Freedom From Religion in Utah

Religious News


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A Speech presented to Salt Lake Valley Atheists

See my Press releases

It is an honor to address the Salt Lake Valley Atheists. I sincerely appreciate the support you have shown to me over the past year during my struggles to try to save myself from the tyranny of the Mormon religious powers in the state courts of southern Utah. As you probably already know, the farcical charade of a trial based on accusations of a "decades long campaign of Hate and Terror" against residents of Utah is now over and the verdict is in:

   A Jury of my Peers

A jury of eight god-fearing citizens from Garfield County unanimously agreed that I should be personally destroyed for daring to file a civil lawsuit for assault in a Utah court against a recently retired State Park Manager Larry Davis, a a state of Utah P.O.S.T. trained Police officer. The all-Christian jury, with the capable help of the Mormon Judge, found that the bad behavior directed towards me by the Mormon Defendant at a Boulder Town meeting was justifiably provoked because I allegedly made faces at him and mouthed words at him.

Further provocation was justified because I have spoken out on social and environmental problems while living in their predominantly Mormon cattle ranching community for more than 20 years.

Large photos of signs for my beer store business named Freedom From Religion were shown at the Five-day trial in southern Utah.

I was repeatedly denounced as a person who intentionally provokes the populace into violating my rights and deserved what I got. They claim I am a "professional plaintiff" who creates controversy in order to cash in. In the minds of my accusers as well as the Judges and jury of Utah’s Sixth District Court, using the legal system to fight for my rights has been merely done for the ulterior purpose of greed.

Worse than Criminal

The jury decided I should pay the Defendant $75,000 because they believe I abused the legal process by filing a civil assault claim in Utah State court. This was $20,000 more than the Defendant claimed it cost him to defend against my assault claim. But if my simple claim was so frivolous, why was it not dismissed many years ago and why was a trial even necessary? The reason it was never dismissed was because I did have sufficient Probable Cause and a clear right under state law to file the assault claim. The essential element to prove Abuse of Process "requires the willful or intentional abuse of legal procedures for a wrongful or unlawful object or ulterior purpose not intended by the law." But how can legal procedure be violated by simply filing a lawsuit? The Jury was further instructed that; "the essence of the cause of action for abuse of process is a perversion of the process to accomplish some improper purpose, such as harassment or compelling the victim to do something which he would not be legally obliged to do. However, if the process is used for its proper and intended purpose, the mere fact that it has some other collateral effect does not constitute abuse of process." The jury ignored these guidelines and the judge is evidently planning to do the same if and when he certifies the verdict.

Abusing the Legal System?

I simply filed a claim for civil assault that only requires; "the Defendant, Larry Davis, acted intending to cause harmful or offensive contact" against me and I was "thereby put in imminent apprehension of harm or contact" by his actions. How can using the legal system to attempt to end threats and intimidation against me from this powerful public figure and husband of the Town Clerk be harassment? Mr. Davis admitted he that he got out of his seat during the public meeting and angrily came over to confront me. He admits he made comments about my needing a "bodyguard" and that I "was a coward hiding behind the skirts of a woman" after Lynne Mitchell and others intervened. He also pinned me against some school desks and threatened my life but denied that part. I had reason to complain about such behavior in a public meeting to discuss an illegally operated town building inspection program and consideration of prayer at town meetings. I should have a right to attend public meetings and voice my legitimate concerns without fear of violent threats and reprisals. This police officer later that night challenged me to physically fight him outside the school or at home. He had previously made similar threats while in uniform and on duty for Utah State Parks and been reprimanded. He also wrote a very defamatory letter about me the next morning at 5 AM to a member of the Town Council that was copied to the town council.

The Police investigate a fellow officer

After having my business signs destroyed the next two weeks and finding out about the hateful letter Davis wrote, I asked the police to investigate. The Garfield County Deputy took statements from myself and three other witnesses who supported my allegations but then waited for a month to even question other town council members after providing them with our statements. Most of the council refused to comment but two said they didn’t see anything. Larry Davis and his wife, the Town Clerk were never even interviewed. The final police report stated; "No physical assault can be supported by independent witnesses! However, intimidation may have been present! This case is closed to further investigation. The purpose was for both men to hear what their peers thought about their actions at the Feb. 1,1996 Boulder Meeting." The report was made six months after the assault and the Deputy was allowed to determine no assault occurred based on his assertion that there are no independent witnesses in Garfield County. If you are assaulted you can’t act as a witness for yourself. And others who side with you are not "independent" witnesses. This is how authorities operate here especially when the accused is a police officer and fellow Mormon.

Payback Time

With the premature counterclaims of "Malicious Prosecution, Abuse of Process, and Intentional Infliction of Severe Emotional Distress" being heard at the same time and trial as the assault claims it basically guaranteed there would not be a fair trial. My claim could have been heard in a day of testimony but four years and four extra days of trial were expended in my efforts to dismiss these counterclaims against me. The counterclaims were filed prematurely and go against all prior case law in Utah that clearly indicate my assault claim must have already been heard and terminated in favor of the defendant prior to filing such claims. The exorbitant jury verdict really had no basis other than for purposes of bigotry and revenge for speaking out against religious intolerance in Utah. At trial I was harshly berated for successfully winning a Federal Civil Rights verdict and awarded $86,000 against Boulder Town in 1999. The jury then decided to go one better by awarding $87,000 on the counterclaim for "Intentional Infliction of Severe Emotional Distress."

The instructions to the jury for Intentional Infliction of Severe Emotional Distress said that all three essential elements must be met for a verdict against me. It must be proven that I engaged in conduct "that is considered outrageous and intolerable in that it offends generally accepted standards of decency." And that my conduct was performed "with the purpose of inflicting emotional distress or that a reasonable person would know that such conduct would cause emotional distress." And third, "that severe emotional distress was the direct result" of my conduct.

It doesn't Pay to complain to the state

They claimed that I wrote 32 letters to the State government over a 12-year time period but that lie was not supported by the facts. Trial exhibits show that there were less than fifteen letters, many were merely requests for basic information on state policy, and on several other problems I questioned about the state of Utah. All of the letters were written between 1990 to 1993 and there were no further letters or contacts to the state about Anasazi Indian State Park or the defendant after that time. That is well beyond the four-year statute of limitation but both Judge David L. Mower who was later removed for bias and the trial Judge K.L. McIff ignored this. They said that filing the civil assault claim in state court in 1998 was included as part of the pattern of harassment so they linked everything from 1990 to the present day. But how can filing a civil lawsuit be considered an intolerable and outrageous act? Simply writing letters about problems in having Indian remains on public display, continued excavations of Indian graves, using the park as a site for a private business without a public bid process, teaching "spiritual awareness," as well as the rough treatment I received after questioning park policy by the staff including another assault incident by the park manager in front of the town Post Office cannot constitute harassment. It is the responsibility of park officials to respond to claims and they had full opportunity and did so in their 15 reply letters to me.

The State Park Manager, Larry Davis officially requested I put in writing all of my complaints about his park in his first reply letter to me in 1990. He then attacked me in the same paragraph by "having an axe to grind with the park," questioning my motives, and asking what "credentials" I had to make complaints about state parks. On April 14, 1992 the state park wrote two letters about me. The first was a reply to my request information that flatly refused any information and referred me to the State Division of History. The other was an official letter to Division of History warning them that I had been referred to them. That letter said; "You can judge for yourself as to the character of Mr. Hatch. I realize the material is lengthy but I believe it would be worth your time to review the letters-everyone needs at least one good laugh a day. If you have any questions about the letters please contact Larry Davis or myself. Happy reading!

The worst thing I ever did

I made a visit to the state Division of History and discovered this vindictive and defamatory letter so I wrote a short letter to the State Park Director and complained on April 20, 1992. In my frustration I ended the letter by saying; "As I have seen in the past and most recently, Mr. Davis is not the correct person to lead Anasazi State Park in efforts to deal with the public in an equitable and considerate way. He appears to be too emotionally attached to the old Anasazi State Park after twenty something years. We need someone to replace Mr. Davis and stop the continued abuses and problems that plague Anasazi Park." This was the most severe thing I ever wrote about Mr. Davis but I believe I had the right to express this opinion without being counter-sued six years later for infliction of emotional distress by this park employee. Mr. Davis apparently had to answer to his supervisors for such treatment of me but isn’t that just part of his job? His job with the state parks was never in jeopardy from anything I ever wrote or said. But Mormons are evidently easily hurt by any challenges or questioning of their personal authority even when working as government employees. The State Park Director wrote me a reply and claimed I was harassing his finest employee and refused to do anything more. Years before my problems with Mr. Davis, the Garfield County Commission wrote a strong letter to the state parks that said; "In our opinion, Mr. Davis constitutes a disruptive influence in our communities. We would appreciate your taking steps to see that he is replaced with a ranger who has a better perspective of his proper role as a public officer…" but they were never sued for emotional distress. The Judge refused to allow the jury to hear about or see this letter when we tried to present it at the trial.

No Right to Petition the Government in Utah

It was agreed by both the defense and the court judge that there was never any libel, slander, defamation, or physical threats made by me in any letters or otherwise. If I had written anything reaching such a level in these letters to the government you can be sure you would have heard all about it and I would have probably been charged criminally ten years ago. We all have a clear right to write complaints to our publicly funded institutions without fear of lawsuits by paid employees for doing so. Especially ten years later. The jury was instructed that Julian Hatch had a clear "right to petition his government and/or any public official for relief and or change and to offer his view about public policy, the management of any government office or program, however, complimentary or uncomplimentary, and the adequacy or inadequacy of the performance of any government official or employee. This right enjoys a high level of protection in our society and may be relied upon even if it results in harsh criticism or embarrassment of a public official and/or employee." The jury was required to find evidence of a pattern of conduct "so vile and atrocious" that it goes beyond civilized boundaries. The jury was told they could find no verdict against me; "unless mental disturbance is so severe that no reasonable man can endure it and mere insults are not sufficient." Apparently, they ignored the instructions on the law and the First Amendment.

Larry Davis has never made any complaints to the police about anything I did to him that could cause emotional distress. He admitted he had been depressed and suffered from anxiety in the mid 1970’s and 1980’s and had taken prescription drugs for these problems many years before my contact with him. While he had regular doctor’s visits over the past 12 years, nothing is mentioned about any emotional distress in any of his medical records. He never saw a psychiatrist for his alleged emotional distress and was never prescribed any medication for the reputed mental illness he attributes to me. There is no basis for his claim and no evidence to support the jury’s verdict.

Both jury verdicts are completely unsupported by the facts and based on revenge and retaliation for winning my prior Federal verdict against Mrs. Davis and Boulder Town in 1999. The total award against me is for more than $162,000 dollars but it might just as well have been 162 million dollars for all it matters. I was already financially and emotionally ruined by the six years of fighting the counter charges and accusations of a campaign hate and terror lodged against me. My problems with Boulder Town government continue today with the damages they have caused to me after adopting and enforcing a zoning ordinance that the Appeals Courts later found illegal, arbitrary, and capricious in February 2001. They zoned my business property as strictly residential, ignoring prior use-among other things. I have again been forced to file a new Federal claim in 2001. I have tried to use the legal system only after I have been forced to obtain my civil rights. The jury verdicts and the railroading by the religiously biased judges are nothing more than attempts to get back at me for embarrassing the religious majority in Utah. When law and religion are mixed together they make an awful combination.

Utah, the Mormon State

For many people, the outcome of this trial was completely expected but I was shocked by the mean and vindictive hatred exhibited by these fine Utah Christians. I guess I was a bit naïve to think that the southern Utah judicial system would provide justice and a proper way to end the persecution I have been forced to endure. There is little or no separation of Church and State in Utah and if your beliefs differ from the Mormon Church you are not going to get a fair or impartial hearing in this rural part of the state. The word "judicial" means unbiased and careful consideration of the facts, arguments, and reasoning to reach a fair decision. "Justice" means fairness and justification with sufficient reason to justify a verdict decision. The treatment I received at the hands of Utah’s Sixth District Court was anything but just or judicial. When the courts treat you as prejudicially as the wrongs you ask them to redress where can we turn? I am again forced to go to the Court of Appeals where I can only believe that the higher courts will reverse this case. The higher courts must do the right thing or risk setting a very bad precedent for the entire state. If this outrageous decision, along with my failure to have the premature and unfounded counterclaims dismissed were to be affirmed it would certainly lead to an intolerable situation for the legal system. If anytime someone files a lawsuit to redress their grievances they can be immediately counter-sued for abusing the legal process and have claims for severe emotional distress heard against them at the same time, people will no longer attempt to settle their problems in a civilized way through the courts. In his Closing Arguments the opposing attorney said that fifty years ago a person myself would have been harshly taken care of without need for any legal process. He suggested the jury treat me as they would have in the old days and it sounded to me like he was inciting a lynch mob to action. Apparently, the jury was happy to oblige and show me the good old boy justice of the Mormon state of Deseret.

Same old story...

John D. Lee was singled out and scape-goated for his involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre during the mid 19th century. He was the only person prosecuted and executed for this cruel massacre of non-Mormon men, women, and children in Southern Utah. Before he was executed, Lee made a confession and statement through his attorney about how the state of Deseret and Utah Territory was being operated by the Mormon Church. He wrote; "It has always been a well understood doctrine of the Church that it was right and praiseworthy to kill every person who spoke evil of the Prophet. In Nauvoo it was the orders from Joseph Smith and his apostles to beat, wound, and castrate all Gentiles that the police could take in the act of entering or leaving a Mormon household under circumstances that led to a belief that they had been there for immoral purposes. I knew of several such outrages there. In, Utah it was the favorite revenge of old, worn-out members of the Priesthood, who wanted young women sealed to them, and found that girl preferred some handsome young man. The old priests generally got the girls, and many a young man was unsexed for refusing to give up his sweetheart at the request of an old and failing, but still sensual apostle or member of the Priesthood."

