When The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a statement on alcohol on its Newsroom Web site earlier this week, it was gratifying to see such a warm and positive response on such a widely debated and controversial topic. Nevertheless, in the rush to get a reaction, some news reporters completely overlooked what 95 percent of the statement was about.
There was nothing in the statement about a "softening" of the church's central concern about alcohol and its debilitating effects on families and communities. The church is not abandoning its long-held convictions that over-consumption of alcohol is a crucial public health issue.
For the record, here is a re-cap of the statement's main points, which can still be read in full at newsroom.lds.org.
• The church has always called for reasonable regulations to (1) limit overconsumption, (2) reduce impaired driving and (3) eliminate underage drinking. The church will continue to focus on these public safety issues.
• The church adds its voice to those of many others in the community warning of the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.
• Consumption of alcohol is a significant contributor to death and disease in the United States.
• The positive consequences of Utah's current regulations on alcohol consumption are readily apparent. Utah has the lowest percentage of alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths in America. It also has the lowest per-capita alcohol consumption in the nation.
• The regulatory measures that the 50 states use to control overconsumption of alcohol are many and varied. Both in the United States and in many other nations, laws that reduce drunk driving, discourage underage drinking and overconsumption have been strengthened.
The church statement says nothing about private clubs, whether there are better measures to achieve desired objectives or what those measures might be. All of that is a matter for public debate later in the year and in the Utah Legislature in 2009.Having said that, the last paragraph of the church statement says it believes that all Utahns can come together to support laws and regulations that allow individual freedom of choice while preserving the state's proven health and safety record. All of us should be able to agree on the need to limit the tragic consequences of overconsumption of alcohol.
Bill Evans is a church lobbyist who has represented the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on alcohol for more than two decades.