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Announcing our new Director of Policy

September 2, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

Libertas Institute is excited to announce our latest hire, filling an open position for our Director of Policy role.

mm2Michael Melendez has been a liberty activist since his days in high school. His involvement includes work with the Campaign for Liberty, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), and Students For Liberty. Michael served as the Utah state chairman for YAL from 2013-2015, helping recruit, educate, and mobilize college students throughout the state in support of the cause of liberty.

Michael has managed and worked on dozens of campaigns for liberty-minded candidates all over the country, including South Carolina, Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, and Utah.

During the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions, Michael served as a staffer to state senator Howard Stephenson, helping pass significant reforms in education, government drone use, and civil asset forfeiture. Most recently, he worked at the Waterford Research Institute, a digital education non-profit, as their state government affairs manager.

A native Californian and Brigham Young University graduate, Michael is a historian by trade and enjoys genealogical research, watching old films, and talking about old baseball heroes.

Contact Michael at michael@libertasutah.org.

William Penn and the Fight for Religious Freedom

August 14, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

Students of history understand how precious religious freedom can be, since governments of ages past so often tended to regulate and restrict a person’s religious behavior and belief. In America, the freedom of religion can be traced in part to the bold civil disobedience of William Penn, 346 years ago today.

portrait_tAmericans are familiar with Penn as the founder of the province of Pennsylvania, a colonial refuge for religious dissidents. But his contribution to the cause of religious freedom came many years before his migration.

Despite being born into a distinguished Anglican family as the son of an Admiral, young William decided to join the Religious Society of Friends, or “Quakers,” at the age of 22. Two years later he wrote a pamphlet titled “Truth Exalted,” in which he criticized all religious groups except Quakers. He soon thereafter published his second, titled “Sandy Foundation Shaken,” a doctrinal critique of the Trinity. This led the Bishop of London to order Penn to be indefinitely detained until he publicly recanted his fiery theological attack.

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Here’s What Utah’s SWAT Teams Have Been Up To in 2015

August 1, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  3 comments

Utah is the only state with a law requiring police transparency regarding “forcible entry” (no-knock or knock-and-announce) warrants and the use of SWAT teams. Last year’s report provided the first look into the use of force in Utah. This year’s report—showing data for 2015—has just been released.

As with last year, many law enforcement agencies did not comply with the law, and failed to complete the report when contacted by the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. 149 agencies were contacted, and 110 completed the report. As the report summary notes, “the information presented… is only as accurate as the data reported by each individual law enforcement agency.”

Here is a summary of the data that was provided:

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Announcing Audrey Mortensen, Our New Policy Analyst

July 19, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  One comment

As Libertas Institute’s success rate continues to climb, and as our portfolio of policy work keeps expanding, our need to hire additional staff members grows. As such, we are excited to announce a new policy analyst joining the Libertas team!

Audrey Mortensen brings a wealth of experience to this position, having worked for several years in related fields. Most recently, she worked in New Mexico both in the governor’s office and the Republican Leadership office in a variety of capacities—legislative analysis, constituent liasing, office management, event planning, and more. Audrey comes recommended with extremely high praise from those she worked with in these offices, all of whom commended her for her excellent work and great personality.

Before that she worked for the Republican Party in New Mexico, training and managing hundreds of volunteers and interns, and for the Republican National Committee, helping with fundraising and finances.

Audrey is a graduate of the University of Utah, where she double majored in political science and international relations, also receiving a business minor. While in school, she interned at the Utah Legislature and the Scottish Parliament.

Send Audrey an email at audrey@libertasutah.org.

With this new hire, Josh Daniels—who has previously been serving as policy analyst—has been promoted to Director of Policy.

Our Lawsuit Over HB43 Settled: A Victory for Free Association in Utah

July 14, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

Last November, along with the Utah Taxpayers Association, we sued the state seeking to overturn a clearly unconstitutional law requiring disclosure of information about our donors. Today, due to the great work of attorneys from the Center for Competitive Politics, who represented our organizations in this lawsuit, we are happy to announce a settlement—and a victory for free association in Utah.

House Bill 43, passed by the legislature in 2013, was sponsored in response to a political consultant’s illegal use of non-profit organizations to hide the identity of the source of his donors—from the payday lending industry—to fund a negative campaign against Representative Brad Daw, who had sought to regulate the industry’s practices. The bill passed the Senate 20-8 and passed the House 60-13.

The law compels private non-profit organizations—such as Libertas Institute—to publicly disclose the personal information of their donors when the organization spends $750 or more on political activity in a single year. This creates a substantial chilling effect, harming our potential to raise funds from people who may not wish to be publicly identified with their ideological and financial support, whether for family, business, religious, or personal reasons.

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