Recent events affecting The Church of Jesus Christ of a Latter-day Saints have provided a little more context to a bill that put before the Utah Legislature earlier this year before being resoundingly defeated in the court of public opinion.
The bill proposed making Utah a two-party consent state for recording conversations, in effect requiring that both parties consent to any conversation before being recorded. A few states, like California, have adopted such a policy, which largely negates the purpose of recording conversations in the first place.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, sponsored the bill this past session with Rep. Lowry Snow, R-St. George. Both legislators were surprised at the sudden and overwhelming backlash soon after the bill draft became public.
“I’ve rarely seen a bill that has had so much opposition so quickly,” Weiler said. “Obviously, this idea is hitting a nerve with the public, and not in a good way.”
While the Legislature did the right thing by killing the bill, recent events cause us to question why, and how, the bill came to be in the first place. Legislators insist that the LDS Church did not request the bill, but the timing makes the claim incredible.
Last week MormonLeaks published a taped conversation between a woman and Joseph L. Bishop, who is a former president of the LDS Missionary Training Center. In the conversation, Bishop admitted asking to see the woman’s breasts over 30 years ago when she was a missionary under his authority.
The church knew about the tape in January, before the start of the legislative session.
The woman has accused Bishop of taking her down to a basement room in the MTC and sexually assaulting her. On the long and tortured recorded conversation, Bishop admits to inappropriate activities with the woman and others under his supervision.
The tape has appropriately sparked outrage over the LDS Church’s handling of the matter over the past 30 years, as this woman has attempted to demand some accountability from the church for Bishop’s actions. She has received none, as he was never released from positions of authority despite her allegations.
The tape, as well as other stories over the past few years including Gov. Gary Herbert’s admission to lobbyists that he was “Available Jones” to anyone who wanted to meet with him — in exchange for campaign contributions — illustrates the important policy implications of requiring consent before making a recording.
If the LDS Church, or other churches, or government officials, worry about being surreptitiously recorded, they should just assume that they always are, and conduct themselves accordingly.