Every now and again, Americans need reminding that the Bill of Rights secures to all citizens essential civil and religious liberties, including protection against majoritarian persecution and discrimination.
In times of political division, it’s important to remind all citizens, especially those who may feel unwelcome in modern American life, that local lawmakers are still bound by the Constitution and not mere collective caprice; that America, to paraphrase John Adams, is still a nation of laws and not the passing whims of women or men in political power.
Today, Gov. Gary Herbert signs an important resolution unanimously passed by Utah’s Legislature, declaring that local lawmakers are committed to protecting the “civil liberties, religious freedoms, and dignity of all Americans, (and) legal immigrants” while also encouraging “compassion for refugees seeking protection in the state of Utah.”
We have in the past cast a critical eye toward resolutions or “message bills,” which, at their worst, divert needless attention away from bills that may carry the force of law during Utah’s short legislative session.
Given the political context, and Utah’s distinct religious demographics, this resolution sends a worthy message. Many within the legal immigrant and refugee communities in Utah have expressed unease with the national political focus suddenly putting more scrutiny on immigration generally and refugee vetting specifically.
Whatever one’s views on national immigration policies, Utahns should support the state’s commitment to the Constitution.
This is especially true in light of the state’s founding as a refuge for, as the resolution states, “oppressed people” who were fleeing religious persecution. After the Mormon pioneers' arrival nearly 170 years ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns this paper, has been the majority faith throughout the state.
Yet, because early Latter-day Saints were targeted as a religious minority, the faith has understood something of the plight of those being persecuted, and it earnestly strives to protect freedoms of religion and conscience for all people.
The resolution follows in the best of this tradition, recognizing that Utah is now home to an increasingly eclectic array of people from various ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds.
The statement affirms that all are welcome in Utah to peacefully toil for the betterment of the individual and the state’s collective hive.
“From the time I first immigrated to the United States and became a citizen decades ago, I have felt welcome here in Utah,” said Utah businessman Khosrow B. Semnani, a strong supporter of the resolution and an Iranian-born immigrant to the state. “Utahns understand the struggles, hopes and dreams of the immigrants. It is a state built on gathering and caring for the immigrant.”