Religious Freedom—A Cherished Heritage to Defend | D. Todd Christofferson. ACU Sunday Series.

Religious Freedom—A Cherished Heritage to Defend | D. Todd Christofferson

Religious freedom is crucial for our nation. By being informed, speaking up, and getting involved, we can preserve religious freedom for everyone of faith. "Religious freedom is the cornerstone of peace in a world with many competing philosophies. It gives us all space to determine for ourselves what we think and believe—to follow the truth that God speaks to our hearts. While protection from government persecution is of course crucial, that is not all that religious freedom means: A robust freedom is not merely what political philosophers have referred to as the “negative” freedom to be left alone. . . . Rather, it is a much richer “positive” freedom—the freedom to live one’s religion or belief in a legal, political, and social environment that is tolerant, respectful, and accommodating of diverse beliefs. That freedom is now under fire. Although religious freedom lies at the core of what America is and what it stands for, critics now openly ask whether religion belongs in American public life at all. Some say that faithful Americans have no business speaking of their beliefs when addressing issues of public concern, even when those issues involve unmistakably moral judgments. Others condemn churches and religious organizations for expressing moral and religious perspectives on matters of public policy—especially when those perspectives conflict with secular viewpoints. Some even claim, with no sense of history, that religious people and institutions violate the constitutional separation of church and state if they bring their beliefs into the public square. A few scholars have gone so far as to argue that religion does not deserve to be tolerated, much less receive special protection. Some advocates demean as “discrimination” the long-standing right of religious organizations and schools to have faith-based standards in employment and admissions. Others resort to politically correct name-calling rather than talking about difficult topics in a spirit of mutual respect. Hurtful labels such as “bigot” or “hater” are all too common. Religious voices are at least as deserving of being heard as any others. In fact, churches and other religious organizations bring unique experiences and perspectives to public policy debates. They recognize corrosive social forces that threaten faith, family, and freedom. They know personally about the hardships of family breakdown, unemployment, poverty, drug abuse, and numerous other social ills. Why? Because they are on the front lines helping individuals and families work through these wrenching problems. When they speak out, they do so not for selfish reasons, like the special-interest groups that constantly lobby our public officials, but out of concern for the people they minister to, their families, and society itself. They bring a moral—often cautionary—voice to matters of social and public policy that we desperately need in this age of materialism, self-promotion, and disruptive change. The perspectives of churches and religious leaders make an irreplaceable contribution to our ongoing democratic conversation about how we should live together. Their voices are essential. And so are yours. If you are a person of faith, you have a critical contribution to make to our country and society. Public discussions about the common good are enriched by men and women like you who routinely put duty above convenience and conscience above personal advantage. Don’t be intimidated by those who claim that you are imposing your religious beliefs on others. In a pluralistic society, promoting one’s values for the good of society is not imposing them on others—it is putting them forward for consideration along with all others. Societies will choose and decide. Someone’s values will prevail in the end, and all of us have the right—and duty—to argue for what we believe will best serve the needs of the people and most benefit the common good. Without you, our political and social debates will lack the richness and insights needed to make wise decisions, and our nation and communities will suffer." - Elder Christofferson Elder D. Todd Christofferson was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he gave this speech at the Provo 2016 Freedom Festival Patriotic Service on 26 June 2016. Follow BYU Speeches:

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