when to help and when not to, since even Jesus saw the value in not selling the Mary’s perfume to help the poor. Certainly I was freer with help than other Bishops and I suspected it was because I grew up in poverty and often was the one who loaded the family station wagon full of food from the Bishops Warehouse as a teenager. Once I was questioned as a 16 year old why we needed so many gallons of milk. I just said I have 7 siblings and a single mom, if you need to know any more ask the Bishop. The guy then helped me fill up the car with the rest of the food order.

    As a Bishop I did help nonmembers on occasion, but it was the exception per the handbook. For members I was eager to help where I could and really tried to get to the bottom of their budgets when there was repeated needs. Perhaps I was too free with my help, and in some cases I know I was and eventually had to withdraw help when the recipients weren’t making progress towards self-reliance when they actually had the income to rise out of it. But there is a large group of people without the income to climb out of poverty or if they do it is a much slower climb. These are the people we will always have with us. These people have immense medical debt. Others have been in prison and are being financially punished by society after serving time due to job denial or impossible probationary rules for skill training programs.

    As I was nearing the end of my five years and as newer Bishops came into the fold, I very soon found my beliefs regarding welfare to be the minority within our Bishops Welfare Council. An attitude started to arise about requiring extra hoops for members to pass through to receive help. One Bishop even started denying help if his spending might exceed the amount of fast offerings being collected. I spoke up about my objection to it but the Stake President also didn’t correct him. I worried that an idea like that could take hold, and that I might be forced to do the same. Of all the wards in my city, mine was certainly the poorest. I always kept an eye on how much we collected in fast offerings and how much I spent. Had I been forced into such a program, I would have helped only half the people I normally did in a year.

    Thank goodness for Church Welfare. I am happy to belong to a church that spends so much helping the poor. I worry about Bishop’s Roullete and about the implications this article may have on future welfare distribution. I hope our leaders both in and out of the church will resolve this in a way that helps more people eventually. Certainly holding the legislaters accountable is a first step towards that end.

  17. Anna, I’ll confess that I can’t figure out what bad thing you’re claiming the church has done here. Let Utah underspend on its welfare obligations? Like I said in the OP, I have no reason to believe that, had the church not entered into the MOU, the state would have stepped up its welfare spending. I would be thrilled to be proven wrong but, based on my at-a-distance view of the Utah legislature (and especially their hostility toward the poor and toward raising taxes), I think they would have reduced spending no matter what, thus losing federal dollars.

    Not given welfare payments to some people? If they were an arm of the government, maybe this would be a problem (though honestly, the people who went to the church had already been rejected by the state, so I’m not sure why they’d qualify if the church were acting on behalf of the state). There’s no suggestion in the article that the church asked the state to send people it had rejected for welfare.

    So I’m not sure how the church is in bed with the Utah legislature in general but, more specifically, in this case. And there clearly could be information I’m missing—I’m going off of publicly available information. But from that publicly available information, it’s hard to see the church here doing anything other than ensuring a base level of welfare spending by the state.

    Also, fwiw, I don’t know what you mean by “counting those hours twice.” The church doesn’t need to count donated hours for any purpose that I’m aware of and letting the state count those hours toward its TANF MOE requirements doesn’t affect the volunteers in any way.

  18. nobody, really says:

    Every bishopric in the church is required to watch a video, together, annually, on “Sacred Funds, Sacred Responsibilities”. In that video, they are told by three different general authorities that they are to send people to family and government before even thinking about giving church assistance. There’s a long, drawn-out, video-illustrated story about a young mother who goes in to the bishop for help, and the bishop gets on the phone to call a brother who has left Utah. “Your little sister needs you. She needs your help.” Supposedly, the unnamed brother gets on a plane and fixes everything, comes back to full activity himself, and the church didn’t have to give any aid. Then they are reminded how “inspired” this message is, and that they won’t get into “trouble” if they follow this inspired message at all times. The clear implication is, you can’t get into trouble if you never give assistance.

    If someone in Utah goes to the state for assistance, and is sent to the church, who in turn bounces them back to the state, they could almost be excused for thinking that the “powers that be” hope they die rather than get assistance. It’s part of the Prosperity Gospel – those without the blessings of food and housing have obviously sinned and do not deserve those things.

    I’m not in Utah, but used to be, and even at the DMV in Utah, I was told that complaints about the service desk closing early were a symptom of my apostasy. The Divine Right of Kings lives on.

  19. My brother-in-law is a Bishop in Utah. On a regular basis people move in, the state gets involved and tells the people to go to their Bishop. There is opposition in all things. There are two sides on this issue. I personally know Bishops struggle over some individual cases. They are caught between being a steward over the “Widow’s Mite” as President Hinckley use to teach and watching over his congregation making sure basic needs are met. I for one am grateful I have never been in the position to have to decide.

