‘Zion Curtain’ bill to return to the Utah legislature

Posted at 7:15 PM, Jan 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-28 00:45:35-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Despite a statement from the LDS Church against changes to Utah's liquor laws, an Ogden lawmaker is planning to run a bill that would attempt to tear down the "Zion Curtain."

Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, told FOX 13 he was drafting a bill to get rid of the separate preparation areas for alcoholic drinks in restaurants.

It comes a week after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a lengthy statement declaring it did not support further changes to Utah's liquor laws. Coincidentally, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who appeared in the videotaped statement on alcohol policy, delivered the opening prayer at the Utah State Senate on Monday.

"I think that certainly them making a public statement, including an apostle, changes the dynamic of the debate a little bit," Wilcox told FOX 13. "Other than that, it's not a departure from the past."

Wilcox questioned the effectiveness of some of Utah's liquor laws that were touted by the LDS Church.

"They've attributed our low DUI rates and success to some of the laws we've had in our state. Culturally speaking, it's very easy to argue that's because of the LDS Church," he said. "Because they commit their members to abstain from alcohol and there are a lot more members in Utah than there are other areas."

Wilcox was still drafting the bill, but similar measures he has proposed to remove "Zion Curtains" have had the support of House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo. In past statements, she has referred to them as "weird."

On the other side of the Utah State Capitol, the senate has been reluctant to do it.

"I really feel like we have a good system in Utah for alcohol policy. I'm not really supportive of much changes in alcohol for this year," said Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, who sponsors much of the liquor legislation in the state.

Valentine indicated the Senate caucus was satisfied with the state of liquor laws. He told FOX 13 he was not planning on running any alcohol policy bills in the 2014 session.

He insisted the laws were working, and working well.

"I'm actually upbeat about how the alcohol policy's working in Utah. We just got a report last week that the number of violations in our restaurants have gone down for underage drinking," Valentine said. "That's really important."