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So is there anyone out there — anyone at all — who was glad the Idaho State Liquor Division has banned the sale of Five Wives Vodka on the basis that it would be offensive to Mormons? Anybody?

If so, they’ve been keeping an awfully low profile.

There’s probably a handful of teetotalers out there who are glad there’s one less opportunity for the public to get soused, but those folks oppose the consumption of any kind of alcohol. They’re just as opposed to Jim Beam as they are Five Wives, and it has nothing to do with what’s on the label.

According to Idaho State Liquor Division director Jeff Anderson, the state ban on Five Wives Vodka was justified out of religious respect for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which once sanctioned polygamy but abandoned the practice in 1890.

Wow. Where to even begin?

n The Five Wives label never indicates all wives are married to the same husband. What if they have different hubbies?

n Mormons don’t recognize polygamy any more, so why should they feel affronted? None of the Mormons who responded to our Facebook inquiry said they had a problem with the name. If anyone should be offended, it would be Muslims, as some sects of Islam still practice polygamy.

n Mormons are prohibited from drinking alcohol, so they’re not even going to the liquor store to see such an “offensive” label in the first place.

n If Five Wives is so offensive, where’s the push to outlaw Polygamy Porter? That’s for sale here.

Yep. Pretty silly. But the state won’t be laughing if two threatened lawsuits are filed: one by George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley, who says the ban is unconstitutional; the other by Ogden’s Own Distillery, which makes Five Wives Vodka and claims the ban interferes with interstate commerce.

The state responded Wednesday by offering to process “special orders” for the drink. But it did so only under the threat of litigation.

There could be a silver lining here in that it shines a spotlight on how ridiculous it is for the state to be in the liquor business in the first place. Odd, considering how the powers that be in Idaho incessantly brag on their love of freedom, personal responsibility, limited government, the private sector and the law of supply and demand. Apparently the $50 million in profit the state makes by selling alcohol is intoxicating enough that it overpowers those tried-and-true platitudes.

Gov. Butch Otter cites the state Constitution in justifying state control of liquor sales, quoting Section 24, which states “The first concern of all good government is the virtue and sobriety of the people, and the purity of the home. The Legislature should further all wise and well directed efforts for the promotion of temperance and morality.”

And this is what’s going to make any attempts to privatize liquor sales in the Gem State an uphill battle. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said in February that a voter initiative to privatize Idaho liquor sales, an initiative promoted by the Idaho Federation of Reagan Republicans, could be illegal because such decisions are up to the Legislature. And those citizen lawmakers seem to like things just as they are.

The bottom line? Expect these silly contradictions to continue.

- Our view is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison, Managing Editor Vickie Holbrook, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges and community members Kim Keller, Carlos Soriano, Timothy Brown, Taylor Raney, Ken Pieksma and Nicole Gibbs.


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