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Protecting religious freedom isn’t the responsibility only of the Supreme Court justice, the local lawmaker or the Jewish rabbi at the local synagogue. Each person, regardless of their level of expertise, can do something, said Elder Von G. Keetch, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Those involved in this process have often called the [effort] of protecting religious freedom the ‘hard work of citizenship,’” Elder Keetch said Tuesday, November 7, 2017, at St. Peter & Paul Jesuit Church in Detroit. “All of us need to get involved. The time for expecting that others will stand up for our rights and find reasonable compromises for us is long over.”
Speaking to fellow Christians, as well as Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Jews and others gathered at a one-day religious freedom conference, Elder Keetch shared the Church’s well-established approach to defending religious freedom. This includes the idea that not all religious freedoms are created equal.
Among the core priorities, first shared in July 2016 by the Church’s General Counsel, are the freedoms to believe, worship, speak our minds, proselytize and determine doctrine and membership standards. Close to this core are freedoms to not be punished in any way because of one’s faith, as well as freedoms of religious nonprofits to have hiring standards that reflect their religious beliefs. (See Elder Keetch’s transcript for more detail on religious freedoms that are important but not critical in a pluralistic world.)
Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron also spoke at Tuesday’s gathering. He seconded Elder Keetch’s comments about religious freedom being the work of the layman as well as the lawmaker. Of special importance, he said, is the everyday work of parents in leading children to truth.
Religious freedom matters for parents as “they seek to do their task of sharing what they know to be right and wrong, good and bad, with their children,” the archbishop said. “Because while providing shelter and food [and] clothing for children is [vital], the most important parental responsibility is to teach about the truth and what is truly good, truly bad, truly a failure, and truly a success.”
Elder Keetch, who practiced law for 25 years before becoming a full-time Church leader, concluded his remarks with a three-point call to action to help people of faith defend religious freedom.
- Get informed. Visit religiousfreedom.lds.org and then learn which issues are percolating in your area’s community, schools and state legislature.
- Get involved. Vote and let politicians know these issues matter to you.
- Be an example of the believers. Let people see the best and the highest in your faith. Be a kind neighbor and contributing community member.
“When people understand your faith-filled life is good, they will respect you and be more inclined to listen when you say your freedoms are threatened,” Elder Keetch said.
Tuesday’s event was cosponsored by Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law Society and the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.