Lee gave an illustration of such a situation in Utah where someone resisted the authority of the Priesthood. Lee told the story of Bishop Snow who ordered a young man to go on a mission to some distant locality so authorities would have no more trouble in forcing a young woman to marry as they desired but the man refused the mission call. "It was then decided to call a meeting of the people who lived true to counsel, which was to be held in the school-house in Manti, at which place the man should be present, and dealt with according to Snow’s will. The meeting was called. The young man was there, and was again requested, ordered and threatened, to get him to surrender the young woman to Snow, but true to his plighted troth, he refused to consent to give up the girl. The lights were then put out. An attack was made on the young man. He was severely beaten, and then tied with his back down on a bench, when Bishop Snow took a bowie-knife and performed the operation in a most brutal manner, and then took the portion severed from his victim and hung it up in the school-house on a nail, so that it could be seen by all who visited the house afterwards." At a later meeting the Bishop used this display to enforce the power of the Priesthood. Lee described; "When all had assembled, the old man talked to the people about their duty to the Church, and their duty to obey counsel, and the dangers of refusal, and then publicly called attention to the mangled parts of the young man, that had been severed from his person, and stated that the deed had been done to teach the people that the counsel of the Priesthood must be obeyed. This is only one instance of many that I might give to show the danger of refusing to obey counsel in Utah."

Good ol' Religion

While life has somewhat improved in Utah, my trial jurors are probably all very proud of their work and will be pleased to learn how depressed and shattered I have felt since they provided their not so compassionate verdict against me. I have now had the opportunity to experience firsthand their kind of "Christian love." I can’t but believe they feel like they did their duty to god and country. I have also been assured by the hate mail recently sent to me that although the jury verdict was not nearly as severe as it should have been, Jesus is still very pleased by the outcome. If their god-man Jesus really did exist, I guess they’d be rewarded by heaven for striking down another heathen heretic. And that is what religion is really all about. Hatred and persecution against those who choose not to believe in their gods or self-righteous religious leaders. Such an unbeliever or person who resists authority cannot be tolerated by religion or it’s adherents.

Religion is defined as the belief in supernatural beings called gods that control the affairs of people and the course of nature. These supernatural gods are to be obeyed as creators and rulers of the entire universe. All must bow to these all knowing and infinitely powerful beings. In monotheistic religions such as Christianity there is supposedly only one true god. Mormons, the dominant majority of citizens in Utah, actually claim to be able to become gods themselves with their own planets to rule through eternity so I’m not sure if they can lay claim to being a monotheistic religion. But there’s one thing for certain, many of their Mormon brethren like to play the roles of gods right here on Earth. Some of these god-like rulers appear in their roles as appointed Judges, law officers, and elected officials in the Utah State government and they are encouraged by their church to act upon their personal religious beliefs and biases in their official public capacities.

State and Church

Two hundred years ago this year, President Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptists enunciating the concept of "Separation of Church and State" which guided our country’s founders in creating our Constitution. Government is supposed to remain neutral in matters concerning religion but it is a sad commentary that such separation does not actually exist in the State of Utah. This past week our Governor proudly signed a proclamation for a day of prayer on behalf of all citizens in Utah. No consideration was given to the surveyed nineteen percent of the population who are non-religious. The fact that such a clear violation of separation of church and state such as this illegal establishment of religion is seen as routine by our leaders shows how entrenched religion really is in our government. The fact that our President routinely signed a similarly timed proclamation when there are at least 29 million Americans who openly claim to be non-religious is very disconcerting. But what could be wrong with official government sanctioned prayers and prayer proclamations? When authorities are questioned about such problems they invariably claim that they are merely affirming religious diversity. If they did not allow prayers they claim it would be discriminatory against religious believers. But that is exactly why the government must remain neutral. Religious proclamations and officially approved prayer is not inclusive of those who do not believe in religion. Choosing to promote religion causes division and is itself a discriminatory act. Religious believers say they offer their prayers on behalf of all citizens so there is nothing wrong but they do not seem to care enough to even consider the rights of all citizens to have a government that represents all the people. When government officials brazenly push personal religious agendas, their allegiance to religion incorrectly takes precedence over any Constitutional duty they have. This year supporters of religion have used the September 11, 2001 tragedy as reason for prayer in efforts to unite all Americans. But where was there trusted god on that day? The perpetrators of the tragedy were not atheists but religious fanatics themselves. If anything it ought to be apparent that we need less religion and more rational and compassionate political efforts in the world. It appears there has been a religious crusade and war launched against Islamic countries and therefore any disbelief in America’s Christian god is seen as un-American and un-patriotic.

All my life

I was born in 1954 in the LDS (Latter Day Saint) hospital in Salt Lake City and while I was born into the bosom of Mormonism, as an American citizen I supposedly had a right to be free from religious tyranny. That is what sets America apart from other nations that base their governments on divine authority. But apparently, religiously minded government representatives decided the very same year I was born to insert the phrase "one nation under god" into the Pledge of Allegiance. I have been required to repeat this pledge of allegiance to religion ad infinitum in classrooms and government meetings throughout my life. The McCarthyism of the 1950’s "Cold War" with its virulent defamation and blacklisting of suspected godless communist liberals conducted by elected officials still continues a half a century later. I have learned first-hand the effects of daring to say no to religion. If you won’t repeat the pledge of allegiance then you are seen as un-American and open to public persecution. The Congress of the 1950’s also chose to further erase the line of separation between church and state when they adopted laws to place religious mottoes the money issued by the government and pushed religion into our public institutions. Our government has been promoting religion beliefs throughout my entire lifetime.

The motto "In God We Trust" has again become the rallying cry of many self-righteous religious government representatives. These officials were elected by the majority and like the jurors in my recent trial they believe they can do whatever they choose without regard to reason or law. They think they can act like gods because they say "the majority rules" so whatever they decide must be correct. How do they know that the majority of citizens are religious? If the majority of citizens are religious then must everyone else be forced to pay allegiance to those beliefs? How can anyone know what the majority of beliefs are in our nation? Has the government polled the citizens on their personal beliefs? Will our religiously minded politicians next require us to register our beliefs with the government and would anyone really want to register their personal beliefs or dare to go against the powerful majority? Politicians will do almost anything to get elected by the majority of voters so I wonder just what kind of religious test will they propose to justify their pandering?

Belief in Nothing

And how much do people really know or even care about the concept of god and religion anyway? Some say that this is a "Christian Nation" but how do they really know it is not a Buddhist, Muslim, pantheist, or even an atheist nation? Perhaps the majority of people really could care less about religion and just try to ignore religion as much as possible. Maybe most people just go along with the flow and social activities of our culture. How could we ever determine whether they are sincerely devoted to religious belief or just trying to get along? It is impossible for the government to determine sincere personal belief so what right do officials have making any claims about religious affiliation? The government needs to stay out of the business of supporting religion or any belief system. The First Amendment provision for separation provides a solution to the problem and it simply makes good sense for all citizens to keep the government neutral in matters of personal belief. Neutrality merely means not choosing any side and that the government allows each of us freedom to believe and open express those beliefs. What could be wrong with that?

So why don’t politicians and their appointed judiciary support allowing citizens to decide for themselves what to believe? Why have government officials decided to make assertions based merely on their own personal bias that we are a religious nation? Official days of prayer, religious mottos, and oaths of allegiance to a monotheistic god have now become routine exercises for our government. This is exactly what founders of our country such and Jefferson and Madison tried so hard to avoid with the First Amendment separation of church and state. Why was it so important to replace the old motto of "E Pluribus Unum" meaning "of many one" with the divisive religious phrase "In God We Trust?" And what does it really mean to say that our country trusts in god? The intent is clearly meant to force all citizens to accept monotheistic religion and the belief in god. These religiously minded government officials just can’t allow the dangerous concept of freedom of belief to exist. We are required by law to have confidence in and rely on a supernatural god.

But if such a god really existed then what difference would it make whether we supplicate and prostrate ourselves to it? Begging or praying to a god that can and will do whatever it pleases doesn’t really accomplish anything anyway. The national motto does not say anything about praying or giving thanks to god just that we trust in the concept. Trust clearly means giving in to god’s will but such an act is essentially meaningless to an infinitely powerful supernatural god. But for the religious powers and their adherents here on Earth, our government enacting and promoting this national motto is very important. Our entire nation submitting to the belief and control of a monotheistic god is essential for religious zealots to gain control of our nation. They can claim divine authority for their efforts toward exterminating freedom of belief and especially the open statement of non-belief in America. One thing most of the different religions can agree on is the extermination of disbelief in religion. The message of the national motto and Pledge of Allegiance is that all good Americans believe in god and those who dissent are suspect. The bigotry of McCarthyism is alive and well in America with religious fanaticism in control of our government.

What American citizen would dare to openly express that they do not trust or believe in god? Would a citizen who expresses such unbelief in god be protected by our legal system? Why would any government official dare to be viewed as helping such an infidel? Certainly politicians place themselves at risk of losing votes and power if they openly stand up for the rights of unbelievers after the government itself has given the stamp of approval to religion. Courage is defined as "the attitude of facing and dealing with anything recognized as dangerous, difficult, or painful, instead of withdrawing from it." Cowardice is the lack of courage and is an excessive fear of dealing with dangerous, difficult or painful experiences. It takes courage to openly dissent about issues supported by government and other authority. It is difficult and dangerous to be in the minority especially if the majority of citizens are religious believers. Unbelievers must have courage to openly express their non-belief. The dictionary states that; "Unbelief implies merely a lack of belief especially in matters of religion or faith because of insufficient evidence." Someone who does not believe in theism or religion is known as an atheist. In a nation that officially proclaims "In God We Trust" it takes courage to disbelieve in that god. But disbelief is defined as a positive refusal to believe an assertion or theory because one is convinced of its falseness. It would be dishonest of me to look the other way and not assert my disbelief in religion. We all have a right to not believe in god or religion and still be treated as equal citizens. We have a right to expect judicial restraint and fair treatment in our governmental legal process. Unfortunately, as I have found out personally over the past several years, it takes courage to withstand the prejudice exhibited by some of our courts. It has been very painful and it is difficult for me to believe that the judicial process is fair and equitable. I hope the Appeals Court will ultimately end the abuses I have suffered so I can be free.

Faith in the Courts

If courage is the "quality of being fearless or brave" then I’m not sure if I have what it takes when it comes to the lower courts in southern Utah. I don’t feel very brave and I have learned to fear the courts in southern Utah for all the pain and suffering they have caused me. Judges in Utah are appointed by representatives elected to office by a religious majority and are retained through political elections so they may be reluctant to do the right thing when it comes to citizens who openly dissent from religion. Religious intolerance and persecution against those who openly do not agree with a Judge’s personal religious beliefs can be difficult to overcome. It takes integrity for a Judge or other government official to not be swayed by public sentiment to not be seen as soft on dissenters. Officials may become blinded by their own self-righteous belief in religion.

Religion has always been about control and forcing people to conform to what someone else claims to be the absolute truth. Those who disagree are often condemned by religion to eternal torment and suffering for not believing. Humans have a long history of strife and infliction of suffering against those who cannot in good conscience obey and agree with the majority religious beliefs. We know about the dark ages and the inquisitions of the past. The word "religare" is the Latin root word for religion and it literally means, "to bind back again." People are basically coerced to conform and are bound over and over again into an adherence of religious tenets and dogma. Religion is based on a belief in the supernatural that cannot be perceived in any rational or sensible way. Only through the unquestioning belief in faith can religious adherents believe in a god or supernatural being. Such faith can be dangerous because there is no rational basis to know what’s real so any and all fantastic claims made by believers must be accepted. When it comes to religious belief there can be no factual basis only faith. Religious believers cannot allow that what they believe may not be real or true. To obstinately and blindly believe in a particular creed or opinion without any rational basis is known as bigotry. Such pre-conceived opinions formed without facts can cause prejudice and overzealous bias. Religions demand they be tolerated and I have always been prepared to allow others to believe as they choose. The problem is that religion refuses to tolerate non-belief.

Tolerating Bigotry

The word toleration means freedom from bigotry and its usage comes from 17th Century England when Protestants dissented from the religious bigotry of that time. Many religions have their roots in problems they had with other Religions. Tolerance is a principle that must be extended in both directions. If it is not then it does not work. Because religions and their adherents do not tolerate non-belief, atheists are cursed to eternal damnation and suffering. Unfortunately, the suffering is inflicted on unbelievers right here and now in this life. Believers claim that only they know the absolute truth and dissenters must be isolated, humiliated, and destroyed. In Utah, they claim that because the majority of residents are Mormons then this is a Mormon state and these are Mormon communities. I merely asked for my rights to be allowed to have freedom from religion, freely associate and find others who similarly do not believe, and the result is I have been persecuted for it. Religious people who can tolerate my freedom are too often afraid to openly say so for fear that they will then be persecuted. The majority rules and the silent majority just looks the other way.

I am willing to tolerate religious beliefs but I am no longer so naïve as to tolerate the bigoted beliefs and actions fostered by religion. I will no longer tolerate bigotry and if religion is bigotry then I cannot tolerate religion. I refuse to tolerate intolerance. Religion is bigotry and I will no more tolerate bigotry than I will look the other way while someone is violently attacked in the public street. I do not hate my oppressors or think that atheists should hate these people as they have hated us but neither should we continue to tolerate such bigotry and hatred directed at us. I will now more than ever speak out openly to attempt to end religious intolerance and persecution.

