Orange, Calif. -- This past week Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed the Chapman University law school. His topic, religious freedom -- with a call for religious groups to "unite in protecting this supremely important founding principle" in our U.S. Constitution.
Elder Oaks masterfully connected many of the profoundly relevant issues in society today, to a valid concern for our potential loss of religious freedom. Ultimately, he encouraged people of all faiths to recognize what is happening, unite and take action to preserve this most fundamental of all rights, and the very foundation of our Constitution.
I've spent a considerable amount of time, online, over the past few years writing and speaking out on the importance of preserving traditional marriage. The fact that I'm a Mormon doing this, is particularly bothersome to many who don't believe in God, or don't believe that any opinion based and/or coupled in faith has a legitimate place in the public square. Some, go so far as to not even consider my vote as equal to theirs, simply because it is based in religious beliefs. Fortunately, I've never bought into these arguments that attempt to squelch my voice. Unfortunately, many good people of faith have allowed themselves to be silenced. They have become convinced (or bullied) into thinking that they have to have some secular-intelligent debate to justify their position.
The left is doing a good job of convincing the right, that not only are our faith based opinions not equal to their opinions, but that our opinions because they are faith based are not even valid. Elder Oaks explains...
"What has caused the current public and legal climate of mounting threats to religious freedom? I believe the cause is not legal but cultural and religious. I believe the diminished value being attached to religious freedom stems from the ascendency of moral relativism.
More and more of our citizens support the idea that all authority and all rules of behavior are man-made and can be accepted or rejected as one chooses. Each person is free to decide for himself or herself what is right and wrong. Our children face the challenge of living in an increasingly godless and amoral society."
What I so appreciate about this speech, is that Elder Oaks re-establishes the preeminence of the principle of religious freedom in the United States Constitution -- and elevates it back to its status as the foundation upon which this country was founded. He went on to say…
"Moral relativism leads to a loss of respect for religion and even to anger against religion and the guilt that is seen to flow from it. As it diminishes religion, it encourages the proliferation of rights that claim ascendency over the free exercise of religion.
The founders who established this nation believed in God and in the existence of moral absolutes—right and wrong—established by this Ultimate Law-giver. The Constitution they established assumed and relied on morality in the actions of its citizens. Where did that morality come from and how was it to be retained? Belief in God and the consequent reality of right and wrong was taught by religious leaders in churches and synagogues, and the founders gave us the First Amendment to preserve that foundation for the Constitution.
The preservation of religious freedom in our nation depends on the value we attach to the teachings of right and wrong in our churches, synagogues and mosques. It is faith in God—however defined—that translates these religious teachings into the moral behavior that benefits the nation. As fewer and fewer citizens believe in God and in the existence of the moral absolutes taught by religious leaders, the importance of religious freedom to the totality of our citizens is diminished. We stand to lose that freedom if many believe that religious leaders, who preach right and wrong, make no unique contribution to society and therefore should have no special legal protection."
Interview With Elder Dallin H. Oaks Regarding Speech on Religious Freedom
I've barely touched the tip of the iceberg as to what Elder Oaks said in his address. I hope you will take the time to read the entire speech and even go one step further by sharing it with others of faith, and encouraging them to do the same. Each one of us has a voice that needs to take courage and be heard. We truly have the power, as we become more unified, to not only preserve that which we hold most dear, but be a great influence in society.
Transcript of Elder Dallin H. Oaks' Speech Given at Chapman University School of Law
Elder Dallin H. Oaks Selected Biographical Information
Selected Beliefs and Statements on Religious Freedom of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Let There Be Light!