LDS DEMS: WE DECLARE THERE IS NO WAR ON RELIGION

We, the LDS Democrats Caucus of Utah and our sister organization, the LDS Democrats of America, declare that the World Congress of Families and organizations like it are perpetuating the so-called war on religion by confusing the free exercise of religion with the establishment thereof. 

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a landmark speech on religious freedom at the Second Annual Sacramento Court/Clergy Conference last week. We LDS Democrats heartily applaud Elder Oaks’ inspired remarks. We find them moving and powerful.

Contact:
Eric Biggart
ericbiggart@gmail.com
801.369.8894

Crystal Young-Otterstrom

crystal@foursightpartners.com or utah@ldsdems.org

801.652.0737

 

 

LDS DEMOCRATS: WE DECLARE THERE IS NO WAR ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM


 

The following is a statement from LDS Dems that was read at their press conference on Monday, October 26, 2015 at 10:00am in Salt Lake City, UT. The statement is a response to Elder Oaks’ recent speech to the Second Annual Sacramento Court/Clergy Conference on October 20, 2015 and is also in reference to the World Congress of Families which visits Salt Lake City October 27 - 30.

The following was stated by Eric Biggart, vice-chair of LDS Dems of Utah:

We, the LDS Democrats Caucus of Utah and our sister organization, the LDS Democrats of America, declare that the World Congress of Families and organizations like it are perpetuating the so-called war on religion by confusing the free exercise of religion with the establishment thereof. 

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a landmark speech on religious freedom at the Second Annual Sacramento Court/Clergy Conference last week. We LDS Democrats heartily applaud Elder Oaks’ inspired remarks. We find them moving and powerful.

Like Elder Oaks, we are grateful for our Constitution’s inspired First Amendment, protecting the free exercise of religion — what the Prophet Joseph Smith called a privilege to “worship how, where, or what they may” (11th Article of Faith). It is a fundamental right in the United States that has been reinforced, protected, and clarified by the courts since the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

There is a strong, embedded desire for religious liberty in Mormonism, borne from a history of ostracization and outside suspicion. Since the Church’s inception in the early 19th century, Latter-day Saints have recognized the protected right to religious freedom. We cherish the protections that early Saints canonized at a general assembly in Kirtland, Ohio: 

We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the law and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy” (Doctrine and Covenants, 134:7)

We want to draw attention to another statement in the same section of our scripture:

We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied” (Doctrine and Covenants, 134:9).  

Those early Saints had not yet been driven from state to state. They had not yet witnessed a formal extermination order from the governor of Missouri. They had not yet experienced the death of the prophet Joseph Smith while in state custody at Carthage Jail. With a beautiful sense of premonition and inspiration, they committed to text a protection for all religious societies from governmental interference, and they called for a prohibition on religious influence in civil government. Protection for them also meant protection for all.

The following was stated by Crystal Young-Otterstrom, chair of LDS Dems of Utah:

There are those who see court decisions enforcing the separation of Church and State as an attack on their faith. However, as progressive, faithful, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know that a diversity of opinions makes for a stronger democracy. Elder Oaks quoted Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes as saying that the U.S. Constitution “is made for people of fundamentally differing views.” We see differences as cause to celebrate individual uniqueness, not as imagined threats to religious exercise. And we state, categorically, that we love God’s children, because (not in spite) of their differing views. We echo Elder Oaks, “we may have cultural differences, but we should not have ‘culture wars.’”

He continues:

“There should be no adversariness between believers and nonbelievers, and there should be no belligerence between religion and government. These two realms should have a mutually supportive relationship. In that relationship governments and their laws can provide the essential protections for believers and religious organizations and their activities. Believers and religious organizations should recognize this and refrain from labeling governments and laws and officials as if they were inevitable enemies.” 

This week, many who share our faith, and some who are leaders of our church, will speak to the World Congress of Families here in Salt Lake City. We welcome the perspectives from all speakers during this conference. Indeed, families are vital, and we celebrate our Church’s edict that families come first. We anticipate that many of these speakers who share our faith will express support for the World Congress of Families’ definition of the “natural family.” We defend their right to freely express their belief in this matter. We encourage those who disagree to refrain from name calling. Rather, we hope to encourage both sides to sit down together, engage in constructive dialogue, and find a balance.

Elder Oaks best describes this ideal balance between religious and civil rights:

“on the big issues that divide adversaries on these issues, both sides should seek a balance, not a total victory. For example, religionists should not seek a veto over all nondiscrimination laws that offend their religion, and the proponents of nondiscrimination should not seek a veto over all assertions of religious freedom.  Both sides in big controversies like this should seek to understand the other’s position and seek practical accommodations that provide fairness for all and total dominance for neither.”

A balanced example is Utah’s “Fairness for All” nondiscrimination bill or even Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which made gay marriage legal. Elder Oaks references this landmark ruling as a manifestation of equality that also accommodates religious beliefs in a way that is finely tuned in dealing with individual circumstances. Kennedy’s opinion leaves room to acknowledge the role that religious principles and sensibilities play in day-to-day life for many individuals and protects individuals from being discriminated against by non-believers for the believers’ religious practices. 

However, we encourage these same LDS speakers at the World Congress of Families to remember this idea: work for balance. Fight for balance. As you freely express your beliefs, you do not have the right to advocate its establishment in law above other systems of belief. That includes working to pass laws that establish a religiously-driven belief in the World Congress of Families’ specific definition of family and civil rights.

The early Saints understood protection for their religion meant equal protection for all. Today, our religion is best protected when we choose real, universal religious freedom rather than enshrining our beliefs in law. Real religious freedom is a two-way street.  Government does not tell religious groups what to believe and religious groups do not legislate their faith. We caution against those who may tread closer to “an establishment of religion” than they would “the free exercise thereof.”

——————————————————————————————————————————

LDS Democrats (LDS Dems) is an official caucus of the Utah Democratic Party, and part of the national organization, LDS Democrats of America. Founded in 2011, LDS Dems is the largest caucus inside the Utah Democratic Party with more than 4,500 members. More info at ldsdems.org.

 

####

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Subscribe Share

connect

get updates