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Elder Oaks To Receive Religious Freedom Award


Calm

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Indications are the effort to preserve religious freedom is weighing heavily on the minds of the Brethren these days. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Twelve is among those who have spoken out about it.

Utah Valley University President Matthew Holland was one of several scholars interviewed for the PBS documentary "First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty," that aired Tuesday night. He's not one of the General Authorities but has been undoubtedly influenced by his father, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve on this matter.

I think it's an effort rank-and-file Church members would do well to get behind, regardless of political party or nationality.

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How is religious freedom is under threat? I'm not saying it isn't - but it's just not very apparent to me. Granted, we live in a secular society, but nobody is stopping Mormons from being Mormons, or Jews from being Jews, or Catholics from being Catholics. Some people may not like us very much, but that is another matter.

I can think of one example that comes to mind - in Russia, where a pro-Putin organization is trying to kick the Mormons out of the country. But I'm not aware of another situation like this anywhere else.

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It's not the big issue in this country as it is elsewhere in the world, including Europe where churches are subsidized by the state. However, there are big issues coming to the forefront dealing with the right of a religion to set its own rules and to accept governmental funding, particularly where there are issues such as women in the clergy, gay marriage/acceptance, abortion, and other issues where churches have taken a stand.

In Britain, for example, the government can direct the Anglican Church to do, and refrain from doing, certain things. Gay marriage in the church is an issue that may be decided by politicians.

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My memory says there was an issue last year in England where there was narrowly avoided possibility of templeworkers being required by the state to be open to anyone and not restricted to those who hold a temple recommend. I am assuming they mean those who had paying jobs and not the volunteers. Even so, this if it ever gets into law would mean any paid custodian and maintaneance, security people, laundry or cafeteria staff, etc. (I have no clue who would be paid and who wouldn't be save for ordinance workers) would all have to be switched to volunteer, which might be a hardship to find in some areas qualified technicians and other workers who were available to volunteer enough hours to keep the temple up and running as well as it is currently.

Basically this states that a church does not have a right to determine who gets to serve it if pay is involved. Would this apply to paid pastors or would that be an exception, I wonder?

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I would not doubt that occured Calmoriah. There is no First Amendment in Europe -- or the rest of the world for that matter.

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I would not doubt that occured Calmoriah. There is no First Amendment in Europe -- or the rest of the world for that matter.

But one would hope that the principles reverenced in the United States by the First Amendment are safeguarded in at least a portion of the rest of the world. Freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly and of religion are not exclusive to the United States -- or should not be, at least.

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Please read my report of a talk given by Elder D. Todd Christofferson in May of 2011.

calmoriah has already mentioned a portion of what Elder Christofferson discussed then.

Thank you! I googled it and couldn't find anything for some reason....oh doh, I spelled his last name wrong. Insert head slap here.

This was the quote I remembered:

"We see it elsewhere," he said. "We narrowly avoided in the United Kingdom just last year legislation that would have made it illegal to discriminate on religious standards for any kind of employment, including in our temples. We could not have made the temple recommend a prerequisite for someone to work in the temple, if you can imagine."
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However, there are big issues coming to the forefront dealing with the right of a religion to set its own rules and to accept governmental funding, particularly where there are issues such as women in the clergy, gay marriage/acceptance, abortion, and other issues where churches have taken a stand.

and refrain from doing, certain things. Gay marriage in the church is an issue that may be decided by politicians.

Why would the Church be taking money from the government? If they have a problem with strings being attached, they should just not take taxpayer monies.

I don't know of any politician who favors forcing churches to accept or perform gay marriages. Straw man!

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Why would the Church be taking money from the government? If they have a problem with strings being attached, they should just not take taxpayer monies.

I don't know of any politician who favors forcing churches to accept or perform gay marriages. Straw man!

Some politicians and pressure groups have tried to force their way or tried to exclude people of faith from engaging in the public dialogue by threatening the tax-exempt status of churches. If they succeed on one issue, they could try it on others -- such as marriage.

That's why it's important to be vigilant now, before it ever gets to that point.

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Why would the Church be taking money from the government? If they have a problem with strings being attached, they should just not take taxpayer monies.

I believe that is how the Church operates (taking money is different than not having to pay taxes on something). The only thing I know of that comes close is student loans and government grants given to BYU and other church schools, but those are to the individual, not the Church. Is anyone aware of any federal/state/municipal funding given directly to the Church from the government?
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I thought Elder Christofferson made an important in the talk report I linked to in my prior post above:

In U.S. government some are beginning to use the phrase "freedom of worship" instead of "freedom of religion," Elder Christofferson said.

