A More Diverse Utah

Mormons make up a substantial majority of Utah residents, but their share of the state's population has been declining and will continue to do so, according to a published report.

Within three years, Mormons will account for the smallest percentage of Utah's population since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began tallying its membership decades ago, according to estimates by the Salt Lake Tribune. If the trend persists, Mormons will not be a Utah majority by 2030, according to an analysis by the paper. The projections are based on the normally secret membership counts that church officials give the Utah Office of Planning and Budget and that were obtained by the newspaper through a public records request.

The state office could provide data only from 1989 to 2004; still, the 15-year trend points to what could be a significant change for the state. According to the data, the long-held belief that Utah's population is 70 percent Mormon is not true, nor has it been for a decade. The true percentage, according to 2004 numbers, is 62 percent, the paper reported. Although the Mormon population continues to grow, its share of state residents showed a slow but constant decline from 1989 to 2004.

Church officials said in a written statement that "the church has always extended a hand of friendship and fellowship to those of other faiths and will continue to do so."

-- Associated Press

Governor Visits Inmates

Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, has discussed his Christian beliefs with prisoners in a new faith-based rehabilitation program.

The governor, a member of a conservative Presbyterian church in Indianapolis, reads Bible verses from the Book of Job about accepting God's correction. He said the Bible "has a way of finding you -- finding me -- before I find it."

Daniels told inmates in the faith-based program, "We are all fallen people. We are sinners." But he added, "We must be forgiving people."

Three Indiana prisons -- one each for men, women and juveniles -- are creating separate units for prisoners who volunteer for religious training. More than 200 inmates have volunteered.

-- Associated Press

Bible-Only Oath Decried

The American Civil Liberties Union is arguing that witnesses in North Carolina courtrooms should be allowed to swear to tell the truth on scriptures other than the Bible.

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit to permit oaths to be taken on the holy books of Islam, Judaism and other non-Christian faiths.

Judges in Guilford County ruled recently that Muslims cannot legally take an oath on the Koran. State law allows witnesses to take their oath either by laying a hand over "Holy Scripture," by saying "so help me God" without the use of a religious book or by using no religious symbols.

-- Associated Press

Morning-After Pill Veto

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has vetoed legislation that would have allowed certain pharmacists to provide the morning-after pill without a prescription, saying that in some cases, the pill causes an abortion.

Romney interrupted his vacation this week in New Hampshire to return to the Statehouse to veto the bill, just three hours after it passed the state Senate. But the bill was passed overwhelmingly by both houses, and supporters say they have the votes to override Romney's veto.

The morning-after pill, which is different from the abortion pill known as RU-486, contains a hormone that when taken after unprotected sex, prevents ovulation, stops the egg from being fertilized or stops a fertilized egg from attaching itself to the uterine wall.

In his veto message, Romney said that if he signed the bill, it would violate his campaign promise not to change the state's abortion laws. His objection to the pill is that it can prevent the fertilized egg from remaining in the womb.

The pill can be obtained with a prescription from a doctor, but supporters said it should be more widely available. Backers said the pill can prevent unwanted pregnancies and lower the number of abortions in the state.

Critics of the veto said it was aimed at sharpening Romney's conservative credentials for a possible run at the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

-- Religion News Service