Republican State Senator Steve Urquhart (St. George) took to Facebook over the weekend, responding to conservative lobbyist organization Sutherland Institute’s fight against the Sundance Film Festival by comparing the group to the infamous Westboro Baptist Church.
“The Sutherland Institute is expertly using the media to conduct its fundraising campaign based on the reliable 3 pronged approach of fear, hatred, and intolerance.” Urquhart wrote on Sunday. “The Sutherland Institute – Utah’s version of the Westboro Baptist Church – is calling for a book burning.”
The Kansas based Westboro Baptist Church is known for protesting the funerals of soldiers and gays, claiming that God hates America. They also picket highly-publicized events, such as the funeral for the slain children in Newtown, Connecticut.
On their website this past week, Sutherland called for the state to stop providing funding for the annual film festival because the films shown are ‘contrary to [Utah's] values.’ “Given the amount of sexual promiscuity that Sundance Film Festival regularly brings to Utah, it seems similarly indecent that Utah’s major economic development agencies basically endorsed the event.”
Each year, Utah puts roughly $500,000 into the Sundance Film Festival, the largest film festival in the nation. Thanks to the festival’s popularity, Utah’s economy reaps back an estimated $80 Million annually, mostly from tourists.
“Sutherland, like every other individual and organization, has the right to express its opinion.” continues Urquhart. “I’m simply exercising my right to say that when [Sutherland Institute] talks about its version of ‘Utah values’ those often seem to be fear, hatred, and intolerance.”
Senator Urquhart also told his nearly 2000 followers on Facebook about a conversation he had with Sutherland president Paul Mero in 2007, during which Mero, according to Urquhart, pushed the Senator to embrace the idea that the ‘age of small government is dead.’ “[Mero told me] we need to embrace big government, and use it for conservative purposes. In other words, use government to force people to live in ways Sutherland deems acceptable. To me, conservative values mean smaller government so that people have more freedom to live as they choose without government interference.”
The Sutherland Institute spends thousands of dollars and countless hours each year lobbying lawmakers on a range of conservative issues. They are also one of the original signors of the Utah Compact.
Calls to the Sutherland Institute for comment were not immediately returned.