Fire and Police order commemorative badges for opening of Provo City Center Temple

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PROVO, Utah -- The Provo Police and Fire Departments are sporting a new addition to their uniform that has one group questioning whether it crosses the line.

As the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opens its latest temple in Provo, the fire department purchased commemorative badges to remember the blaze that destroyed a historic building and honor the new structure that stands in its place.

The Provo City Center Temple is nearly ready for public eyes to peer inside. A public open house kicks off this weekend, and runs until March.

The building replaces the more than 100-year-old Tabernacle that burned down in late 2010.

It's a day the Provo Fire Department remembers well.

"I don't think there has been another fire in the history of Provo; except maybe 100 years ago when the woolen mills burned down," Provo Fire Chief Gary Jolley said of the magnitude of the blaze.

Jolley said the fire was a historic event because of what the Tabernacle meant to the community.

"If you went to BYU, or you grew up in Provo, you always spent some time in the Tabernacle at events," he said.

That's why, Jolley said, the department wanted to honor the building, and the temple that now stands in its place.

"In the center, it shows the temple," Chief Jolley said, showing off the new commemorative badge pinned to a firefighter's uniforms.

Jolley got the idea to design and order the badges after hearing Provo Police planned to make special badges for the temple opening.

Each pinned piece of metal cost around $60 to $65. All 78 firefighters received one. Funds came out of the uniform budget, Jolley said.

Members of both departments are already wearing the badges in place of the regular-issued badges, and will wear them until the badge’s retirement on Jan. 1, 2017.

"It's a huge event, and it's part of our history," Jolley said.

There are some who believe the badges depicting the religious building are inappropriate.

"I can appreciate the sentiment behind it," said Dan Ellis, Regional Director for American Atheists. "But, I think it was a really bad idea."

Ellis said anyone looking at the temple-covered badges may not think they're paying homage to history, but openly supporting the LDS faith.

"I would think they were employed by the LDS church to protect their temples," he said.

The fire department says the goal isn't to promote religion, but to support a huge event in the community.

"It is a church-related thing on a government-issued piece of uniform," Jolley acknowledged. "But we really want to feel like we're really engaged with the community."

Jolley said they've ordered special commemorative badges three other times. The most recent was in 2002 to celebrate the Winter Olympics.

The other two came before that-- one to honor the 150th anniversary of Provo's existence, and the other for Utah's 200th birthday.

30 comments

  • Amazing

    That’s just not right. I guess they can’t separate church and State in Utah County. That’s kind of sickening for the citizens living there.

    • swsimpson

      The tabernacle is an historic landmark. Utah’s history is inseparable from church history. The badges do not promote one religion over another because the building is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the badges are voluntary to wear and NOT replacing existing badges. It is in line with previous commemorative badges, and the destruction of a 150 year old landmark being restored is an event to be remembered, regardless of what religion anyone is. ITS A U.S. NATIONAL REGISTERED HISTORIC BUILDING.

      • hightek

        Yes, the tabernacle is on the US National Register of Historic Places, as are 40+ other venues in and around Provo to include the Olmsted Station Powerhouse and the Startup Candy Factory. Congratulations, the building is old.

        That said, as I mentioned below, you’re naive to think that the same courtesy, and taxpayer funding, would be extended to idolatrize other historic religious landmarks in Utah such as the Cathedral of the Madeline, St Marks Cathedral or the Holy Trinity Cathedral, all of which are near to well over 100 years old as well, and are all on the National Register, were a similar incident to occur, without complaints by the LDS church and its members. The notion that it would even be recommended, much less seriously considered, that SLC law enforcement and FD personnel walk around for a year with St Marks Cathedral emblazoned on their badges is patently absurd.

        The ONLY reason this temple is being emblazoned on government issued, and taxpayer funded badges is because it’s an LDS temple. Utah should have learned its lesson from the UHP Cross Case it fought for years and embarrassingly lost. The LDS church doesn’t supersede the US constitution.

  • hightek

    The irony is, the previous tabernacle, and now the new temple, don’t pay a dime in taxes to the police or fire department that are charged with protecting them.

      • Amazing

        No officer or fireman should be able to wear them on duty. No tax dollars should be spent towards the badges. If the officers or firemen want to purchase them on their own with their own money without wearing them on duty then it’s fine. Both chief’s should be admonished for even allowing such a badge to be worn in public.

      • bob

        You knob heads are the reason I’m an atheist rather than an Atheist. Evangelical Atheism is a cult. You need to be deprogrammed.

        Try minding your own business. It’s amazingly freeing.

      • hightek

        Bob,
        When religions mind their own business and stop trying to force their beliefs and morality on everyone else, stop trying to make themselves the center of attention through idolatry like this, stop trying to force me pay to help them promote their church and belief system and stop trying to unconstitutionally establish themselves as the only relevant religion … the “one true church”, then I’ll be more than happy to mind my own business too.

    • bob

      Name one building anywhere that pays taxes.

      The PEOPLE who attend services there pay taxes.

      I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain that.

      • Dustin D

        I don’t pay taxes with freeloading churches in mind.
        Churches should pay taxes like all other institutions, and government abatements should be largely curbed.

  • Randy Burrell

    I am amazed of the comments that I have read comments against these badges. Whether you like it or not the tabernacle / Provo City Center Temple is part of Provo history irregardless of your religion. This was one of the worst fires these men have had to deal with and now it has been restored to a beautiful building. I am a Provo resident and I have no problem with this and I do not believe it crosses the line. The other comment is no taxes, freeloaders etc. It is true that there is no taxes to the church, it is also true that people that do come to this temple from out of town will also more than likely do some shopping while here, or even get something to eat, buy gas etc. I know I will never go inside the temple once it is dedicated, but I am proud to have such a beautiful building downtown.