I am conscious that religious believers will probably claim reverse bigotry but atheism does not attack religion when we do not believe in it. Atheism is based in rational thought and is merely non-belief in religion. We are attacked routinely by religion for not believing but our questioning and choosing to not believe is not bigotry. We can tolerate other citizens choosing to believe whatever they want but we still have a right to rationally question those beliefs. Religion is a conscious choice not something a person is born with. Atheism is not bigotry. Atheists welcome the rational discussion and questioning of our non-belief. If Jesus Christ, a supernatural god, or even a UFO presents itself in a verifiable way, I will acknowledge its existence. But until that time comes I can honestly only believe in what is sensible and real. It is religion that asks us to believe without any foundation or evidence. It would be a lot easier for me, given my present problems with the Utah court system, if I believed that some supernatural god will right my wrongs but the courage of an atheist is that we must deal with difficulties and problems in a rational and realistic way. It is even more difficult when religious forces continually work against us and sad that we must constantly fight against the tyranny even in our own governmental institutions.

Nothing Fails Like Prayer

Ever since I was born it seems like I have been forced to live under the yoke of religion. I have never known a time when the government has been free from religious control in Utah. I have been trained in their churches, public schools, military, and in the school of life but I still do not believe in religion. I participated fully in the many religious programs held at my public schools as a child. Prayers were formally on the agendas and openly given during the 1960’s as they continue to do today in Utah. Flag salutes and prayers have not convinced me to believe in religion or effectively shut me up. I have spent a good part of my life trying to believe in one religion or another but I have yet to find any basis to believe in gods or the supernatural. Religious believers can continue to persecute me but they cannot make me believe in something I do not think is true. They can railroad me in their courts, kill my pets, threaten, intimidate, and assault me but they can never force me to believe in their religion. But apparently, these narrow minded and intolerant religious believers don’t really care if I ever sincerely believe in their religion. They only want me to conform and keep quiet or they will destroy my life and drive me out of their community. I wish I had never dared to live in these mean southern Utah communities but I now have no choice but to have the courage to carry on and endure their vindictive verdict until I am allowed an appeal to a reasonable court. The retribution I have received after court wins in the past has been disappointing but I will continue to fight for my right to live free from religious bigotry and hatred in America.

Religion is more readily assimilated at a young age and this is not lost on the Mormons. I remember hearing the stories of Joseph Smith and his Golden Plates but I honestly never cared that much whether the story was true or not when I was so young. I was much more enthralled by television programs like the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Davy Crockett, and just being a kid than in reading about visions of angels. But my life was changed when I turned eight years old because that is the age of accountability in the Mormon Church. I actually resisted being baptized and held the authorities off for almost an extra month. But the Bishop came to my house repeatedly to take me in his luxury automobile for a ride to get ice cream and use his powers of persuasion. I didn’t know it then but playing hard to get can actually pay off, if you like ice cream. But my resistance was futile and I soon became an official member of the one and only true church on Earth, or so they claim. I didn’t realize then that I had been signed up for time and eternity. I was soon introduced to working at the Mormon "Welfare Farm" weeding the onion fields and also into the world of tithing payments so I could pay them ten percent of my small family allowance. I still have receipts where I paid .14, .60, and .26 cents when I was ten years old. The Mormon Church obviously needs money but the real point of early baptism is getting the children trained at an early age to follow orders and pay tithing so it can be collected throughout the rest of their lives. Church members actually bring in their W-2 forms and write checks based on their gross earnings to their church. That’s gross not net! Of course, all this money is tax-free profit for the church and it doesn’t even have to be reported to the government. Meanwhile, the taxpayers of America pay for the community services to the church’s immense holdings. The Church with its billions of dollars doesn’t pay taxes but they still get the fire and police protection and other amenities offered by our society. What a great deal! You would think they’d be embarrassed but you don’t see religion stepping forward to willingly pay their fair share and ease the burden of the poor citizens stuck with the bill. They do build lots of expensive church buildings throughout the world though.

They Call Themselves Saints

I didn’t realize why it was so important for the Bishop to get me baptized until a few years later when I discovered the truth about certain relations between my mother and him. My Mom was good to me and I appreciate the time she spent reading books with me at an early age. She had always been a faithful member of the Mormon or as they prefer to be called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My mother participated in leadership positions with the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and the Mormon Relief Society that is an organization just for women. But in the early 1960’s she began to have her doubts about the one true church. She had studied and read the voluminous official "History of the Church" but those books along with the Fawn Brodie book: "No Man Knows My History" caused her to question the inconsistencies and problems in the Mormon religion. Changes had been continually made in the history books as well as the Book of Mormon itself. Mom started asking hard questions of the Bishopric of the local Ward. The Bishop is the appointed leader of about 150 families or 500 members in a specific locality and this is known as a Ward. The Bishop has two councilors and a Ward Clerk who controls and keeps all the records. Together they are known as the Bishopric. These men are powerful leaders and they rule over the individual members of the Ward as well as keeping tabs on any other non-members living in their realm. Anything and everything must go through them. The Bishopric in our Ward in Northern Utah could not or would not answer the questions from my mother. After all she was a woman trained to be obedient to men and shouldn’t be asking hard questions of the Bishopric anyway. My mother eventually got tired of being treated badly by these men and she requested they remove her name from the membership rolls of the church. The only way you could have your name removed in the Mormon Church was through the local Bishopric and only if you were first excommunicated. You can’t merely quit paying the dues and walk away. They must kick you out.

The Bishopric then began a long campaign to destroy my mother in the community. I recall the time when my father came home from work and began angrily arguing with Mom because the Bishop had contacted his employer about her request to leave the church. My father hardly ever attended church because he sometimes liked to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol but he remained a Mormon all his life. Like most "Jack-Mormons," he couldn’t recite any scriptures and didn’t know much about Mormon dogma but he always believed the church was true. And like many religious people my father was afraid of death and eternal damnation. They might not know much about religion but know they know they don’t want to fry in Hell for not believing. Anyway, my mother requesting to have her name removed triggered bitterness in our family, our community, and with the Bishopric. Forty years ago it was almost unheard of to demand to get out of the church. Mom was ordered to attend a "Bishop’s Court of Love" to decide if she should be ex-communicated or if she wanted to reconsider, but she refused to attend. They kept trying to hold the Mormon court but since my Dad wasn’t very active at the time they didn’t have that much leverage to force her to attend. Finally they held the court without her presence and such refusal to attend warranted an excommunication. Like many people who want out it didn’t matter to her that she was excommunicated but the rumors spread quickly through the community that she must have done some awful things. This ultimately resulted in a battle for possession of my young soul by members of the Ward. My mother continued to send me to regularly attend church and never even told me anything about her problems with the church. She knew that in a town consisting of 90 percent Mormons it was best for me to play the game, go along with the crowd, and try to fit in.

I got quite a lot of attention from the neighborhood Mormons at church. They saw me as the innocent smiling son of the wicked infidel lady. If people asked her about why she got excommunicated she would tell them why she no longer believed in the Mormon Church and religion. Many people who quit believing in the Mormon Church eventually quit believing in all religion. At church I had other kid’s mothers coming and telling me I could come live with their families so I could escape from my evil mother. I would try to explain to them that I loved her and she was a fine mother but they probably just thought I was afraid of her. I was often asked to give talks in Sunday school and even at the Ward Sacrament Meeting at a very young age. The Bishopric pushed hard to keep me involved but the more pressure they put on me the more I thought about Mormonism and how I never really felt a connection to god. It made me feel unworthy but the more I tried to tell them this the more they pressured me to participate. I told them I didn’t know what to say in the talks but they told me to look at church magazines and basically rehash the articles. It didn’t feel very good giving talks about things I really didn’t feel but I tried to please them. When I faltered in giving some of the talks it didn’t seem to matter because it was all just meant to pull me further into the cult and ultimately defeat my mother who they figured would be unhappy if I grew up to be a committed Mormon. These small-minded people were just wrong about my Mom because she was always supportive of anyone’s beliefs, especially members of our family and other neighbors in the community. She had confidence in her own non-belief.

My mother died in my arms a few years ago and it was very important for me to help in her final years. She had severe arthritis and a lot of physical pain. She was ready to end her suffering and unlike many religious people, she was not afraid of death. Since our religiously dominated nation does not accept euthanasia or encourage the alleviation of suffering, my mom had no other choice than to starve herself to death over a period of several weeks. She was not the first or last person to be forced to do so but it is sad that our society has such a fear of death and lack of compassion. Since she was an atheist, my mother pre-arranged to have her body donated to scientific study by the University of Utah. She also specified there would be no funeral because she did not want religious authorities involved. There was no waste of resources in a casket, embalming, or burial plot. Some people were not happy about this but she had courage and integrity in facing her death.

I had really wanted to believe in Mormonism and religion but as hard as I tried I could never get god, Jesus, the Holy Ghost, Joseph Smith, or any dead prophet to appear or reply to me even when I fervently prayed. When things didn’t make sense and I asked questions of my leaders I was merely told I needed to pray harder. At a certain point the only important thing was to try not to disappoint my church leaders. I was interested in archeology and had traveled extensively but I have never seen one metal sword, breastplates, gold and silver coins, chariots, or any evidence of the massive civilization and wars depicted in the Book of Mormon. BYU and the church keep trying to alter the geographic locations of the depictions in the Book of Mormon but they never pan out. There is not one physical item exhibiting any evidence that the Book of Mormon story is true.

Religious Whackos

1 Nephi, Chapter 18, verse 25 in the Book of Mormon states that when the Nephites came from Jerusalem they found in America "beasts of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat." But cows, horses, oxen, and domestic goats all evolved and were imported to America at a much later time. Joseph Smith claimed that his book was the most correct book ever written but here we find obvious incorrect assertions. You would think with the help of god he could have gotten it right but that’s the rub, since it is blatantly wrong the entire book and religion must not be true. Joseph Smith said if anything could be found incorrect in his book then the entire religion would fall. Like my Mom, I had trouble reconciling these problems.

The racism against people of color, especially Indians who the Book of Mormon calls Lamanites still continues and is evident in the Book of Mormon today. It says "And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men. And it came to pass that whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed." There are many more citations in the Book of Mormon about this racism but what concerned me in 1988 was the National Public Radio broadcast about the sabotage of construction equipment on the Burr Trail just outside Boulder Town. Garfield County Commissioner Louise Liston made a statement on the program that reflected the problems going on with Indian or so-called Lamanites at Anasazi State Park. She said that local Mormons were currently being driven out of the area by environmentalists and when asked if that wasn’t what Mormons had done to the Indians a century ago she stated; "Well I really haven’t faced that as I felt that progress, the way the Indians were living, theirs wasn’t a way of life that could go forward. It was kind of a savage and barbaric type of living and eventually they killed each other off. Anyhow, they killed off the righteous portion and chose to live without divine guidance and in a savage way with human sacrifice and so on, which we believe of course, cost them their liberty." This public school teacher and community leader correctly reflected the racist attitudes of southern Utah Mormons about Native Americans. There was a lot of impetus to end the disrespectful practices at the state park and educate people against such racism.

When I turned twelve I was inducted into the all white male Priesthood of the Church. During the 1960’s the Mormon Church had a lot of problems with its racist position concerning only white males being eligible to be in the Priesthood. It was emphasized to me how lucky I was to be white and to get into the Mormon male club. Some people now probably don’t think the race issue was a big deal in the Mormon Church back then but the people in my Ward were quite racist. I remember church members who I thought were really good people often making nasty racial slurs right in Priesthood meetings. I remember that there was the People’s March on Washington against poverty that there was plenty of talk about the "Coons" coming from California across the interstate freeway on their way to the East. There was talk about members converging on the nearby freeway system to turn back the procession. Nothing actually happened that I know about but there was ugly talk at church. The Brigham Young University sports teams were having problems at the time with other teams in the conference and black players boycotting their games. Someone actually threw Molotov cocktails onto the playing floor at BYU one night. It didn’t take too long for the Mormon Prophet to finally change the racist policy because Mormons like their sports teams. The Prophet prayed and said if the Lord didn’t agree with his decision to allow blacks the priesthood he should contact him and say so. Since god never objected the change was made. This is actually how the Mormon prophet made the decision. I remember there were many in my Ward that thought they could never accept blacks but what could they do? They really couldn’t just quit the church so they had to go with it. Members are taught to follow what their leaders say.

I still have the "Goals Card" they gave me to put in my wallet. The Goals Card was entitled "Sustain Church Leaders" and it lists the following eight requirements. "Speak well of local Church leaders at all times, Speak well of the General Authorities, Accept all callings and assignments and do my very best, Obey counsel and instructions given by Church leaders, Do something special for a local Church leader, Never speak evil of Church leaders, and Let others know that I respect and obey Church leaders in my community just as I respect and obey the General Authorities." Number nine is a fill in the blank for "My own personal commitment is:" and I wrote in the blank that I would always let everyone know that I would always do whatever church leaders told me to do. I was not a stupid and I knew what was required by the Mormon Church.

Breaking the Chains

I finally reached the breaking point at age 16 after I had become a Priest in the church. It was really cool at that age to bless the water and the white Wonder Bread sacrament. That got the attention of the young women in the Ward but what finally ended it for me was when they wanted me to go to the Salt Lake Temple to perform Baptisms for the Dead. This was just too much for me after I thought about this rather morbid ritual. I had no confidence in my own belief or faith in the church but they wanted me to force this religion on dead people who had no say. I figured if these people are dead why can’t the god just make them members or have the angels baptize them? But I guess there is something about a physical body being dunked in water that I still don’t understand. And now I wish I would have participated and gone inside the Salt Lake Temple. But at the time I took religion seriously and I just didn’t feel right about such an important thing as baptism for the dead. When the time to show up for the baptism of the dead came I made myself scarce and figured no one would miss me but the leaders came looking for me right away. I felt hounded, explained my concerns, and I asked why it was so important for me to attend but they were demanded I go through with it anyway. I rebelled about being ordered to do it and never showed up again.

