Forthcoming Battles Over Religious Liberty

I know many think the focus on religious liberty is misplaced. To my eyes it seems we have more religious liberty now than at any time in American history. I recognize not all feel that way although often it is due to the majority religion being constrained in some ways from acting as the de facto religion. But in terms of individuals practicing their religion in general rather than limited practices of the majority in government contexts, we seem to be doing great. Why then the worry of the brethren over religious liberty?

Robert Couch sent me a link today that may highlight the problem. It’s Rod Dreher talking about famous Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne giving a paper at the Midwest Meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers. Note that this is a philosophy conference that is supposed to be discussing Christian philosophy. Swinburne is speaking about traditional Christian sexual ethics and arguing for homosexuality being extrinsically wrong.

For the moment let’s bracket the question of whether Swinburne was correct in his theology. (It makes assumptions about the genetic basis of homosexuality I find problematic – although I don’t think the full paper is up to know for sure) The real issue was the response.

Yesterday, I gave Richard Swinburne, the famous Oxford Christian philosopher, a piece of my mind. As one of the keynotes of the Midwest Meeting of Society of Christian Philosophers, he referred to homosexuality as a “disability” and a “incurable condition.” While Swinburne did not think homosexuality was intrinsically wrong in the same way that adultery was wrong, he argued (if that’s the right verb under some principle of charity) that homosexuality was extrinsically wrong. Homosexuality was a disability in the lacking of the ability to have children, and God’s commands of abstaining from homosexuality might prevent others from fostering this incurable condition in others.

Yeah. I know.

My response was mixture of abhorrence and overwhelming anger, and I tried as I might to encounter this idea calmly. I told him he medicalized being gay in the same way that phrenology medicalized racism. It was obnoxious to listen to Christians lay claim to sacrificial love at this conference, but at the same time not see the virtue of that same love as a possible quality underlying other configurations, yet I told others this is the reason why Christians should read Foucault. When you do, you start to notice how power manifests in local contexts in which those discourses occur.

The society issued an apology for Swinburne’s paper.

The issue to me isn’t Swinburne so much as that even at a Christian conference there’s an instinctive view that traditional beliefs are not discussable. I may find those beliefs, which I suspect come out of Aquinas, wrong. But simply on the basis of them being emotionally painful they are out of bounds even at a conference discussing Christian philosophy.

Now Dreher, as is often his tendency, spends the much of the rest of the column waxing hyperbolic. To me what’s notable though is first how fast this shift has happened and what it portends for the future.

Yesterday the Deseret News had up a an interesting discussion of Pew’s latest data on religious freedom issues.

Pew’s statistics paint a bleak forecast for resolving religious liberty debates over nondiscrimination laws and illustrate why compromise has been elusive in courtrooms and statehouses since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last year.

Many people are giving up on balancing religious and civil rights protections and instead are committing to “their side winning the culture war,” said Douglas Laycock, a renowned religious freedom scholar and professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, during a Friday presentation at the Religion News Association’s annual conference.


“One of the goals of the survey was to see how many Americans feel torn because they can understand where both sides are coming from on these issues. The short answer is: not many,” researchers noted.

Most Americans only sympathize with people on their side of religious liberty debates, which could complicate efforts to solve disagreements over the best path forward from same-sex marriage legalization or how to ensure all people feel safe and comfortable in public restrooms.

My sense is that anything short of full acceptance of homosexuality will be seen as hurtful and as such out of bounds. Regardless of how one may feel on gender and gay issues, I’m not sure that is healthy. That said I think we’re at a position that reminds me of discussions of gay rights in the 90’s. Then I thought it was very clear that all the trends were for full normalization and acceptance of homosexuality. That is, to my eyes the culture wars were already lost. I thought at the end that even if the Prop-8 battle was inspired it was at best a losing rearguard action. It really was an issue of how many years before it was normalized.

I think we’re at the same point at religious liberty. Regardless of what more conservative religious people may want, they’ve lost. The public is coming to have no patience for religious liberties that they feel cause harm – even emotional harm. The application of the harm principle already means religious liberty will be trumped in the public sphere. At best only unobjectional religious practices will be allowed in the public sphere.

Now as I see it this is a return to the status quo of religious freedom in America. The only difference is that the majority will be secularists rather than Protestants imposing their views in the public sphere. As was the case in the  19th century main force in this return will be social stigma rather than government action. However almost inevitably government action will follow given what so many take as obvious applications of the harm principle relative to religious liberty. There is no common ground given that emotional harm is seen as harm.

124 comments for “Forthcoming Battles Over Religious Liberty

  1. Kaimi
    September 29, 2016 at 11:09 am

    I’m not sure how Dreher’s criticism of Swinburne implicates religious liberty. Swinburne said obnoxious things. He was taken to task for saying obnoxious things. No one threw him in jail.

    Is religious liberty is a right to say the obnoxious without having to hear push-back?

    You frame it as “traditional beliefs are not discussable” in a blog post discussing a piece discussing the paper discussing those ideas. Sounds pretty darn discussable to me.

    Of course, part of discussion involves being told when an idea is badly misguided.

    If the argument is that Swinburne’s religious liberty depends on his being able to articulate ideas without push-back, then yes, his liberty is being attacked. I don’t think that’s what religious liberty is, though.

  2. Clark Goble
    September 29, 2016 at 11:40 am

    I just brought up Dreher’s column to note where the baseline of acceptability is culturally. The issue is what is discussable in certain public areas. That suggests social trends. As I said the details of Swinburne are kind of tangental to that. What’s more interesting is what this says about the public and how in the future that’ll affect religious liberty.

    I might think Swinburne wrong and obnoxious, but his position is a pretty major historical one in traditional Christian theology. For it to not even be defensible to be discussed at a forum like that is quite surprising. An other way of putting this is to ask why he is seen as obnoxious and hurtful. And what are the implications, long term, given the place of the harm principle in terms of deciding public norms?

    The long term issue is to what degree compromise is possible. Maybe I’m too pessimistic but I don’t think compromise is possible beyond a question of public/private. That is the more public activities are the more the harm principle applies. To my eyes, regardless of the details of Swinburne we’re seeing that change quickly relative to emotional harm to those who are gay. So that’s what’s interesting relative to future predictions.

    I’d add the issue isn’t push back but the nature of pushback. Philosophers expect pushback of course. However when the pushback is “you’re harmful and we expect an apology” then that’s a significant change relative to these norms over theological discussion.

  3. john f.
    September 29, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    This is way off Clark and completely ignores the legal context and the robust protection that religious freedom enjoys under the First Amendment and as interpreted by federal courts, even in 2016. Just look at how RFRA and RLUIPA intersect with prisoners rights, for example, to see how truly amazingly robust religious freedom protections continue to be, even after Justice Scalia gutted them for all intents and purposes in Smith.

    Even if citizens are not willing to tolerate religious liberty that they feel causes harm, including emotional harm, they are still going to have to contend with the intentionally countermajoritarian federal courts if they try to enact their disdain legislatively. Every signal shows that the federal courts are still going to uphold the First Amendment and with RFRA and RLUIPA backing that up, religious freedom has never been stronger.

    Elder Oaks knows this. So what is he talking about when he outlines fears about religious freedom? Is he referring to Russia where religious freedom has been suffering serious blow after serious blow? China? Is religious freedom being used as a pretext for discrimination — anti-discrimination laws might eventually constrain private businesses from withholding service to gay people like civil rights laws prevent private businesses in transportation and hospitality from withholding service based on race? And Elder Oaks finds this bad?

  4. Clark Goble
    September 29, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    John, as I said I think religious freedoms are now stronger than at any time in history. However the courts makeup is changing and social norms significantly affect how courts will decide cases in the future. I suspect the norms will be a trailing structure relative to the norms of the intellectual class (much as it was with gay marriage). To me the more interesting questions will be at the state level and in education (where the government has started to have great influence via Title IX) and then how social norms of acceptance put gross pressure on religions.

    So I agree with you regarding the near present. I’m quite skeptical it will stay this way. To be clear I’m thinking more a decade or two into the future. Look back 30 years and see where social norms and laws were. Now look forward 30 years when believers are likely a minority in the country.

  5. Tim
    September 29, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    If and when we see real religious discrimination in the U.S., it will be aimed at unpopular minority religions, and not at mainstream Christianity.

    In Europe, it takes the form of discrimination against Muslims: rules against what can be worn in schools and public beaches, rules against certain kinds of religious architecture.

    In Russia, it takes the form of severely limiting the free speech of pretty much any minority religion, including our own.

    In the U.S, it will be aimed at Islam and other unpopular religions.

    Other than Employment Division v. Smith, the Scalia-written Supreme Court decision supported by all 5 conservatives on the Supreme Court, I have seen very little evidence that the U.S. government has restricted religious rights during my lifetime. Will some forms of Christianity become less popular? No doubt. But that’s not a religious freedom issue.

  6. Dave
    September 29, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Clark, I’d have to agree with Kaimi here. First, this particular episode is a free speech issue, not a religious freedom issue. The Society of Christian Philosophers is not a church or religion. And since all parties did freely speak their views at the conference, the example shows that free speech is under no threat, not that there is a looming threat. Swinburne may be disappointed that others disagree with his views or even consider those views morally repugnant, but he has only the right to speak his mind, not the right to have everyone agree with him.

    Similarly with the LDS religious liberty campaign — it seems more like the leadership is unhappy that the courts and public opinion generally has turned against their public policy agenda (that other people don’t agree with them) rather than that there are any particular religious speech or beliefs or activities that are threatened. As you note in the OP, there really is no threat to religious liberty.

  7. john f.
    September 29, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    Clark, even after SCOTUS decided the gay marriage issue, it didn’t state that religious people had to like gay marriage or couldn’t preach that it was wrong, *or that religions had to perform gay marriages.* It merely states the government can’t discriminate between traditional marriages and gay marriages, either in licensing or in the types of benefits that those relationships trigger. None of that is a strike against religious freedom. The Church is still free to preach against gay marriage. It will not be forced to perform gay marriage. Its position might cause it and its members to be ostracized in some social circles or disrespected intellectually in workplaces or, again, some social circles. But that is also *manifestly* not a religious freedom issue. Elder Oaks knows this but many Church members do not. So it skirts the borderline for him to be giving these sermons about religious freedom, which one could say he knows will cause lay members who are not well-read on the legal landscape or who do not analyze the issue in enough depth to realize that being rejected from your social circles or disrespected by your neighbors because of beliefs you are free to hold is not the same as losing religious freedom.

    The backlash after Prop. 8 is a good example. Overwhelmingly, the backlash was bad press and such social ostracization — which could have been and should have been a foreseeable consequence of the type of direct political interference in which the Church essentially officially engaged. But people are just as free to recoil in horror at the actions of the Church and of its members in that campaign as the Church and its members were to espouse those views and try to convince their neighbors to support or adopt such views. The backlash simply cannot be read as a strike against religious freedom! Mormons were and remain free to preach those views and try to persuade neighbors of them and the neighbors were and remain free to recoil in horror and perhaps end relationships over it. Elder Oaks did at that time and still does seem to conflate this reaction with religious freedom as if he thinks religious freedom means that our neighbors have to respect the things we are preaching in order for us to enjoy free exercise of our religion.

