The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is that all people deserve to enjoy the freedom to worship how, where, or what they may. This principle is stated clearly in Article of Faith 1:11 of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of or own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
Joseph Smith, the first prophet of God in this dispensation, was quick to point out the importance of defending religious freedom for all people whether or not they believe the same.
I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves” (History of the Church, 498-99 [discourse given by Joseph Smith on July 9, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards]; quoted at this site).
Less than a year after giving this speech, Joseph Smith was killed because he dared to believe and preach something different than the prevailing religion of the time. The church that he founded, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, continues believe that every individual deserves to have freedom of conscience.
The Constitution of the United States of America guarantees that every American has the freedom to believe as he desires. The first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment to the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Freedom of religion was so important to the founding generation that they wanted it to be enshrined in the new Constitution. The reason that they wanted it there was because they had just declared their liberty from Great Britain, a nation that had a state religion. The Founders wanted every person to be able to choose for themselves how, where, or what they worshipped. Even though there are still people in the United States who try to take this freedom away from others, this country is doing better in this regard than others.
Now the United States is using its influence in an attempt to bring freedom of religion to other countries. Earlier this week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that it considers ten countries “guilty of severe religious freedom violations.” He categorized ten nations -- China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar (Burma), North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan – as “Countries of Particular Concern” for their violations of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The reason for this label is that they “were found to have engaged or tolerated `systematic, ongoing, (and) egregious violations of religious freedom.’”
In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests, or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs. The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression. Protecting and promoting international religious freedom is a top foreign policy priority of the Trump Administration.
People are still being harassed and killed because they believe differently than many of the people around them. There are still far too many people in the world who try to force their beliefs on other people, and this deprives others of freedoms and liberties.