This morning, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held a news conference to make a statement regarding Laws, Religious Rights, and the Individual Rights of people who identify as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender).
Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the Twelve Apostles of the church, introduced the conference, saying that such news conferences are relatively infrequent and usually called only to make an announcement or when they have something significant to say. He clarified that no changes in doctrine or policy were being announced, but that the church did have something significant to say regarding the increased tensions between advocates of religious rights and advocates of gay rights.
Short statements were then given by Sister Neill F. Marriott of the church’s Young Women general presidency, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Twelve Apostles of the church, and Elder Jeffery R. Holland, also of the Twelve Apostles.
Video of the conference can be viewed at http://youtu.be/iTLVjL7g7LA?t=48m56s (At this time the video appears not to have been edited from the live streaming, so it starts at minute 48:56) .
Sister Marriott explained that the church’s doctrine that sexual relations other than between a man and a woman who are married are contrary to the laws of God “comes from sacred scripture and we are not at liberty to change it,” But she also emphasized that God is merciful and His “heart reaches out to all of His children equally and He expects us to treat each other with love and fairness.”
Sister Marriott also declared that “We are at our best as fellow citizens when the push-pull of different viewpoints, freely and thoroughly aired in national debate, leads ultimately to compromise and resolution and we move on as a nation, stronger than before.”
Because the church is frequently asked about its position on the legal issues involved, Elder Oaks provided the following principles of the Church’s official position:
- “We claim for everyone the God-given and Constitutional right to live their faith according to the dictates of their own conscience, without harming the health or safety of others.“
- “We acknowledge that the same freedom of conscience must apply to men and women everywhere to follow the religious faith of their choice, or none at all if they so choose.“
- “We believe laws ought to be framed to achieve a balance in protecting the freedoms of all people while respecting those with differing values.“
- “We reject persecution and retaliation of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief, economic circumstances or differences in gender or sexual orientation.“
Elder Oaks cited recent incidents where religious people have suffered job or personal loss because of they have raised their voice publicly in support of their religious beliefs, or donated to a political cause, or voted in an election according to their religious convictions and he declared “When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against…our democracy is the loser. Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender.”
Elder Oaks also declared for the church, “We call on local, state and the federal government to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals,families, churches and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation.”
Elder Holland followed, speaking more on the same issue, enumerating more specifically the religious rights of religious institutions, businesses owned by religious organizations or people, and religious families and individuals. He gave the following examples:
“A latter-day saint physician who objects to performing abortions or artificial insemination for a lesbian couple should not be forced against his or her conscience to do so. Especially when others are readily available to perform that function.”
“A neighborhood catholic pharmacist who declines to carry the ‘morning after pill’ when large pharmacy chains readily offer that item, should likewise not be pressured into violating his or her conscience by bullying or boycotting.”
The church’s newsroom release is here:
NOTE: This post has been updated to include the statement by Elder Oaks calling on governments to protect religious rights while also protecting the rights of citizens who identify as LGBT.