Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said religious freedom is being threatened by societal forces intimidating those with religious points of view from having a voice in the public square.
Elder Oaks made the comments while addressing to Brigham Young University-Idaho students on the importance of preserving the religious freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
He said we should not be deterred or coerced into silence by threats. “We must insist on our constitutional right and duty to exercise our religion, to vote our consciences on public issues, and to participate in elections and debates in the public square and the halls of justice.” He also offered five suggestions:
- Speak with love and show patience, understanding and compassion to those with differing viewpoints.
- Do not be deterred or coerced into silence by intimidation from opponents, insisting that churches and their members be able to speak out on issues without retaliation.
- Insist on the freedom to preach the doctrines of their faith.
- Be wise in political participation, remaining respectful of those who do not share their religious beliefs and contributing to reasonable discussion.
- Be careful to never support or act on the idea that a person must subscribe to a specific set of religious beliefs in order to qualify for public office.
“Religious values and political realities are so interlinked in the origin and perpetuation of this nation that we cannot lose the influence of Christianity in the public square without seriously jeopardizing our freedoms,” Elder Oaks concluded. “I maintain that this is a political fact, well qualified for argument in the public square by religious people whose freedom to believe and act must always be protected by what is properly called our ‘First Freedom,’ the free exercise of religion.”
This message is particularly important today as 2009 elections are right around the corner, and many are already in full campaign mode for the 2010 elections.