Clipper Staff Writer
BOUNTIFUL — Religious liberty has been foremost in the thoughts of Americans since the nation’s founding, with freedom of religion leading the nation’s Bill of Rights.
But several faiths have voiced concerns within the past couple of years, saying that freedom is eroding. They are finding allies where once it seemed little common ground existed.
Earlier this month, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched a Facebook page, a Mormon newsroom topic page and several videos to help people understand the importance of protecting religious freedom, according to a church press release. Those resources can be found at LDS.org
Mormons are finding allies in their concern for this liberty from faiths as diverse as the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptists, and the Lutheran Church.
The issues drawing faith leaders together range from federal law requiring health insurance plans tocover contraception, same sex marriage, and decisions by some government planning organizations to not allow a faith to build in a particular zones.
Several LDS general authorities have spoken out on their concerns for what they see as infringement on religious liberty.
“We are alarmed at the many—and increasing—circumstances in which actions based on the free exercise of religion are sought to be swept aside or subordinated to the asserted ‘civil rights’ of officially favored classes,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in a speech upon accepting the Canterbury Medal from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in May.
He quoted Catholic Cardinal Francis George, who said, “In the coming years, interreligious coalitions formed to defend the rights of conscience for individuals and for religious institutions should become a vital bulwark against the tide of forces at work in our government and society to reduce religion to a purely private reality.”
Oaks urged religious leaders and believers of all faiths to unite to teach what faiths have in common, “as well as to teach and exercise our very real differences.”
That commonality is demonstrated by statements issued by both Catholic and Southern Baptists.
Russell Moore, the new president of the Ethics And Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said of religious liberty in an interview with The Gospel Coalition that it’s freedom for all people, nor just conservative evangelicals.
“If the government can zone a mosque out of existence in your local community, it can do the same for a gospel church,” he said.
“Our Sunday Visitor,” a Catholic news weekly noted that Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim have spoken out in defense of religious liberty, “and have protested governmental efforts to force any group to adopt policies or actions that are contrary to its teachings and beliefs.”
In June, Pope Francis spoke on Vatican Radio about religious freedom.
“It is often threatened, and not infrequently violated,” the pope said. “The serious outrages against this fundamental right are a source of serious concern, and need to be confronted on a global level.
In a letter to members, the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod addressed the need for the denomination’s new campaign, “Religious Liberty: Free to Be Faithful,” that was begun “to provide clarity regarding the church’s role in matters of Christian citizenship and impress upon elected representatives the crucial need to protect First Amendment rights for all religious organizations ... so they remain free to operate according to their religious beliefs.”
The new LDS resources will offer suggestions on how to engage the issue, how to learn more about religious freedom and how to study the issues. From there, you can join others in promoting that freedom, the church press release said.