  8. PassTheChips
    September 29, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    The focus on religious liberty is misplaced. As you state Clark, at least in the U.S., the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause are thriving. The threat isn’t that Mormons won’t be free to believe, practice, and talk about their religion, the threat is that Mormons will be increasingly criticized for our increasingly unpopular beliefs.

  9. Bbell
    September 29, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    I wanted to point out that in my view the meaning of the First Amendment that the Church beleves protects our suddenly reprehensible moral code is completely dependent on the political process. The 1st amendment means in practice whatever 5 scotus votes say it means. Whomever wins the next election appoints 2 or 3 scotus justices. If HRC wins the church is in long term trouble in court. A 7-2 liberal majority and an increasing hostile culture means the 1st amendment protections we enjoy today will get weaker and weaker court case by court case.

    Clarks post is accurate…..

  10. PassTheChips
    September 29, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Bbell, when I see a clamp down on Westboro Baptist Church’s activities, I’ll start to worry.

  11. Dave K
    September 29, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Armand Mauss’ seminal work The Angel and The Beehive speaks to the constant tension the LDS church has had between being a peculiar people and conforming to society. Both DC Manifestos speak to points in our history where this tension became too great and the church chose conformity over peculiarity in order to survive.

    I see the same process described by Mauss playing out here. The biggest concern for Dreher and Oaks is not the SCOTUS decision or even that a Christian theologian was criticized. It is that the criticism came from a Christian society and the views apologized for were until very recently mainstream.

    Things are moving very quickly. That’s why there is so much talk recently about religious freedom. It’s not to win the culture wars. It’s to try to erect a new Maginot line now that our old line has been flanked and overrun.

    The tension for the LDS church between the Angel and the Beehive will be bearable so long as other prominent faiths and faith-based universities stand with us. But if others begin to fall – if BYU becomes isolated athletically and then academically, if members cease to oppose SSM in their communities and then in their wards, if the youth continue on their current trajectory – well then we may very well face another manifesto moment.

  12. J Town
    September 29, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    “The biggest concern for Dreher and Oaks is not the SCOTUS decision or even that a Christian theologian was criticized. It is that the criticism came from a Christian society and the views apologized for were until very recently mainstream.”

    Exactly. And when the tide turns that quickly, it should absolutely be worrisome. Just because you agree with the “accepted” social position in this instance does not necessarily mean you will always be in agreement with the majority in all cases. And when you aren’t, watch out.

  13. john f.
    September 29, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    BBell, HRC-appointed justices are just as likely to uphold the First Amendment’s robust protection of religious freedom as whoever Trump might appoint. Supreme Court justices can’t just say whatever they want. They have to and do comply with controlling precedent. It simply isn’t true that they are deciding these things by fiat. They are overwhelmingly sound jurists of great intellect doing their absolute best to decide cases as required by precedent and well established canons of judicial construction.

    Having said that, we of course have to be careful as a society to preserve those protections. But in preaching vaguely that those protections are *currently* under threat, Elder Oaks and his colleagues are not accurately describing the state of affairs in the United States right now or even the remote future.

    As a widely despised minority religion (not as a result of gay marriage but rather simply because that is always what we have been given that some of our most vocal spokespeople and lay people have preached and preach that the other religions are wrong, at best, or actually evil, at worst), we as Mormons desperately depend on the protections provided by the First Amendment and the First Amendment affirming congressional legislation in RFRA and RLUIPA. But in this the federal courts are our best friend, not our enemy! The federal courts are our only protection against legislation — usually at the state level and usually sponsored or supported by legislators belonging to other devout but also majority religious groups — that is intended by its sponsors to encumber us either directly or indirectly. There have been scores of examples of such legislation that legislators have tried to enact based on their beliefs in the majority sects of Christianity to which they belong that federal courts have struck down precisely because the legislation was majority tyranny that violated the First Amendment.

    Gay people are also a minority that federal courts have been protecting against discrimination by legislative tyranny. The protections arise not based on the First Amendment but the Fourteenth Amendment and other sources. You possibly do not believe that gay people merit protection against majoritarian tyranny or that these constitutional sources federal courts have used do not actually provide the protections that federal courts have analyzed. But there are more gay people in America than Mormons as a percentage of the population. Protection against discrimination against such a large but still insular and vulnerable minority is not going away. Objectively viewed, protecting that minority against discrimination does not need to implicate religious freedom at all! Not in a society built on law and commerce such as our own.

  14. Kaimi
    September 29, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Clark, the fact that a belief or idea is long rooted in Christian tradition, does not and should not insulate it from criticism. Aquinas also wrote about how slavery fit into God’s laws. And if someone were to argue about the theology of slavery, they would be rightly criticized for it, regardless of its roots in Aquinas.

    Heck, Mormonism is all about _questioning_ the Christian tradition, isn’t it?

  15. Clark Goble
    September 29, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    PassTheChips (8) initially the first part will be persecution and refusal to association. I fully agree with that. The next part will be requirements in the public sphere such as using Title IX or related things tied to funding to clamp down on mixed public religious spaces. So for instance will public non-profit corporations be allowed to impose religious tests for hiring. Last we’ll see perceived conflicts between harms going more and more against religion both in legislation and the judiciary.

    Again to be clear I’m looking towards the future over a period of decades. For those old enough, look back at public norms in the 90’s and what people stated would be the limits of the courts. These things change and they tend to change based upon changing social norms.

    John F (7) again the issue isn’t what the courts say right now. It is true though that I’m using religious liberty more broadly than just liberty from government action. Although again I’d note that to the degree religion is in mixed public/private space the state already views things differently. (Think requirements on Catholic hospitals)

    Basically you and several others are saying, “it’s not like that right now” but neglecting how the status quo right now is so very different from the status quo in the recent past of the 80’s and 90’s. While you’re not coming out and saying it, you appear to be saying 20 – 30 years from now things will be the same as now. That seems extremely questionable given rapid changes and how groups are already acting.

    I also think you are missing just how much court decisions are tied to social norms. The reasons the courts rule differently on the constitution today as compared to the 1930’s isn’t because the constitution has significantly changed. It’s because social norms have significantly changed. Now perhaps if everyone was a strict originalist that would be less of a worry. However one doesn’t need to look far to see even originalist on the right in the courts deciding things based upon their subgroups norms and not just the intents of a laws authors. And the originalists are a distinct minority on the court and apt to become smaller in the years ahead. (Does anyone think HRC will appoint strict originalists?)

    Dave (6) the issue with Swinburne isn’t a free speech issue. Private organizations have the complete right to police speech the way they want. (If we’re here talking rights the way religious liberty is) Again, the only reason I brought up the Swinburne issue is to note how public norms are rapidly changing. It’s the norms that are significant and the change gives indication of where things are going in the future.

    Tim (5) I’d think that how unpopular minority religions are and have been treated should give you pause regarding the future. For instance there have been numerous moves to stop religious minorities from building in certain areas. These are counterbalanced somewhat by the strong religious liberty protections we have right now. However they are also balanced by many seeing persecution of certain of these groups (Jews, Muslims) as racist. Despite that persecution abounds. Once you have a group that doesn’t have that added protection as a protected minority you don’t have the balance to limit persecution. When that minority is a formerly dislike majority that matters a great deal.

    I’d add that you are also missing the demographic shifts. Every generation since Gen-X has become significantly less religious. Further even for those religious what they view as tolerable is changing. While it’s always dangerous extrapolating to the future I’d simply note that among Millennials who will be running these institutions soon the type of religion that worries about these matters is a minority. Only 27% of that generation attend church regularly and only 41% thinks religion is important. That is a huge shift. They may be fine with the notion of God but it is a God that doesn’t make demands that go against social norms.

  16. Bbell
    September 29, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    John F. You are very wrong about that. Liberal scotus justices are on the other side of the culture wars from the LDS church. We are in trouble in the next couple of decades. The left means to do us harm.

  17. Clark Goble
    September 29, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Kaimi (14) I fully agree. But that’s not the line of argument that took place. In other words what was criticized wasn’t Swinburne’s argument but “being properly Christian.” To quote from Hackett’s comments:

    Here the Christians in the room weren’t being anti-LGBT. They were just being properly Christian. This is precisely what Levinas warns about in his ethics of other when someone imposes a “logic of the same” on the singularly radical other […] By using the language of the medical, the clinic, Swinburne represented being gay as a condition that can be extricated from those with whom we are to have sympathy rather than complete acceptance of the other’s otherness—this is true even if he did not mean to do so. The only appropriate Christian response is complete acceptance of the other’s otherness, not the moralizing stance that parses out metaphysical distinctions which have the concrete effect of justifying the problematic patriarchal and capitalist violence on the Political Right. (Emphasis mine)

    Again let me be clear that I think Swinburne was wrong. I’m even sympathetic to Hackett’s critique perhaps due to the place Levinas and Peirce plays in my own thought. What bothers me isn’t intellectual pushback but the treatment of Swinburne’s views as outside of social norms, which is what the apology treats it as.

    Hackett’s final comments are worth quoting:

    I think the Christianity in the room was complicit in LGBT oppression. Many were silent at this language. I was repulsed by the silence of the whole room and it’s perhaps here that such a Christianity will not survive—one that entrenches hatred with the subtle force of de-personalizing medical language. It’s also clear that this rejection is also lost on those that would perpetuate the suffering of other people and try to move our culture to intolerable monism.

    I take it as representative of a rather common view and what has become the social norm in academic circles. Maybe I’m mistaken in that. However I’d note no one has suggested I’m wrong on that. They just note that right now this doesn’t affect liberty. But the argument isn’t that it is affecting liberty now. The argument is that it represents a norm that will affect liberty in the future.

  18. john f.
    September 29, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Bbell, that is so ridiculous it doesn’t even merit a response.

  19. PassTheChips
    September 29, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Clark, I’m still not buying it. As you pointed out, we have more religious freedom now than at any other point in U.S. history. Using past as precedent, I predict that trend will continue.

  20. September 29, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    As for the claim in comments that liberal Supreme Court justices are out to take away religious liberty, presumably in the service of gay rights — this is the same court that ruled 8-1, just five years ago, _protecting the most obnoxious anti-gay religious speech imaginable_.

  21. bbell
    September 29, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    And in 2015 here is the Obama Administration in court just 4 years later.

    The Scotus dissenters in Obergfell clearly believe the decision is a threat to religious liberty.

    Hence the current campaign.

  22. PassTheChips
    September 29, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Losing tax exempt status does not equate to losing religious liberty.

  23. Tim
    September 29, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Kaimi, that Snyder v. Phelps case is interesting. It appears that Alito (a firm conservative) was the only dissenter. Combined with Employment DIvision v. Smith (where three of the liberal members of the Court wanted to uphold religious freedom but were overruled by the conservatives on the Court) , it’s pretty clear that liberal Supreme Court judges aren’t the ones we need to be worried about.