"Freedom of worship is a much smaller concept," he explained, saying it pertains to religious rites and ceremonies. "Religious freedom is so much broader than that. As you know this freedom is not simply worship, but the practice of religion in all of its aspects: to organize, to meet, to proselytize, the freedom of people to change their religion if they choose, all of those rights are increasingly under attack.

"And just the ability to speak, to have a part in the national debate on issues is under tremendous pressure by movements from groups who say any religiously based opinion or position is not legitimate, cannot be heard, cannot be received or considered in the public square."

The tactic seems to be to undertake a de facto abridgment of freedom of religion by limiting it's definition.

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Some politicians and pressure groups have tried to force their way or tried to exclude people of faith from engaging in the public dialogue by threatening the tax-exempt status of churches. If they succeed on one issue, they could try it on others -- such as marriage.

That's why it's important to be vigilant now, before it ever gets to that point.

I'm not clear on how that threatens freedom of religion. Tax-exempt status is not a right that churches--or anybody else--have. It is something they can enjoy as long as they don't back political parties or candidates. If they violate those conditions, they should lose their tax-exempt status. Then they could do all the political stuff they want.

Personally, I don't think churches should have blanket exemption from paying taxes. Rather, their charitable endeavors could be tax exempt, instead. That would encourage churches to engage in more charitable giving rather than buying fancy cars and clothing for their televangelists.

Even if they do retain tax-exempt status, there should be financial transparency so the IRS (not to mention members of the church) can know they're not taking improper advantage of that status.

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I'm not clear on how that threatens freedom of religion. Tax-exempt status is not a right that churches--or anybody else--have. It is something they can enjoy as long as they don't back political parties or candidates. If they violate those conditions, they should lose their tax-exempt status. Then they could do all the political stuff they want.

Here, you are falling into the mindset of some of the politicians Elder Christofferson talked about in the quote I gave in my last post. You are saying, in effect, that churches, like other charities that serve the public good, may be free of tax burden imposed by government -- so long as they keep their mouths shut about government and public policy and refrain from engaging in what Elder Christofferson called "the national debate on issues."

Frankly, I find that attitude odious and a bit frightening. And it's one reason why I support the call for action to preserve freedom of religion in our country and around the world.

Personally, I don't think churches should have blanket exemption from paying taxes. Rather, their charitable endeavors could be tax exempt, instead. That would encourage churches to engage in more charitable giving rather than buying fancy cars and clothing for their televangelists.

So you would support the suppression of free speech among people of faith who associate themselves as bodies of believers.

No way to know on the Internet what country you are a citizen of, but that strikes me as un-American.

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Personally, I don't think churches should have blanket exemption from paying taxes. Rather, their charitable endeavors could be tax exempt, instead.

And does Sabbath day services and other teaching and faith promoting activities count as "charitable" or would churches and schools be taxed?

And if so, what would control the taxes being limited enough to allow for full functioning of a pastor as a pastor and not just as the guy who is overseeing the charity fundraisers, etc. and for the sharing of faith among lay members whether through ceremonies or sharing of personal testimony and wisdom from the pulpit and in classes?

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I just transcribed what Elder Oaks said on the YouTube video so i could write a news brief about it. So I'll go ahead and share it here:

Religious freedom is fundamental to the existence of our nation. It's, along with free speech, the most fundamental civil right and civil liberty.

As I see some slippage in the public regard for religion and in the legal basis for religious freedom, I am alarmed.

My message is directed to religious leaders with a proposal that it would be well for Catholics and Protestants of all description and Muslims and Mormons and others interested in the things we've been discussing to unite and stand together on the essential principle of religious freedom.

What unites us in religion is far more important than what divides us in the capacity to speak up for religious freedom.

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Here, you are falling into the mindset of some of the politicians Elder Christofferson talked about in the quote I gave in my last post. You are saying, in effect, that churches, like other charities that serve the public good, may be free of tax burden imposed by government -- so long as they keep their mouths shut about government and public policy and refrain from engaging in what Elder Christofferson called "the national debate on issues."

Frankly, I find that attitude odious and a bit frightening. And it's one reason why I support the call for action to preserve freedom of religion in our country and around the world.

So you would support the suppression of free speech among people of faith who associate themselves as bodies of believers.

No way to know on the Internet what country you are a citizen of, but that strikes me as un-American.

