Despite Utahn's much-vaunted hatred for "big" government, Utahns can't quit passing laws when something ticks them off.
This essential contradiction goes way beyond the continuing efforts in the Legislature to have the state monitor women's wombs. Someone gets ticked, yells "there oughta be a law," and next thing you know, there it is.
Nothing is too trivial. Awhile ago someone suggested outlawing swearing in Ogden parks.
Ridicule ensued, but it never should have come up. The last thing we need is language monitors wandering around, but if history is any guide, there would be no shortage of government enforcers happy to oblige.
Don't think so? Consider the horror of ...
* Religious proselytizing.
While visiting the incredibly beautiful new temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brigham City I noted the "free speech zone" signs on the sidewalks along three sides of it.
Those zones were set by the city to prevent another church in Brigham City from handing out literature to members of the LDS faith who were using the walk on the fourth side of the temple.
The city's "Free Speech" ordinance, passed two years ago, requires people planning to protest at some event to apply to the city for establishment of a "free speech zone" in which to do it.
Is anyone else bothered by the idea of having to ask government for permission to protest stuff? And government-enforced restrictions on where to do it?
The Boston Tea Party would be on thin ice in Brigham City.
City officials swear they just want things peaceful, but there will come a day when some government official decides that, darn it, the only way a protest will be peaceful is if it is held 20 miles out of town, preferably at Stinky Springs.
In this case, the members of the Main Street Church in Brigham City were prohibited from handing out literature on the public walk west of the new temple.
There's no indication church members were going to be rowdy or force fliers on anyone. The city felt their very existence was a problem.
That abuse of power is why the ACLU sued the city, which relented Thursday and allowed the church to use all sidewalks.
But the law stands and so does the ACLU suit.
Speaking keeping the peace ...
* It's been two years since Ogden adopted a temporary injunction prohibiting Trece gang members from associating or being out after 11 p.m.
Last month it was made permanent. The ACLU is going to appeal that one, too.
Gangs are scum. Nobody sympathizes with them. Laws against them are easy to pass.
But this law?
An Ogden police lieutenant told me he likes the injunction. He's seen a real decrease in gang crime because of it.
The problem is, the injunction presumes criminal activity is going to take place and prohibits potential perpetrators from even hanging out together.
And who decides who can't meet on the street and talk about the weather? Government.
I have tremendous respect for Ogden's finest, but the idea that government can take away anyone's constitutional rights to free speech and assembly just because they might commit a crime gives me the fantods.
"We'll only go after those who deserve it" is the answer from a watchful and protective government.
May be, but in Brigham City "those who deserve it" were, until Thursday night, church members peacefully trying to hand people pieces of paper.