  24. john f.
    September 29, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Seriously. For some reason conservative justices think it’s more important for religious people to obey laws than be able to claim a religious exemption from following them. See, for instance, Smith which was written by Scalia and joined by the other “conservative” justices.

    Bbell thinks that because liberal justices are more likely to analyze the Constitution as protecting against discrimination than conservative justices, that means they are less likely to protect religious freedom. I think the opposite is true — I think liberal justices are more willing to protect against the majority tyranny of state legislatures and Congress than conservative justices. And that benefits us as a religious minority just like it benefits gay people who have long been oppressed by legislative majorities.

  25. September 29, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    They are overwhelmingly sound jurists of great intellect doing their absolute best to decide cases as required by precedent and well established canons of judicial construction.

    I am inclined to agree with john f on this and expect his description to hold throughout HRC’s presidency. But I understand bbell’s skepticism. There are counterexamples to the above assertion that “precedent and well established canons of judicial construction” are respected–most notably Bush v. Gore. Conservatives may justifiably wonder why, if their own champions can behave that arbitrarily, the other side’s champions would not do likewise.

  26. Clark Goble
    September 29, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    PassTheChips (22) a church located in areas where land is worth a lot would likely have to shutdown if they were taxed at market rate for that land. While one could argue it’s not a loss of liberty, in practical terms it sure seems getting pretty close to it. Most likely most historic churches in cities would disappear or at a minimum be sold off to be non-religious. Again many people are fine with that. And it’s quite defensible to not see that as an imposition on religious liberty. In practice though what it would mean is that rich churches are the only ones that could exist in cities with high costs. i.e. I’m sure the Manhattan Temple would survive. I’m not sure the poor black churches in Harlem would.

    If Churches lose tax empt status while other non-profits don’t, then it’s really hard to see that as anything but an imposition on religious liberty. IMO.

  27. PassTheChips
    September 29, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Clark, if you can show me the Church’s religious belief that churches should have tax exempt status, then I’m with you. Until then …

  28. September 29, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    On taxes, let’s not mix things up. Federal tax exemption is 501(c)(3). The main effect of this one is to allow donors to get a tax exemption for donations to church. State and local taxes are governed by state law, not 501(c)(3). Virtually all property taxes are at the state or local level.

  29. CSC
    September 29, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    John F @ 13: “Gay people are also a minority that federal courts have been protecting against discrimination by legislative tyranny.”

    This sentence of yours demonstrates why religious freedom actually is under threat, and yet you likely thought nothing of it while you typed it out. It’s simply the way you look at the world. But implicit in what you said above is the idea that there are people whose very identity is bundled inseparably with a behavior, and that those people can only be accommodated in combination with that behavior, not in its absence. In your eyes, these aren’t just “people” who are being discriminated against, these are “gay people” who are being discriminated against. When BYU expels a student for having premarital sex, they are just expelling a person; but when BYU expels a student for engaging in same-sex sexuality, they are expelling a “gay person”, which means they are discriminating–and they should be kicked out of the NCAA, and they should lose their accreditation, and they should lose their tax exempt status, and on and on and on. Yet, in both cases it all comes down to a person *choosing* to engage in a behavior that BYU believes to be a sin.

    And that’s ultimately the issue here. Right and wrong are at the core of religion. But now it’s been decided that one particular behavior is out of bounds for moral consideration. Our ability to treat it as a sin is being restricted.

    Yet, if you think in the terms stated in the sentence quoted above, you likely see no issue with this at all. “That’s who they are! You can’t mistreat them for who they are!” And that viewpoint, which is prevalent in our society today, is why religious freedom is under threat.

    But on the bright side, according to many posters on this thread, even if our schools lose their accreditation, and our church loses its tax exempt status, and those who publicly defend our beliefs get shunned and fired, as long as we’re not being thrown in prison or executed for our religious beliefs, our religious freedom is A-OK, right?

  30. bbell
    September 29, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    My view on the tax exempt issue is that is the non SSM affirming churches might lose their 501 C status which appears at least possible in the next couple of decades then there will be in affect a “state sanctioned church status” and what would essentially be a state blacklist. AKA Mormons and Catholics on the state blacklist and the Episcopals with approved status.

    We are probably at least 2 decades from this point. But Clarks reference above to the 1990s is applicable here on this topic. Its being discussed on the left now and eventually there will be a push on this topic. With the LDS and Catholics on the top of the targeted list. It would probably start with church schools and move from there.

  31. john f.
    September 29, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    So you are stating that gay people do not exist? Just people who choose to have sex with people of their same gender? Your comment is puzzling. In any event, I said none of the things you attribute to me. In particular your comment about the honor code is strange. I never said or implied that heterosexuals should get kicked out of BYU for having sex but gay people shouldn’t.

    What I am saying is that our federal courts protect us against legislation that is unconstitutional and therefore constitutes legislative tyranny. In some cases, the First Amendment provides the constitutional source of protection. There is no credible evidence that this source of protection is going to be weaker in the future. In other cases, the Fourteenth Amendment or other constitutional sources that have been interpreted as protecting against discrimination will provide the source of protection.

    All of your comments about our friends and neighbors recoiling from us because of our beliefs (because society’s views have changed about what it means to be gay) aren’t about religious freedom. But they are about freedom in general. They are just as free to distance themselves from us as we are to preach our beliefs. We can’t choose the reaction to our actions. If the reaction is disgust and ostracization, that is not a loss of religious freedom. Describing it as such just because one does not like that outcome and longs for a former time in which the same religious beliefs did not elicit that reaction is disingenuous at best. Better to call a spade a spade and just lament that people no longer agree with us instead of accusing them of taking away our freedom.

  32. john f.
    September 29, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    My comment 31 was in response to comment 29.

  33. Clark Goble
    September 29, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    PassTheChips (27) I’m speaking much more broadly of religion and not just Mormon religion. So I’m not sure how the Church’s views here (if they have any) matter.

    Kaimi (28) If churches lose federal tax exempt status they’ll almost certainly loose local and state exemption in many locations – especially areas that are less religious. I’d imagine local exemptions would be the first to go honestly.

    John F (24) it’s common (although not universally followed) for conservatives to think judges should rule on what the law says even if they think it a bad law. Many things conservatives might see as tied to religious liberty may not be protected by law the way we wish. It makes complete sense for a conservative judge to rule that way and hope the legislature fixes things. I’ll confess I’m not a lawyer and don’t know the nuances of the arguments in these cases so I’m just making a more general point.

    Getting back to how social norms shift the perceptions on protections it’s worth noting the recent findings of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission on the conflict between religious liberty and civil rights. Clearly they are pushing for narrowing what exemptions organizations have been given under the rubric of religious liberty. The report states, “religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights.”

    So change is coming and coming fast.

  34. PassTheChips
    September 29, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    bbell (30) and CSC raise a good points. If the state favored churches that sanctioned SSM, then that would violate the Establishment Clause and religious liberty would be in peril. Likewise, if the state ok’d the firing or non-hiring (I’m ok with shunning) of Mormons due to their beliefs, our religious liberty would be in peril.

    And that very well could happen in some dystopian future decades from now. As could the global Mormon growth rate continuing at its current pace until the whole world is full of Mormons, an asteroid hitting the earth and wiping out civilization, the Ebola virus figuring out how to become highly contagious and resilient. Ah, the possibilities …

  35. john f.
    September 29, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    It sounds like you’re saying that religious exemptions should be allowed to infringe on civil rights. I guess that’s a philosophical discussion that underlies this — and it seems to me you’re saying that Elder Oaks thinks that should be the case, that religions should be allowed to infringe on civil rights. How far do you think that goes? Is it restricted to just those pesky “civil rights” that are defined in positive law or does it extend to “inalienable rights” that many conservatives claim exist immutably in natural law?

  36. Clark Goble
    September 29, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    An other example of the winds of change is SB 1146 in California. While this did not pass the fact it had so much support ought be worrisome. My guess is that within 10 years this bill and ones like it in blue states will get passed and there will be strong pressure for religious schools losing their federal exemptions.

  37. PassTheChips
    September 29, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    Clark (33), it matters because unless Mormons or any other religion is in some way penalized by the state for its beliefs, then religious liberty has not been violated. Tax exempt status is not a belief.

  38. bbell
    September 29, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    SB 1146 laid out the groundwork for a state religious blacklist with its reporting requirements.

    Bills like that will start to pass. Soon.

  39. September 29, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Clark, I think this is misplaced or mislabeled as a discussion of religious liberty (and a number of comments have already pushed back). But if I reframe it as a discussion of the terms of discourse, there’s something I want to engage with. I do see a strong societal and legal trend to disregard and dismiss a set of arguments that I associate with the anti-marriage advocates (and you are perhaps labeling “traditional Christian” and others might call “Christian right”). There are/were many attempts to argue the anti-marriage position from religiously based principles but using the language of argument and reason rather than belief and authority, and they fell flat. I’m sure that is enormously frustrating to some, who may spin it as “anti-religion” or “Christian ethics not welcome” or “failure of religious liberty.” I see it as lousy argument. When I read something like “traditional beliefs are not discussable” my first reaction is that this is really saying “traditional beliefs stated in the form of argument (but too often starting with a false or highly disputed premise and making unwarranted leaps of logic) are not persuasive and increasingly not welcome.” And that makes sense to me. There may be some residual of traditional beliefs well stated and rationally reasoned, that are, even so, not discussable. However, I actually don’t think that’s happening.
    To make a pointed but hopefully extreme example, an argument that starts from a stated or implied premise that gay people don’t exist or are not genuine or do not count or do not deserve a place in society, is just a bad argument. It’s not Christian. It’s not responsible. It’s not persuasive. And, more and more, “we” have no time for it.

  40. Jerry Schmidt
    September 29, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    This view will completely ignore the legal nature of your original post, but I felt I needed to comment. I have appreciated your articles, and this one is no exception. I appreciate having a level-headed voice with an admitted belief in LDS doctrine who nevertheless is able to discuss church and doctrinal matters without making particular judgments.

    It is on judgment I wish to comment. I realize the original post is about the legal and social nature of free exercise of religion in the U.S., but it seems to me that since it does involve religion, and how religion interacts in the public square, or agora, I want to state my opinion about public words of judgment about other people’s behavior. I realize that “calling to repentance” may be a hallmark of any Christian religion, and especially of evangelical denominations. It would appear that the LDS church shares some affinity with evangelical Christians about this, even though, ironically, being simultaneously rejected by evangelical Christians.

    Why is it a matter of “acceptance” that I do not speak out about another’s behavior? If I find a behavior unacceptable, is it not sufficient to choose not to behave in a similar manner? Must I also proclaim my opinion in the agora in order that I not be found guilty of “acceptance?” I understand the common law proverb that silence gives consent, but why must the situation be treated so simplistically? I do not agree that my silence gives consent to behavior, but rather respect for personal choice.

