A Clarion Call for Religious Freedom from the Mormon Church
As we approach the 2012 presidential elections, the use of faith in framing issues by candidates will be revealing, startling and in many cases, abrasive. From debates to conversations, it will be interesting to note the line many candidates will walk when discussing religious freedom and the preservation of this right so cherished by our nation’s Founding Fathers. The debate on religion will determine whether we as a society use faith to heal or divide our nation, says an MPAC release. It adds:
A vocal proponent on behalf of the preservation of religious freedom in the US is Elder Dallin Oaks, one of the 12 apostles (leaders) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Religious teachings and religious organizations are valuable and important to our free society and therefore deserving of special legal protection,” Dallin said. Certainly, even our Founding Fathers felt that religious freedom was a necessary part of the establishment of a democratic America. Indeed, John Adams, a Founding Father and second President of the US, expressed, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.” The guarantee of our religious freedom, based on the First Amendment, which states in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” establishes freedom of religion as an important pillar to democracy. If religious freedom is such a staple in our democracy, then why do people feel the need to trample on the freedoms and rights of others?
Faith-based groups continue to deal with the outrageous notion that the more pious a person is, the less inclined he/she would be logical, or open to religious freedom for all citizens. Perhaps, as Elder Oaks said, this could be a source of the problem; there is a rising sentiment that the public square is simply not open to religious ideas or people any longer. Furthermore, the public square is now being populated by individuals and campaigns that tout an anti-First Amendment narrative by suppressing the religious freedom rights of others, such as bans on building mosques and false Sharia claims.
“The religious community must unite to be sure we are not coerced or deterred into silence by the kinds of intimidation or threatening rhetoric that are being experienced,” observed Elder Oaks in a speech to Chapman University. Indeed, although Elder Oaks establishes a firm foundation of the preservation of the free exercise of religion, the beauty of American pluralism illustrates that although we at the Muslim Public Affairs Council agree with necessary imperative to defend and uphold religious freedom, much like Elder Oaks, our First Amendment rights give us the room to practice our beliefs in our own ways. However, the disagreement is not a source of weakness or doubt, but one of the cornerstones of what makes the US strong. The very notion of religious freedom, allows for such dialogue and disagreement to take place; certainly, we uphold the idea that everyone should be free and protected to exercise their religious beliefs. There is no need to focus on our theological differences of the threads of our American fabric; what is important is that through our differences, we can agree on the importance of upholding the freedoms we hold dear as a nation, which begins with the First Amendment including the exercise and right to religious freedom.