Conservative kids lobby on the Hill
Homosexuality and human evolution are issues that most concern a Wasatch High School student interning this year with the Utah Eagle Forum at the state Legislature.
"We’re trying to talk to representatives and senators and try and get the bills that uphold the Constitution and stand for family values to pass," the intern, Heber resident B.J. Hunter said.
In grooming Utah’s next batch of young conservative voters, Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka has taken Hunter and other teenagers under her wing.
"Family values are very important to the organization and what we’re trying to do," Hunter said. "Right now, I haven’t seen anything wrong with what the Eagle Forum is trying to do they’re on top of the ball."
Hunter wants lawmakers to pass two bills sponsored by state Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan. Buttars’ Senate Bill 96 would require teachers to inform students that scientists do not agree about how life began.
"That pretty much states that scientists are not able to decide on one single theory. I totally agree with that," Hunter said. "That has been a very big conflict up here at the Hill."
Though several Park City School District board members oppose SB 96, North Summit School District Superintendent Steve Carlsen says many of his constituents are likely comfortable with the proposed measure.
Buttars says he sponsored the bill after parents contacted him who were concerned that Charles Darwin’s theories of human evolution were being presented in classrooms as fact. SB 96 doesn’t mention divine design or creationism, but requires students be exposed to alternative scientific theories about the origins of life. "Human evolution is a theory, not a scientific law," Buttars recently told The Park Record.
Carlsen says the opinions of North Summit residents on SB 96 likely differ significantly from their Park City counterparts.
"The origins of life debate has been one that has gone on for quite some time unless they flat tell us to teach it one specific way, I wouldn’t have opposition (to SB 96)," Carlsen said. "My assumption would be that we as a district, following the guide of our community’s norm and majority, I think they would probably not want to push the scientific issue of Darwin’s theory (in the classroom)."
By requiring other "scientific" theories be taught, Buttars’ bill upholds the right to freedom of religion, while protecting the integrity of science, the superintendent added.
"If they say, there are some scientists that believe this, and some that believe that, I think that allows those who believe in certain things to still be able to follow their beliefs and on the opposite end allows people to say we came from slime from off of the water," Carlsen said.
Meanwhile, students like Hunter, who are actively lobbying lawmakers on Utah’s Capitol Hill, are rare, Carlsen said, adding, "most are still kids. They’re not too worried about what’s going on at the Legislature."
"But, there are always a few who want to get into the debate," Carlsen said. "You’ve got to appreciate those kind because they are the ones who are going to go out and make changes in the world."
Many of the conservative students interning on the Hill, also support Buttars’ Senate Bill 97, which could impact whether public schools can host extracurricular clubs that cater to gay students.
Buttars’ proposed Student Clubs Act would allow school administrators to "limit or deny authorization or building use" to extracurricular club members whose materials encourage delinquent conduct, promote bigotry, or "involve human sexuality."
"A school shall require written parental or guardian consent for participation in all curricular and noncurricular clubs at the school," SB 97 states.
Administrators say the North and South Summit school districts don’t have so-called gay-straight alliances. But many South Summit parents would oppose such a club at South Summit High School, South Summit schools Superintendent Tim Smith said.
"I would assume at this point, and I’m relatively new in the area, but, I would assume the community councils would discuss it and say no, we would prefer not having it in our schools," Smith said. "They would base that ruling on the community and what the community norms are."
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The Park City Ice Arena is expected to temporarily close later in 2021 to allow crews to replace the ice surface and perform other maintenance work, one of a series of projects City Hall plans to outline at an upcoming open house. It will be an in-person event.