    I honor the privacy of others, and allow them their own choices, without feeling required to comment on those choices. This is not ‘tooting’ my own horn, just that I don’t see why someone, particularly with very specific belief in Jesus and his teachings, would feel it necessary to pass judgment on others in the agora. Why should this have to be a matter settled by courts in the first place? I realize that many businesses claim the “right to refuse service,” but certainly there is an expectation that business conducted in the agora must hold itself, or be willing to be held, to a set of rules agreed upon for the agora. In a similar case, religions may proclaim beliefs in the agora, but certainly they must modify their own behavior as per the rules of the agora while in the agora.

    In other words, while they may proclaim freely, they may even judge, they must also be willing to be ignored, boycotted, and/or face some other social consequence by others in the agora.

  41. Rob Osborn
    September 29, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Our constitution was not made for an immoral people. We will always be at odds if we allow immorality to be allowed i to law.

  42. Rob Osborn
    September 29, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (John Adams)

  43. Rob Osborn
    September 29, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    We surrender our freedom in allowing sin. Its a trap. SSM laws are a trap. No one will benefit from this in the long run. We are just enslaving ourselves and chaining ourselves down to an everlasting destruction.

  44. Clark Goble
    September 29, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    John F (35), I think religious schools and hospitals should be judged in a manner akin to the religious organization itself. I’m actually quite sympathetic to protects on acts in public trade. That is if you set yourself up as a photographer you can’t discriminate on photographing gays. So I see myself as taking a moderate view between the two extremes. Of course this means both sides get mad at me. (grin)

    With regards to federal funding as many have been warning for some decades this allows the federal government to have de facto control over huge areas of education. While it seems undeniable that state and federal agencies can force schools to do what they want I think they should allow for religious schools to be religious schools. I just have no expectation that they will given the changing social norms. The only question to my mind is whether the clamp down on religious schools starts in 5 years or 15.

    To the broader question of civil rights, I’ll confess from a philosophical perspective I’m leery of all rights talk (whether religious rights or more broadly civil rights). I think rights talk obscures the nature of conflicts and I dislike the way the rhetoric is framed since to my eyes religious rights are civil rights. It’s odd that we’ve started to oppose them. That seems a rhetorical strategy to treat religious rights as not being real rights. (You can see that in Castro’s report) My perhaps flawed view is that people bring up rights-talk in order to make arguments over what trumps what.

    In terms of the future though, I suspect that’s exactly the rhetoric we’ll see where civil rights trump religious liberty. So I think the rhetoric of the next 5 years is set.

    PassTheChips (34) I know you were being tongue in cheek and sarcastic, but I do think it problematic if religions are treated differently. That’s why I said we’re most likely going back to the way things were before the current religious liberty when mainline protestantism tended to get special privileges. Only now it won’t be Christianity in that drivers seat but a kind of loose spiritualism with strong demands on practices being discouraged. Mormons certainly got no accommodations in those days and I suspect we’ll return to that era.

    PassTheChips (37) the question is what counts as a penalty. Famously the ACA penalizes people who don’t buy insurance with a tax. This may seem like a mere semantic issue but I don’t think it is. The state will significantly restructure what religions can do and it’ll do it by the whip of taxes and funding. So Title IX will be used to effectively limit religion on campus and people will say it has nothing to do with religious liberty. We can call it what we like of course. My argument is just that what religion was allowed to do is going to shift significantly over the next two decades.

    Christian (39) I think it counts as religious liberty, but call it what we will, the allowed sphere of religion is going to be significantly shrunk. My guess is within two decades Canada will have more religious liberties than the United States does.

    Jerry Schmidt (40) Why is it a matter of “acceptance” that I do not speak out about another’s behavior? If I find a behavior unacceptable, is it not sufficient to choose not to behave in a similar manner?

    Well consider Twitter trolls for instance. You may decide not to engage in trollish behavior but that doesn’t help the women who constantly have to wade through sexist, misogynist and often violent threats. Your not engaging in the behavior does nothing to change the type of behavior in the public sphere. That’s why it’s quite understandable that many will come to see religion as something that needs constrained given their own views.

    As I’ve noted before it’s become a common social norm that so long as you aren’t hurting people anything should go. If you don’t like it then don’t do it. But that norm that ethics ought be determined by the harm principle seems itself questionable.

    A society is often determined by social norms. There are many norms that let our society function independent of laws or enforcement. When those break down, it can have longer term consequences. (For the record I don’t think homosexuality fits that – but as I said I don’t think ethics can or should be judged purely in terms of harm)

  45. Clark Goble
    September 29, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Rob (41) The constitution was written original for slave holders, arguably one of the most immoral acts in history. So yes, it was written for an immoral people. The problem is that many somehow didn’t see it as immoral. (And of course not all founders agree with Adams on this point)

    How Adams reconciled that quote with his “I have, through my whole life, held the practice of slavery in abhorrence” isn’t clear to me. Clearly much of the country was immoral by his standard.

  46. brian
    September 29, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    Rob, dude, you’re parroting “Satan’s plan.”

  47. Romni
    September 29, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Is it a religious freedom concern if BYU doesn’t change its honor code (continuing to prohibit same-sex displays of affection not prohibited among heterosexuals) and then the federal government decides that because of this BYU is no longer eligible for federal research funding or Pell grants for students to attend?

  48. Ed
    September 29, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    As a hitherto unknown lurker on this excellent website, I guess I feel some need to push back on some of the previous commentators here who find Clark’s concerns about the potential infringement of LDS religious liberties to be overblown or unjustified. A few points:

    1) I envy some of the commentators their serene confidence as to what the federal judiciary will or will not do in the future. After the last twenty years, how can you be so sure? I remember reading in respectable newsmagazines in the 1990’s (distant age) that the prospect of judicially imposed same-sex marriage was so remote that conservative-proposed constitutional amendments on the subject were self-evidently paranoid. Well, apparently not. Clark’s concerns (and those of Elder Oaks) seem quite legitimate to me given the trajectory of the law in the last two decades.

    2) Many commentators seem quite sure that nothing which the Church or its members will face due to its current policies can legitimately be considered persecution or an abridgment of liberties, as we will not (presumably) be beaten, jailed, or executed. But, that hasn’t been America’s working definition of persecution for some time. In the 1950’s, for example, screenwriters with Communist sympathies were not jailed (except for those punished for contempt of Congressional subpoena), but their inability to work in their chosen profession has been considered as a severe persecution and infringement of liberties. Would an LDS screenwriter who openly advocated current Church doctrine on same-sex marriage find work in Hollywood now (or ten years from now)? If not, why is this latter instance of professional exclusion less of a “persecution” than the former one? To pick another example, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in the ’60’s–generally considered heroic–did not rebel against a criminal statute but against a college ban on on-campus political activity, an exclusion of certain viewpoints from campus. Today (as Clark’s reference to the fate of Professor Swinburne shows) it seems increasingly unlikely that those with “traditional views” on certain subjects could find a job or a lectern on any campus to express those views. Again, I am curious to know how these instances of campus exclusion differ from one another in being (or not being) infringements of liberty.

    In short, I agree with the commentators that we Mormons are unlikely to face anything that the Catholics under Cromwell or the Protestants under Louis XIV would have considered an abridgement of religious liberties. But in the last sixty years Americans–especially American liberals–have pioneered a much more expansive definition of ‘persecution’ or infringements of freedom. Now that social liberals have largely won the culture wars, however, they seem to prefer the older, stricter version of what constitutes a “persecution.”

    Which is interesting,


  49. Kenzo
    September 29, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    My major beef with this whole line of argument is the repeated use of the word “ostracization” in the comments. It’s OSTRACISM. I hope that clears this issue up for everyone.

  50. September 29, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    Terminology matters. When I talk “religious liberty” I’m consistently thinking about _state_ action: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” There are three common points of difference, by which I keep finding that other people are talking about something different:

    1. I see some people use “religious liberty” in much broader sense, to include private actions that may impede or restrict or criticize.

    2. We have long argued (and will probably forever argue) over the line between private and public, and that distinction makes a big difference in the scope we allow for [acts of Congress] to constrain or mandate in contravention to religious views. There are a lot of easy or obvious cases. However, we know that florists and bakers and photographers, and arts and crafts stores, and Catholic hospitals, are a matter of recent and current dispute. Line drawing will never make everybody happy. There’s always a loser. But to be clear, these are mostly disputes about where to draw the line, and not about what we expect of participants in the public realm however determined.

    3. We don’t all agree about the scope or reach of the “church” umbrella. Publications and commercialization of sacred music present some interesting questions. However, the hot button cutting edge issue of the day is (and I predict it will be for some time to come) schools and education. As a personal and somewhat casual opinion (not studied, not professional, not tested) I find myself thinking that schools and education are or should be _outside_ the umbrella. I tend to bristle at the idea of religious exceptions to Title IX, for example, and the ones I read or know something about only strengthen my resolve. However, this is surely a significant point of departure. No doubt every church and every church-sponsored school will argue (vociferously and forever) that the school is an expression of and part of the church or religion in a way that all ‘no establishment’ and ‘free exercise’ rights should be accorded to the school as much as to the core worship and sacramental functions of the church.

  51. Clark Goble
    September 29, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Christian, I’m fine using any definition so long as we’re clear on it. Bracketing the semantics issue though, don’t you think it likely that over the next two decades religious schools will lose any exceptions they have as well as exceptions in most other areas of law?

    I’m certainly not arguing that people will stop Mormons from going to church, but I think there’s quite a bit the state can do to constrict the traditional religious sphere. All this post largely argues is that this will happen and that social norms will become such that a lot of traditional religious views will become outside of acceptable social norms. Honestly that doesn’t seem too controversial. I don’t know if churches will loose tax exempt status. It’s possible at the local level in some areas but I doubt it’ll happen federally.

  52. Jay
    September 29, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    @ christiankimball – your #2 and #3 issues are, essentially, asking about what it means to “exercise” religion. Is the florists refusal an exercise of her religion? Is a church running a school an exercise of religion? I kind of lean toward “yes” on both counts, but I’m never entirely clear.

    Schools are very interesting. Religious schools are fulfilling otherwise-applicable state requirements — e.g., laws stating that kids have to go to school during the day, or laws stating that attorneys have to have degrees from accredited law schools. So, in a sense, they are serving a non-religious function and, arguably, should be treated like non-religious entities. At the same time, however, the trouble comes from allowing any other non-religious entity to serve that function (or, worse, allowing religious entities with less-offensive beliefs to serve that function). That is, if a non-religious, but also non-state university is allowed to educate young lawyers, what’s the basis for not allowing a religious school to do the same? The moral beliefs of the sponsoring church? The religious expectations imposed on the students? If anything like that, it starts to sound like government infringing on the exercise of religion.

  53. September 29, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Clark (51): Yes, I think religious schools will lose most exceptions. Seminaries (and equivalent) being an obvious continuing exception. That’s crystal balling, of course, but I do see the same trend line.
    Of course I tend to think that’s a good development. But I don’t expect a lot of agreement here.

