Friday, February 4, 2011

LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks Calls For United Religious Front To Protect Religious Freedom During Chapman University Speech In Orange, California

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called for religious groups to unite in order to protect the religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution during a speech delivered at Chapman University Law School on February 4th, 2011. But Elder Oaks isn't calling for a resurrection of Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority", which became identified with a particular religious group and political party, but for a broader principle both nonpartisan and ecumenical. Primary media story published by the Deseret News; unofficial LDS reaction on, which includes good secondary links to other addresses on religious liberty, and by Jeff Lindsay on Mormanity.

-- Read the complete transcript of Elder Oaks' speech HERE.
-- Read the LDS Church's press release HERE.

Interview with Elder Oaks embedded below:

Elder Oaks called for a unified, broad coalition defending religious freedoms — a proposal that doesn't require common doctrinal ground between faiths but a shared belief that the rights and wrongs of human behavior have been established by a Supreme Being. He noted that religious freedom is one of the Constitution's supremely important founding principles. Elder Oaks also warned that we must never see the day when the public square is not open to religious ideas and religious persons; thus the religious community must unite to ensure we are not coerced or deterred into silence by the kinds of intimidation or threatening rhetoric that are being experienced.

Elder Oaks also highlighted four points on preserving religious freedom:

-- Religious teachings and religious organizations are valuable and important to a free society, thus deserving of their special legal protection.
-- Religious freedom undergirds the origin and existence of this country and is the dominating civil liberty.
-- The constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion is weakening in its effects and in public esteem.
-- Such a weakening can be attributed to the ascendancy of moral relativism.

Elder Oaks also took issue with the Obama Administration over the suggestion by the head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that a sexual-orientation liberty could become such a right that it should prevail over a competing religious-belief liberty. Elder Oaks explained that such a radical assertion should not escape analysis, because it condemns the notion of a centuries-old fundamental right of freedom of religion to becoming recast as a simple liberty ranked among many other liberties. It also would create sexual orientation as a fundamental right called sexual liberty, and lead to the conclusion that religious expressions can be overridden by a fundamental right to sexual liberty.

"All of this shows an alarming trajectory of events pointing toward constraining the freedom of religious speech by forcing it to give way to the 'rights' of those offended by such speech," Elder Oaks said. "If that happens, we will have criminal prosecution of those whose religious doctrines or speech offend those whose public influence and political power establish them as an officially protected class."

The latter problem has already manifested itself in Canada. In 2002, Rev. Stephen Boissoin published a letter to the editor in the Red Deer Advocate, in which he denounced homosexuality as immoral and dangerous, and called into question new gay-rights curricula permeating the province’s educational system. He was subsequently hauled before the Alberta Human Rights Commission in response to a complaint filed by homosexual activist Dr. Darren Lund, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary. On June 6th, 2008, the Commission fined Boissoin $7000 and ordered him to publicly apologize and remain silent on homosexuality (read the seven-page decision HERE). Boissoin promptly appealed the decision, which produced two results: First, on September 2nd, 2009, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) ruled in a separate case that the driver behind Boissoin's sanctions, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act which is Canada's human rights legislation against hate messages, unreasonably limits the Charter right to freedom of expression. Then in December 2009, Justice Earl Wilson overturned the Alberta Commission's decision.

If it can happen in Canada, it can happen in the United States. Elder Oaks' counsel is wise and prescient.

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