Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Davis County Clipper's Party Lines: Do you think Christians are being deprived of freedom of speech?

By Todd Weiler - Republican

Having just re-read the text of Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ remarks last week to the students at BYU Idaho, it struck me that a critic would have to stand upside down and shut one eye to see anything offensive in them.

Instead, the liberal media has misquoted and taken Oaks out of context. If you were to rely solely on media reports, you would believe that Oaks equated the 2008 persecution of California Mormons with the 1960s treatment of southern blacks.

But in an address exclusively about religious freedom, Oaks referred to gay marriage as an “alleged civil right” and used the backlash over Proposition 8 as one example of how people have been intimidated merely for exercising their right to vote, as follows: “[T]hese incidents of violence and intimidation are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic. In their effect they are like the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation.”

The analogy was limited to the fact that in both instances, anti-democratic voter intimidation methods were employed.

Oaks never suggested that “the vandalism of church facilities and harassment of church members by firings and boycotts of member businesses and by retaliation against donors violence” was on par with the violence and intimidation that was directed at blacks in the South.

Instead, Oaks used the civil rights analogy to emphasize that society has already judged that people should not be punished simply because they chose to participate in a democracy. “These incidents were expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest,” Oaks said.

Oaks suggested that people can learn to disagree without meanness and contention. He maintained that differences should be civilized and consistent with constitutional principles.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Obama-loving, liberal-leaning Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. Olbermann single-handedly proved Oaks’ point when he nominated Oaks for a bronze medal in the “worst people in the world” award. Olbermann suggested that because Mormons were on the wrong side of integration and polygamy, Oaks should “shut the hell up” on subjects like gay marriage.

But Oaks said it best: “[W]e must not be deterred or coerced into silence by the kinds of intimidation I have described. 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. These are the rights of all citizens and they are also the rights of religious leaders.”

Oaks is right on.

When churches or their members speak out on public issues, they have a right to expect freedom from retaliation. People who seek one public policy or another are not violating the constitutional mandate to separate church and state. Faith and religious principles promote good morals in a democracy, which improves the democracy.

1 comment:

Upside down with one eye shut said...

The problem with your analysis is that it disregards what these votes are about. It would be one thing if the community was debating the color of Jupiter, which would have no practical effect on anyone. Or even if the vote had an equitable impact on everyone, such as the upcoming vote on the public safety bond. Instead, Oaks and those who speak similarly are trying to frame a vote on the rights of others as their religious liberty. He won't even acknowledge that marriage is a right, something the SCOTUS has made clear several times in other contexts, yet he argues it's something worth excluding from gay and lesbian families.

Whether a right or a privilege, to place a minority's access to a public institution up for popular vote and then cry religious foul when the affected minority gets upset about it is trying to be both the murderer and the martyr.

As for the violence, please list the anti-LDS violence that has occured and explain how it is worthy of condemnation while the anti-gay violence that pre-existed prop 8 and continues in Utah is just par for the course.

Any violence is wrong. Religion has been a listed characteristic under existing hate crimes law for years. But when Congress addresses the violence against gay Americans, we're suddenly threatening religious liberty? (see Oaks' comments to AP).

Especially in the intermountain west, where Oaks' speech was given, the LDS population is the most privileged, empowered, and controlling group of "oppressed" people you'll ever come across.