  54. Jack
    September 29, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    Rob, give it up. Morality and politics don’t mix.

  55. September 29, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Clark (51): More substantively, I am disagreeing with your use of and/or characterization of “traditional Christian views.” I argue (and you might call this agreement) that a certain form of so-called “traditional” views are losing or have lost currency and will be increasingly dismissed or disregarded. However, they deserve to be (dismissed and disregarded), in my opinion. And I would not accept the “traditional” label as a meaningful adjective applied to “Christian” except as a political positioning call-out.

  56. Rob Osborn
    September 29, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    Jack #54,
    I wouldn’t be facetious on the matter, I take moral law very serious.

  57. Rob Osborn
    September 29, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    #55, christiankimball

    I am very very traditional Christian in my views and beliefs. And I would bet that a very very large group (in the tens of millions) of Americans are also traditional Christians. I see a movement coming for traditional Christian views prevailing in areas and states in the country.

  58. Brad L
    September 29, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    (I didn’t read any of the comments). There has been no loss in religious liberty as a result of the gay rights movement. No one has been forced to abandon their religious views on gays. Swineburne has not lost his religious freedoms because Dreher shouted him down. Swineburne is free to publish whatever he pleases about gays and organize conferences bashing them. Similarly people are free to shun him and call him a fool.

    The gay rights movement has only increased religious liberties. It has enabled LGBTQ+-accepting religions to marry two people of the same gender with government recognition. It has enabled LGBTQ+s more freedom from anti-gay religious burdens placed upon them. What has been occurring for the last few decades is anti-gay religions have been hanging LGBTQ+ rights activists at the cross and telling them to stop squirming before they burn them alive because that is hurting their religious freedoms.

    Once the LGBTQ+ suicide rate is down to or below the average suicide rate, maybe I’ll listen to little babies crying about the non-loss of their religious freedoms. Til then, I’m going to regard this as a ridiculous joke.

  59. Rob Osborn
    September 29, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    It’s not religions causing LGBT suicide. Im tired of that excuse. Didn’t the state of Utah actually do a study that showed suicide rates are lowest amongst those who come from families and involvement in church? Sounds like family and religion is actually the best prevention for suicide.

  60. davidferg
    September 29, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    I had a law professor who liked to discuss what he called the dynamic cycle of legal change. It was a little bit more complex than this, but the gist is that cultural norms eventually get reflected in court-made law. That court-made law then enshrines the cultural norms. The cultural norms eventually shift, and the cycle begins anew. The first case in which we discussed this cycle was a property case in Louisiana where a somewhat ambiguous old law would have allowed a man to screw a woman out of a lot of property that she deserved simply because she was a woman. Cultural norms at one point simply wouldn’t have allowed her to own the property. But the court in the 1970s(?) found a way to not enforce the law so that it could do the morally appropriate thing. I’m oversimplifying the process, but the point is essentially that Clark is right. Where cultural norms go, the law will surely follow eventually. Even RUPA laws and RIULPA have ambiguous enough of language that under different cultural norms, the appropriate course of action will appear to be different and quite possibly hostile to religious entities. I also agree that these fears are overblown, but that the warning signs should convince Christians to be more Christlike now in our outreach, and more self-reflective of our bad theology.

  61. MTodd
    September 29, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Let me second davidferg’s comment. I believe society in many ways have moved to a more Christian environment. Even if people are less likely to call themselves Christian/religious, they are more likely to act in Christian ways. Compared to when I was growing up, people are less tolerant of rape and spousal abuse. Many of my friends growing up were being raised by a single mom because their father had “run off”. Today it seems divorce is on the decline and when it does happen, it’s more likely to be amicable (not always but often) with joint custody. Society is changing in positive ways. And the laws have followed. On the divorce front, for example, men have many more legal protections as father’s. I think it makes Heavenly Father happy to see such righteousness among His children, even if they haven’t accepted Him yet. An atheist living Christian ideals is more likely to be invited into and want to stay in the Celestial kingdom post judgement than a Christian in name only who hasn’t learned to live a loving, Christ-like life.

  62. Clark Goble
    September 29, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    Rob (59) if you don’t think the lack of social acceptance is affecting the suicide rate of LGBT then I think you have your head in the sand. By some statistics half of young homosexuals have attempted suicide. While I disagree with some of Brad’s points and agree with others (a big problem with the way marriage was done in the US is not recognizing the marriages of some religions) he’s got an excellent point about suicide. I’d add in depression. Regardless of what one thinks God has commanded there’s abundant evidence that significant increases in suicide are tied to those who are homosexual and raised in religiously conservative homes. (Here’s one well known paper on the subject)

    MTodd (61) I actually agree with you. By most measures society is getting much, much better. I can even understand those who might quibble with my terms but agree with my content yet think this is a positive development. (Such as Christian does in 55 and I suspect from his comments Brad would in 58 once he reads my clarifications) My worry is much more that because the United States really does not have as good of a focus on pluralism as countries like Canada that things will progress well beyond merely taking away special benefits for religion. (I also think diversity in education is a good thing and that losing religious schools will overall hurt academics – but I completely understand those who disagree)

  63. Rob Osborn
    September 30, 2016 at 12:12 am

    My head isn’t in the sand, heh eh. My comment was in regards to Brads comments regarding religion as the cause of LGBT suicide. There isn’t an actual statistic I am aware of that links religious influence to LGBT suicide. We do however have statistics showing suicides per 1000 by area. We also have statistics showing demographic populations by religion. For example, Utah county, as designated by health district area, had the second lowest suicide rate in Utah last year. That same county had the highest percentage of LDS amongst all reporting health districts of large citiy areas. Statistics done by Utah’s government health services even backed up this data showing a link of suicide prevention to strong religious involvement. Because no actual stat shows what, if any, religious involvement by LGBT exists, we can only state positively that suicides in Utah generally are higher in areas of less LDS membership. We can thus state that religious involvement by community (LDS in this case) has a positive influence on suicide prevention.

  64. Rob Osborn
    September 30, 2016 at 12:33 am

    A separate study showed that of suicides in Utah amongst 15-24 year olds, the greatest suicide risk in this group was from nonmembers, then less active members in second and least at risk was active members. If we generalize here and state there were equal LGBT youth in each group, the one at greatest risk was the nonmember and not the one who went inactive. Of course this is just conjecture, but that’s all we have right now.

  65. True believer
    September 30, 2016 at 12:51 am

    All commenters in this thread have missed the heart of the issue with religious liberty. The major problem is that Christians have written divine law for marriage (Genesis 2:18-25) which was hijacked by the Supreme Court and changed into something that opposes it. Then to fabricate non-discrimination laws to protect against those who are offended and consequently injured by this unjust law, particularly Christian bakers, florists. etc., and who will not abandon their faith, is a malicious deception straight from the devil’s playbook. Christians and other people of faith have a right to be upset about this gross injustice against the first divine law of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Any subsequent “legal” argument that does not address this issue is meaningless and carries no weight for those who value their religious beliefs and religious freedom.

  66. Rob Osborn
    September 30, 2016 at 1:09 am

    Amen True Believer!

  67. Rob Osborn
    September 30, 2016 at 1:22 am

    As a sidenote to the link, the Church does not acknowledge the union by law of same sex genders as “marriage”.

  68. Mars
    September 30, 2016 at 3:33 am

    A. Speech can be harmful. Unkind words and attitudes toward marginalized members of society can discourage them from participating and prevent them from exercising their rights, even if they are not physically prevented from doing so. Especially within the LDS church, our conduct towards LGBT members is often unkind and hurtful, which is reprehensible given our responsibilities as disciples.

    B. Speech is protected. Unkind words and attitudes towards traditionalists and reactionaries are meant to discourage them from participating – they’re merely being shown the door, not physically prevented from exercising their rights. Especially within the LDS church, LGBT members and allies can be forgiven for acting in ways that may seem unkind and hurtful, given the poor treatment they have received in the past.

  69. SDS
    September 30, 2016 at 10:01 am

    I just now saw this post and thread of comments; perhaps the discussion has expired. But in case not . . . .

    Clark and a lot of the comments say that religious freedom is currently as strongly protected in this country as it ever has been, but some do and some don’t perceive long-term concerns. So what would people think about one not hypothetical and not atypical case currently pending before the Washington Supreme Court?

    Baronelle Stutzman is an elderly lady, and a devout Christian, who has been selling flowers and doing floral arrangements for years through her business Arlene’s Flowers. Over a nine-year period, she sold thousands of dollars worth of flowers to a customer, Robert Ingersoll, with full knowledge that he was gay and that many of the arrangements were for his partner, Curt Freed, for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, and so forth. Baronelle considered Rob a good friend. When he asked her to do the arrangements for his wedding to Freed, however, she declined, explaining that her religious belief didn’t allow her to participate in celebrating a same-sex wedding. She recommended three other florists who would be good for the job, gave him a hug, and he left. Later, he and Freed along with the State of Washington and the ACLU sued Stutzman for discrimination, asking for $7.91 in damages (for the cost of driving to another florist) and a written commitment that she would not decline to do same-sex weddings in the future. Stutzman believes she cannot make that commitment. Thus far, like others in her position (photographers, bakers, marriage counselors), Stutzman has lost in the courts. It is not clear that she will be able to continue her business, given the heavy fines the state seeks to impose on her.

    This is not merely private or social ostracism, or criticism: the state is involved, and is threatening to impose crippling sanctions if Stutzman remains faithful to her religious convictions. So, is religious freedom being threatened here? A common response says “no”: Stutzman is perfectly free to practice her religion; she just may not be able to continue her vocation as a florist. (Or a baker, or a wedding photographer, or a marriage counselor, or a pharmacist, or a . . . . .). Are all of those who think religious freedom is flourishing in the country happy with that answer?

  70. Rob Osborn
    September 30, 2016 at 10:09 am

    It will only get worse. Any private business should be allowed to discriminate against anyone who does not fall within their religious belief system. That should be a protected right.

  71. J Town
    September 30, 2016 at 10:16 am

    I just want to quote this from davidferg again.

    ” the gist is that cultural norms eventually get reflected in court-made law. That court-made law then enshrines the cultural norms. The cultural norms eventually shift, and the cycle begins anew. ”

    This. This is what concerns me. And what determines what is culturally accepted as right? What controls this? What standard can you compare against to determine what is actually right and good, as opposed to what the culture of the time accepts (or, eventually, demands)? Society rejects any objective standard (lest any be offended) and moral relativism rules the day.

    This is where the schism between the church and society has begun and it will only get wider. And any attempt to address such a matter calmly and rationally invariably offends or upsets someone (or they pretend it does, for rhetorical value) and civil discourse becomes impossible. No matter what side of this particular issue you happen to be on, it will affect everyone in the days to come. Be prepared.

