Under the Constitution, you have the right to religious freedom:
“The rights of conscience shall never be infringed. The State shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office of public trust or for any vote at any election; nor shall any person be incompetent as a witness or juror on account of religious belief or the absence thereof. There shall be no union of church and state, nor shall any church dominate the State or interfere with its functions. No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or for the support of any ecclesiastical establishment.”
If that seems more expansive than the First Amendment rights from the United States Constitution, you would be correct. The religious freedom rights listed above come from Article 1, Section 4 of the Utah Constitution, ratified by popular vote on Nov. 5, 1895.
Utahns have rights protected by both state and federal constitutions. The state has the ability to grant its citizens more rights and legal protections than the federal government, but not less. Under Article 1 of the Utah Constitution, Utah residents are granted more rights than they receive under the Bill of Rights. Utahns have a greater right to bear arms, access courts and juries and avoid imprisonment for debt than is guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
Utah’s history with religious persecution has also led to a potentially more expansive right against unreasonable searches and seizures under the state constitution. In 1991, the Utah Supreme Court found that bank statements are protected against unreasonable search and seizure under the Utah Constitution, even though such a right was not protected on the federal level (State v. Thompson).
I remember a decision from the Utah Supreme Court that came out when I was in law school, State v. Earl. Justice Christine Durham called members of the Utah Bar on the carpet for not arguing state constitutional issues.
She wrote: “We have not considered separate state constitutional standards, even though we are aware that other states are relying with increasing frequency on an analysis of the provisions of their own constitutions to expand constitutional protection beyond that mandated by the United States Supreme Court.”
The United States Constitution, and the one most people are familiar with, is the supreme law of the land and must be followed by all the states under Article VI, Clause 2, known as the supremacy clause. Utah’s own constitution acknowledges the supremacy of the federal Constitution in Article 1, Section 3 stating: “The State of Utah is an inseparable part of the Federal Union and the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land.”
Having two constitutions gives us as citizens the potential for more rights and freedoms to be protected by our governments. The federal government gives us a line we cannot go under, but there is no reason that, as residents of the state of Utah, we can’t strive to be more free and the holders of more rights to be protected by our government.
E. Kent Winward is an Ogden attorney. He can be reached at
801-392-8200 or email@example.com.