"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Religious liberty and freedom has always been one of the most important Constitutional issues for me. I believe in, defend, and love all of the Bill of Rights. But the rights to free speech, freedom to worship, and freedom to exercise religious liberty (which are all greatly dependent upon each other and intertwined at their cores) are most important to me.
On January 27, 2015, my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held an extraordinary press conference on the subjects of defending and upholding the right to religious liberty and nondiscrimination.
In the attached transcript, you will find this awesome quote from Elder Jeffrey R Holland, "Accommodating the rights of all people—including their religious rights—requires wisdom and judgment, compassion and fairness.
"Politically, it certainly requires dedication to the highest level of statesmanship. Nothing is achieved if either side resorts to bullying, political point scoring or accusations of bigotry.
"These are serious issues, and they require serious minds engaged in thoughtful, courteous discourse."
In the same press conference, Elder Dallin H Oaks said, "It is one of today’s great ironies that some people who have fought so hard for LGBT rights now try to deny the rights of others to disagree with their public policy proposals. The precious constitutional right of free speech does not exclude any individual or group, and a society is only truly free when it respects freedom of religious exercise, conscience and expression for everyone, including unpopular minorities."
Many people make the mistake of thinking that just because someone disagrees with one's point of view, that they must tear each other down, or block their rights. As you can read in the attached transcript, and see in your own life, the right to religious freedom (and the intertwined right to free speech) is often challenged and blocked by those who disagree with them on matters of sexuality. For instance, if the Mormon Church doesn't condone gay marriage, it must hate all gays, according to LGBT advocates. And as a result, many of those advocates wish to block or harm the right to religious freedom and their associated right to free speech. (For the record, if you read the transcript, the Church makes it blatantly clear that they help support anti-discrimination laws for all people, including LGBT.)
Aren't we all entitled, granted, and ensured the right to free speech, and to freely exercise our established religious beliefs?
Earlier this week I took an "interview test" for a potential job with an organization that will remain nameless, but I greatly admire and respect. They work to defend religious liberties.
Part of the test was to read about an actual religious liberty lawsuit and write a press release and talking points. (DISCLAIMER: I don't know how I did on it. I'm sure there are many qualified people for this position. I know I didn't do my best on it do to passing kidney stones and painkillers at the same time. I have many irons in the fire right now as I job hunt. But this particular job is a unicorn of sorts for me. It's a cause I'm passionate about, and work I enjoy doing. That doesn't happen very often.) Back to my point- the case they had me read was very controversial. (And I'm sure that was by design.) It involved an ancient religion that still practices live animal and blood sacrifices. On one hand, it is hard to defend animal sacrifice. Most people find it distasteful and horrid. And I'm one of them.
But does this established, ancient religion have the right to worship where they believe, and what they believe? Yes. We all have the Constitutional right to religious freedom. I could waste my time here and defend and explain how/why animal sacrifice is not as wretched as it may seem at first. (How is a sanitary sacrifice of a rabbit where all meat is eaten, any better or worse than shooting a rabbit for sport?) But that's not my point.
My point is that if you believe in the rights of free speech and religion, you do not get to pick and choose who gets it. It is universal. It is a right given to everyone, including those you disagree with.
Elder Holland summed it up best, "We must find ways to show respect for others whose beliefs, values and behaviors differ from ours while never being forced to deny or abandon our own beliefs, values and behaviors in the process. Every citizen’s rights are best guarded when each person and group guards for others those rights they wish guarded for themselves."