Monday, February 07, 2011

Oaks on the deterioration of religous rights

Excerpts of two  stories regarding Elder Oak's recent speech at Chapman University

--Deseret News--
Religious groups should unite to protect the religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, said Elder Dallin H. Oaks in a speech Friday at Chapman University law school.
"We must never see the day when the public square is not open to religious ideas and religious persons," Elder Oaks said. "The religious community must united to be sure we are not coerced or deterred into silence by the kinds of intimidation or threatening rhetoric that are being experienced.
"Whether or not such actions are anti-religious, they are surely anti-democratic and should be condemned by all who are interested in democratic government. There should be room for all good-faith views in the public square, be they secular, religious or a mixture of the two."
Four points on preserving religious freedom:
  1. Religious teachings and religious organizations are valuable and important to a free society, thus "deserving of their special legal protection."
  2. Religious freedom "undergirds the origin and existence of this country and is the dominating civil liberty."
  3. The constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion "is weakening in its effects and in public esteem."
  4. Such a weakening can be attributed "to the ascendancy of moral relativism."
He called for a unified, broad coalition— a proposal that doesn't require common doctrinal ground, but a shared belief that the rights and wrongs of human behavior have been established by a Supreme Being.
Oaks added he is not proposing "a resurrection of the so-called 'moral majority,' " — which was identified with a particular religious group and political party — nor an alliance or identification with any current political movement.
Oaks spent most of his time on the third, offering a number of trends "eroding" both the protections provided by the free exercise clause and its historical public esteem.
He quoted the then-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who referred  threats to current religious-based exemptions from participating in abortions and the development of gay rights and the call for same-sex marriage.
Said Elder Oaks: "Along with many others, I see a serious threat to the freedom of religion in the current assertion of a 'civil right' of homosexuals to be free from religious preaching against their relationships. ... One would think that the preaching of such a doctrinal belief would be protected by the constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion, to say nothing of the guarantee of free speech. However, we are beginning to see worldwide indications that this may not be so."
He labeled as alarming "the so-called civil rights of 'dignity,' 'autonomy' and 'self-fulfillment' of persons offended by religion preaching."
And he took exception to the suggestion by President Barack Obama's 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."
"Such a radical assertion should not escape analysis," Elder Oaks said, 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 to the conclusion that religious expressions can be overridden by a fundamental right to "sexual liberty."
The result: Legal definitions of traditional marriage and family are deteriorating and under attack.
"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."
--LA Times--

Dallin H. Oaks describes an 'informal conspiracy of correctness to scrub out references to God' in the U.S. Many Americans find little evidence that religious liberty is threatened.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks:The 1st Amendment right to freedom of religion is under siege, he said, threatened by a growing secularization of society and constrained by the inroads made by a vigorous gay rights movement.
"It is easy to believe," he said, "that there is an informal conspiracy of correctness to scrub out references to God and the influence of religion in the founding and preservation of our nation."
But many Americans find little evidence that religious liberty is threatened.
"I hadn't noticed that," deadpanned Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which advocates a robust separation of church and state. She questioned whether Oaks was simply feeling "wounded" by criticism of the Mormon Church's role in the Proposition 8 campaign.
"There's a real irony," she continued, "because he doesn't understand the meaning of religious freedom.… What they want to do is to curtail freedom for gays. They're not for freedom. They're for theocracy in matters of marriage."

He cited, for instance, a New Mexico case in which the state Human Rights Commission held that a private photographer had discriminated against a couple by declining to photograph their same-sex commitment ceremony, and a case in New Jersey in which the United Methodist Church was penalized for denying a same-sex couple access to a church-owned pavilion frequently used for weddings.
What if, Oaks was asked, the photographer or church had refused to serve the couples because they were African American — or Mormon? "It's a good question," he said. "And it gets into a philosophical point.… There is always a legitimate question about whether the power of government should be used to interfere with individual choices."
In the case of the photographer, Oaks said there might be room for discussion about whether the customers' civil rights were violated. In the other case, however, he said it was "monstrous" to compel a church to allow its property to be used for something that violated its principles.

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