Weber County's new sheriff, Terry Thompson, sent a letter to his staff earlier this month telling them that they're not just doing law enforcement, they are "in God's service."
He said serving others is serving God. He includes capital punishment in that because, he said, God says it is OK to kill to protect society.
Sheriff, as a friend, I have a word of advice: Boosting staff morale is great, urging your people to be dedicated and fair and hardworking and brave is wonderful.
But never, ever bring up religion unless you are ready for a very long discussion with a lot of very angry people.
I disagree with, but have no problem with, your beliefs. I sincerely hope you have no problem with mine. The critical thing is that none of your employees should ever feel you have an issue with theirs. As a government supervisor, this is critical.
In a follow-up letter, carried on our website, you say you respect all faiths. You say you're not trying to convert anyone, just trying to emphasize how having a "higher power" in one's life makes one a better person.
"Higher power" is a phrase that 12-step addiction programs use so people don't get hung up on whether God or Allah or the spirit of the trees is helping them stay sober.
Problem is, when you tell someone he or she is doing God's work, you immediately bring up the question of what God's work is.
People cite the Bible to justify hatred of gays, religious services that involve handling rattlesnakes and refusing medical care for sick children.
Are they wrong? Others use the Bible to prove they are.
You cited the Bible in defending capital punishment. You say your deep religious conviction even led you to volunteer to be on a Utah firing squad some years ago.
My beliefs frown on capital punishment.
On a practical level, the guy's in jail, society is protected.
Theologically, there's the "Thou shalt not kill" Commandment. "Thou shalt not" doesn't include a lot of wiggle room.
As we reported in Friday's paper, religious leaders around Utah, all citing the Bible, agree with both you and me.
Karl Dumas, pastor of First Baptist Church of Ogden, saw no conflict.
"If we truly believe that God is worth of glory, honor and praise, then everything we do should be dedicated to his service," he said.
However, Theresa Novak, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, doesn't see Jesus volunteering for a firing squad.
"I think Jesus taught about forgiveness, and many other religious leaders have taught about loving your enemies," she said.
Interestingly, when the reporter asked you about what the religious people were saying, you said, "This has just gotten so much bigger than it needed to be. This thing has just gotten so out of control."
I know this column is piling on, Sheriff, but you should have seen it coming.
Mark Twain wrote that man "is the only animal that has the True Religion -- several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight."
There are 50 religions listed in the phone book. Every single one of them thinks it's the one true faith, and as far as I'm concerned, they all are. Muslims, too.
If you are smart, you'll be that way. Let the churches take care of religion, you take care of law enforcement and the jail. Continue to treat everyone fairly and justly, and everyone except the crooks will be happy.
Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at www.standard.net.