For as long as I can remember Provo City has embraced the fourth of July. The balloon launch, the parade, and the Stadium of Fire all contributed to the festive atmosphere. Over the years there have been a glitch or two, an MC who told jokes for soldiers not families and fireworks that were a little more than people expected to name a few. Recent years the festival has featured popular cable TV personalities that made some people uncomfortable. This year, just when the problem appeared to be solved with a host that didn’t threaten anyone things looked to be back on track. Then Monday the train that is the Freedom Festival ran straight off the tracks.
Monday the parade marched down the streets of Provo and wiped the future of the festival into the ground. I seams the parade organizers let incumbent politicians ride in the parade and they of course were all Republican. Then they stood by while Republicans campaigned along the parade route while the Democrats obeyed the rules and kept to their float.
The festival appears to claim that it is a private event and it can do what it wants. That may be true, but BYU is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is also a private organization, but one that cannot take sides in political campaigns. By appearing to use BYU facilities to support the Republican party the festival has placed the university in the position of having to defend its neutrality or simply cut ties with the festival.
The politics of cutting ties is strong. The church has a problem with its image when it comes to race relations. Anyone who grew up in the church knows how hard we have worked to fix the wrongs of the past and to correct the perception that we are racist. That all went to pot recently when politicians in the west with LDS ties embraced laws and policies that are seen as racist. Add to that the motto of the candidate for senate who marched through Provo this week…”Take America Back.” Take us back to what? The basic constitution, thirteen colonies and slavery?
The Festival needs to regroup, the university needs to protect itself from exploitation, and the people of Utah Valley need to think about what freedom really means.