Growing up, I was taught that religious freedom and morality are on the decline. Until recently, I never questioned it. I’m beginning to wonder it this really is the case. Regarding morality, it was once moral to treat people with disabilities in ways that are now considered inhumane. Although I’m not appreciative of the paperwork I’ve had to complete to study the behavior of people with disabilities for my master’s thesis, I do appreciate the fact that Institutional Review Boards exist. Their existence communicates to me that morality is on an incline: people with disabilities enjoy more rights than they previously enjoyed. Steven Pinker goes into more depth:
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the LDS Church offers a potential rebuttal. I sense a conflict here. If the Bible teaches what Pink says it teaches (e.g., raid villages, kill the men and rape the women), then I’m not certain returning to Judeo-Christian moral principles is going to make the world more moral. But I may be wrong.
Regarding a history of declining religious freedoms, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the LDS Church quoted Cardinal Francis George saying “threats to religious freedom in America…[are abortion and] the development of gay rights and the call for same-sex ‘marriage'”. He then cites cases that have nothing to do with freedom of speech and have everything to do with anti discrimination laws. In other words, no religion is being stopped from preaching that homosexuality is a sin but members of churches are being told that, when in public, you cannot discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation. Here are the cases he cites:
- Photographer in New Mexico declined to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony due to religious reasons.
- United Methodist Church denied a lesbian couple access to their pavilion which was made available to the public (the church had been receiving tax breaks for making its property available to the public.
- Candidate for master’s degree in counseling was dismissed from her program for failing to adhere to the field’s code of ethics regarding treatment of gays and lesbians. Specifically, she disagreed with the American Counseling Association’s prohibition against sexual orientation change efforts
Keith Olberman awarded Elder Oaks the “worst person award” for a similar talk given at BYU-I (link). Oaks had the opportunity to clarify points about comparing Mormons during Prop 8 to blacks during the civil rights movement with Fox13 Utah:
The question I raise is whether the LDS Church has a civil right to determine for everyone which relationships government should or should not recognize. In other words, is it really freedom of speech and freedom of religion to legislate (and therefore promote) their version of morality? In sum, I question the claims of Quentin L. Cook and Dallin H. Oaks that religious freedom and morality are on the decline.