Summarized by Kent Larsen
First Time in 70 Years: High Court All Mormon
Salt Lake Tribune (AP) 7May00 D2
By Paul Foy: Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The LDS Church's dominance of the seats on
the Utah Supreme Court isn't a problem, according to Chief Justice
Richard C. Howe. Howe's comments were part of an Associated Press
story on the most recent two appointments to the Court by Governor
Mike Leavitt, who is also an LDS Church member, which broke a
tradition dating from 1926 of having at least one non-Mormon on the
"I don't see anything wrong with it," Howe told The Associated Press.
"Whether you belong to one church or another shouldn't make any
difference on this court. What we want on this court are men and
women of good character and legal ability, and their own private view
on religion really doesn't enter into their decisions on this court.
There may be an exception once in a while, but it would be very
But the Associated Press was quick to note what might appear to be
problems, including a 1993 decision that upheld prayers at government
meetings, in which four of the five justices on the Court at the time
were Mormon. The Society of Separationists, which brought the case,
thought that the Utah constitution, which mandates a greater
separation of Church and State than in the Federal constitution,
would support their view. Christopher Allen, Utah director for the
Society of Separationists, thinks the dominance clearly affects their
decisions, "I have zero confidence in them," he said.
The LDS Church's dominance in public affairs in Utah does bother many
non-Mormons in the state, "Anybody who lives here knows where all the
power is," says Matt Gilmore, 90, former general counsel to the Utah
Tax Commission. "You got a Supreme Court that's all Mormon, a
Legislature that's practically all Mormon, an executive department
headed up by a Mormon and a Republican Party that's all Mormon."
A major test of the Court's independence could come soon because of
the Utah ACLU's lawsuit against the LDS Church and Salt Lake City
over the sale of a block of Main Street to the Church. Regardless of
the lower court's decision in the matter, it is possible that the
loosing side will appeal -- to the Utah Supreme Court.