Please don't misrepresent what I said. I am in favor of free speech and freedom of religion. That doesn't mean that churches should get a free ride. They have the advantage of the same public services the rest of us do, yet we pay taxes and they don't. Tax-exempt status is a privilege, not a right, a privilege they get to enjoy in exchange for not engaging in certain activities. Should a church decide it's important for them to be able to endorse political candidates or parties, they are free to pay taxes like the rest of us and preach politics to their heart's content. There is no government oppression here. It's a choice the churches themselves make.

Again, churches do NOT have a right to tax-exempt status, and churches paying taxes does not equal lack of religious freedom. What Elder Holland is seeking is not freedom of religion--he's seeking special treatment for religious institutions.

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And does Sabbath day services and other teaching and faith promoting activities count as "charitable" or would churches and schools be taxed?

And if so, what would control the taxes being limited enough to allow for full functioning of a pastor as a pastor and not just as the guy who is overseeing the charity fundraisers, etc. and for the sharing of faith among lay members whether through ceremonies or sharing of personal testimony and wisdom from the pulpit and in classes?

No, religious ceremonies and instruction are not charitable activities. Helping the poor, caring for the sick, and helping victims of natural disasters are examples of charitable work.

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Please don't misrepresent what I said. I am in favor of free speech and freedom of religion. That doesn't mean that churches should get a free ride. They have the advantage of the same public services the rest of us do, yet we pay taxes and they don't. Tax-exempt status is a privilege, not a right, a privilege they get to enjoy in exchange for not engaging in certain activities. Should a church decide it's important for them to be able to endorse political candidates or parties, they are free to pay taxes like the rest of us and preach politics to their heart's content. There is no government oppression here. It's a choice the churches themselves make.

Again, churches do NOT have a right to tax-exempt status, and churches paying taxes does not equal lack of religious freedom. What Elder Holland is seeking is not freedom of religion--he's seeking special treatment for religious institutions.

No, the "Tax-exempt only if you stay out of politics" only goes back to the 1960s IIRC. Before then, it was the assumption that churches had not only the right, but the duty, to weigh in on public policy. Remember it was the churches that were some of the biggest supporters of abolition. Then there's Reverend Martin Luther King jr.

Originally, churches were tax-exempt simply because the government had no authority over them.

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I'm not clear on how that threatens freedom of religion. Tax-exempt status is not a right that churches--or anybody else--have. It is something they can enjoy as long as they don't back political parties or candidates. If they violate those conditions, they should lose their tax-exempt status. Then they could do all the political stuff they want.

Personally, I don't think churches should have blanket exemption from paying taxes. Rather, their charitable endeavors could be tax exempt, instead. That would encourage churches to engage in more charitable giving rather than buying fancy cars and clothing for their televangelists.

Even if they do retain tax-exempt status, there should be financial transparency so the IRS (not to mention members of the church) can know they're not taking improper advantage of that status.

"The power to tax is the power to destroy" is the basic concept of tax-exemption. Specialized taxes can be created to control the actions of a religious organization, as almost happened in the UK. "So.... you cannot require a temple recomment to enter the temple, or we will impose a major tax on you."

The temple in UK is already subject to property tax. The chuch is fighting that, and not sure where they are at on that.

Why would you want to have the government check on how we spend our money? Obviously you are a BIG government person, where we are controlled by a centralized auhority. There are those who think that is a dangerous proposition, expecially for the church. There are those who want to destroy the church, and your ideas are exactly the path to take for that destruction.

"You Mormons have billions of dollars, so you can afford to pay 50% tax if you really want to keep your temple worship secret." The temple makes the church vunerable to attack.

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It has nothing to do with the size of government.

A dictatorship can be small in size, but it is a "big government" in terms of control and power.

It has everything to do with the power of government.

>>See the First Amendment

I note that it is questionable whether it protects church-owned institutions, such as schools, adoption agencies, etc. Do you feel comfortable separating them from the umbrella of the church. This issue will be decided soon.

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cdowis:

That issue was decided with the ratification of the US Constitution. We are and have been a "Big Government" country since.

I'm comfortable with government's enacting laws regulating taxes. I am also fine with governments regulating public accommodations. I'm also fine with government's regulating the conduct between employer and employee. However I'm not fine with government's regulation of belief or practices beyond those few exceptions and normal health, and safety issues. Even then there must be an overriding justification for such regulations. IE: You can handle all the poisonous snakes you want but you can't force others to do so.

It is always open to discussion, and subject to change. Our laws weren't written on stone tablets. They were written on Hemp paper. ;)

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