Monday, September 24, 2012

Religion & Politics (Featuring Elder Oaks at Notre Dame)

H/T to Facebook friend Audrey C. who posted this update:
Okay so here is my political two cents... I read this article and would like to share it. Just because a person who claims to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't mean that he will receive my vote. I believe that we must study and see who that person is what they have done in their past both good and bad and see who they really are and what they represent from their actions. 
Salt Lake City — On 4 September 2012, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), participated in the 2012-13 Notre Dame Forum, “Conviction and Compromise: Being a Person of Faith in a Liberal Democracy.” The forum featured five prominent religious leaders addressing the role of faith in American democracy. Other panelists included Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz, archbishop of Louisville; Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Rick Warren, founding pastor, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California; and Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. The discussion was moderated by David Campbell, a professor of political science, and M. Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of law and theology.
The panelists addressed questions such as:
•How can people of faith reconcile religious conviction with politics, which is often described as the “art of compromise”?
•Should voters take a candidate’s religion into account when casting their ballot?
•How should elected officials apply their faith when making policy?
•How does religious diversity affect our national understanding of religion’s role in both politics and government?
Elder Dallin H. Oaks’s comments reinforced the Church’s stance on political neutrality: “Our church tries to stay away from political activity in the more than 150 countries where we have members. … We therefore offer no political guidance to members of our faith and rarely take a position on public policies.” He continued that while “our members are encouraged to participate in governmental affairs” and in parties of their choice, the Church is “neutral on political parties, platforms and candidates” and does “not endorse any party or candidate … [or] advise our members how to vote.”
Elder Oaks explained that the Church does encourage members to “draw upon their religious beliefs, including personal inspiration, in all their important choices — political and otherwise.” Furthermore, he stated that all religious persons should be allowed to participate in the political process on the same basis as other citizens, though refraining from unnecessarily forcing their personal religious beliefs on others. While civility is always necessary, and political neutrality encourages members to exercise their own discretion in political matters, Elder Oaks stated that in “very exceptional situations, reserved for the decision of Presidency of the Church, … [the Church] would take a position on a public issue that we consider to have very important moral implications.”
Elder Oaks advocated uniting with “persons of all faith to teach and exercise the principle of religious freedom so that we are assuring our ability to unite on the things we have in common and assuring our ability to act out and exercise those things that we do not have in common.”

I found a YouTube video with the whole thing. Elder Oaks speaks at 6:54, 42:57, 54:00, and an exchange with Rev. Cizik on non-believers beginning with the question at about 1:12:00. I also really liked Rabbi Saperstein's comments at 23:00 and even Pastor Rick Warren at 37:30 in that he understands the importance of the separation of church and state but not Faith and politics.

I'll close with this. Here's LDS scripture directly on point with regard to religious Faith and government:
We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul. D&C 134:4.
We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy. D&C 134:7.
We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied. D&C 134:9.
 Thanks again, Audrey!

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