Religious Freedom Being Threatened

Today is U.S.A. Constitution Day. As we remember the freedoms that this country allowed, especially Religious freedom, we can thank the Bill of Rights for helping protect our beliefs, even when they were unpopular. However today, social and political thought is increasingly less favorable of language and ideas that are considered to be offensive. My of our LDS beliefs fall into this category, and many call for laws against such language. There are even businesses that have been successfully sued because the owner stood up for their own beliefs, and threats of forcing churches to perform marriages that violate their deep rooted beliefs about family.

A few years ago, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said religious freedom is being threatened by societal forces intimidating those with religious points of view from having a voice in the public square. Elder Oaks made the comments while addressing to Brigham Young University-Idaho students on the importance of preserving the religious freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

He said we should not be deterred or coerced into silence by threats. “We must insist on our constitutional right and duty to exercise our religion, to vote our consciences on public issues, and to participate in elections and debates in the public square and the halls of justice.” He also offered five suggestions:

  • Speak with love and show patience, understanding and compassion to those with differing viewpoints.
  • Do not be deterred or coerced into silence by intimidation from opponents, insisting that churches and their members be able to speak out on issues without retaliation.
  • Insist on the freedom to preach the doctrines of their faith.
  • Be wise in political participation, remaining respectful of those who do not share their religious beliefs and contributing to reasonable discussion.
  • Be careful to never support or act on the idea that a person must subscribe to a specific set of religious beliefs in order to qualify for public office.

“Religious values and political realities are so interlinked in the origin and perpetuation of this nation that we cannot lose the influence of Christianity in the public square without seriously jeopardizing our freedoms,” Elder Oaks concluded. “I maintain that this is a political fact, well qualified for argument in the public square by religious people whose freedom to believe and act must always be protected by what is properly called our ‘First Freedom,’ the free exercise of religion.”

“. . . [future] events are likely to require each [church] member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions. – Neal A. Maxwell, “A More Determined Discipleship,” Ensign, Feb 1979, 69–73

President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had ‘never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional or political life’ (in Conference Report, Apr. 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked . . .

“. . . Your discipleship may see the time when such religious convictions are discounted. . . . This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions . . . resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened . . .

“Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel. . . Jesus said that when the fig trees put forth their leaves, “summer is nigh” (Matt. 24:32). Thus warned that summer is upon us, let us not then complain of the heat!

“. . . God, who foresaw all challenges, has given to us a precious doctrine which can encourage us in meeting this and all other challenges.”

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