Thursday, October 22, 2009

Party Lines: Do you think Christians are being deprived of freedom of speech?

We were actually asked, "LDS Apostle Dallin Oaks recently compared the current treatment of the Church as similar to what the Blacks endured during their struggle for civil rights, and was criticized by some for his use of the analogy.  How would you describe the current situation faced by the church?"

I'm not sure I answered the question, but the message is sound, and I want to acknowledge those who helped with this column, Todd Taylor, Patrice Arent, Karen Hale, Wayne Holland, and Sam Granato.

By Rob Miller - Democratic Party

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, member of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently made news by comparing the current treatment of church members who supported California’s Proposition 8 in the 2008 election as similar to what African-Americans endured during their struggle for civil rights.

Regardless of what one thinks about whether the analogy was apt, about the underlying issue of marriage rights, or Elder Oaks’ main thesis that freedom of religion is under attack, there was some wise counsel about how to be civil when debating matters of public concern.

Elder Oaks said that one should “speak with love, always showing patience, understanding and compassion toward adversaries.”

Elder Oaks counseled that one shouldn’t be deterred or coerced into silence by intimidation, but that an individual should insist on his or her constitutional right and duty to participate in elections and debates.

Elder Oaks said that should be accompanied by “a right to expect freedom from retaliation.”

Elder Oaks counseled that we should be wise in one's political participation, including the framing of arguments and positions in respectful ways.

And, finally, Elder Oaks counseled us to be careful never to support or act upon the idea that a person must subscribe to some particular set of religious beliefs in order to qualify for a public office.

To these points, most Americans who desire civil debate of public issues will most certainly agree.

This is not just a California problem. Many Democrats and progressive voters are hopeful that these particular remarks by Elder Oaks might be taken seriously in Utah.

Progressive candidates and their supporters have felt the sting of many instances of intimidation and retaliation from members of the majority party. There has been vandalism. There have been job losses. There has been denial of services. The Salt Lake Tribune has documented far too much of this over the years. And, just days after Elder Oaks’ speech, Sen. Orrin Hatch threatened violence on his constituents to “kick them in the teeth.” He had previously denigrated political opponents as “nutcakes.”

Elder Oaks spoke with courage about his point of view. I am going to follow his lead.

Unfortunately, there is disrespectful commentary nearly every day on KSL Radio. Sean Hannity’s program, which airs for three hours every weekday afternoon, does not show “patience, understanding and compassion toward adversaries.”

KSL Radio certainly has a right to air any programming it chooses. And, Sean Hannity certainly has a right to say whatever he wants to on his program.

However, it is my opinion that this program coming from this source undermines our community in just the ways Elder Oaks admonishes against. KSL Radio can do better and serve our community better if it were to produce more thoughtful, respectful, compassionate and understanding programming on public issues.

We can only hope that Elder Oaks’ remarks produce additional introspection and better action from all sides of every public debate.


Kathy said...

You're my hero! I wish you would write more on your blog but I know you are busy.

JBT said...

Dallin Oaks wrote that one who participates in debates or elections should have the "right" to be free from retaliation. Retaliation is a broad term whose meaning can be construed different ways. If it means physical assault, vandalism, or any other type of illegal act then I can certainly agree. On the other hand if "freedom from retaliation" means that those with different views should not participate in demonstrations, boycotts, letter writing campaigns, etc. then I believe Dallin Oaks view to be too one sided. If any individual or organization participates in a political process that results in others being deprived of their rights, then those individuals and groups who made that choice need to also accept the consequences of their actions, so long as those consequences are within the law.

JHP said...

Interesting perspective, although the Sean Hannity thing was pretty random. I agree that Hannity is over-the-top, but to single him out randomly like that is just strange. It makes it look like you're using Elder Oaks's comments simply to further your own agenda against Hannity. I hope that's not the case.

Anonymous said...

Rob doesn't pay tithing to CNN or MSNBC.