    • hightek

      The Provo City Center Temple is not a part of Provo history, it hasn’t even opened yet. And even if one could argue that the burnt down Tabernacle is more of an icon of city history than a religious monument, it’s not the historic Tabernacle displayed on these religious pins that tax payers are being forced to subsidize, taxpayers who aren’t all LDS. It’s the brand new, unopened LDS temple. Again, not a historical monument … a brand new church.

      As for your thoughts about the secondary taxes brought in by LDS tourists, that raises an interesting point. I’m sure the ski resorts and tourists companies and all the other organizations in Utah that encourage and support tourism into the state would likewise LOVE to have tax exempt status as well under the same argument that the service they are providing encourages tourism, and the secondary taxes from that tourism is sufficient to support the infrastructure and service requirements for these institutions. So, sure, let’s make Park City and Snowbird tax exempt, under your philosophy. I’m sure that would go over well.

      • hightek

        Bob,
        Yes, I support everyone equally sharing in the expense of maintaining public services. When ANY organization has hundreds of buildings in the city and doesn’t pay a dime towards the fire department, for example, that is required to respond to issues at those locations, and my taxes are higher than they need to be to offset that cost, then yea, I have a problem with that.
        I’d have a problem with that if it were any religion, 7-11, Starbucks or any place else. Why does religion get special treatment that no one else gets and why do I have to pay to cover public services for them?

      • Ned

        I agree… and have always been confused by this. Honestly and in all seriousness… Why are they getting services that they are not paying for? That doesn’t sound like honesty in your dealings to me. That goes for any non-government tax-exempt entity.

    • hightek

      One other thought. In Salt Lake, the Cathedral of the Madelein and St Marks Cathedral are both historic monuments dating back well over 100 years, Catholic and Episcopalian respectively. They too have been meeting places, hosted dignitaries and have been an interest of tourists for as long as the Tabernacle has.

      If either of these historic monuments were gutted in a fire and rebuilt by their respective diocese’s, you cannot HONESTLY tell me that anyone would even take seriously the idea of the reconstructed cathedral being emblazoned on new SLC police and fire department badges, using tax payer dollars, and that if the recommendation even moved forward that there wouldn’t be show-stopping resistance by the LDS church and LDS members who live in this city.

      You’re naive to think that the same courtesy would be afforded any other equally historic religious monument in Utah OTHER THAN an LDS venue. That, by it’s very definition, is the establishment of one religion over all others. A violation of not only the US constitution, but Utah’s constitution as well.

      • bob

        When the Cathedral was needed renovation and seismic upgrades the Diocese was having trouble raising the money. The LDS Church stepped up with engineering and architectural resources, and sent art restoration experts to work on the art inside the Cathedral. Then help commemorate the re-opening by sending the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to sing the Ave Maria in Latin.

        You are a moron and a bigot.

      • hightek

        Bob,

        As nothing in your observations has anything to do with the government, government agencies or tax payer funds, I fail to see the relevance of these actions relative to what I was talking about.

  • bob

    It’s a historic building within the City. Perfectly appropriate.

    This is an atheist talking. It doesn’t bother me in the least.

  • Ned

    Horrible! I would be offended if my first responders had ANY religious symbolism on thier badges, not to mention my tax dollars paying for it. I’m so happy SLC is much more liberal so the first responders in my city will never be forced into something like this. I’m sure all the mormon police and fire feel super special, but those who don’t support the lds faith are (I feel) being degraded. I can’t believe that the city government would have such a lack of judgement and consideration for its first responders. Like I said, I would never appreciate any religious symbolism on an official badge, but hey… I guess if thats the way we are going to play it… if I were a Catholic I guess I could include a cross on my badge, or a star of David if I was Jewish. You can cry that it’s just a landmark and not about the church all you want, but that’s just propaganda we aren’t buying.

    • Amazing

      Excellent point Ned. It makes far too much sense for a few of the posters here that only have blinders on for one religion.

  • Doug

    Contacted FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation) tonight regarding this violation of the separation of church and state. Awaiting their response. Will reply later. But this is exactly the kind of issue they take up and win, dozens of times a year. Say good-bye to your badges Provo “public” safety personnel.

    • hightek

      Utah spent years, and tens of millions of dollars, fighting the Utah Cross Case about a decade ago and lost at every level, all the way up to SCOTUS.

      These people never learn.

  • Prenten

    A local fire department issuing a commemorative badge for a significant fire to a most historical monument with the most unique renovation story ever. This is very relevant!

    I am so tired of all the blind anti religious and equal rights cynicism! Nothing beautiful is condoned or freedom of expression allowed anymore.

    It’s a good call by a department that is likely majority LDS. They are going to spend the money on some pin anyways and it has nothing to do with the quality of the service and sacrifice they offer. Besides, they obviously don’t have that many fire incidents to remember by. What did you want them to commemorate, the lake?

    Back off all you howling cynical goons!

    • Ned

      Sure. That sounds like a great idea to commemorate the lake, or maybe our glorious non-denominational mountains! Or if you really wanted something historical, how about the fur trapper Provost for whom the town is actually named. Or even the two Spanish priests who were the first people to make written document of the valley. (Oh but wait… they were priests and only the lds get to mix church and state. Silly me) Feel free to have your religious “freedom of expression” all you want, but trying to pin your freedom of expression on the chests of our public responders is invasive and offensive. Btw, you implying that it’s ok because most of them are probably lds anyway is representative of the incredibly entitled attitude of those who felt this badge was ok. First off, to assume that, you haven’t spent much time in or around a firehouse, have you? And secondly, with that attitude and by your standard, I will remind you that outside of Utah the majority are NOT lds, so with most of us being non-mormon anyway, we should not take your rights into consideration? K. I’ll make note of that.

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