I was already serving as a Home Teacher and my assigned partner was none other than the Ward Clerk and he started having a really hard time getting me to go visit the families we were keeping an eye on. Eventually, after several months of missed visits and repeatedly having to force me to go, my partner had to give it up. Because I failed to show up he had to give up on me. It was all too embarrassing for him to go to alone and I had flat out told him I would not go anymore. Because he missed making the visits he was failing to perform his duty and taking too much heat. He finally had to get assigned another partner and give up on me. This man was a decent person and I have felt guilty ever since but I just couldn’t go through the motions anymore. I let them all down and it has affected me ever since. I think I had just wanted to back off a little but as soon as I quit attending and performing the duties I lost my friends and was totally isolated and shunned by members of the Ward. At school I became just like the other non-Mormon kids I used to shun as outsiders. I fell in with that crowd pretty quickly because they were the only kids I could associate with. I told my mother I refused to go to church anymore and she didn’t like it but I had made up my mind. She sternly warned me I would have problems in this culture for not playing along.

Living in Utah

I moved to southern Utah after serving in the US Army and later graduating from college because I love the special slickrock canyons and wilderness landscape there. After living in other states and foreign countries I really didn’t give that much thought to how I would fit in with the Mormons. Southern Utah is sparsely populated and I didn’t think I would have to be involved with the local Mormon Ward even in a small town of 200 people. If you don’t attend church at the local Ward most members will have nothing to do with you. This may have something to do with the rural area but I think it mostly has to do with the religious tenets. The Bishop’s Handbook of Instructions makes it clear in the section on "Worthiness a Prerequisite to Ordination" when it says "Have no affiliation, in sympathy or otherwise, with any of the apostate groups or individuals who are running counter to the accepted rules and doctrines of the church." Members of the church can get into trouble if they associate with heathen infidels unless they are trying to convert them. The Bible has similar edicts of non-association with atheists (Corinthians 6:14) and stems debate or the inclusion of logic into religious discussion. I was always trained that religion and politics are not appropriate topics or allowed in polite company. Similar behavior is seen in religious cults and converts are supposed to not contact any family or friends. Prescribing the wearing of special sacred underwear by the Mormon Church for their active and faithful members performs a similar cult control function. What real other reason can be made for such a strange ritual? Wouldn’t their god protect them even if they were not wearing the sacred underwear? The underwear identifies who the brothers and sisters are and sends a message of non-affiliation to non-members.

After living in southern Utah for a couple of years the Mormon Home Teachers came to me and asked me to attend the local Ward. I told them I had no real interest although I had been baptized. They said I needed to begin attending church meetings and if I wouldn’t then I would be excommunicated. I told them they should go back to the Bishopric and tell them I really had no interest in being forced to attend church but didn’t want any trouble. After more than a year I started worrying and wondering if I had been excommunicated because I was being treated badly by the local Mormons. So I went to the main Church Office building on a visit to Salt Lake City in 1989 to see just what my status was. I went into the membership and records office, showed them my driver’s license and waited. After watching the young woman come back and check my ID a few times, I started to get nervous. I finally asked her what the problem was and she told me that I was not supposed to be here. So I asked her where I was supposed to be and she said "In heaven." Apparently, after years of not attending my old Ward, they decided to help boost their attendance records by just killing me off in the records. Information is power and the Ward Clerk can strong arm members or as in my case kill them off. I wouldn’t make too much of official records and the numbers of members in this supposedly fastest growing church in the world. So many people do not attend or want to be hassled by the church but they are counted just the same. I mean if this powerful and only true church didn’t know if I was dead or not then what else are they wrong about? Anyway, I really had it made by already getting into Mormon heaven so I proceeded to leave. But by then a male priesthood holder had come out and apologetically handed me a certificate showing that I was now a member in good standing. He said I should take it to my local Bishop where I was living so I could get started again in my church duties. I then asked "but what if I don’t want to be a member" and they both looked aghast and very disappointed.

I was told that I would have to contact the Prophet to be able to get out of the church so I asked to see him but they informed me I would have to write a letter. I wrote a letter and told the prophet the church had been wrong about my death and probably was wrong about a lot of other things too. I got a reply warning me of the "eternal consequences" of my request to have my name removed from the rolls. I was also referred to the Bishop of the ward where my parents were living. The Bishop there refused to let me out unless I attended the Bishop’s Court where they would excommunicate me for not believing but I refused to attend. I had to repeatedly threaten legal action if they wouldn’t just remove my name. A couple of years later I checked again at the Church office building and they assured me I was no longer a member but how can you really know for sure? And they will probably just baptize me again after I die. This is a church you just can’t get out of or stay out of. I had it made at one time when they listed me as dead and in heaven. But it just goes to show that sometimes you can ask questions that are better left alone. At least, since I was listed as dead, the Boulder Mormon Bishopric and their Ward Clerk Larry Davis couldn’t put me through a Bishop’s court and excommunicate me. They probably were really miffed about that at the time but since they have now railroaded me through the state court they probably feel better.

What Now?

I’m not sure what is going to happen next in my personal ordeal of trying to live in and enjoy the beautiful sandstone canyons of southern Utah. A lot is going to depend on if I am ever allowed to file an appeal of my case and what the higher courts will do. One thing for sure is that I have already lived through Hell and it continues to get worse lately. A couple of weeks after the trial the Judge certified only a partial verdict. He has approved of the $87,000 jury verdict on the Intentional Infliction of Severe Emotional Distress" but has not certified the Abuse of Process yet. Until he certifies or dismisses it I cannot even file an appeal. In the meantime, the judge has apparently signed orders to take control of any assets I might have. I think that he and the opposition are working together to abuse the legal process to force me to do things I would not legally be bound to do. I also think the judge is prejudiced and is going to try to put me through as much trouble and drag things out as long as possible. I believe Judge McIff knows there is little chance the Appeals court will uphold any of the trial verdicts so he wants to delay being overturned as long as possible.

The religious persecution I continue to suffer under is almost unbearable and I have basically lost my home and money at this point. It is going to take courage to go on living this way but I don’t really have much choice. I have been threatened with death and I am not afraid to die but I certainly don’t want to let these bigots get away with railroading me. I appreciate the moral support I have received from the good people who are Mormons, some of the environmental community, animal and human rights groups, and especially from the freethinkers and unbelievers in Utah. I don’t want to let anyone down because if they win against me in this case it means everyone is vulnerable, at least if you ever get embroiled in the rural southern Utah court system. The message from Utah’s Sixth District Court is that non-Mormons and other dissidents are not welcome to redress their grievances in the legal system. Anyone who dares seek justice will instead find retaliation and personal destruction. Many people are scared after media broadcast of my case.

Courage is Freedom

It takes bravery and courage to openly be an atheist and deal with the religious oppression here in Utah.

Atheists are courageous because they fearlessly face the reality that we humans are alone in and there are no supernatural beings to save us. Morality is a completely intellectual undertaking and has nothing to do with religion. Irrational belief and unquestioning faith are really basically immoral and are not courageous. Acting morally is just courageously dealing with issues of our lives in a rational way. Atheists courageously try to make the most of our one life in this world without fear or threats of eternal damnation. We try to do our best and although we may not be able to change all the problems and suffering caused by religion in this world, by expressing our non-belief we can help keep alive the principle of freedom of belief and statement.

America should be a bastion of freedom but since religion in our government has gone mostly unchallenged by the public for so long, we are now reaping a harvest of intolerance. God Bless America is little more than self-righteous and self-serving arrogance that we should have nothing to do with. We must care about all people throughout the entire world. Where is the compassion that religious adherents so fervently claim as their own special niche? Why are religious believers so inconsiderate and insecure in their beliefs that they must deny the rest of us our rights to freedom? Religion seems to me to be little more than superstition and bigotry.

There are no gods, angels, heaven, or hell. There is only the natural world that sustains and nurtures us all. We can understand and believe firmly in nature and take pride in our rationality. The courage of an atheist is to deal rationally with our world and to live and die with honesty and integrity. There really is no other choice for us.

(Please ALLOW COOKIES if you want to see the books)

A Speech presented to Utah Atheists

Cowboy terrorist ca. 1959

   Thank you for allowing me to address your organization, Atheists of Utah at the January 2002 meeting. It is especially nice to be here at the Salt Lake City Public Library in this beautiful new meeting room. Over the years, I have used this library extensively so it feels good to be among the books that have provided me solace and refuge from the isolation of living in Utah. Much of what I believe about the world is a result of books. Libraries are bastions of freedom of thought and belief so I salute all those involved in library work. It is also an honor for me to address such intelligent, freethinking people and I hope I will be worthy of your attention. Many of you probably already know as much if not more about religious persecution and problems with freedom from religion in Utah than I do. You have shown incredible courage by openly proclaiming your choice to not believe in religion. I hope you will find my story both interesting and enlightening.

I don’t think I have ever really referred to myself as an atheist. Basically, I just don’t like being labeled. I think our society places way too much emphasis on ranking and labeling people. I think that labels are too shallow and don’t really reflect who we are. We are all individuals and should be respected as such. I prefer to be known merely by my given name of Julian Hatch.

All I can really take responsibility for are my own beliefs and actions. I do not wish to take credit for the efforts of others nor be judged by their actions. I don’t think others should be judged for my actions and beliefs. We can associate with one another but ultimately we are all individuals. Everyone who is a member of this organization is not necessarily an atheist. They may merely be interested in issues concerning church and state. I have been accused of conducting a decades long campaign of hate and terror by a former police officer and state park superintendent who lives in Boulder, Utah. So, I hope no one here today will be implicated as terrorist accomplices or sympathizers just because you have come to this meeting to hear me speak.

Given what I have experienced over the past several years just about any accusation might be made and my speaking to you may well be construed as an act of terrorism. I know that anything I say today can and probably will be used against me in court so I am speaking from a prepared text in an effort to protect myself from further baseless accusations. Put your self in my shoes, no one wants to be accused of being a terrorist. Osama Bin Laden is a terrorist. Am I being equated to him? It sounds like I am a violent criminal. People are afraid to be around a terrorist. This is the kind of life I now must live for daring to not believe in religion and reside in the state of Utah. That is why I am being accused of terrorism and why I must now tell my story.

Everyday I am forced to consider exactly where I go, who I might run into, who I speak with, and I always try to insure that there is some courageous person present who can act as a witness. If you live in Utah and are not Mormon then you are already presumed guilty. I am now forced to prove that I didn’t do anything wrong. This sounds like life in a totalitarian state or under the Taliban but no, this is Utah and it is being operated like some kind of theocracy. I don’t know if this would happen to me in other places but I know if I don’t speak out now about this persecution I will continue to find myself railroaded. Our government is sliding down a slippery slope of intolerance against those who don’t agree with the religious majority. What is happening to me because I don’t subscribe to religion could happen to you.

The dictionary states that an “atheist” is someone without a belief in god and a “theist” is someone who does believe in god and religion. Atheists are basically just non-theists. But why should merely not believing in something require or even deserve identification? What does my non-belief have to do with someone else’s beliefs? Just because I don’t believe in something it does not mean they can’t believe it. I strongly believe that theists have a right to believe in supernatural beings that rule the universe even if they can’t reasonably justify such a belief. But why is there a need to label the people who don’t believe as they do? There are lots of things I don’t believe in, such as space aliens, Santa Claus, and flying elephants but there are no labels for not believing in those things. I don’t believe that the sun revolves around the earth or that the earth is flat. They used to call people who believed those things “heretics” and they were tortured and killed for their disbelief but now that science has proved them correct, it is considered normal. I see the importance of acknowledging someone as a doctor or other professional but I don’t think there is a profession or college degree for atheism. There are many things I don’t believe in besides religion as well as many other things I do believe in. I resent religious believers as someone who believes in nothing. How can the beliefs of a person be summed up with a label merely noting disbelief in gods? And what does not believing in something that doesn’t actually exist really imply anyway?

I think most people are usually very skeptical about unfounded claims but when it comes to religion they seem to be afraid to apply the same sensibility. They say it takes a leap of faith to believe in religion and that’s the truth! Faith is defined as unquestioning belief without verification or evidence. Faith is a dangerous way to operate your life. Imagine if everyone driving cars used faith to know how to drive them. Actually, that might explain a lot about some of the drivers in Utah. Some people say that belief in god is supported by rationality but there can be no evidence for gods or the supernatural. Religious belief can only be based on faith. It is impossible to prove the existence of the supernatural because only nature can be shown to exist. Nature, by definition is “everything in time and space that exists in the universe.” Supernatural gods do not exist in any way that can be perceived. If you don’t believe me, look up the meaning of words like religion, god, spirituality, rationality, nature, and supernatural in the dictionary. Nature and the supernatural are mutually exclusive. Gods can only be supernatural otherwise they would not be gods. And natural things can’t be gods because they are not supernatural. It is impossible to prove the existence of something that doesn’t exist. You can’t prove a negative. It is even harder to disprove the existence of something that doesn’t exist. By labeling someone an atheist, believers attempt to shift the burden onto them to prove that god doesn’t exist. Shouldn’t people who believe in gods be the ones who need to justify such a belief? There is not one shred of rational evidence for the existence of supernatural gods who rule the universe. There can never be any evidence or proof of their existence. Believers have only the unquestioning belief of faith. Just because you can imagine something doesn’t make it real. Someone can think up gods or pink elephants ad infinitum but it doesn’t mean any of them actually exist.

Ken's Guide to the Bible
    by Ken Smith

With precision and pig-iron wit, this compact volume lays
bare all the sex, gore, and lunacy that the Bible offers.

