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Friday, May 17, 2013

Elder Dallin H. Oaks receives the Canterbury Medal

An apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, received the highest honor from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Before he served as an apostle, he was a lawyer, a judge in the Utah Supreme Court, and the president of Brigham Young University. He consistently teaches members and whoever else is in his path about things related to both law and religion, such as protecting children as the voiceless victims in our societies across the world. Here is an excerpt from Deseret News about his speech about religious freedom given in accepting the Canterbury Medal.

Elder Oaks said scholars have observed that for about 50 years the role of religion in American life has been declining and the guarantee of free exercise of religion seems to be weakening in public esteem and "is under siege by the forces of political correctness, which would replace it with other priorities."
He quoted legal commentator Hugh Hewitt, who described a threat to religious freedom that is new in U.S. history and tradition: " 'For three decades people of faith have watched a systematic and very effective effort waged in the courts and the media to drive them from the public square and to delegitimize their participation in politics as somehow threatening.' "
Elder Oaks said powerful secular interests are challenging the way religious beliefs and the practices of faith-based organizations stand in the way of their secular aims. "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," he said.
In the long run, he noted, the vitality of religious freedom must rely on public understanding and support. He referred to a recent survey's finding that the population least concerned about religious liberty in America are adults under 30, only 20 percent of whom believe that restrictions on religious freedom will increase in the next five years.
Elder Oaks said that even though about 80 percent of U.S. citizens report that they believe in God, the percent who have no denominational affiliation — the so-called "nones" — is large and growing larger, especially among the young. He said about 33 percent of young adults are among the "nones," and an increasing proportion of Americans who have no denominational affiliation have what some scholars describe as "a genuine antipathy toward organized religion."
"We must enlist the support of persons who have what is called 'spirituality' but who lack denominational affiliation," Elder Oaks declared. "Religious freedom must not be seen as something serving only the interests of churches and synagogues. It must be understood as a protection for religious people, whether or not their beliefs involve membership or behavior. Support for the First Amendment free exercise of religion should not be limited to those who intend to exercise it, individually or through denominational affiliation."
This is important. Every bit as important as protecting the freedoms guaranteed in other Amendments or the Constitution itself. As always, I invite you to read more of his speech or at least the summary of it here.

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