The free "exercise" of religion obviously involves both (1) the right to choose religious beliefs and affiliations and (2) the right to "exercise" or practice those beliefs without government restraint. However, in a nation with citizens of many different religious beliefs the right of some to act upon their religious beliefs must be qualified by the government's responsibility to further compelling government interests, such as the health and safety of all. Otherwise, for example, the government could not protect its citizens' persons or properties from neighbors whose religious principles compelled practices that threatened others' health or personal security. Government authorities have wrestled with this tension for many years, so we have considerable experience in working out the necessary accommodations.

The inherent conflict between the precious religious freedom of the people and the legitimate regulatory responsibilities of the government is the central issue of religious freedom.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Preserving Religious Freedom," speech given at Chapman University School of Law on February 4, 2011 (Part III). For the full transcript see

"It is important for us to become well educated on this issue and assume responsibility for ensuring that the religious freedom we have inherited is passed on to future generations."

Elder Quentin L. Cook

Why is Religious Freedom Important?

What is Religious Freedom?