I think a better term for atheists might be “realists.” Atheists believe in reality and rely on factual knowledge to determine what exists. Atheists do not know everything and they could be wrong but at least they have evidence for their beliefs. I believe in nature because it exists and I can prove it. No one disbelieves in the existence of nature so why can’t we all find common ground in that belief. If someone wants to believe more, then that is fine but the basis of our society and our daily lives ought to be in nature. Life could be a whole lot simpler and less controversial without people arguing over their conjectures about supernatural phenomenon. A glass of water spills and you clean it up. There is no need to speculate whether god meant for it to happen or wonder what the supernatural implications of the spill might be. There is no evidence for the existence of the supernatural so I don’t believe in it. I won’t believe in gods until I see them or have some kind of rational way of knowing she exists. But then god would have to be natural and the basic meaning would be lost. No one can prove the existence of the supernatural because anything that does exist must be natural. How can someone disprove the existence of what does not exist?

have a college degree in Human Ecology so I can be labeled as a Human Ecologist but being labeled merely because I don’t believe in religion just doesn’t seem right. If something doesn’t exist there is no reason for a person to believe it does. Believing in something that is unknowable and unverifiable is not normal behavior. The term of atheist appears to be more like being branded as a traitor or marked like an adulterer in the novel “The Scarlet Letter.” But atheists have done nothing except not believe in god so evidently the brand is meant to identify and isolate them from other people. Theists and religionists seem to need to identify unbelievers as “not one of us” in an effort to force them to conform to their belief in gods. If religionists were confident in their beliefs you would think they would feel secure enough to leave non-believers alone. But it seems like they just can’t be happy until everyone else believes as they do. I’d rather be labeled a realist than merely an atheist. But after being publicly branded as a terrorist in a civil lawsuit, the label of atheist seems much more preferable. Since my disbelief in religion is the real reason I‘m being accused of terrorism the world might as well know me as an atheist. But apparently, my accuser considers disbelief in god a terrorist act. Evidently, I strike fear and terror into him because I refuse to believe in his religion. If he wants to stigmatize and hurt me socially here in “Utah, the Mormon State” and to a jury comprised mostly of Mormons, he need only brand me an atheist not a terrorist to do so.

The civil lawsuit filed against me for Abuse of Process and Malicious Prosecution states:

"Since moving to the town of Boulder, Julian Hatch has engaged in a campaign of hate and terror towards the residents of Boulder, most specifically toward Larry and Judy Davis. As part of Mr. Hatch’s campaign, he has used the legal system in an attempt to intimidate those with whom he deals. These actions are all brought without any hope of success. Their filing is a perversion of the process in order to accomplish an improper purpose; that is, to intimidate the residents of the town as well as the town council to comply with Mr. Hatch’s narrow and peculiar political and philosophical positions. The federal lawsuit as well as this action were filed with an ulterior motive and purpose and constitute abuse of process. Mr. Hatch has now brought this action and has done so without probable cause and for harassment and annoyance. The filing of this action and the federal lawsuit by Mr. Hatch is done maliciously and constitutes malicious prosecution.”

Boulder, Utah resident Larry Davis claims I terrorized and intimidated local residents by moving to the town in 1981 and thirteen years later, opening a small beer store and campground named Freedom From Religion.

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10 Reasons Why Beer is Better than Jesus

 I moved to the town only because of its proximity to the spectacular red rock canyons of south central Utah. I have never asked much of locals and most people have treated me fine. I wouldn’t mind at all if they left me completely alone to my enjoyment of nature. And most people do leave me alone; in fact, most people have never seen me or know anything about my existence. I did not move there because of the people who already lived there or who have come with the recent development in the area that was so strongly desired by community leaders. But there are always some people who gravitate toward power and greed, trying to climb up to top of the hierarchal ladder. And to stay on top they need to control the lives of other people. They especially feel a need to oppress people that resist their machinations. Such a person is usually labeled as a bully. They can be found anywhere, not just within Mormonism or Utah. They claim to represent the majority and feel it’s their paternalistic and supposed patriotic duty to protect society from those that are different or dare to question authority. These people don’t like change and want to maintain the status quo.

In Utah, with the Mormon prohibition on use of alcohol, it seemed like Freedom From Religion was a good name for an alternative beer store. I am not trying to intimidate or terrorize the residents of “Mormon country” by the name. The name wasn’t freedom from Mormons. Nor even freedom from Christians. I knew Mormons would probably not come to my business no matter what name I gave it. After being persecuted and shunned for many years for my refusal to attend the local Mormon Church “Ward” and with my concerns for the environment, I had to seek elsewhere for people who were different. I tried to provide visitors with freedom to choose an alternative facility where they could hear another point of view and learn more about the many social and environmental issues in Utah and the southwest. In short, I tried to provide some freedom and diversity.

When I saw a real possibility of economic opportunity I asked the town for licenses for a microbrewery and restaurant but they were not provided because alcohol had been outlawed except for two existing gas stations. The Mayor and Town clerk also didn’t like the name and concept for the restaurant. There were already three traditional style restaurants within a couple of hundred yards and downwind of my property so I decided to open a vegetarian restaurant with the name “Meat is Murder.” I have been a vegetarian for many years and there are lots of new innovative meatless products and recipes to offer to the ten percent or more of the public who visit the area and desire to dine vegetarian. I wanted a name that would clearly denote that the restaurant was vegetarian. I definitely did not want people coming in and complaining that I didn’t serve meat. The state allowed me to file my license under the name Meat is Murder but Larry Davis apparently thinks it was an act of hate and terror against himself and cattle ranchers. I am evidently intimidating some people to not eat meat produced by local ranchers. But like many other environmentally minded people, I oppose livestock ranching on the scenic public lands in the area so I would not use their meat products anyway. Apparently, I’m being coerced to conform to the local custom and cultural beliefs of Mormonism and cattle ranching.

In Utah, the majority of residents are Mormons. If you are not a member of “the one and only true church” then you are automatically a minority and as such, you are open to attacks and persecution. Most of the elected representatives, courts, jurors, and police that make and enforce the laws in Utah, are Mormons so if you are not one of them you are already on shaky ground. I believe there is a Mormon cultural persecution complex. It’s sort of like reverse discrimination where those who are repressed are accused of persecuting their oppressors if they dare openly complain. Mormons have set themselves above others as the chosen people and if anyone honestly rejects those beliefs they say they are just anti-Mormon. Because I don’t believe in his religion, Davis claims I hate him. He may feel he is right because millions of Mormons believe as he does. But we know from history that even if millions of people believe something, it still does not make it true. People who choose to become or remain Mormons make a conscious intellectual choice and can be held accountable for their claims. Questioning and rejecting their religion is fair because it is what they chose to be. But when Davis brands me a terrorist it is unfair, unfounded, and irresponsible. I do not choose or claim to be a terrorist. I have never committed any acts of terror. I have never been arrested in my entire life. I have done nothing criminal to the residents of Utah. I am not a terrorist!

In his lawsuit, Davis claims I am trying to force my “narrow and peculiar political and philosophical positions” on him and others by filing lawsuits. He claims that he and other residents were intimidated and terrorized when I filed lawsuits involving my civil rights and illegal zoning regulations. And they probably are very unhappy since the claims I have made have all been decided in my favor. Davis also claims when I threaten lawsuits, he and other government officials are intimidated from continuing illegal governmental practices. This is stressful for him and he claims it causes him headaches, stomachaches, loss of sleep, and appetite. He accuses me of hate while he hatefully brands me a terrorist.

Like many Americans, I thought I had a right to file a lawsuit when that is the only way to resolve the problem. I had tried for years to resolve my difficulties and was left with no other recourse. How should people resolve their conflicts if not in the courts? Larry Davis has repeatedly challenged me to engage in what his attorney refers to as “mutual physical combat” with him but I don’t think that is going to solve anything. He might beat me up but he can’t make me believe in his gods or religion. The problem is that the Utah legal system doesn’t seem to want non-Mormons to file cases in their courts. They appear to want people to settle issues on their own and that works out quite well politically when the issues involve religion because the religiously empowered majority will always have the advantage. On the other hand, if certain Mormons want to sue you they appear ready and willing. But they normally use the police for that. Since I have done nothing criminal, they now say I have abused the legal system by filing suits although I have won them all.

I have only filed a couple of lawsuits in my entire life and all of them have involved Boulder Town where I have lived for the past twenty years. I was right to have filed them and proved it in the courts. But the Mormon judges involved in these cases did everything they could to help the Town Council defendants. The only reason I have had any success in the courts is that I have been absolutely right and the town has been blatantly wrong. I won a Federal Civil rights verdict against the town in 1999 but not before the judge granted the protection of “qualified immunity” to all of the Town Council officials who had violated my rights. By the time the case got to the jury the only defendant left was the town itself so the jury was not able to even consider punitive damages. Since the jury decided in my favor it must be assumed that given the opportunity they would have assessed punitive damages against the Mayor and Town Clerk for improperly denying my business licenses. This would have sent a much stronger message and ended continuing violations of my rights but the judge protected them so they just continued to act illegally.

A Salt Lake Tribune editorial on April 19, 1999 entitled “Justice in Boulder” about the jury verdict stated “This trial sends a simple, but too easily forgotten message to all cities and towns that it is wrong to harass or otherwise interfere with an individual because he or she is perceived as not sharing the vision, values, or any other attribute a community’s majority uses to identify itself. Even if the vast majority of residents share a common faith or values, this is no reason to use that majority status to lord it over the minority, or individuals, who do not.” Very well said! I really appreciated that editorial but the message of the verdict was evidently never heard or heeded. It didn’t cost the people who actually violated my rights any money. So the message lost much of its effect. Town clerk Judith Davis says the jury made the wrong decision. They did nothing wrong.

My allegation of assault against Larry Davis, the husband of the town clerk, was initially filed in 1996 in the Federal Civil rights lawsuit. I thought the town council was working with Mr. Davis to violate my rights. I think they allowed him to assault me during a town meeting and they did nothing to try and stop him. The Boulder Town Clerk and Council then purposely failed to produce minutes of the public meeting precisely to cover up the fact that I was assaulted. They also lied to the police investigator, another Mormon, when he performed a cursory investigation. The police investigation did not even include talking with Larry Davis or even interview this accused assailant. Does that seem like a real investigation to you? I properly filed the case in the jurisdiction of the Federal Court along with the other violations that took place during the past two years. The assault occurred in a town meeting and was part of the town’s efforts to violate my civil rights. Larry Davis had to be named in order to prove there had even been an assault. But the assault claim was dismissed for “lack of jurisdiction” after Mr. Davis and his attorney convinced the judge that the alleged assault did not occur in a town meeting so it did not involve the town council violations of my civil rights. They submitted the official town council minutes that did not include the hour-long discussion of the town building inspection program that night, which is when I claimed I had been assaulted in my police statement. If there was no discussion about the illegal building program in the minutes then there could be no linkage to the Town. They claimed that I lied about being assaulted at a town meeting. After it was dismissed from Federal court I had to re-file in state court within one year. If I didn’t they would have sued me for filing a malicious Federal Court claim. I now needed to prove there had been assault more than ever.

The assault claim should have been heard in the 1999 Federal court trial but it was kept out once Judge Thomas Greene believed Davis, the town minutes, and his attorney. I went on to prove the other civil rights violations against the town and the assault claim would have been over years ago except for the mistaken dismissal. Even then, it should have been heard in state court many years before now except that when I filed the assault in state court, Davis and his attorney James Bradshaw, cooked up the idea to accuse me of a “campaign of hate and terror” so they could claim the assault allegations were false and maliciously filed and should be dismissed again. And if Davis was shown to have assaulted me then he was justifiably provoked by my terrorism against the local residents.

At this point it was now up to the Utah Sixth District Court Judge, David L. Mower, to see through this charade and dismiss the malicious prosecutorial claims being made by Davis, at least until a jury found he was not guilty of assault. Termination in his favor is required prior to being able to file such charges. If not, Davis and his attorney would basically be guilty of filing their own counterclaims maliciously if he were later to be found guilty of assault. His claims are premature. If Davis is found guilty of assault then I certainly didn’t file the charge maliciously. That fact alone could help a Mormon jury that is sympathetic to Davis, not want to find him guilty. If religious jury members don’t like my differing beliefs then he might be acquitted anyway. That is why they are claiming I have terrorized the local residents with my so-called “narrow and peculiar philosophical and political positions.” There really is a method to their madness. But surely the judge would do the right thing and routinely dismiss the counterclaims. He could do so without prejudice so they could be filed later if Davis was found not guilty of assault. But unfortunately that’s not how the legal system works in southern Utah.

Davis and his attorney provided a Utah Supreme Court appeal case from 1976 called Baird vs. Intermountain where the Court affirmed a lower ruling that the school district had not maliciously prosecuted Baird. The court decision stated: “We do not disagree with the proposition that under certain circumstances a cause of action may exist for the wrongful bringing of civil proceedings. But only when the civil suit is shown to have been brought without probable cause, for the purpose of harassment or annoyance; and it is usually said to require malice. It seems quite obvious that except in the most unusual circumstances, a prerequisite to such a showing is that the prior suit be terminated in favor of the defendant therein…it is our opinion that the trial court correctly ruled that her asserted claim in this action does not meet the requirements of a cause of action for wrongful civil proceedings as set out above.”

Davis and Bradshaw had found a mere reference to the possibility of a loophole and they took full advantage of it. They said my assault claim was an unusual exception to prior termination so their malicious prosecution claims could be filed and heard in the same trial as the assault claim. My assault claim was deemed unusual merely because of their allegations of hate and terror made by Davis. And they relied merely on an obscure reference from a Utah case that ultimately ruled against using the same strategy. Brilliant strategy or just another scam, my case will be the first and only such “unusual” case in the history of Utah. If there had ever been such a case before you can be sure they would have cited it. And Judge Mower took the big leap of faith along with Davis and Bradshaw when he refused to dismiss the premature counterclaims. Since the Judge is a devout Mormon, I don’t think he agreed with my political and philosophical positions anymore than Davis. I have had to spend more than 20,000 dollars defending myself from the terrorist accusations made by Larry Davis and in trying to get the malicious claims dismissed. We have taken Depositions, filed motions for dismissal, and Summary Judgment in efforts to prove that Davis has no probable cause to accuse me of terrorism. They could not provide one date or any instance where I terrorized anyone. Their testimony shows that they don’t remember what or when I did anything except supposedly “making faces” to antagonize Davis at the meeting just before he assaulted me. It reminds me of atheists trying to disprove the existence of something that does not exist. It’s just as difficult to disprove that something did not happen when nothing did happen. How does one prove their innocence to a biased Mormon Utah court Judge?

