‘Gov. Herbert has created his own rock and hard place’ (Rhett Wilkinson, in USA TODAY)

I wrote the following op-ed and it was picked up by USA TODAY:

USA TODAY

Gov. Gary Herbert used the term “let us reason together” when suggesting that the outdoor retailer shows were in the wrong in leaving over Herbert and Utah politicians’ land grab efforts.

One must wonder if he realized that Utahns might find it reasonable for the shows to leave given that the land grab efforts, in one case, would have cost $14 million (a lawsuit); in another, was not considerate enough of tribal concerns (the Public Lands Initiative); and in a third, were trying to undo something that had already been done (a resolution to President Trump — from a different level of government — to rescind former President Obama’s Bears Ears designation) when that act of undoing (reversing national monument designations) has never even been done before.

Or at the least, Herbert realized that Utahns would frown on a major economic driver leaving town, one that brought 40,000 visitors and $45 million to the state each year.

The cards against him, Herbert did what tyrants have done: Deploy religious rhetoric to manipulate deep convictions for political gain. “Let us reason together” comes from Isaiah 1 of the Judeo-Christian world and a form of that phrase is found in Mormon scripture (D&C 50). Surely, he must have known that even if Utahns generally weren’t going to absolutely hammer him, the highest-profile and most influential of business leaders would.

This must certainly include Scott Anderson, the Zions Bank CEO, so powerful in Utah that he may as well be another powerful politician. But Anderson is also a devout Latter-day Saint — those close to him have said that he will leave his Zions post only after he is assigned as an LDS mission president. Anderson runs a bank that has had church association.

Gary Herbert trying to manipulate the Scott Andersons. Boy. I’d say that’s sad for Herbert, except in his policy approach and communications on this affair, he created his own rock and hard place.

Rhett Wilkinson lives in Centerville. He was a staffer on Herbert’s 2012 re-election campaign and interned in the governor’s communications office.

Political burnings in Utah: check out what happened, live-tweet style

(Twitter: @rhettrites)

Would you like to know what happened at the

– Village Square Utah “Climate on Climate” “Living Room Conversation?”
– Utah climate change resolution in a House committee?
– Mental health rally at the Utah Capitol?
– Food tax press conference from Crossroads Urban Center?
– Utah’s Trailblazing Women event?
– Standing Rock eviction rally at the City & County building?
– HEAL Utah/Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment clean air meeting at Westminster College?
– Envision Utah public feedback forum at Thanksgiving Point?
– HEAL Utah annual board meeting?
– Salt Lake Oasis event in which folks heard Mormon Stories founder John Dehlin’s confessions?
– Committee hearings on Utah bills that arguably handcuff OBGYNs, would “ban the box” for convicts looking for work and remove weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers?
– Decriminalization of polygamy rally at Utah’s Capitol?
– U.S. Army general presentation for a Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy lecture?

All of this happened in roughly the past two weeks, and I live-tweeted at each!

I would share screenshots of my live tweets at these events, but WordPress isn’t letting me.

So, I invite you to check out @rhettrites on Twitter to learn what happened!

Thank you!

Rhett

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This woman was one of many sexually assaulted at BYU. Now she’s a student at rival Utah — and rooted against the Cougars

byu_rape_honor_code

Madeline MacDonald now attends the University of Utah and rooted against her former school, BYU, after the Mormon church-owned school pointed fingers at her after she was sexually assaulted. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Editor’s note: this story was written in advance of the 2016 Utah-BYU football game.
Madeline MacDonald attended Brigham Young University.
Then, she was sexually assaulted at the school.
Now, she goes to the University of Utah.
So she’ll be wearing red this Saturday, as the Utes and Cougars clash in football in Salt Lake City.
So will her family. It is a rather big change for them considering that her mom sang the Cougar fight song to MacDonald in their Seattle home, to wake her for school.
“You know that part where they sang ‘rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah — gggoooo… Cougars!?” Madeline asked. “She sang that while rubbing my shoulders.”
The sexual assault revelations from BYU since the spring may be just one reason why this year’s version of the rivalry is the biggest BYU-Utah game in some time. This matchup is the rivalry’s biggest since the Utes showed that they could compete against the Cougars in 1993, according to Jorge Iber, a history professor at Texas Tech University who specializes in United States sports. That year marked when a 55-yard field goal from Chris Yergensen at game’s end concluded a stretch in which Utah, in 21 prior consecutive contests, had lost 19 times. (In the next 21, it won 15.)
 
A conversion
At first, MacDonald thought that the rapists and BYU’s honor code were merely bad apples in the Mormon church-owned school. Then she learned the issues went to the top – even to president Kevin Worthen, who knew about sexual assaults at his school for years but kept quiet about it, she said.
“I didn’t even make it a year before I was sexually assaulted,” she said. “And I thought I was getting this special unique thing (in attending BYU). It was worth going to the school with a program that wasn’t the best for my major or going into a desert – I don’t like deserts – and then I learned like it was anything else.”
MacDonald is especially disgusted that, in her mind, BYU put football over people. Over women, since potential lost funding for BYU over a violation of Title IX rules could inversely affect its athletic programs, including football; over the LGBTQIA community, because of the Big 12’s possible concern about an LGBTQIA non-discrimination policy. BYU does not have one and it may keep them from being invited to the Big 12, one of a handful of titanic football leagues in American known as the Power 5.
“They want the publicity (through football) so that everyone can become Mormons,” MacDonald said. “It was shocking to me… there was no deeper morals. It came to protecting the public image.”
The Washington native transferred to the U. largely because she wanted to stay in the state, where she has a strong support group. She applied late, but the admissions office made special exceptions for her. They almost hung up the phone but pulled an end-around, she said, after she told them her story. Many personnel have helped her with getting as many resources as possible, a major difference from at BYU.
“There, they said ‘wait, wait. We are going to investigate you,” she said. “(At the U.), even people I didn’t know sought where they could help and have really gone the extra mile to see that I’m comfortable at the U., and that’s been really special.”
MacDonald feels bad that the student-athletes in Provo, including Taysom Hill, the starting quarterback who has fought back from repeated serious injuries, must represent a school so problematic.
“It’s funny – it feels so strange to be seeing all of these things on Facebook and not have it be my team anymore,” she said a month after being admitted to the U. “Who cared about the Utes?”