Religious Freedom Annual Review 2016 Thursday Afternoon Workshops: How Can I Discuss Religious Freedom Effectively?

by Linda Young

Michael Frandsen, Director of Public Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presented a workshop titled “How Can I Discuss Religious Freedom Effectively” on Thursday 7 July 2016. He explained that citizens can stand up for truth while practicing tolerance.  Using an example provided by LDS Apostle, Dallin H. Oaks, absolute truth is like a coin; one side represents tolerance and respect while the other side represents truth.

A recently produced video by the LDS Church was shown of one student’s experience defending truth.

Three possible ways to proceed were suggested:  1) Show love and compassion for all people without abandoning truth. 2) Address disagreements one on one if possible rather than in a group setting.  3) Be patient.  Understanding is a process and takes time to develop.

Mr. Frandsen provided several questions with suggested responses.

Q. What do you mean when you talk about religious freedom?

A. Religious freedom is the right to choose, change, declare and act upon your faith.  It includes freedom to worship.  It is also the right to “exercise” or practice your religion without interference from the government, subject to government’s responsibility to protect the health and safety of all its citizens in a pluralistic society.

Q. How can religious freedom be threatened when it’s already protected in the First Amendment?

A. The First Amendment protects religious freedom in important ways, we know that legal protections alone, even those provided by the Constitution are not always sufficient. Lance Wickman, General Counsel, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, suggested at the opening session, that we cannot rely heavily on the First Amendment.

Q. I am not religious.  Why should I care about religious freedom?

A.  Religious freedom protects the space we all need to live according to our most deeply held beliefs and values allowing freedom to act according to our conscience.

Q. Why should religious views have legitimacy in the public square?

A. Every policy choice is based upon moral assumptions and values.  At some point everyone makes a determination about what is right and wrong.

Q.  Why does the church oppose same-sex marriage?

A. First, the Church believes that strong, stable families led by a father and mother provide the best environment we have for bring children into the world and raising them.  We should do everything we can to protect that environment.  Second, the Church is concerned that legalizing same-sex marriage substantially reduces the space available to people of faith who have traditional beliefs about marriage and family.  Marriage between a man and a woman has always been a core doctrine.  Our ability to remain true to all aspect of this core doctrine is increasingly challenged where same-sex marriage is now legal.

Mr. Frandsen’s concluding counsel included a two-fold plea to lead lives as examples of the believers so that faithful objectives can be seen as good and decent.  Then, become active in simple ways by becoming aware of community issues and voting.