“The contribution of religious freedom to American life is beyond price.”
That was former U.S. Senator Gordon H. Smith’s message at a conference January 12, 2016, in Washington, D.C. Smith, who is currently the president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, was the gathering’s keynote speaker. The event was co-hosted by the Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center, the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation and Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding.
As a public servant in Oregon from 1997 to 2009, Smith says he frequently accepted invitations to attend worship services of various faiths. Once, after hearing a Jewish rabbi’s sermon on the durable value of the Ten Commandments, Smith says he thought to himself, “You know, if the American people actually [kept those commandments], we’d have a lot less to do in the senate. And we could certainly have a smaller government.”
Smith encouraged religious people to “find some refuge in a concept known as‘fairness for all.’” He then quoted former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said the U.S. Constitution was “made for people of fundamentally differing views.”
Smith, whose ecclesiastical assignment is as a Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also quoted from Church apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ October 2015 address about the importance of engaging with those who disagree with us in a virtuous cycle of dialogue.
He shared these words from Elder Oaks: “Differences on precious fundamentals are with us forever. We must not let them disable our democracy or cripple our society. This does not anticipate that we will deny or abandon our differences but that we will learn to live with those laws, institutions, and persons who do not share them. We may have cultural differences, but we should not have ‘culture wars.’”
You can watch Smith’s full speech below (his remarks begin at the 35:48 mark).