Fairness for All

Introduction

Latter-day Saints have been long-time defenders of religious liberty, and have faced the brunt of some of the most egregious religious liberty violations in U.S. history (the Missouri extermination order, the imprisoning of Church leaders over polygamy, etc.). Our scripture and our rich history of sermons and teachings supply us with ample reason to support a strong tradition of property rights, religious liberty, and constitutional restraint.

It is no wonder, I think, that some members of the Church, particularly those with libertarian leanings, have reacted incredulously to the Church’s “Fairness for All” campaign, which they interpret to be a capitulation on some of these core principles. After all, non-discrimination laws — of any variety — are argued to be a fundamental violation of basic property rights. Preventing large housing units from making conscience-based decisions, while allowing small landlords the same rights, seems like more than a compromise; it feels like giving up something important. Continue reading

Russia’s New Proselytism Ban

For those who have not yet heard, Russia recently enacted an expansive new law against proselytism that may significantly hamper organized missionary efforts and severally curtail the freedom of members to speak about their faith to friends, and even family. This is a disturbing development for those who have deep love for the incredible Russian people. It is also another foreboding omen of increased repression and intolerance in Putin’s Russia. The First Presidency issued a very measured statement about the law, but has not yet announced concrete steps that it will take to come into compliance with the law.

Forum 18, a news service focused on religious freedom related topics, has published what appears to me to be the best description and analysis of the new law. What becomes clear when reading their analysis is how incredibly amorphous and broad the language of the law is. On an expansive reading of the law, it is possible that for Russians to even discuss their faith with their friends or neighbors without a permit will become illegal. And of course, the danger is that prosecutors and police officers in regions of Russia will take this law and use it to try to expel unfavored groups. Continue reading

Were the Ammonites pacifists?

Most readers will be familiar with the story of the people of Ammon. Because of Ammon’s missionary work to the Lamanites (and the work of his brothers), many of them were converted. They repented of their war-like ways and buried their weapons of war. They were attacked by other Lamanites but allowed themselves to be killed rather than fight back. They then emigrated to Nephite lands and were protected from further battle by the Nephites. Later, their children fought to help protect the Nephites and became the “stripling warriors.”

At first glance, it appears the Ammonites were clearly pacifists. But this post makes some good points worth considering.

To sum up, the Ammonites may not be considered pacifists because:

1)They allowed the Nephites to protect them through force of arms.
2)They try at one point to take up arms again but are convinced not to by Helaman (see Alma 53).
3)They provided material support to war efforts on their behalf.
4)They never encourage pacifism in others.
5)They never express a coherent anti-war philosophy.
Continue reading

Freedom and Fourth of July Fireworks

I have seen some pretty impressive firework shows in my life. In particular, I have been blown away by the craft and ingenuity on display at Disney World as music, fireworks, and narrative combine to tell incredible aerial tales.

But I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed watched fireworks more than while living in Utah. When standing at a high vantage point, one can see the simultaneous firework displays of scores of towns across the valley. And because of relatively lax laws regarding aerial fireworks, private individuals are also simultaneously launching high quality fireworks.

Individually, each of these displays cannot compare to the magic of a high quality professional display. But the collective power of the sky filled with a cacophony of colors and sounds is far greater than the power of any individual display. And because the fireworks are launched by a variety of individuals, the show lasts for much longer than a single professional one would. Continue reading