Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Elder Oaks on Religious Freedom and Politics

Elder Oaks (who, unlike say President Faust or President Uchtdorf, is clearly a Republican) was interviewed a little while ago by Hugh Hewitt. A few things stood out.

1. A caller (probably LDS) asked, "Is there a line that’s drawn between morality and politics, for example, having political views, the left and the right, you have two public figures like Glenn Beck and Harry Reid who are diametrically opposed to one another. Is there a line that has to be drawn for Mormons in politics?"

Notice carefully how Elder Oaks responds. "We have, as prominent Mormons, Mitt Romney and Harry Reid. They are obviously at opposite ends of a political spectrum. We’re proud that our religious causes such, or brings forth such capable men. And we’re also grateful for the demonstration that the church does not dictate a particular political philosophy, but it trains people, with greater or lesser degrees of success, to be moral and responsible people, and to function wherever their conscience takes them on the political spectrum."

First, Elder Oaks totally ignores the mention of Glenn Beck. Second, he calls Harry Reid a capable man. I'll let you draw your own conclusions on why he totally ignored the mention of Glenn Beck, but I'm glad he did--Mitt Romney makes a much better comparison to Harry Reid.

2. Elder Oaks also discuss a Supreme Court case that greatly eroded religious freedoms, Employment Division v. Smith. I've talked about that decision before. Elder Oaks admits confusion as to why the author of that decision, Justice Scalia, a man Elder Oaks usually agrees with politically, made such a boneheaded decision. (They don't mention the fact that all of the other conservatives on the Supreme Court agreed with Scalia, and that the only dissenters were three of the four liberals). I really wish they would have discussed this issue more, but to do so would've required attacking conservatives on the Supreme Court, so I understand why they didn't. This was, after all, a conservative radio show.

Elder Oak's money quote: "And in Employment Division v. Smith, the United States Supreme Court dragged religion out of the sanctuary, and said you’re in effect, you don’t have any more free speech rights than people generally. You don’t have the right to override state laws any more than any other person does. And it just deemphasized religion very significantly."

My questions for Elder Oaks: Why do you think the conservatives on the Supreme Court deemphasized religion so significantly? Why did the three dissenting liberals do a better job of defending religion than the conservatives? I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have an answer to that. My thoughts are that it might have to do with the total lack of religious diversity in the Supreme Court (9 Justices, and every single one is either Catholic or Jewish). With enough political power, you don't have to worry so much about your person religion practices being protected--and Catholics and Jews certainly have a lot of political power in the U.S. I have to admit, however, that I, like Elder Oaks, am at a total loss for why the conservatives on the Supreme Court attacked religious freedoms to the extent they did.

Any ideas?

Meanwhile, I'll join with Elder Oaks, and I will continue to hold that decision up as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in recent history.

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