Fire and Police order commemorative badges for opening of Provo City Center Temple

Posted at 8:54 PM, Jan 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-12 22:54:00-05

PROVO, Utah -- The Provo Police and Fire Departments are sporting a new addition to their uniform that has one group questioning whether it crosses the line.

As the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opens its latest temple in Provo, the fire department purchased commemorative badges to remember the blaze that destroyed a historic building and honor the new structure that stands in its place.

The Provo City Center Temple is nearly ready for public eyes to peer inside. A public open house kicks off this weekend, and runs until March.

The building replaces the more than 100-year-old Tabernacle that burned down in late 2010.

It's a day the Provo Fire Department remembers well.

"I don't think there has been another fire in the history of Provo; except maybe 100 years ago when the woolen mills burned down," Provo Fire Chief Gary Jolley said of the magnitude of the blaze.

Jolley said the fire was a historic event because of what the Tabernacle meant to the community.

"If you went to BYU, or you grew up in Provo, you always spent some time in the Tabernacle at events," he said.

That's why, Jolley said, the department wanted to honor the building, and the temple that now stands in its place.

"In the center, it shows the temple," Chief Jolley said, showing off the new commemorative badge pinned to a firefighter's uniforms.

Jolley got the idea to design and order the badges after hearing Provo Police planned to make special badges for the temple opening.

Each pinned piece of metal cost around $60 to $65. All 78 firefighters received one. Funds came out of the uniform budget, Jolley said.

Members of both departments are already wearing the badges in place of the regular-issued badges, and will wear them until the badge’s retirement on Jan. 1, 2017.

"It's a huge event, and it's part of our history," Jolley said.

There are some who believe the badges depicting the religious building are inappropriate.

"I can appreciate the sentiment behind it," said Dan Ellis, Regional Director for American Atheists. "But, I think it was a really bad idea."

Ellis said anyone looking at the temple-covered badges may not think they're paying homage to history, but openly supporting the LDS faith.

"I would think they were employed by the LDS church to protect their temples," he said.

The fire department says the goal isn't to promote religion, but to support a huge event in the community.

"It is a church-related thing on a government-issued piece of uniform," Jolley acknowledged. "But we really want to feel like we're really engaged with the community."

Jolley said they've ordered special commemorative badges three other times. The most recent was in 2002 to celebrate the Winter Olympics.

The other two came before that-- one to honor the 150th anniversary of Provo's existence, and the other for Utah's 200th birthday.