  20. I appreciate the clarification of the legal issues on the entanglement.

    Understanding that in a place so heavily inflected by LDS church membership that so many people are left without resources is appalling. For me, the story was one more sign that the institutional church has failed utterly to influence Christlike behavior and convert hearts to Christ’s ways.

  21. Sam, I am just saying that the church agreed to this, so I don’t think you can blame just the legislature. If you say the legislature is bad somehow for doing this, then at the very least the church is guilty of enabling that bad behavior. I just think when two organization are into something together, they are both responsible for the outcome.

    And since you are not the kind of person who rolls their eyes that the church counts up volunteer hours and then claims a cash amount as “in kind” donations as some kind of “bragging rights” and then tells everybody how much they donate to toot the church’s own horn, then of course you don’t mind that the state of Utah also claims “in kind” donation for those very same hours. Some people do get a little tired of the church bragging about how much it gives. As Christ said, the church has it’s reward.

  22. Anna, I’m not convinced you read the OP. Which may be my fault—I wrote it late at night when I really needed to be in bed, so maybe I wasn’t as clear as I should have been.

    So to summarize: the church doesn’t appear to have been enabling anything. Rather, it entered into an agreement that allowed the state to get more federal money on the condition that the state not reduce its welfare spending. It’s hard for me to see how that is “enabling” given that it created a better outcome for Utah’s poor and given that I suspect the legislature would have reduced the money in any event.

    As for the bragging about in-kind donations: I’m really lost here. Are you talking about something outside of the article? or are you talking about the conversion of volunteer hours into cash for purposes of the MOE? If the former, that’s fine. I’m not aware of it but can see how it could be annoying. If the latter, though, the federal government requires states to convert in-kind service into a cash equivalent amount. That conversion isn’t any type of bragging; it’s just a conversion based on relatively objective criteria.

    I’m happy to call out the church when it acts badly. And it certainly acts badly at times. But here, the ProPublica article provided lots of ways that Utah acted badly but, as far as I can tell, not that the church acted badly. Of course, I’m making certain assumptions, assumptions I flagged as such in the OP. If I got facts wrong, I welcome the correction.

  23. Shame on both of them says:

    I have never lived in UT but I have had to have assistance at the time when I was a new mother, my husband was between employment and I had a chronic illness that was putting me in the hospital an average of every 2 months leaving my husband as sole caretaker of our baby daughter and even more hard pressed to find new employment.

    The bottom line is the state of California provided us with Medical to take care of those mounting medical expenses and the federal government provided us with food stamps to carry on. We were on assistance for the best part of a year before my health stabilized, my husband was able to go back to full employment and we were self-sustaining again.

    To say I’m grateful to 2 governments goes without saying. But my point is that my husband went on, over time, to become a high six-figure earner. We pay our taxes gratefully in the hope that we are helping the next person in need get that kind of hand up.

    CA and the US made a very good investment in us. If they had not been available — if we had lived in UT — we might not have made it financially or mentally. Our daughter might have been raised in poverty and deprivation instead of becoming a professional woman. She may have continued a cycle of poverty. We might not have been able to go on to have or raise 2 more healthy, productive and contributing children.

    It is clear to me that UT is negligent and the church is misusing this opportunity to extort the vulnerable in a most unChristian manner.

  24. Roger Hansen says:

    The UT legislature is 85 percent LDS. The governor is LDS. The Church influences legislation on a number of issues including: alcohol sales, gambling, medical marijuana, anti-discrimination, ERA ratification, immigration, etc. Instead of being in bed with UT on welfare, it should be using it’s influence to encourage the state to greatly improve its social safety net.

  25. Thanks for the article Sam. No surprise to this Utah resident that the state legislature leaves Utah’s poor underserved. The one party rule in this state is terrible, and the legislature grabs for every bit of power it can take to make decisions.

    I hear many people talk about voting out political leaders like this, but in Utah you get more of the same leader type. And in rural Utah many positions are uncontested.

  26. Thank you for writing this post. I definitely came away from the original article disappointed in both parties, but I agree with Sam’s analysis here. I think the church prevented additional harm / negligence through this agreement. It’s still a bad agreement though. I’m grateful for people like former bishop who lead with their hearts.

    I am a Utah resident, and the legislature truly is terrible. To the people here who think the church runs the legislature, it’s much more limited than you think. They have truly awful ideas and a disregard for the poor all their own.

  27. Thanks for pointing out the article and for your analysis Sam. It’s good to be informed on what Utah and the Church is doing, which as a Utahn, I wasn’t aware of. Your recent comments clarified a lot for me. But I can’t help but feel a little differently about the hours I and many others have put in at the DI and the canneries when asking and being asked to serve there. I guess I’m trying not to resent helping the state not get their funding cut, but then to see how tight they are with it is another thing. I wonder how many of the Utah legislators themselves take time off work to answer the call to go work at the canneries?

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