  72. Dave K
    September 30, 2016 at 10:35 am

    JTown (#72): “And what determines what is culturally accepted as right? What controls this?” The answer is quite simple: “We the people …” Thus it has been since 1776. As with all organizations, the church can function within US society so long as it is not too fringe. Yes, the fringes keep changing, but the principle of “staying in the middle” does not. Interestingly enough, the counsel to “stay in the middle and avoid the fringe” is the same counsel routinely given by church leaders to members.

    SDS (#70), my view is that businesses (including small ones) must treat all customers equally, but they need not endorse speech that they consider immoral. Since SSM is so contentious, let’s consider a situation that all would agree was immoral: an activist group dedicated to exterminating people with drawfism genes. Let’s call them the Anti-Dwarfism-League (ADL).

    Running with this hypothetical, supposed the ADL asks baker to make a cake for the group’s annual shindig; they want the phrase “death to dwarfs” written on top. I would argue that baker must make the cake, but need not write the phrase. That’s the line. Same thing for a florist – she must make the bouquet, but cannot be compelled to fold into the bouquet a plaque reading “dwarfs are satanic.” As for photographers, the entire nature of their work falls within speech so I would not obligate the photographer to work at the ADL annual shindig. For me, the hardest question is posed by the local banquet hall. Do they have to rent space to the ADL? Unfortunately, I think the answer must be yes. That’s their business.

  73. September 30, 2016 at 10:40 am

    To complicate the Stutzman topic (70) this is essentially a question whether Washington State consumer protection law does or should apply to florists? If you think there’s something wrong happening (i.e., an impermissible restriction on religious freedom) are you saying consumer protection and anti-discrimination laws are wrong? Or that florists shouldn’t be covered? Or that Washington state shouldn’t get to decide? Or just that anybody should be allowed to do or not do anything they can attach to religion? And if the latter (or anything like it) does it matter that Baronelle Stutzman is a person and would you think differently if her business were incorporated and all the litigation were in the name Acme Florists, Inc.?
    For myself, I’d say (a) consumer protection laws are generally a good thing, (b) whether a florist operating in her own name should be subject to the consumer protection law is a close question that I’d be happy debate on either side, but (c) ultimately think it’s an appropriate question to put to the legislature, state by state, and would respect whatever Washington state decided, and (d) no, it is not the case that anybody can do anything in the name of religion–that’s well established, I agree, and questions about when and where are the limits are hard questions not easily answered by headline writers.

  74. September 30, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Some of this discussion is about trends. For my two cents, what I see as trends and no trends:
    1. Big picture religious freedom issues — no particular trend. Same or similar issues and debates. Ebb and flow.
    2. Gay rights, including marriage — a flurry of activity the result of which is to establish or formalize or solidify a new category in the long standing discrimination and religious freedom debates. “Traditional Christian” arguments have been tried and mostly failed to set sexual orientation as something different. And now(-ish) we’re approaching business as usual with a relatively new category to think about. (One which Mormons in 2016 seem to have some concern about, but I remember the 60s and 70s and debates about race, and it doesn’t feel much different).
    3. Schools — Somewhat separate, a trend to say that schools should not qualify for religious exceptions. Or to turn it around, a trend in the direction of saying that our growing societal anti-discrimination sense, with respect to race and gender and sexual orientation, really should apply to schools across the board.

  75. September 30, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Up until this last year I thought that freedom of religion was a superset of the freedom to assemble, with the right to chose our own leaders (vs the government choosing the religious leaders), plus the right to not be discriminated against for employment purposes as well as when engaging in commerce.
    It’s only due to the whole not selling a cake to a gay couple, as well as pharmacists not wanting to fill prescriptions for women’s reproductive issues, does it seem like lots of people want to define religious freedom as “the right to refuse service because I don’t like you”. Given that that’s the current banner for religious freedom, I’m surprised that the church wants to pick this fight. Elder Oaks himself said that the cake baker was wrong, and that’s not what religious freedom is about. So the church would probably be better off not talking about religious freedom at all right now. Or if it did, talk loudly about what it is, and what it isn’t. Because for lots of the lay members out there, when they hear Elder Oaks talk about religious freedom, they are hearing him say that it’s important for righteous people to not sell cakes to people with same sex attractions.
    As for the left coming out to get us; I suspect that if we don’t want to be denied buying a wedding cake because of our lifestyle/beliefs, we’d better not be defining religious freedom as the right to denying selling wedding cakes because of someones lifestyle/beliefs.

  76. Mark N.
    September 30, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    #70 and #71, doesn’t everyone “not fall within [one’s] belief system” since all have sinned? Why do gays get singled out from among all the other sinners?

  77. Mark N.
    September 30, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Furthermore, if the fear of the florist is that she’s signaling approval of gay marriage when she sells flowers for use in gay marriage ceremonies, I hope she’s questioning all of her heterosexual customers as to whether or not they’ve had sex before they got married, because God must think she’s approving of some measure of extra-marital sex as well if she doesn’t ask, right?

  78. MS
    September 30, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    BYU and other religious universities are going to be negatively affected. In CA recently, the legislature fielded legislation that would have denied CAL grants to students at religious schools that hold to Christian beliefs about sex. This would have killed religious schools, and there are many, in the state. Public outcry beat it back–for now. It will be back though. BYU doesn’t take federal money, which gives them some protection, but there will be great public pressure to conform to current fads about sexual mores. So, for example, law suits will no doubt come from gay couples wanted to go to BYU and live in married student housing. Buckle up. It’s going to be a rough ride. I think eventually the negatives of this whole experiment are going to come crashing down on the nation, but in the meantime, it’s going to be rough. We just have to keep the faith and prepare for the deluge because I don’t think we can be Biblical Christian believers and conform to the tenets of the “sexual revolution”.

  79. SDS
    September 30, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    As it happens, Baronelle Stutzman is willing to sell the flowers, or the “raw materials,” that could be used for a same-sex wedding; she objects only to using her creative and artistic gifts to design the floral arrangements to celebrate the wedding. Imagine, as a comparison, a Muslim baker who is asked to make and decorate a cake saying “Mohammed was a fraud.” Or an African-American florist who is asked to decorate for a KKK rally opposing “Black Lives Matter.” Would there be any burden on religion or conscience in those instances? Or would we say, “Quit whining: we’re only demanding that you do your job”?

  80. john f.
    September 30, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    I have no idea why you’re asking that because Elder Oaks already said the cake baker is wrong and should not discriminate. And isn’t your position to never ever ever question or disagree with anything a church leader says?

  81. September 30, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    #73 gets it right.

    I remember Elder Oaks saying the county clerk was wrong, but I missed the part about the cake baker. Where did he say that?

  82. CodyR
    September 30, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    SDS(#70), Rob Osborn, etc.:

    When compelled by law and a Roman soldier to unfairly carry the soldier’s equipment for a mile, Jesus asked his disciples to go two.

    Love is more important than “being right” or “fair”. Love is how we change hearts and minds. It is how Jesus acted when unfairly sentenced to a shameful death.

    Forgetting this is why religion is losing credibility and relevance. Religion stands at the precipice of becoming known more for what they are against (gays) than what they are for (pure of love Christ). We have only ourselves to blame.

  83. john f.
    September 30, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    amen — very well said, CodyR

  84. MS
    September 30, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    Cody, there’s a difference between carrying equipment and facilitating something sinful. Should a Christian doctor be required to perform abortions or sex change operations out of “love”? We must ask when the state is intruding into the belief systems of Christians unnecessarily just to be punitive and a bully? Baronelle’s friend did not want to sue her, but the state stepped in and “encouraged” him. Is this the role of the state? IMHO, no it isn’t. I just don’t think appealing to “love” is very helpful here.

  85. CodyR
    September 30, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    MS, perhaps you should revisit the prevailing teachings and understanding of first century Jews toward the Roman occupation. While not a perfect analogy, it is close enough.

  86. SDS
    September 30, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    A better analogy might be Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Or Daniel. Or the apostles Peter and John in Acts 4:10.

    One ought to be able to appreciate the point even if one doesn’t share Stutzman’s religious opposition to same-sex marriage. Unless religious freedom is only for people whose religious beliefs agree with your own.

  87. Trond
    September 30, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    Unless religious freedom is only for people whose religious beliefs agree with your own.

    That’s the religious freedom the religious right would love to implement and has tried to through myriad examples of majority tyranny in state legislatures. And the federal courts have been our best friends (as Mormons because we aren’t included in the religious right’s fever dreams, even though for the last 25 years we’ve been acting like we think we are) in protecting us against those attempts. And yet people on this thread and within the Church still paint federal courts as “the enemy” and the Left as the threat to their freedoms. It’s amazing.

  88. CodyR
    September 30, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    MS and SDS, for what it’s worth, I’m a political libertarian on these matters. I think people in some businesses (non-critical, with adequate competition) should be free to refuse services and not be compelled to provide services to those they hate.

    I’m just simply saying that Jesus modeled the behavior one should expect from a king in the Kingdom of God. If we take our theology seriously, then we should be doing our best to follow his behavior and message. I find little support for the “exclude or shun the sinner” mentality within Jesus’ example. You’ll always be able to find some example within the scriptures where someone viewed the actions or beliefs of another as “unclean” but it is interesting that the example provided is not Jesus.

    We aren’t going to win anyone over by shoving back when shoved, counter suing when sued, etc. Our society has enough of that. I sincerely believe Jesus attempted to overthrow that type of thinking through his teachings and example. Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, give the cloak to those who sue you, etc. assumes that there will be a level of unfairness meted out to you. Notice that he didn’t discuss matters of legalistic interpretation (in fact, he spoke against such things to the Pharisees – “I desire mercy more than sacrifice” and all that), who was right or wrong, etc. His entreaty to love our enemies and those who spitefully abuse us means we will be treated unfairly. Notice that His request wasn’t that we then obtain control of the legislative organ and use it to enforce our view of truth. Rather, He asked that, when treated unfairly, we do all we can to demonstrate love in the face of that unfairness.

    I sincerely believe that Jesus’ message of love is how we change hearts and minds. It is how we remain relevant. Sure, we’ll get batted about some and suffer some injustice, but so did our Master. We’re no better than He is and He loved anyway. We should, too.

    Now, the fog from the gun powder spent in our culture wars is getting noxious from up here on my high horse. I’ll get down so I can breath. :)

  89. SDS
    September 30, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    CodyR: I appreciate and agree with your thoughts about the importance of Christian love, and of not shunning those we believe are living sinfully (as, of course, we all are). Usually those people are not our “enemies”; and even when they are, Jesus said that we are supposed to love them.

    In the current debates about religious freedom, though, I’m afraid these valid and important points often get misdirected. Baronelle Stutzman did not shun Rob Ingersoll. She did business with him, cheerfully, for years, including preparing flowers for romantic occasions with his partner. She was his friend. Her only objection was to helping in the celebration of his wedding, which she believed to be contrary to God’s law. The critics of traditional believers like Stutzman pervasively try to cast such believers as being hateful or bigoted. Sometimes the description fits. But it simply doesn’t fit people like Stutzman. It just obscures the issue to cast it in these terms.

