J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Apostles Travel the World Teaching Religious Freedom

Over the past several months, Elders Christofferson, Cook and Oaks of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ international leadership, have traveled the world to speak on religious freedom. The following are synopses of their remarks followed by links to their full addresses.

On April 29, 2015, Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke at a conference in Brazil entitled “Celebration of Religious Freedom: Brazil, a Voice to the World.” Attending were Muslims, Catholics, Adventists, Jews, Evangelicals, native spiritualists and people of no faith. The conference was held at Brazil’s first and largest mosque. Elder Christofferson noted that Brazil is a guiding light to the world in that it has the lowest level of government restriction on religion. He said that religious freedom goes beyond merely being “left alone.” It’s also about living one’s religion or belief in a legal, political and social environment that is tolerant, respectful and accommodating of diverse beliefs. He also noted that human rights are intrinsically tied to religious freedom and said: “How can we claim the freedom of speech without being able to say what we truly believe?... How can we claim the freedom of assembly unless we can gather with others to share our ideal? How can we enjoy freedom of the press unless we can publicly print or post who we really are?”

He also said: “The need to protect and preserve religious liberty—in a fair and balanced way that protects others’ fundamental rights—is acute.”

After calling upon people of diverse beliefs to work together and defend religious freedom, Elder Christofferson concluded with a passage from Mormon scripture: “No government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience” (Doctrine and Covenants 134:2).

Elder Christofferson’s complete remarks can be read at http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/a-celebration-of-religious-freedom

Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a similar talk a few days earlier in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His talk was given at the Argentine Council for Foreign Relations and was entitled “Challenges to Religious Freedom.” He spoke of the importance of advocating religious freedom when secularism is strong in many corners of the globe.

He began by noting that religious freedoms are anchoring fundamentals of the United States Constitution. “Foremost among those fundamentals is the vital founding principle that the government should not endorse or establish a particular religion and that the government should guarantee the free exercise of religion by all of its citizens,” he said.

Elder Oaks said that the U.S. Constitution treats freedom of religion as a “cornerstone of American democracy.” Included is the provision that the government shall make no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. The idea that the free exercise of religion must protect actions as well as beliefs is also declared in the Second Vatican Council's “Declaration on Religious Freedom” and in the United Nations Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Elder Oaks said religious teaching and the religiously motivated actions of believers remain valuable to society. They deserve special legal protections. “This, of course, rejects the assumptions of some secularists that religion is mostly a matter of history that has minimal significance in modern times,” he added. “Far from relics of the past, religious principles and religious believers are a vital present and future force everywhere.”

Read the full talk by Elder Oaks at http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/challenges-to-religious-freedom

Thirdly, on May 27, 2015, Elder Quentin L. Cook spoke to the students, faculty and staff at the Sydney campus of the University of Notre Dame Australia School of Law. “My plea today is that all religions join together to defend faith and religious freedom in a manner that protects people of diverse faith as well as those of no faith,” said Elder Cook. “We must not only protect our ability to profess our own religion but also protect the right of each religion to administer its own doctrines and laws.”

In a news release, Professor Michael Quinlan, dean of the School of Law Sydney, said it was the first time the Annual Religious Liberty Lecture would be delivered by an expert in the area of religious freedom from overseas. “Religious liberty is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today, so for this reason four years ago the School of Law, Sydney introduced an Annual Religious Liberty Lecture,” said Quinlan, who introduced Elder Cook.

“While no country is perfect and every country faces challenges, I’m pleased to say that to a very significant degree all these vital safeguards for religion are woven into the fabric of Australian law and society,” said Elder Cook, who applauded Australia for upholding religious liberty in its Constitution and in Australian law at federal, state and territorial levels. “Australian and United States citizens, Catholics and Latter-day Saints, must be part of a coalition of countries and faiths that succor, act as a sanctuary, and promulgate religious freedom across the world,” proclaimed Elder Cook. He reported that the Church and its members in Australia have been active in organizing and supporting events that promote a better understanding of religion and religious liberty.

Read the full talk by Elder Cook here: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/notre-dame-sydney-school-of-law-religious-liberty-lecture

Compiled by Tom Isaacson, Media Committee Chair

Posted: July 7, 2015