The way the legal system operates in the “latter-days” is that an immense amount of time and money must be expended to ever get to a resolution. The amount of paperwork is staggering and you can easily get buried beneath it. A lawsuit will cost 5,000 dollars just to be written and filed. Then you are hooked in for the long ride, like two cars with their bumpers locked. The Federal case I won cost me 60,000 dollars up front, took four years, and seven full days of trial. Taxes take close to a third of the money awarded to “make you whole.” The government made money off the government violating my rights. What a racket! And when you look at the legal system as a whole it’s like gambling in a casino where you have little chance to win. But the judges and others get lots of nice buildings and other perks. I bet their neighbors don’t even think about locating a construction company or “pig farm” next to their houses like they have allowed happen to me

There are too many lawsuits needing to be filed but only so much time and money to see them through and the judges know it. The saying in the Utah law biz is: “Don’t worry, you are only innocent until proven broke.” I have gone the distance and done a good job preparing my case for inevitable appeals to the higher courts. This past summer Judge Mower again decided against dismissal of the claims against me after I presented an extensively documented and detailed Summary Judgment motion. It was pretty apparent that he never even read the materials. Judge Mower incoherently rattled on about how I had “lost” the Federal case. My attorney and I guessed how Judge Mower would rule and were well prepared for an appeal to the higher courts. Justice would eventually be mine.

We filed a motion for the Utah Supreme Court to hear my Interlocutory Appeal and waited for a couple of months to hear back. The day after the September 11th terrorist attack, Chief Justice Howe finally signed a one-sentence denial, which gave no reason for not allowing the appeal to be heard by the court. They didn’t refer me to the Utah Court of Appeals so I have nowhere left to appeal. The court must not have seen any reason to hear my appeal but I think they just couldn’t tolerate unbelief in their religion especially while our country was under attack by terrorists. They probably thought that if I’m not guilty then what is the problem with a trial? Perhaps they used some simple logic such as the Islamic terrorists are attacking Christian beliefs and Hatch is accused of attacking the religious beliefs of Mormons so Hatch could also be a terrorist. There has been a lot of “God Bless America” banter since the September attacks. Why don’t the religious ask their gods to bless the entire world? Are the gods only on the side of Americans? What do gods really have to do with crashing planes into buildings anyway? Did the Islamic gods help the terrorists or did the Christian gods fail to protect America? I don’t think we should blame terrorist attacks on gods. They might be blamed on belief in gods but the persons who took the actions are the ones who should ultimately be held responsible.

Although I was not informed of the Supreme Court denial to hear my appeal for over a month, I knew when I heard it that the court was acting in a prejudicial way. Yes, I know that the court can pick their cases but this was one they just couldn’t refuse. Insuring that I would be put on trial for terrorism under the guise of malicious prosecution just because I filed a civil claim for assault is something the high court needs to deal with. If Davis is guilty of assault then there can be no basis for his counterclaim of being maliciously prosecuted so there would be no reason to have a trial about the counterclaims in the first place. The high court’s refusal to hear the appeal means they can say no ruling was made one way or the other but by not making a decision a decision was effectively made to put me on trial and to cause me a lot of expense and defamation. I shouldn’t have to go through this kind of libel and defamation when there is no probable cause. If the Supreme Court had heard the appeal they would have been convinced that the claims against me are premature and unfounded. The denial to hear my appeal effectively sets a precedent and you could now see defense attorneys file malicious prosecution claims based merely on their saying their clients are not guilty. Defendants can now accuse their victims of terrorism for filing complaints against them prior to termination in their favor and have those counterclaims heard in the same trial. I foresee many appeals and clogged courts.

The denial of my appeal by the Utah Supreme Court has a very chilling effect on anyone who has to fight to protect their rights because they can now be counter sued prior to having their claims heard at trial for daring to make accusations. My situation is similar to being hit with a SLAPP suit. SLAPP suits are “Strategic lawsuits against public participation” and they are a serious menace to free speech because they cost the plaintiff time and money defending the counter allegations for initially filing their claims. Filing an assault claim is not a SLAPP suit but claiming a campaign of hate and terror” is. No one can really afford lawsuits anyway but SLAPP’s make it so much more expensive that you no longer really have recourse to the courts. It keeps people in line, to conform, and silences free speech. In my case, I not only got assaulted but also got sued for daring to seek help from the courts. This is an intimidation lawsuit meant to stifle my free speech in a public meeting about governmental policies. SLAPP suits attack the Petition clause of the First Amendment of our Constitution that insures the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. In Utah, you do so now at your own risk.

I can still appeal the case after the trial but that will cost thousands dollars more. If the Supreme Court then overrules Judge Mower by finding that the malicious prosecution claims should have not been allowed at the trial we will all be stuck with a retrial and additional expenses. The high court could and should have heard my appeal. So why wouldn’t they hear it? They had plenty of time to read the basis for the appeal and I think they knew they would have a tough time ruling against me. Finally, after the September terrorist attacks, full of recrimination and anger at what they perceived as an attack on the religious values of America, they decided to just duck the problem and allow me to be put on trial for terrorism. The policy of the courts in Utah appears to be to only take a case when they can see it will result in a win for the religious majority. If there is any question they just don’t accept the case to be heard. It’s really no skin off their backs.

As a Human Ecologist, I study the interrelationships between humans and their environment. I try to synthesize and integrate observations into knowledge to make recommendations for improvements. But anyone can look around our planet. You don’t have to be a Human Ecologist to see that almost every conflict and war is based on ethnic and religious issues. Each group claiming they know the absolute truth and deserve to dominate everything in a particular area. They drive out the minority who don’t believe as they do. Wars are generally about forcing people to conform that they don’t already control. Southern Utah and particularly Garfield County, where I live, is infamous for battles in the war between Mormons and environmentalists over development and power. The Mormon majority feels persecuted by the pro environmental minority. A May 1988 National Public Radio broadcast about the Burr Trail paving controversy, correctly portrayed this on-going religious war. The introduction to the radio program stated:

"A philosophical and religious war is raging over an area of public land in southern Utah known as the Colorado Plateau. Central to the conflict is the issue of paving a single lane dirt road, which would give easier access for tourists and developers to land rich in natural resources. Mormon fundamentalists who have farmed the land for a hundred years believe that to follow the Old Testament mandate to "go forth and multiply" they must make of the land all that is possible. Environmentalists believe with equal fervor in a pantheistic view that any assault on the land is an assault on God and man in nature. The fight over whose is the right and mandate to serve as "stewards of the Land" is explored by Scott Carrier.”

I just wish they’d end their religious war or take it somewhere else. Both sides are wrong if they want to justify their actions on a grandiose scheme involving supernatural gods. They are really battling over who controls power not what is in the best interest of the earth. You would think after hearing this radio program that the only people who care about environmental issues are religious people. That is probably because of the mindset that the universe is created and ruled by gods. But there are other people who care about the land that are not religious. They want to preserve what is left of valuable and important lands that have international implications. They care about nature and humans.

I really do care about the earth and I have concerns with how humans are relating to their environment. I have tried to live a much simpler, self-reliant lifestyle based on frugality and efficiency. I produce much of my own food, work independently, believe in sensible moderation, I embrace a “pay as you go” financial policy, and take responsibility for my impact on the planet. I try not to be hypocritical, bullshit, or intimidate anyone. I admit to trying to communicate to people to think in alternative ways about their lives and the impacts we all have on the planet. I believe in non-violence and desire peace in the world. I do not support destructive practices and live as a vegetarian mainly because of all the pain and suffering being caused to animals. I believe in reality and do not want to wait for gods to punish people in an eternal afterlife that there is no evidence for. Religionists have condemned me to eternal torment but I would never do that to them. I have tried to live a private and quiet life free of the stress of litigation. I don’t hate anyone or anything because hate does not accomplish anything. It makes things worse. War and conflict don’t really solve problems either. They basically cause pain and destruction to nature and the innocent. Religious followers should stop feuding over who the real stewards of the earth are and work for basic sense goals of protection of the planet we all share. But religions claim god provided the entire planet for human use. And if they act wrongfully they will pay in an afterlife. I think that we each have this one life and that is all we can really be sure of. We should live well and do the best with the one life we have now.

I think we can spend our time doing what is right in the world and still enjoy a good life. I founded the Boulder Regional Group in 1983 to help identify issues and raise concerns about problems with human use of the environment especially in the spectacular canyons of the Escalante area where I live. I initiated the “Home Project” to develop public policy strategies that deliberately work to moderate the wasteful consumption of natural resources. Americans use more resources per capita than other people in the world. We can live more efficiently and reduce our use of resources and still live well. The Home Project is an intentional effort to live a simpler lifestyle that is morally responsible and has a lower impact to the earth. It is not a terrorist organization or group cell. We do not have tax-exempt status because we don’t need or want it. We can act politically and we don’t want others to have to pay our way. I began developing alternatives for public policy by observing patterns of Human use. Mormons and others may not like being observed or disagree with my conclusions but I have a right to think and speak. Larry Davis may not like it and be upset that I complain about government policies but he shouldn’t be allowed to claim emotional distress because I petition our government.

We shouldn’t ruin the earth but respect and understand it. 2001 was the second warmest year since the mid 1800’s. Fifteen of the warmest years since then have all come since 1980. Sea levels rose 8-12 inches overall during the last century and are predicted to rise as much as 36 inches this century. Apparently, there are major climatic changes taking place that have been accelerated by our industrial progress over the past two centuries and these changes are not being caused by gods. Extinction of species is at epidemic levels and there are problems for the earth and it’s inhabitants. Some environmentalists now hope that the planet itself is actually a god and can save itself. But that is the old arrogant and anthropomorphic thinking of humans again. Putting a human face on everything is not realistic. The Earth is alive but not like some supernatural god. But the Earth and nature are not gods nor are they human animals. They need to be respected for exactly what they are just as each of us as individuals should be respected for who we are. Nature is powerful and doesn’t need the hype or shadow phenomenon of the supernatural to give it authority. Nature is not magical. Nature is awesome and very powerful. There is so much we don’t know about our planet yet many people think that it is mundane and thrive on fantasy about other life in the universe. But science is proving there can be few places in the universe that can create or sustain life. The natural universe is infinite but the distances are so immense that it is very unlikely our species will ever come into contact with any other life forms. Nature, not gods, rules our world and by acting responsibly we can help nature and ourselves. That is how we can truly honor the Earth. There is no need to rely on gods for reasons to want to do the right things. Although, the Earth is a very rare planet in the universe, it doesn’t mean that gods created it. To the contrary, it is very rare and special precisely because of its natural history. No other planets have such evolved life forms and ours can’t be replaced by humans or duplicated by supernatural powers. A description from the book “Rare Earth” states:

“Our planet coalesced out of the debris from cosmic events at a position within a galaxy highly appropriate for the eventual evolution of animal life, around a star also highly appropriate—a star rich in metal, a star found in a safe region of a spiral galaxy, a star moving very slowly on its galactic pinwheel. Not in the center of the galaxy, not in a metal-poor galaxy, not in a globular cluster, nor near an active gamma ray source, not in a multiple-star system, nor even in a binary, or near a pulsar, or near stars too small, too large, or soon to go supernova. We became a planet where global temperatures have allowed liquid water to exist for more than 4 billion years—and for that, our planet had to have a nearly circular orbit at a distance from a star itself emitting a nearly constant energy output for a long period of time. Our planet received a volume of water sufficient to cover most—but not all—of the planetary surface. Asteroids and comets hit us but not excessively so, thanks to the presence of giant gas planets such as Jupiter beyond us. In the time since animals evolved over 600 million years ago, we have not been punched out, although the means of our destruction by catastrophic impact is certainly there. Earth received the right range of building materials—and had the correct amount of internal heat—to allow plate tectonics to work on the planet, shaping the continents required and keeping global temperatures within a narrow range for several billion years. Even as the
Sun grew brighter and atmosphere composition changed, the Earth’s remarkable thermostatic regulating process successfully kept the surface temperature within livable range. Alone among terrestrial planets we have a large moon, and this single fact, which sets us apart from Mercury, Venus, and Mars, may have been crucial to the rise and continued existence of animal life on Earth.”

Supernatural gods wouldn’t need to go through so many specific sequences to be miraculously created. We evolved to exist when all other places failed for one reason or another. We are special and should appreciate our planet. Religion and the supernatural have been set up as better and more real than nature. Nature is seen as common and profane when compared with the “sacred.” But nature provides all the sustenance of the world and our lives. By asserting supernatural gods create and control the universe, religion debases and trivializes nature and infers it is expendable and replaceable. Religion and the concept of the supernatural are the antithesis of nature. They are basically anti-nature and therefore really anti-human as well.

