​​​​Freedom-of-Religion

Warnings

Elder Russell M. Nelson
[F]ull freedom cannot be experienced if part of one’s knowledge is ruled “out-of-bounds” by edicts of men.  “Let Your Faith Show,” Ensign, May 2014 (p.30).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks
A continuation of [the] trajectory of ignorance and advocacy of diminished religious freedom—inhibiting the free exercise of religion in favor of other (though often worthy) social goals—will fundamentally change the character of America, and not for the better. “Strengthening the Free Exercise of Religion,” Part II of Speech, May 16, 2013.

[T]eachers in schools, colleges, and universities are teaching and practicing relative morality.  This is shaping the attitudes of many young Americans who are taking their places as the teachers of our children and the shapers of public attitudes through the media and popular entertainment.  This philosophy of moral relativism denies what millions of believing Christians, Jews and Muslims consider fundamental, and this denial creates serious problems for all of us.  "Truth and Tolerance," CES Fireside, September 11, 2011 (Part I).

The tide of public opinion in favor of religion is receding, and this probably portends public pressures for laws that will impinge on religious freedom.  Speech on Religious Freedom given at BYU-Idaho on October 13, 2009 (Part V).

[There is] 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. 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.  "Preserving Religious Freedom,” speech given at Chapman University School of Law on February 4, 2011 (Part III). 

[R]eligious values and political realities are so inter-linked in the origin and perpetuation of this nation that we cannot lose the influence of religion in our public life without seriously jeopardizing our freedoms.  "Preserving Religious Freedom,” speech given at Chapman University School of Law on February 4, 2011 (Part I).  See also “Challenges to Religious Freedom,” Address at the Argentina Council for Foreign Relations (CARI) April 23, 2015 (Part III).

The guarantee of free exercise of religion seems to be weakening as the tide of public esteem in favor of religion recedes. Religion is surely under siege by the forces of political correctness that seek its replacement by other priorities.  “Challenges to Religious Freedom,” Address at the Argentina Council for Foreign Relations (CARI) April 23, 2015 (Part IV).

Accusations of bigotry toward people simply because they are motivated by their religious faith and conscience have a chilling effect on freedom of speech and public debate. When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser.  News Conference on Religious Freedom and Nondiscrimination, January 27, 2015

It is well to remember James Madison's warning: “There are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."  "Preserving Religious Freedom,” speech given at Chapman University School of Law on February 4, 2011 (Part III) (citing James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention on Control of the Military, (June 16, 1788), in 1 HISTORY OF THE VIRGINIA FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1788, 130 (H.B. Grigsby ed., 1890)). 

Those who maintain that secular ethics and morality can substitute for religion make academic arguments but lack the evidence to support their theories….I maintain that the teachings and free practice of religion are essential to a free and prosperous society. I also maintain that religious values and political realities are so interlinked in the origin and perpetuation of this nation that we cannot lose the influence of religion and religious bodies in our public life without seriously jeopardizing our freedom and prosperity.  Remarks at Claremont Graduate University Religious Freedom Conference, Part I, March 25, 2016.

Elder Robert D. Hales
Some are offended when we bring our religion into the public square, yet the same people who insist that their viewpoints and actions be tolerated in society are often very slow to give that same tolerance to religious believers who also wish their viewpoints and actions to be tolerated. The general lack of respect for religious viewpoints is quickly devolving into social and political intolerance for religious people and institutions. “Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom,” General Conference, April 2015.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
You may wonder if it is worth it to take a courageous moral stand in high school or to go on a mission only to have your most cherished beliefs reviled or to strive against much in society that sometimes ridicules a life of religious devotion. Yes, it is worth it, because the alternative is to have our “houses” left unto us “desolate”—desolate individuals, desolate families, desolate neighborhoods, and desolate nations.  “The Cost—and Blessings—of Discipleship,” Ensign, May 2014 (p.7).

Elder Quentin L. Cook
Freedom and light have never been easy to attain or maintain. Since the War in Heaven, the forces of evil have used every means possible to destroy agency and extinguish light. The assault on moral principles and religious freedom has never been stronger.  “Let There Be Light!” Ensign, November 2010 (p. 27).