    Of course, there are also religious groups that sincerely believe in various kinds of “shunning” practices. You and I may think that they’re mistaken, that they have failed to understand Christ’s teachings, that they’ve misinterpreted the biblical passages from which their belief derives. But I would say that they are also entitled to religious freedom. We may try to convince them that they shouldn’t shun. In the meantime, they should enjoy rights of religious freedom just as others do.

  90. Trond
    September 30, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    When “secular” society tries to convince us that we shouldn’t [x], you have people like Ralph Hancock and others telling General Authorities that society is restricting our religious freedom. That is where this is going off the rails. I agree what happened to Stutzman was a governmental overreach. But the very loud condemnations of us from all sectors of society after Prop. 8 had nothing to do with religious freedom, even if they revealed that many people don’t agree with our beliefs or our efforts to bind those who do not share our beliefs to live according to them through influencing legislatures to enact our beliefs into binding law. Hancock and his cohort are dismayed that society will shout us down on these issues and try to cast that as a loss of religious freedom. In reality, it simply represents free citizens exercising their own rights to free speech and religious freedom in response to our exercise of those same rights. The rough and tumble of that robust marketplace of ideas in the public square doesn’t seem to suit them if the religious voice doesn’t carry some kind of privileged status, which they incorrectly imagine it carried at the founding.

  91. Old Man
    September 30, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    I am pretty sure that General Authorities don’t follow the lead of Ralph Hancock. They are big boys, many have advanced degrees themselves and don’t need to be led by the hand… they make up their own minds.

  92. JKC
    October 1, 2016 at 3:21 am

    As an American, I am in favor of robust religious liberty. As the conservatives on the court have made abundantly clear, our constitutional right to free exercise doesn’t extend to getting an exemption from the law (such as non-discrimination laws, for example) unless the law specifically targets religious exercise, our hearts it differently from conduct that is not religiously motivated, which is almost never the case. But the constitution sets the minimum, not the maximum amount of religious freedom, and I’m in favor of expanding statutory religious freedom in most cases. (Setting aside for the moment the argument popular among conservatives that going beyond the constitutional minimum is itself an unconstitutional establishment of religion.)

    But as a Christian, I disagree with the notion that the gospel somehow prohibits Christians from baking a cake or arranging flowers for a gay wedding. Jesus’ teachings about second miles, and coats and cloaks, make it clear that a Christian is under no duty to make a moral stand and refuse to help wicked people do wicked things, and is in fact under a duty to not resist. CodyR gets it.

    And his example with the woman taken in adultery exposes the lie that Christians are under some kind of overriding duty to not “send a message” that they approve of sin by not condemning it loudly our emphatically enough, or by seeming to do something nice for a sinner.

    On top of that is the fact that these folks who say that their Christianity prevents them from baking cakes or arranging flowers for gay weddings are, unless I’m mistaken, generally not applying the same kind of scrutiny to weddings of heterosexual couples who are sexually active before their wedding, for example. While I don’t question their sincerity, that kind of discrepancy shows, in my opinion, that their approach to gay weddings owes more to anti-gay bias (probably unconscious) than to the gospel.

  93. Hans Noot
    October 1, 2016 at 4:37 am

    Being from the Netherlands, I do not understand why the debate on homosexuality is connected to the debate on religious freedom. Doing this makes things not only complex, but wrong. The definition of religious freedom deals with freedom of one’s thoughts, conscience and religion. (UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18, as ratified by the USA government). This includes the belief in a supreme being, in no supreme being, in aliens, in the power of wealth, in the need to bear arms, in the way one should raise his/her children, and in gay marriage. Freedom of religion (or belief), though there is a necessity to be protected and enforced by law, is enhanced by people respecting one another’s beliefs. It starts with institutions, such as churches, governments, businesses, to accept a colorful diversity in a free market of thought and expression. And it rests with people “agreeing to disagree”, and not cry wolf when others do not agree to their own opinions. It is the “free marketplace” of religion and beliefs that causes a needed checks and balances in society, and it is destroyed by any one party who claims supremacy. Centuries long (sad) experience in Europe has taught a strong lesson that there is more freedom of religion if governments focus on protecting this inherent human right, and thus seperating themselves from any religious debate, whilst at the same time religious institutions do not mingle in the affairs of politics. Let democracy be run by voting individuals, and not by lobbying businesses with money and churches who want a theocracy for only themselves, until the Lord Himself will teach us how to create a peaceful society.

  94. Rob Osborn
    October 1, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Making a stand against gay marriage is the moral and Christian thing to do. Anyone who reads and believes (true Mormons) the proclamation knows this.

  95. October 1, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Why is homosexuality mixed in? (Hans Noot (94)) It’s an interesting question. My version is that in the U.S. In the 19th and 20th centuries slavery and then segregation and then discrimination on race were justified under religious banners. Whether that was good religion or opportunistic rationalization is beside the point; that it happened set us up for a running series of conflicts where religion is cited as justification to discriminate. The Mormon church is of course part of that history.

    My sense is that there is (now) a broad but not universal consensus that when the issue is religion vs race, the anti-discrimination rules win. But religion vs gender and religion vs sexual orientation are still very contentious.

    I am intrigued to watch the conversation change. I think we’d find a majority now asserting that religion vs race is not really a conflict because religious based arguments for discrimination are not legitimate, not true religion. In my words, Clark’s OP is posing the question where we are in a process of delegitimizing religious arguments for discriminating on sexual orientation. While that’s the hot topic and one where I have opinions and engage, I would suggest that it is a spike of attention in the middle of a longer and even more difficult dispute over religion vs gender.

    In reaction to JKC (93), I don’t think my (private, devotional) religion includes justification for discrimination. Certainly not in any area that I’ve thought about. But with respect to “Christianity” or “Mormonism” I wonder how much my views are a product of time and place? Put it this way: 20 and 30 and 40 years ago I would have baked the wedding cake, and hired women faculty at BYU, and ordained black men (and black women, for that matter). However, my understanding of what a “Christian” or a “Mormon” could legitimately claim under the religion banner has changed quite a lot over that time. I’m pretty self-aware of 1976, for example, when I was troubled by and disagreed with the Church’s position on blacks and the priesthood, but I did think it was a religious position at the time. The fact that my views today are more informed by Lester Bush and Paul Reeve and that I would tell a cultural history story rather than a religious principle story doesn’t disprove my point, but rather supports the idea of change.

  96. MTodd
    October 1, 2016 at 8:20 am

    Making a stand against gay marriage is the moral and Christian thing to do.

    Let us all follow Christ’s teachings to stand against gay marriage and homosexuality. I think he taught that right after telling us to feed his sheep. It’s such an important topic he reiterated this when he visited the Nephites. Part of 5th Nephi I think.

  97. Rob Osborn
    October 1, 2016 at 8:30 am

    It’s obvious you place no validity in the Proclamation.

  98. MTodd
    October 1, 2016 at 9:54 am

    I’m awaiting the chance to approve (or veto) the Proclamation in Common Consent. I would oppose, not because I’m necessarily against it, but because of the doctrines members have read into it. But it sure would be nice if we could vote for or against before calling something doctrine.

    Also, as a side note, nowhere in the Proclamation does it say we need to oppose gay marriage. It is perfectly acceptable to believe that God only considers valid marriage between one man and one woman (or in Joseph’s case up to 40 wives) AND believe promoting monogamy among our gay members a positive thing.

  99. Rob Osborn
    October 1, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    I do not believe members can waffle on the Proclamation. If you sustain the prophets, you also sustain the doctrines in the Proclamation. If one does not sustain the doctrines in the Proclamation, then he doesnt sustain the prophets and is not a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Thats how I honestly see it.

  100. MTodd
    October 1, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Rob, having been told that I’m not not a true disciple of Jesus Christ, I’m going to be finished with our discussion. It’s been nice chatting with you.

  101. Chadwick
    October 1, 2016 at 3:41 pm


    Can you point to where gay marriage is explicitly condemned in the Proclamation on the Family? When I read the Proclamation, I am reminded of my fatherly and husband duties. I find it curious that my read of this document prompts me to improve my roles in life, while your read of the document provides you justification to condemn those that sin differently than you do.

  102. MS
    October 1, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    It is important to consider that when you redefine marriage, you redefine family. People who support redefined marriage generally believe that it doesn’t matter if kids have a mother and father. They further find themselves defending naturally infertile–same-sex–couples getting kids in any way they can, through surrogacy, etc., which is quite different from the always acknowledged reality that sometimes parents die or mess up and can’t raise the kids they bring into the world which has led to a usually good solution, adoption). They find themselves arguing that it is fine to deliberately deprive children of their mother and father so that gay couples can have children, or it is fine to deliberately deprive children of their father at the very least. In short, it is fine, good even, to make for a child the decision that he or she will deliberately never know one or both parents. In addition, they have to argue that mother and father don’t matter, they are completely interchangeable.

    At the same time, we find young people, children even, claiming that they are the opposite gender than their anatomy and that it is imperative that their bodies be permanently mutilated because being male or female is the most important thing to them. It is the fad to claim that these changes are imperative and that the identity is permanent, ignoring the fact that people frequently change their minds after having been mutilated. And yet on the other hand we’re told that male and female don’t matter, they are interchangeable in the parental role. I think social science is going to show us over time that this is not true–already has in some studies. But the larger point is that what we have now is chaos, and a chaos that deliberately goes against what we find in Genesis–God’s plan–and what I have always understood the Proclamation on the Family to be saying.

    At the very beginning of Genesis, God tells us that He created male and female deliberately and for a purpose. He gave us marriage so that the different natures of men and women could be used in the sacred task of raising the children. The mere fact of marriage, which has existed as male and female in every culture on earth ever, helped people understand that male and female are important and that being able to procreate gives people special responsibilities, particularly toward spouses and children, that those who cannot procreate do not have. People try to pretend that redefining marriage is a minor thing with few consequences. I find that a profoundly shallow perspective.

  103. Nathaniel
    October 1, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    “People who support redefined marriage generally believe that it doesn’t matter if kids have a mother and father.” Second witness on this point, as well as the following point about children then becoming commodities (even “their right!”) in order to meet the needs of the parent figures who naturally long for them. This is not an unimportant issue for either LDS members or society at large, regardless of rather flippant T&S analogies about Hiroo Onoda and his holdout soldiers.

  104. MTodd
    October 1, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    Hi everyone,
    In my neighborhood there is a great couple, two men in a long-term, committed relationship. They have adopted 6 kids who otherwise would have been in the system. It really is too bad there aren’t more people like them.

  105. MTodd
    October 1, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    My wife corrected me. They have adopted 8 children.

  106. rah
    October 1, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    So lets say that the paper being presented at the conference was one that was arguing based on traditional biblical practice and mores that slavery is defensible on the basis of race, its even natural. It was designed to advocate a moral justification for laws making slavery legal. The paper was delivered and the conference apologized.

