U.S. Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho had the unhappy experience of being arrested in Alexandria, Virginia for DUI on Sunday, December 23rd, at 12:45am, after failing to stop at a red light. His reported blood alcohol level was 0.11 percent, somewhat above the 0.08 percent legal limit. Crapo later expressed deep regret for the incident. The episode has since been recounted in numerous TV, online, and newspaper reports.
Not the least interesting aspect of the incident is that Crapo (pronounced CRAY-poe) is a Mormon. Contrary to prevailing impressions, however, survey studies show that Mormonism is not a wholly abstemious faith community. A 1989 survey, for example, found that about half of adult Mormons sampled (49.3 percent) had consumed alcohol within the past year, including 31 percent reporting drinking within the past 30 days. Sentiment toward alcohol in the Mormon community isn’t quite as bone dry as U.S. popular opinion might have imagined either. A 2011 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life found that only a little more than half (54 percent) of Mormon respondents thought “drinking alcohol” was “morally wrong,” 38 percent thought it “not a moral issue,” and six percent thought it “morally acceptable.” These frequencies contrasted with Mormon views of abortion, for example, where 74 percent of respondents selected the “morally wrong” response.