Preserving religious freedom


Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave a speech, “Preserving Religious Freedom,” at Chapman University School of Law on Feb. 4, 2011.


Religious freedom is diminishing. People with religious faith increasingly are told to keep their beliefs out of public discussions. I’m sure you’ve seen it, maybe even more than I have online and elsewhere. Yet, religious freedom is one of those guaranteed by the Constitution even before freedom of speech.

Too many times I have seen local people calling to have churches taxed and to have religious people keep their beliefs to themselves. They show a particular intolerance for Christians and all churches that teach of a god that decides what is right or wrong. However, the problem is much bigger than a local one and has far-reaching implications.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints describes the contributions religions provide that make them worthy of their protected status. In his speech at Chapman University School of Law on Feb. 4, 2011, Elder Oaks opened my understanding as to the need for religious people to unite in preserving our religious freedom.

Elder Oaks is well-qualified to address these issues from two perspectives. First, he sees the issues as a religious leader. Second, before being called and sustained in his current Church position in 1984, Elder Oaks was a professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School (1958 – 1971), president of Brigham Young University (1972 – 1980), and a justice of the Utah Supreme Court (1980 – 1984).

Elder Oaks said in his speech, “We must never see the day when the public square is not open to religious ideas and religious persons. The religious community must unite to be sure we are not coerced or deterred into silence by the kinds of intimidation or threatening rhetoric that are being experienced.”

I’m keeping this thought, speaking out, sharing Elder Oaks’ speech and urging other religious people to do the same.

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3 Responses to Preserving religious freedom

  1. brainchild says:

    The notion that morality—whether characterized in the false and antiquated dichotomy of relative vs. absolute, or otherwise—derives from some alleged supernatural being is the height of self-involved narcissism fostered by religion and its adherents' desire to control others, especially among the big three Abrahamic religions, and their derivatives.

    We can all give thanks to religious thinkers of the past for their attempts, both successful and sometimes spectacularly unsuccessful (thereby demonstrating moral relativity), to grapple with the world and to codify various rules of behavior that reduce individual and societal harms. Most of it arose in times when we humans had only a rudimentary understanding of the natural world (like what causes tsunamis and other Great Floods), and especially of our own biology and evolution.

    But it's time to grow up and escape the chains of religious metaphorical/magical thinking, because observable reality trumps everything. Even in matters of morality.

    Harris's The Moral Landscape is a fascinating read on the recent scientific advances in understanding morality. See also, e.g.,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psyc
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/science/20moral
    http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2008/04/theemer
    http://www.economist.com/node/10717915?story_id=1
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/22/science/22brain
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB11788423540149930

  2. brainchild says:

    From an essay at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marianne-t-duddybur
    .
    In the literature on religious liberty and same-sex marriage cited by religious conservatives, several cases stand out. These tend to involve a small businessperson who has been sued for refusing to provide services at the wedding, or commitment celebration of a gay or lesbian couple. In reading these cases, one is struck first by the wish that everyone involved had used better judgment, and second by how the use of a high-flown term like religious liberty distracts from the wild asymmetry of what is at stake for the various parties. Perorations on the First Amendment notwithstanding, opponents of marriage equality are arguing that same-sex couples should be denied the emotional and legal benefits of marriage to spare theologically conservative bakers the ordeal of making them wedding cakes.

    One would like to think that sufficient protections for pious cakesmiths and other interested parties could be written into law if religious conservatives were clear and candid about the ways in which their freedom might be infringed. But such clarity would open a path to the speedy legalization of same-sex marriage, and so my bishops and their allies play the victim card instead. In doing so, they demonstrate that they are not interested in protecting liberties, but in denying them.

  3. brainchild says:

    On May 31, 2012, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in favor of the lesbian couple who won lower court and administrative decisions against a Christian photographer who discriminated against them via her public business. The case is used as an example in the video of Elder Oakes' misguided talk above.

    See http://newyorklawschool.typepad.com/leonardlink/2

    This decision is completely proper, because anti-discrimination laws apply to all businesses. If one wants the benefits of running a business that accommodates the public, one can't discriminate against folks just because of one's private religious beliefs. To require that businesses not discriminate is not a violation of private religious freedom, contrary to the misunderstandings promulgated in the above essay and video.

    The "Christian" photographer is going to appeal another level, and she should lose again. Throwing good money after bad, she'll no doubt complain later on about the legal cost being due to something other than her own misguided bigotry that, when embodied in public actions by a licensed business, harms the public.

    And this is why religion in the public square is so problematical and ultimately harmful to all Americans who desire to live in a religiously pluralistic society. There are many private "squares", but only one public one. Every religionist like Elder Oakes wants to claim the public square (indeed, the Mormon church literally bought/leased their own from Salt Lake City, turning it into a pseudo-public square, like Disneyland). But it always turns out to be to benefit the private religious mission, not the public and its unwashed masses.

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