SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers on Wednesday recommended the Mormon church’s chief lobbyist for a top job overseeing the Legislature’s office that drafts laws, gives legal advice and staffs committees.

The appointment illustrates what is sometimes seen as a thin line between Utah’s government and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a faith to which most state lawmakers and residents belong.

John Q. Cannon’s nomination to head up the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel drew no public debate or questions from lawmakers or government watchdog groups in Utah, and a bipartisan group of dozen lawmakers unanimously and quickly recommended him for the job.

But the Freedom From Religion Foundation – which represents atheists, agnostics and others who advocate broad separation between religion and government – said the choice seems far too cozy and perpetuates a national impression that the Mormon church runs the Utah Legislature.

“This would seem to entangle it completely,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, the foundation’s co-president. “It’s the appearance, and it’s the conflict of interest. He was paid to promote Mormon doctrine at the legislature. … How could he possibly be anything but a patsy for the Mormon church in his new position?”

Cannon is expected to resign from his job with the church and step into his new role on Sept. 1, but his appointment is still subject to a final approval from the full Legislature early next year.

The position pays between $100,000 and $160,000 annually and includes overseeing a staff of about 65 people.