The U.S Civil Rights Commission recently released its report about fairness and religious freedom. According to The Deseret News editorial, the report “falls short of its stated aim of `reconciling’ the often competing rights of religious liberty and nondiscrimination. Perhaps even more troubling, however, was the commission chairman’s statement that called into question the sincerity of religious freedom advocates and insinuated that religious freedom is often simply a cover for shameless bigotry.”
The writer of the editorial believes that the chairman’s statement “diverges” from the call for “fairness for all” from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At a special regional conference of stakes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the “church’s general counsel and three religious liberty lawyers” made presentations. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “We hope that what we say here will explain why members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must be committed to maintaining the free exercise of religion, and why all citizens of this nation should be supportive of this effort.” He said that the motive for the conference was to “get our members involved in a constructive way in the vital contest for religious freedom.” Elder Oaks is one of six members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other “senior” leaders of the Church that have given approximately thirty talks on this issue in recent years.
In addition, the Church has also “launched a new webpage, religiousfreedom.lds.org, packed with resources for defending the principle of religious liberty.” The webpage has a lot of interesting information.
“What does religious freedom really mean? Religious freedom is more than just the freedom to believe what you want. It’s also the freedom to talk about and act on your core beliefs without interference from government or others, except when necessary to protect health and safety. It also allows people with similar beliefs to form religious organizations that govern their own affairs…”
There may be people wondering why the Church and other religious organizations are so concerned about this issue. This is the answer on the webpage to the question, “Why does it matter so much?” “Agency is essential in Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, and religious freedom ensures we can use our agency to live and share what we believe. Everyone needs to have that freedom, no matter what they believe….”
The webpage then encourages people: (1) To “Become informed about the basics of religious freedom and understand your rights….” (2) To “Live and respectfully share your beliefs. Have meaningful, kind conversations with those of differing beliefs. Focus on seeking to understand one another’s perspective and finding common ground that unites you….” (3) To “Find simple ways to help protect the rights of everyone to act on their beliefs…. (4) To “Build trusted relationships in your community among people of diverse opinions….”
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The federal government, as well as the city, county, and state governments, has no authority to make any law about how or what people believe. The right to choose one’s religion, to live that religion openly, and to share that religion with others is guaranteed by the Constitution. Yet, freedom of religion is threatened today. We must all be concerned about this threat!