Any institution that claims to speak for gods or represents itself as agents of god, shoulders a heavy burden and responsibility. I think churches should start taking responsibility for their arrogant claims. We have a right to question their assertions since they have set themselves apart from and better than everyone else. The Mormon Church has tried to downplay their differences with other Christian religions in recent years. They have changed their Logo to emphasize JESUS CHRIST and to de-emphasize the Latter-Day Saints part. Historically, the term Mormon was used to distinguish them from the “Disciples of Christ” church. During the early days of trouble in Ohio and Missouri, the Mormon Church changed its name. Sidney Rigdon made the announcement to the assembled Mormon army in Kirtland Ohio on May 4, 1834. The Prophet and High Council had agreed to change their original name of “Church of Christ” to “Church of Latter-day Saints.” By doing so, they hoped to avoid the hated name of Mormonite. Since something more specific than Christian was desired, they decided to call themselves “Saints.” How humble is it to refer to yourself as a Saint? They say it was not arrogance but merely reflected the truth. No wonder they didn’t fit in and had trouble living with their fellow Americans and other Christians. The result of the name change was people were even more loath to call them Latter-day Saints so the label of Mormon stuck. They are going to always be known as Mormons and the Book of Mormon insures that.

Mormons set themselves above other Christians but when there is animosity for doing so, they then claim they are being persecuted. But the Mormon Church stereotyped itself a long time ago. The label that Larry Davis and others have chosen for themselves, as members of the Mormon Church, is that of “Saint.” I don’t think that all Mormons are saints so they label me as a “Son of Perdition,” a traitor to the one true faith, and now Larry Davis has branded me a terrorist. He is a saint and I am not. As a saint he can now brand me a terrorist. That doesn’t seem very saint-like. Mormons began as Christians, changed their name to Latter-day Saints, and are now not considered Christians by other Christians so they emphasize Jesus Christ. Like others, I will continue to use the term Mormon. It is shorter, more correct, and people know whom you mean when you use it. But the changes are more about image and advertising spin in efforts to gain converts.

The Mormon Church operates a missionary program 24 hours a day and seven days a week to gain more converts. The Mormon Church is the major reason the Olympics are coming to Salt Lake City and it is more about converting members and gaining stature for the church than it is athletics. But the bottom line is money. I don’t just mean Olympic infrastructure and investment scams like Earl Holding gaining thousands of acres of wilderness at Snow Basin. Nor Orrin Hatch, Jim Hansen, and their ilk benefiting politically and economically, or the bribery scandal involving the Mormon dominated Salt Lake Organizing Committee. This is all about the Mormon Church gaining converts and collecting Ten percent tithing on the earnings of millions of people. That adds up to a pretty hefty payday for a church that not only doesn’t pay taxes but also doesn’t even have to report to the government what they rake in. You might also have noticed how our local legal system with Federal Judge David Sahm, put an end to all the bad publicity over the bribery scandal. It just disappeared. I’d bet that he is a Mormon, was appointed because of Mormon Senator Orrin Hatch and his ruling was based on religious bias. Judges are above petty religion and political pandering. At least, they are supposed to be.

I am unhappy about paying for churches to exist. The people who believe in a religion should pay for that church. They should pay their own way. When they don’t pay property taxes it means that others who don’t believe in them are forced to cover some of the costs for their services. Churches should at least be classified the same as any other non-profit organization. We could then know how much money is coming in and when they acted politically they would lose their tax-exempt status. What sanctions are there when the Mormon Church gets caught meddling in politics? What are they going do—make them pay taxes? Churches should want to pay their fair share of taxes. It is time the churches stood on their own and found success and support from their followers. Some people say that religions do many good things and deserve exemption because they promote good morals and fight criminal activities. If this is so then they will prosper under fair and equal taxation like other worthy groups do. But if they are not really worthy they may deserve to disappear. I personally doubt, without the preferential support of the government they now enjoy, churches would not be wealthy or popular.

In January 1996, the town council in Boulder Utah decided they wanted to have prayer as an agenda item to begin public town meetings. I and a few other citizens spoke against prayers and we were trashed for speaking out by Larry Davis and his religious pals. They said prayers were needed now more than ever because of all the divisiveness and contention in town. They couldn’t see that the divisiveness in town was primarily a result of religion. They were oblivious to the truth because they were in the majority.

But because of the resistance, the town decided to hold two minutes of silence instead for citizens to silently pray. Davis and others were very angry about the decision even though it gave them the opportunity to pray. I didn’t like the two minutes of silence either but I went along with it. So, at the very next town meeting the councilman who made the motion for two minutes of silence gave a prayer. They had basically lied to the citizens and gone against their own vote. So the meeting after that they decided to actually try the two minutes of silence. How would you like to sit through two minutes of mandatory silence? You can imagine the agony. Ten seconds of silence might be acceptable but two minutes really upset the religionists. I guess they just didn’t have that much to say to their gods. They only wanted public prayer at the meetings to show everyone attending just who ran the town. They had an elected majority of Mormons so they wanted Mormon prayers. If they couldn’t have at least a Christian prayer then there was really no point. People are animals too! And like some other animals in nature, they needed to mark their territory by pissing; I mean praying over their territory and turf.

A letter to the town dated April 5, 1996 from The Garfield County Planning Commission chair irately denounced the two minutes of silence instead of prayer because the town was “setting a dangerous precedent in determining future decisions relating to town matters.” Religionists seemed to be angrier about the fact the minority faction won the debate than the problems with two minutes of silent prayer. They didn’t ask the time be shortened to 30 seconds or something more reasonable. No, the letter said: “Is the Minority always going to rule?” and further “It was very interesting to me that the people who knew, when they moved here, that this is a predominantly Christian community, were the minority.” So the dangerous precedent being set was that since the ruling majority is religious therefore the minority should also have to pray. And the majority should rule with an iron fist: “The long time values and Christian beliefs of our town are very important to me and I will support them in any and every way I can. Those who do not like these values, do not agree with them, or are unhappy here with them are always free to go someplace else to find their kind of happiness. Please reconsider this issue and that the majority should rule in accordance with the American way of life in this country.” Love it or Leave It! And I guess that really sums up the thinking of many here in Utah. At least the Boulder Town Council agreed because that night in their meeting they took another vote and decided to have prayers at the meetings. The majority ruled and who cares about the feelings or rights of those who are not part of the majority.

That’s one thing about Mormons and other religionists, they seem to have little concern for the feelings of others not of their faith. When I found they went ahead with prayers, I wrote the town a letter asking for their formal policy and documentation of holding prayers at the meetings. I also suggested they run the issue past their attorneys to see if I was right about the 1993 Utah Supreme Court decision parameters concerning prayer at public meetings. I didn’t get a response for several months but I did hear a lot about how the congress and legislatures hold prayer, that our money says “In God We Trust,” The more or less mandatory Pledge of Allegiance contains “One nation under God, and that the School Board conducts prayers at their meetings so why shouldn’t Boulder town.

I discovered the school board was illegally praying at their meetings and since I was a property tax payer I contacted the ACLU to write them and complained to them myself. They gave me a lot of run around and denounced me for daring to complain. It took two years and my threatening a lawsuit for the school board to end the illegal practice of prayer. While they had the opportunity to conform to state law they eventually decided it wasn’t worth having their Mormon prayers if others would also allowed to also speak. That’s what Salt Lake City also decided after they “won” the prayer case. We didn’t have a prayer today at this meeting here in the Salt Lake City public library but we could have. Even in a government meeting we have the right to give one in Utah if we are on the meeting agenda to speak. I could give my opinion today, that from personal experience, nothing fails as consistently as prayer. But we all had the right to pray when we spoke at a meeting anyway. What did the 1993 Utah Supreme Court prayer decision really mean? It basically got the religious majority off the hook after they got sued. The court took the case to help out their religious brethren. But as I have recently experienced first hand, the decision basically did nothing but create more confusion that ended up causing me to get assaulted and defamed for merely trying to explain to the town what the decision said. Most places in our state continue to hold prayers in public meetings just like before. They have instituted no formal policy just as if no parameters were ever set by the high court.

I was raised in Utah as a Mormon and I always thought the rest of the world is like it is here. There may be some other places that are predominantly religious like Utah but the latest Mormon temple dedication somewhere else in the world is probably not going to be a prominent news item on the evening news like it is here. Most people elsewhere think Utah is a “narrow and peculiar” place. You hear a lot of Mormons say to go elsewhere if you don’t like the dominance of the church in Utah. And many of my friends and some of my family have done just that. There is a lot of pressure to conform here in Utah. The world may be welcome to visit but if they don’t like the culture they are more than welcome to leave. Religion enforces social conformity and discourages independent critical thought. Religion is really all about control and conformity. Such conformity erodes self-confidence, personal responsibility and self-reliance. Religious establishments are designed to gain economic, political, and social power for their followers to the exclusion of all others. Non-believers are isolated, intimidated, humiliated, and persecuted by “the chosen faithful of the one true religion.” This holds true in Utah.

I define religion as “the unquestioning belief in hypothetical supernatural powers to be obeyed as rulers and worshipped as creators of the universe.” All religions must include some belief in supernatural gods. Religion is all about obedience to god and attempting to supplicate supernatural powers to get beneficial results. Religion is not merely a system of morality or a code of ethics. The English word religion is derived from the Latin root word “religare” which means, “to bind back again.” Religion is mostly about conformity and binding people back to superstitious belief. Religion is enslavement and tyranny because it requires absolute obedience and the unquestioning belief of faith to bind people to superstition. The uncertainty of the unknown and fear of death offer opportunities for unscrupulous people to take advantage of the weak minded. Threats of eternal damnation and promises of a blissful afterlife are powerful enticements for believers. By promising rewards based on unfounded assertions, leaders operate a religious con game of control. It is an elaborate trick used to gain power and control over people. The supernatural concept makes religious belief unassailable by science or facts.

Bigotry is defined as the unquestioning, obstinate, and blind adherence to a particular belief. Such unquestioning belief or faith in religion promotes self-righteous arrogance and bigotry. Religion is bigotry and because it is divisive it has caused untold misery, intolerance, and strife throughout history. The dogmatic doctrines of religion do not allow for freedom from religion or that they could be wrong. Religion arrogantly proclaims itself to be absolutely true without any real evidence. Only through open discussion, free from intimidation and retribution can the deceptions of supernatural religious belief be forced to disappear into reality. I have been branded a terrorist because I am asking for freedom of speech and belief. The religious faithful seem to be afraid of such freedom.

“GOD BLESS AMERICA” and to hell with everyone else 
Our national motto of “In God We Trust” is relatively recent and was passed into law during the 1950’s when McCarthyism and communist fear mongering of the Cold War was at its height. This was also the time when “One nation under God” was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance. The earliest known reference to a Pledge of Allegiance was in the nationally distributed magazine “Youth’s Companion” in September 1892. The particular magazine edition was published in conjunction with the National Public School’s Celebration of Columbus Day. The pledge was attributed to a staff writer and the original pledge she composed included only “one empire” and not “one nation under god.” Congress adopted the present version of the Pledge in 1954, the year I was born. Congress made it official but did not mandate its recitation but as I found out in schools and at present town meetings, if you don’t stand and recite it you will be treated very badly. The founders of our nation did not create the national motto and pledge. Religionists have steadily been trying to force their beliefs into our government ever since the founders created a secular government. Our national motto started out as E PLURIBUS UNUM “One unity composed of many parts in 1786. It should have stayed that way but religionists just can’t be happy until everyone bows to their gods. Our money now says “In God We Trust.” The first time it appeared on a coin was in1864 and they got it on more coins in 1908. The motto first appeared on paper currency in 1955 when congressman Lyndon Johnson introduced legislation later signed by Eisenhower.

I don’t know when swearing on the Bible and repeating the phrase “So Help Me god” started but I have found that some Judges in Utah don’t like it when you ask, even ahead of time, not to have to swear to god in their courtrooms. Judge David L. Mower made quite a fuss and tried to belabor the fact that I didn’t believe in god before he would allow me to merely affirm to tell the truth. He then ruled against me but was later overturned.
The posting of the Biblical Ten Commandments in public buildings and courtrooms continues to get the support of religious zealots but I think they are just plain wrong. The government should never have established any of these religious mottos and beliefs. Christians have attempted to change and amend the Constitution since the early 1800’s but they have always failed. I am worried that with all the God Bless America hysteria they will again try to alter the Constitution. After all, the Mormons predict their church will someday form the government for the entire planet. That would be a worldwide theocracy. Having religious clerics running the nation is very bad idea. It would be a lot like the Taliban or Iran. Our government should remain neutral in matters concerning religion.

A Republican Utah legislator who is also a Mormon, named Richard Siddoway currently feels it is very important to pass legislation to get the national motto of “In God We Trust” prominently displayed in our schools. Brother Siddoway evidently, has not read Washington’s quote and knows little about the history of our nation. He’d probably say his lack of education results from not having enough religion in the schools but since I was schooled here myself, I can testify that there was no lack of religious indoctrination in the schools of Bountiful and Davis County. Instead of more religion we should try teaching about our secular republic. Brother Siddoway, like other religious zealots, probably thinks god will start protecting America if we would all just kneel to the Lord. But religionists like Brother Siddoway know that belief in religion is the foundation of nationalism so by pushing religion down our throats they think they are acting patriotically. I guess he missed the famous Samuel Johnson quote that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Shoving “In God We Trust” down our throats is nothing more than indoctrination and it doesn’t work here anymore than it did in Afghanistan. Perhaps Brother Siddoway, Larry Davis, attorney Jim Bradshaw, Representative Jim Hansen, Senator Orrin Hatch, Governor Mike Leavitt, SLOC president Mitt Romney, Judge David L. Mower and other Mormons should actually read the Bill of Rights and pay particular attention to where the First Amendment insures freedom of belief for all citizens. I’d like to close my talk by reading my business brochure from 1994 when I first opened. This is evidently one of the principle pieces of terrorist evidence against me.

 Freedom From Religion is Freedom of Religion
The freedom of belief is a fundamental concept of the United States Constitution. We have the right to believe as we choose and to openly express our opinions. This includes the right to question the beliefs of others and to openly reject them. We have the right to not believe in or be forced to support any religion. The government may not give preference to religion or deprive the rights of those who choose not to believe in religion. It must protect the rights of everyone to have equal access and due process of law. Representative democracy provides the opportunity for the majority of citizens to elect officials who hold similar views and beliefs. But even if the majority belongs to a particular religion they may not force their doctrines on non-believers. Minority rights are in the best interest of everyone. It is important that elected officials remember to protect the rights of all citizens, no matter what beliefs they hold.