One of my colleagues in the Twelve, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, has pointed out that “virtually everyone in the Western democracies claims to believe in the principle of religious freedom. It is the application of the principle that creates controversy. Threats to religious freedom typically arise when religious people and institutions seek to say or do something—or refuse to say or do something—that runs counter to the philosophy or goals of those in power.” “Religious freedom, while generally supported in principle, is often vigorously opposed in practice.”  Notre Dame Sydney School of Law Religious Liberty Lecture, Sydney, Australia, May 27, 2015 (citing D. Todd Christofferson, “Religious Freedom in a Secular Age,” J. Reuben Clark Law School, BYU, Clark Memorandum, Spring 2015, 7.)

Safeguarding religious liberty requires constant vigilance. Difficult social and legal issues that directly affect religious freedom are looming on the horizon. Here are just a few questions that Australia is facing or will likely soon face:

If Australia follows the trend of many Western nations and defines marriage to include same-sex couples, will religious organizations continue to have the freedom to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman for all religious purposes?
Will laws barring discrimination against LGBT persons have appropriate religious exemptions and protections so that religious organizations and people of faith can affirm their deeply held beliefs regarding marriage, family, and sexuality without retaliation?
Will religious schools be permitted to have religious requirements for faculty, staff, and students?
Will religious believers be excluded from certain professions because of their beliefs or expressions regarding sensitive social issues?
With the decline in religiosity generally, will religious exercise increasingly be limited to the home and places of worship, or will it continue to have a positive role to play in the public life of this great nation?
Will religion come to be seen as dangerous—as something the law must protect people from rather than as a great good for individuals, society, and the state?

These and related questions highlight some of the challenges that religious organizations and individual believers will likely confront in the years to come. Constant vigilance will be necessary to preserve the great treasure of religious liberty.  Notre Dame Sydney School of Law Religious Liberty Lecture, Sydney, Australia, May 27, 2015

Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Because a society’s deepest values drive law and public policy, and because those values in many Western nations are now almost entirely secular, government is increasingly enforcing secular values at the expense of religious ones. And society itself—even without the force of government—can ostracize, stigmatize, and discriminate against religious believers in overt and subtle ways, leaving people of faith marginalized and sometimes even despised. As this happens—and it is happening more rapidly in some countries than others—the space for us to freely and openly live out our deepest beliefs will tend to shrink and our ability to participate in civic life as free and equal citizens will tend to diminish. We indeed face challenging times.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “Watchmen on the Tower,” Clark Memorandum, Spring 2015, p. 6.

Threats to religious freedom typically arise when religious people and institutions seek to say or do something—or refuse to say or do something—that runs counter to the philosophy or goals of those in power, including political majorities. Religion is often countercultural and thus unpopular. For this reason, religious freedom, even where it is generally supported in principle, is often vigorously opposed in practice.  “A Celebration of Religious Freedom,” Interfaith Address in São Paulo, Brazil, April 29, 2015

 The need to protect and preserve religious liberty—in a fair and balanced way that also protects others’ fundamental rights—is acute.  “A Celebration of Religious Freedom,” Interfaith Address in São Paulo, Brazil, April 29, 2015.


Elder Ronald A. Rasband
Our society has become so blinded by its quest to redress wrongful discrimination against one class of people that it is now in danger of creating another victimized class: people of faith, like you and me.  "Religious Freedom and Fairness for All," BYU Devotional Address, September 15, 2015.


Elder L. Tom Perry
In many countries, including the United States, religious freedom is slowly and dangerously eroding.  I’ve seen this erosion in matters of individual conscience, expression and self-determination.  But this is not a concern for religious people only.  For many reasons, all citizens benefit from a robust and vigorous religious freedom.  “Mormon Apostle Promotes Religious Freedom” (Video)

“We’re losing Christianity. It’s the worst thing that could happen to a nation. And we’ve got to find a way of rekindling it—not only with the people we contact, but with the opportunity to reach out to others. We’ll see a deterioration in this nation unless we do. The conscience of the world depends on religious faith. And we’ve got to rebuild that confidence in the world for religious faith and just spread it throughout the people. And when they start seeing the contrast, the contrast between good and the bad way, then we’ll see a change.”  Video recorded address to new mission presidents, May 2015,