The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held an historic press conference via the Mormon Newsroom this morning in order to discuss the issues of balance of freedom of religion with that of discrimination for other groups, including LGBT. Sister Neill F. Marriott, Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles participated in this news conference.
Sister Marriott explained that differences between various groups lead to tensions. All should be included in national debate, and national debate should lead to compromise. Past treatment of LGBT is wrong. God is loving and merciful, and He expects us to treat one another with love. The Church has supported laws that protect the rights of LGBT in housing and employment and continues to do so.
Elder Oaks stressed that we seek religious freedom as found in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. He cited several instances in recent years where religious freedom has been denied to individuals. Among those examples were christian groups on college campuses, members of clergy, and an Olympic athlete who was not allowed to carry the flag at the Olympics.
He said that accusations of bigotry have a chilling effect on religious freedom, and democracy is the loser. Churches should stand on equal footing in public debate with every other group. Society is only truly free when we respect religious freedom for all. Laws need to protect faith based groups, as well as LGBT, or any other group.
Elder Oaks stated that laws should protect all people. We reject persecution and retaliation of all kinds. He said that the Church calls on government at all levels to protect faith groups, as well as the LGBT community.
Elder Holland stated that wisdom, judgment, compassion, fairness, and dedication need to be exercised in the public debate. Nothing is achieved by bullying or by accusations of bigotry. He called upon government to allow the constitutionally guaranteed rights to teach religious views openly, select our own leaders, etc. He reminded us that freedom of religion affects employment, honor code statements, and even accreditation of Church owned schools. He stressed the family’s right to teach religious beliefs to the children in the home. Elder Holland also said people should not be made to do things in their jobs or careers which violates their religious rights.
He said we must find ways to show respect to others whose beliefs differ from our own. Each group needs to guard the rights of other groups that we wish to guard for ourselves. He called for responsibility in the exercise of religious freedom, and asked us to be responsible citizens.
More information about this press conference is available on the Mormon Newsroom here.