    Is this a discussion that should be given serious consideration in civic society? One could certainly argue that through traditional christian thought and biblical texts. In fact, it may be easier to argue that based on source materials than homosexuality as a sin. For better or worse, norms matter and I really don’t have a problem if they are enforced in a way that does not violate people’s legal or inalienable rights. We have an entire World Family Forum where people get together to bash homosexuals. Its big. It was held in Salt Lake. Our religious leaders spoke at it. No one stopped them from assembling.

  107. MS
    October 1, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    MTodd–this is argument from anecdote. As I said above, adoption is different than creating children intending to remove them from their parents. I believe that practice is morally wrong, yet redefining marriage gives it a kind of logic. If same-sex people can marry, it is a short step to thinking that they should be able to do what married people have always done–have children if they want them. And since thanks to rampant abortion it is hard to find babies to adopt, well, science will see that babies can be bought and sold to those who want them regardless of what is best for babies. It turns out, however, that children who are the product of sperm donation and surrogacy often feel a great hole in their lives resulting in many problems and heartaches. Children tend to want to know their parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. It gives them identity and a place in the world. Who would have guessed? See the website Anonymous Us.

    rah-no one gathers to bash homosexuals, as you put it. People do gather to discuss the needs and well-being of children and families. Sexual mores and the form of marriage are a huge part of that discussion and dictate the behavior of society and its attitudes toward various practices that are highly questionable when the well-being of children is considered. That particular detail, I have noticed, has been greatly short-changed and swept under the rug in this whole national discussion of marriage and what adults want.

  108. MTodd
    October 1, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Mine may be argument by anecdote and yours is a slippery slope. I’m arguing that not all homosexual relationships are are all bad; you are arguing that we’re going to screw up children if we accept gay marriage. I don’t know what the future holds; I can’t say how gay marriage is going to affect future generations. But I do know that all of my gay friends who have found partners, have found love and are happy. And it is anecdotal, but the gay families (plural) I have seen are not the messed up nightmare painted by those who adamantly oppose gay marriage.

  109. Rob Osborn
    October 1, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    The Proclamation speaks only of a man and woman coming together in marriage and only through that lawful union of opposite sexes can sex occur.

  110. ji
    October 1, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    Some sins are crimes, some are not. Some crimes are sins, some are not. In the United States and some other countries, same-sex marriage is no longer prohibited by law — it is legal. As citizens in a pluralistic society, we have to respect the law. That means I have to accept that some of my neighbors might practice same-sex marriage — it’s legal.

    But, I hope churches will be given the freedom to continue to define their own standards of belief and conduct for their members. I think there is a real concern that the proponents of same-sex marriage will try to use the power of government to force churches to stop teaching their adherents that same-sex marriage is sin. In the United States, we don’t want the government to dictate what a church may or may not teach — the government might define crime, but it cannot define sin. But where a church chooses to teach that same-sex marriage is sin, I hope it will do so with as much charity as practicable. I understand why some church members are concerned about protecting religious liberty against governmental intrusion.

  111. MS
    October 2, 2016 at 12:29 am

    ji–exactly. That’s what religious freedom means. But I think the thought police would like to marginalize all who disagree with them.

    MTodd–I don’t think I understand what you mean by slippery slope. Our church has a particular belief system–the one dictated to us by scripture– that has worked very well to guarantee children could, as often as possible, be raised by the two responsible people, their Mom and Dad, who brought them into the world. Adoption is necessary in our imperfect world, but we should be proud that Mormons have a good record of creating intact families that we believe last into eternity. It has been understood that this is the gold standard for children, even by people who don’t embrace our belief system. A lot of research has shown this is true. Remember the Murphy Brown controversy? After that there was a lot of research that showed the importance of Moms and Dads in kids lives. Men and women aren’t the same and we each have unique gifts to give children. This doesn’t mean that gay people can’t be good parents, they can, but they can’t give children that vital Mom and Dad in the home family. The social point of marriage, I believe, is not only to give adults life long companionship, but to give children their own Mom and Dad as often as possible. When marriage is redefined, that important underlying assumption about it is substantially damaged. Your gay friends could live together and have the lives they wished previously. No one stopped them. But now the assumptions about family and children have been changed, and not in a way that is good for children, the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

    Our particular beliefs about sex, eternal families and so forth, as laid out int the Proclamation, are part of a larger story that helps us understand what male and female mean, how we should live, and what is best for adults and children alike. Other people are free to believe as they wish. Redefining marriage, however, has emboldened those with a more pagan, sex-centered world view to want to crush anyone who disagrees with them. That’s the worry here.

  112. Hans Noot
    October 2, 2016 at 3:18 am

    I still do not buy the idea that this discussion is about religious freedom. Rather, this is a social issue.

  113. Nathaniel
    October 2, 2016 at 5:41 am

    According to the First Liberty Institute:

    “As some of the major consequences of religious freedom attacks, the law group notes that “good employees are being unlawfully fired,” while businesses are being “recklessly harmed.” It also warns that public servants are being driven from their fields, while ministries and churches are being threatened or restricted “from fulfilling their spiritual callings.””

  114. MS
    October 2, 2016 at 8:37 am

    Hans, is it not possible that social issues and religious freedom overlap? I think it is clear that they do. Catholics, Mormons and other Christians have strong, Bible-based beliefs about sexuality. These beliefs, along with the belief that every person was equally valuable to God separated Christians from Pagans in the 4th century and before. Pagans didn’t have any problem with exposing unwanted babies, a double sexual standard within marriage, sex with children (part of male privilege) and so forth. We are fighting it, but the state now wants to punish those who want to adhere to Christian beliefs about sex– Christian universities, private citizens like Baronelle Stutzman, etc. In other words, the state wants to punish people for their religious views on a social issue.

  115. MTodd
    October 2, 2016 at 9:36 am

    MS, a slippery slope argument is when you assume that one decision will inexorably lease to some awful conclusion. “If Bobby goes to the party with his friends tonight they’ll get him to smoke weed a gateway drug and then before we know it he’ll be in prison because of his heroin addiction.”

    Yes, same-sex marriage is now legal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a lot of same-sex couples are going to make babies. And even if they did, it would not necessarily be as dire as you predict.

  116. MTodd
    October 2, 2016 at 9:37 am

    That should say “inexorably lead”. Stupid autocorrect.

  117. ji
    October 2, 2016 at 10:12 am

    But that would be sufficient reason to someone who loves Bobby to provide a caution or chaperone or curfew or some other support or protection for him?

  118. MS
    October 2, 2016 at 10:37 am

    I know what a slippery slope argument is, I just don’t particularly see how it applies. In fact, it’s not a matter of slippery slopes–it’s already here and burgeoning. To be fair, producing children with the intent to remove them from their parents–buying and selling children–was already underway, but before making marriage genderless we had a strong argument to counter this practice because the form of marriage upheld the assumption that marriage is the permanent union of a male and female and any children born to them. That very form teaches people what God intends for men, women and children in families, that children need a mother and a father, and whenever possible their own mother and father, something that pretty much everybody agreed upon after the Murphy Brown fallout. With redefined marriage, people deny that is true in spite of evidence that it is. Now the definition of marriage teaches us that marriage is about adult fulfillment, which implies that if adults want children, however they get them is A-Okay. No thought is given about what is best for children. It is about what adults want. This whole redefinition of marriage is a giant experiment that falls heaviest on those least able to weather it–children. Again, I did not say that gay people can’t be good parents, but being a good parent is not enough when a child is deliberately denied mother or father or both.

  119. MTodd
    October 2, 2016 at 10:51 am

    ji, yes, but with or without those things, it’s wrong to say that Bobby shouldn’t go to the party because he’ll end up in prison if he does. Similarly it is inappropriate to assume that we’re going to totally screw up future generations because same-sex marriage is legal.

  120. Hans Noot
    October 2, 2016 at 10:52 am

    MS, of course religion and social issues overlap. Everything overlaps. The question is not about the issue on same sex marriage, but on whether or not the same sex debate is a religious FREEDOM issue. As I understand it, the USA government is not forcing anyone to believe in or practice same sex marriage. So there is still freedom of religion, even if one does not agree with a government decision. Moreover, mixing the realm of religions with the realm of politics or legality, causes a lot of frustration for a lot of people. In the past, for example, the church always allowed the law to define religion by saying that we need to be LEGALLY wedded. In my eyes this was always a problem, as we allowed the government, thereby, to define marriage. It got the church into trouble during the late-polygamy days, it gets the church in Africa where polygamy is legal, and it makes it difficult for missionaries in Europe to explain why a couple with children, who have been co-habiting (legally), cannot be baptized. It makes it difficult to explain our LDS marriage practices in countries such as India, etc. I am not saying I disagree with the church. All I am saying is that for religions to defy or fight law by claiming it is against the freedom to practice their religion, causes confusion. So, I raise the question again, why is this an issue of religious Freedom. We are still free to practice our religion, even if we agree to disagree.

  121. MS
    October 2, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    HN–what if the feds come after BYU for not allowing same sex married couples to live in BYU student housing or be students there? Are we then free to practice our religion? What if they insist that all doctors under the nationalized health regime perform abortions or euthanize patients? What if the state of CA comes back again to take away CAL grants from students who attend religious schools, as they surely will. Mind you, we all pay taxes to fund these CAL grants. This sort of thing is coming down the pike or already here, and don’t you think these are all instances of the feds limiting and restricting religious freedom? I personally think that forcing Baronelle Stutzman to use her talents on behalf of a gay wedding would be forcing her to compromise her religious beliefs. She’s standing her ground to protect other Christians. These are all religious freedom issues that those who would force us to adopt their thinking about marriage and family are working to bring about. They don’t want to live and let live. They are perfectly happy with Satan’s plan–force. That’s why I think these are very much religious freedom issues.

    About church sanction of marriage–well, I can see a day coming when the church separates sealing from legal marriage per se, so that people get married at the county clerks office and get sealed in the temple, as I think is already the case in parts of Europe. As you point out, that is pretty much what happened with polygamy, since it was not legal in the U.S. But I think it is good for legal and religious marriage to coincide because marriage law is deeply entwined with so many aspects of life–tax code, inheritance and the like. But you are right that we have had to part company with civil law on this issue in places where marriage has been redefined. I don’t think, however, that government is going to leave us in peace to practice our religion as we please.

  122. Rob Osborn
    October 2, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Hans noot,
    Same sex marriage legalization means that governments must pass anti discrimination laws and force the creation of a recognized genderless society. The impacts are vast. It will affect everyone in most aspects of their lives. We are already seeing this with affects on new hate speech laws, genderless bathrooms/locker rooms, small businesses, etc. Churches will be affected the most. Some churches no longer offer adoption agencies, marriage counseling, etc because of threats by new laws. Private schools are being affected with losing accredation, federal grant money, etc.

    There are a lot of things it’s going to affect

  123. Clark Goble
    October 2, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Sorry folks – the car I was in broke down in the Arizona desert on Friday so I’ve not been able to keep up. I think everyone’s said their peace and things are starting to get a bit repetitive now so I’ll shut things down so we can muse on General Conference.

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