One of the functions of religious leaders in a democracy is to add their moral voice to issues of public importance. This is why churches take positions on social issues.
While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches its members to avoid alcohol altogether, it acknowledges that alcoholic beverages are available to the public. The Church has always called for reasonable regulations to (1) limit overconsumption, (2) reduce impaired driving and (3) work to eliminate underage drinking. The Church will continue to focus on these public health and safety requirements.
In this, the Church adds its voice to those of many others. Parents inform their children about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. Teachers and community leaders educate the public. State laws control the distribution of harmful substances.
The cost of alcohol abuse is clear. Consumption of alcohol is a significant contributor to death and disease in the United States, damaging individuals and families and striking at the heart of communities. Overconsumption of alcohol increases the incidence of spouse and child abuse. Among confirmed cases of children who are abused, more than 40% involve the use of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol accounts for approximately 75,000 deaths in the United States annually and $184 billion in overall economic costs to the nation each year. More than a third of fatal vehicle collisions are related to alcohol. In 2005 a staggering 16,885 alcohol-related vehicle collisions ended in death.
The positive consequences of Utah’s current regulations on alcohol consumption are readily apparent. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 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 control overconsumption have been strengthened. No doubt Utah will engage this issue again in next year’s legislative session, as it has done for decades past.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that Utahns, including those who work in the hospitality industry, can come together as citizens, regardless of religion or politics, to support laws and regulations that allow individual freedom of choice while preserving Utah’s proven positive health and safety record on limiting the tragic consequences of overconsumption of alcohol.