Monday, October 19, 2009

The Church's take on freedom of religion is politically liberal

Elder Oaks, in 1992, stood before part of Congress as a representative of the LDS church and said, "we would prefer that the Supreme Court reverse the Smith case and restore the full constitutional dimensions of the First Amendment protection of freedom of religion." The link is here (scroll halfway down for the specific article).
I'm oversimplifying, but the Smith case was basically about whether members of a religious group could engage in religious ceremonies that involved peyote (an illegal drug). The majority ruled against the religious group, and thus against the freedom of religion.
What's most interesting here (besides the fact that the LDS church wants these people to be able to use peyote for religious purposes) is that those who voted for religious freedom were liberals, while those who voted to restrict religious freedoms were conservatives.
In other words, the LDS church, when dealing with religious freedoms, is decidedly politically liberal.
Scalia, Rehnquist, White, Stevens, Kennedy, and O'Connor all voted to restrict religious freedoms. Scalia, Kennedy, and O'Connor are all conservatives, placed on the Supreme Court by Reagan. Stevens was appointed by Ford (a Republican) and is usually seen as liberal (although sometimes, like here, he doesn't vote that way). I don't know much about White, but from what I can tell he was neither conservative nor liberal.
The dissenters--those who agreed with Elder Oaks and the LDS church--were all liberal. They include Blackmun, Brennan, and Marshall. Marshall was a liberal, put in by Johnson. Blackmun, put in place by Nixon, started conservative but became quite liberal (and was firmly liberal when the Smith case came along). Brennan was the leader of the liberal wing of the Supreme Court, placed there by Eisenhower.

It's obvious that both political parties have good parts, and both have bad parts. The church keeps repeating this, but I'm not sure it's getting through to the majority of the members. It's clear, however, that the liberals on the Supreme Court are more interested in protecting our religious freedoms than the conservatives.


Brentwell said...

I was not aware of that case. Very interesting. I know that Keith Olbermann does not represent Liberals as a whole, but could you explain that after Elder Oak's talk that he put Elder Oaks on his list of worst people in the world (Keith Olbermann declares Elder Oaks one of the worst people in the world) and how that fits in with your point?

Tim said...

As I said, both liberals and conservatives have positive and negative aspects.
Huckabee (a fairly respected Republican politician, and not just a political pundit) stated on TV, "Don't Mormons believe Jesus and Satan are brothers?" So there's lots of stuff on both sides to point fingers at.
I don't listen to Olbermann for the same reason I don't listen to Beck or Limbaugh. They're all hacks, out to demonize people who don't agree with them.

Tim said...

And I think Olbermann misinterpreted what Oaks was saying, as people like him (and Beck and Hannity) often do. I'm not sure that, given the church's history with blacks, a comparison to the civil rights movement was the best choice--but I think Oaks' talk was right on otherwise.
I hope people will stop listening to extremists like Olbermann and Beck. But I'm not going to hold my breath.