Our constitution established a godless, secular democracy that was the first of its kind in the world. Historically, the governance of most nations was based on "divine authority" rather than from the popular support of the people. Such theocratic government asserted control through the power held by religions. Many early American colonists were fleeing from religious persecution conducted by The Church of England and other European theocracies. Soon each of the early American colonies had their own predominant religion which in turn persecuted unbelievers. The founders of the United States knew from personal experience the strife and division that comes with religious passion. They realized that there could be no real freedom of belief unless the government remained neutral and allowed citizens to have freedom from religion. We can take pride in the great accomplishment of the founding of our democratic republic.

Some people believe that the United States is a religious Christian nation but it is obvious from our history and Constitution that this is not true. The first four Presidents of the United States were not Christians nor did they believe the Bible was divinely inspired. The founders of our country declared that there was no official religion. Our nation stands as a beacon for tolerance of all beliefs and a bastion of free speech. The State of Utah is dominated by Latter-day Saint Mormons and there are those who would like to change our government into a theocracy. We must not be intimidated by the religious fanaticism in Utah and across the nation. It would be a mistake to return to the divisive "Dark Ages" of ignorance, superstition, oppression, and strife. It is better and more important to educate people rather than to indoctrinate them. To remain silent while religionists destroy our constitutional rights would be a mistake from which we might never recover. We must stand and protect our right of Freedom from Religion. 
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Thanks to everyone for your support and help during my difficult time of being labeled a "terrorist" for my non-belief in religion. I give permission for anyone to copy and post my speech to the Atheists of Utah on January 6, 2002, as long as you reference as the source.

The trial will begin on Tuesday the 2nd through the 5th of April 2002 in Panguitch, Utah. The terrorist allegations have gone on long enough especially after the tragic events of September 11,2001. I have been deeply hurt  by accusations of conducting a "campaign of hate and terror" by Larry Davis and his attorney James Bradshaw of Salt Lake City.

Thanks again,
   Julian Dean Hatch



Boulder Men Fight Town For Right to Sell Alcohol
The Salt Lake Tribune,12/07/1998

BOULDER -- At the top of a double-downshift grade, along one of the most scenic highways in America, sits the town that some locals have nicknamed ``Little Bosnia.''
That's because Boulderites always seem to be arguing or fighting about something, whether it's water, land, cows, construction, zoning, religion or the weather. In the Old West, if these fights ever escalated beyond carping over the fence, Judge Colt and his jury of six would settle them.

These days, the 130 or so residents of this southern Utah community keep their pistols holstered and, instead, shoot it out in court. One Boulder court case has wound its way into federal court and another is before Utah's Supreme Court. Both deal with one of Utah's hot-button issues: alcohol and a business's right to sell it, and a community's right to restrict or prohibit it:

The Utah Supreme Court is questioning Utah's time-honored policy of ``local consent'' requiring applicants for state liquor licenses to first get approval to serve alcohol from their local city council -- in response to Boulder innkeeper Mark Austin's suit against the town.

A federal jury will decide this spring if the property rights of Boulder beer retailer Julian Hatch were violated by the Town Council when it refused to grant him a license to sell beer, while giving licenses to two other stores in town.  Austin and Hatch could be called crusaders at best, troublemakers at worst. They have elected to use their own money to fight city hall, and the state's sometimes imposing, confusing, antediluvian brace of liquor laws, a conglomeration of licensing regulations that a Utah

Supreme Court justice last month labeled ``schizophrenic.'' And while their cases were born out of small-town feuds, the decisions handed down may well change the way communities around Utah regulate booze.  ``While I may be a crusader, I certainly had no intention of going this far,'' says Hatch, who has lived in Boulder since 1981. ``I haven't spent $40,000 on legal costs
over the past four years just to try to get a beer license that I make 50-cents-a-six-pack on. This is about basic constitutional freedoms and justice.''

Austin has spent more than three years taking his case to serve wine and cocktails in his upscale Boulder restaurant from the Town Council to the Supreme Court. He says he ``does not relish'' fighting the state's historic predisposition against alcohol, fostered by the dominant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints religion, which discourages drinking. `Until Utah is told it is part of America, we must expect this type of thinking,'' says Austin, owner of the Boulder Mountain Lodge.

In a hearing on his case last month, two Utah Supreme Court justices raised major questions over the state's 63-year-old policy of requiring those seeking a state license to serve wine and cocktails with meals in a restaurant to first get written consent from the local city council.
Austin had sued Boulder for withholding local consent from his state liquor license application in 1995 after Town Council member Wulf Barsch declared
``this place was settled by Mormons who don't believe in the use of alcohol.'' He lost his case early this year when 6th District Judge K.L. McIff ruled that local governments have broad discretion to prohibit alcohol sales within their borders.

Maybe not, according to Justices Leonard H. Russon and Christine M. Durham. Noting that Utah's Liquor Control Act charges the state with licensing and regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages in a manner ``which reasonably satisfies public demand,'' the two Supreme Court judges questioned how any town could prohibit wine and cocktail sales while still satisfying public demand. ``Having undertaken regulation of liquor, the state has embraced and articulated a policy of enabling availability,'' Justice Durham said during a Nov. 18 hearing. ``So if you interpret local consent in such a fashion to permit total prohibition, that would be construed in such a way that is inconsistent with the public policy that underlies the regulation.''  Russon agreed. ``The statute states so clearly what the policy is, when you talk about consent it has to be read in light of the general overall policy, which means there is going to be consent but they cannot withhold it totally,'' he said. ``[A community] may be able to restrict the hours or days or [move sales] further away from school grounds or parks or something to do with traffic, but to read it as an outright power to do away with a policy the state has clearly articulated does not seem correct to me.''

The Utah Supreme Court has yet to rule on Austin's appeal, and it is almost impossible to gauge the court's mood from the line of questioning during the brief oral arguments. However, if the court does declare that Boulder can merely regulate hours and locations of liquor sales -- rather than mandate an outright prohibition -- the impact would be felt across the state.

Russon went so far as to speculate that even if a majority of residents of a Utah community such as Boulder do not want hard liquor to be for sale to the public, state law might require the minority be accommodated. ``The statute talks about the rights of citizens of the state, and the citizens of the state are not just the citizens of Boulder,'' the 14-year veteran of the Utah bench said.

``Boulder doesn't have a big wall around it; they are isolated but they do not get to live in their own little world. They have other people coming back and forth [through town], and maybe they don't like that. But the citizens of the state, there may be those who stop in Boulder for dinner who want wine with their dinner, and this statute and policy seems to suggest that ought to be made available to them.''

Attorneys defending Boulder against Austin's lawsuit said they ``respectfully disagree'' with Russon and Durham's interpretation of the state law, and believe that Utah communities can indeed go dry if they want.  ``The lodge asserts without any legal support that residents [of Utah] have a statutory right to drink alcoholic beverages,'' said defense attorney Larry Jenkins of Salt Lake City. "`The liquor business is not one which a person has a natural, inherent, inalienable, vested or constitutional right to engage and this is because it is potentially, if not in fact, a menace or nuisance to the community.''

Jenkins said that selling a glass of wine in a Utah restaurant is ``a privilege, not a right,'' and if a community -- or every community in the state -- decides to prohibit the sale of all strong drink, no civil rights are violated. Jenkins, a non-drinker, even told the court that if a town goes dry ``it doesn't mean you can't have liquor with your dinner, it just means the restaurant can't sell it to you. If you wanted to bring liquor with you to the restaurant, you still have that option.'' Actually, you don't. Utah outlawed ``brown-bagging'' in 1991. ``I don't think you can do that anymore,'' Durham told Jenkins. ``So, it is the case in Boulder that you cannot have alcohol with a meal in a restaurant.''

While Austin's legal battle centers on how much control local governments have over alcohol sales,
Hatch's lawsuit in U.S. District Court focuses on an alcohol retailer's rights if a town tries to dry up. At the same 1995 Boulder Town Council meeting where elected officials rejected Austin's request for local consent, they passed an ordinance allowing two convenience stores to sell beer for off-premises consumption. But Hatch's store, which had been selling beer before the ordinance, was not among the two. Hatch's lawsuit claims his property rights were violated when the town refused to recognize his store's existence and decreed that two other retailers would be allowed to continue selling ``light'' beer, with 3.2 percent alcohol.  ``Julian did not have a license to sell beer, but at the time, Boulder did not even have a licensing ordinance,'' says Hatch's attorney, Budge Call of Salt Lake City. ``He had a business, a constitutionally protected property right and he was entitled to due process before the town took that away from him.''  If Hatch succeeds in suing the town for improperly taking away his beer-retailing livelihood, it could mean other existing alcohol retailers would sue local Utah governments that attempt to ``dry up'' their communities by revoking local consent or passing ordinances to reduce retail outlets.

In court last week, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball asked whether there was any chance of settling Hatch's case against the city and avoiding the jury trial set for April 5.
``What the plaintiff wants is a beer license and the town is not willing to give him that, so that's where we stand,'' said Karra Porter, the attorney representing Boulder in the case.

The town has argued that Hatch's store -- dubbed Freedom From Religion ``BEER.''
He says he has had a federal tax stamp to retail beer and has filed sales receipts to show he was doing a regular business retailing brew before the town passed the ordinance that closed him down.

Hatch has become somewhat of a pariah in the community for challenging local convention through legal action. In one counterclaim against him filed in 6th District Court, Boulder residents Larry and Judy Davis -- he runs the local state park and she is the postmistress and town clerk -- claim Hatch ``has engaged in a campaign of hate and terror towards the residents of Boulder.''  They contend his lawsuits are a ``perversion of the process to accomplish an improper purpose; that is to intimidate the residents of the town as well as the town council to comply with Mr. Hatch's narrow and peculiar political and philosophical positions.''

Hatch says his views may seem ``narrow and peculiar'' to narrow-minded people. To him,  he is merely promoting basic constitutional freedoms. ``What is going on in the small rural town of Boulder and communities throughout Utah is the opportunity for discrimination of the minority, an opportunity created by the Legislature, carried out by local officials and put in place by a powerful religious majority,'' says the descendent of LDSMormon Pioneers.  ``These people don't seem to understand the fundamental constitutional concept that freedom of religion is meaningless without ensuring citizens' rights to have freedom from religion.''

Salt Lake Tribune Editorial, 04/19/1999

Julian Hatch, with his little store and its provocative name, Freedom from Religion, may have been an irritant to Boulder town officials and even most residents, but this does not give the town justification to harass or treat him differently than others. A federal court jury reached just this conclusion when it recently awarded Hatch $86,000 after concluding the Boulder town board violated his civil rights during a drawn-out battle over the operation of his store.

Hatch's feud with Boulder focused on his attempts, since the summer of 1995, to get business licenses for his store. He claimed the town unfairly delayed approval of his retail sales license and wrongfully denied him licenses to sell beer and offer camping services.

a seven-day trial before U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball, a jury concluded the store had been in operation and selling beer before the town adopted ordinances requiring business licenses in the summer of 1995.  Hatch and his attorney have contended that town leaders had acted out of animosity to Hatch, while the attorney for Boulder said the town did not single Hatch out for harassment but merely wanted to ensure his business was in compliance with the law.

Even if the vast majority of residents share a common faith or values, this is no reason to use that majority status to lord it over the minority, or individuals, who do not. A key principle of the U.S. Constitution, not to mention the rule of law, is that all are equal before the law. This means that no individuals or groups should get preferential or more odious treatment than their counterparts.  Utah's other communities and cities, especially those in which residents like to brag about being of one mind or sharing a particular heritage or system of values, should heed the message of this trial.

Atheists Fight The Intrusion Of Religion
     Monday, January 7, 2002

It never has been easy to be an atheist in Utah.

In an era when "God bless America" has become one of the nation's -- and the state's -- best-loved catch phrases, it is perhaps harder than ever to express one's disbelief in all things divine.

That did not deter the 30 or so who attended Sunday's meeting of Atheists of Utah at the Sprague Library in Salt Lake City.

The group, which formed in September to promote "atheism as a legitimate lifestyle," is focused on helping Utahns achieve freedom from religion, said board member Charles Johnson.

He pleaded for "active participants" to battle the "intrusion of religion into our lives." The item currently in the group's cross hairs is a proposed law that would require the motto "In God We Trust" to be posted in every classroom in every public school in Utah. Proposed by Rep. Richard Siddoway (R-Bountiful), House Bill 79 will be discussed at the state Capitol on Tuesday at a meeting of the Education Committee.

Johnson urged all atheists to contact their state legislators to "let them know that religious worship should not be promoted in our public schools." After Johnson's plea, applause greeted the group's guest speaker Sunday.

Julian Hatch, a self-avowed "skeptic," used his speech to rail against the "persecution and prejudice" of the Utah Supreme Court, and likened The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Taliban.

"If you live in Utah and you're not a Mormon, you are presumed guilty," Hatch said.

He also offered his version of the long legal battle he has waged with Boulder, the small Garfield County town in southern Utah where Hatch lives and runs his business. In 1999, Hatch won $86,000 from a federal jury that had heard his civil rights complaint against Boulder. In a seven-day trial before U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball, the jury decided that the town violated Hatch's due process rights by delaying and denying him licenses to sell beer.

Hatch said Sunday he is still trying to prove a civil case against a Boulder official he claims assaulted him during a town meeting in 1996. Hatch said the man called him a terrorist in a countersuit.

"Since being labeled a terrorist, being called an atheist doesn't seem so bad," Hatch said.

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