Sunday, February 20, 2011

Preserving Religious Freedom

A few weeks ago, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California. His remarks are entitled, "Preserving Religious Freedom."

Elder Oaks is uniquely qualified to address the topic of religious freedom:
  • He is an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • He served as a justice on the Utah Supreme Court from 1981–1984,
  • As legal counsel to the Illinois Constitutional Convention Bill of Rights Committee in 1970,
  • As a professor at the University of Chicago Law School from 1961–1971,
  • As law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States Supreme Court from 1957 to 1958,
  • As Editor-in-Chief of The University of Chicago Law Review from 1956–1957.
  • As Chairman of the Board of the Public Broadcasting Service from 1980–1985,
  • As a board member from 1977–1985,
  • And as president of Brigham Young University from 1971–1980.
Prior to his speech, an interview was recorded concerning the remarks he would make about preserving religious freedom. As the article this week, I am posting the video and transcript of the sixteen-minute interview, and the follow-up article from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about the interview. This follow-up article also contains other resources and statements from the prophets and apostles concerning religious freedom.

Highlighting favorite parts or notable quotes from this interview is difficult because I believe everything he says is so clear and necessary and he touches on all the integral points of the current religious-freedom issues. However, I did pick out a few things on which I wish to comment.

"Religion teaches obedience to the unenforceable." We rely so much today on laws and regulations and fine points that attempt to cover every possible loophole and we rely on law enforcement and the government to then keep the peace and keep people from doing wrong things. But that approach encourages an ever-increasing amount of regulations and enforcement and resources. Religion teaches obedience to the unenforceable. Think of the implications.

Concerning the warping of the religious-freedom argument Elder Oaks said, "I think we’re seeing erosion when some public figures, for instance, refer to freedom of worship rather than freedom of religion. Now let’s look at that for a moment. Freedom of worship is a far narrower concept than freedom of religion because freedom of religion includes the freedom to act upon one’s religious beliefs, whereas freedom of worship tends to indicate that religion is confined within the church or synagogue, if you choose to go there. Yet we see people beginning to refer to freedom of worship rather than freedom of religion."

In an effort to redirect the focus of the argument back to the true conflict he said, "What I see a conflict in is the freedom, which is part of religious freedom, of a religious leader to say that some particular conduct is sinful, or some particular public policy is not pleasing to God, or something of that nature. And then the person on the other side of that, the person criticized, says, “Well, you’re interfering with my civil right to advocate my position,” or “You’re offending me and I have a right not to be offended,” or “You are criticizing me and I have a right not to be criticized.” That’s where the collision comes." Freedom of speech is the first of the freedoms that the founding fathers listed surely because they felt being able to voice an opinion contrary to another's views held extreme importance.

The freedom of religion is a touchy subject in these latter-days; many "hot" political issues are deeply rooted in religion. The "freedom" to act and do as one pleases is argued against one's freedom to speak out or act against those actions. As religion and God are pushed more and more into the background, society will continue to deteriorate. The Lord has promised us numerous times that, "inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence" (2 Nephi 1:20; additional verses). Religious freedom is key to our success as individuals, families, communities, and as a nation.

Elder Oaks is an apostle of Jesus Christ, he speaks the mind and will of God. The principles he teaches and upholds are the very principles that lead to success, happiness, and peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come for they are the words of Christ.