Religious Freedom News
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“My beloved brothers and sisters, don’t walk! Run!"
- Elder Robert D. Hales
Yesterday, on October 1, 2017, Elder Robert D. Hales, one of the twelve apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, passed away. Among his many accomplishments, Elder Hales was a man deeply concerned about the right of every individual to choose and live according to their religious beliefs.
Quoting the prophet Joseph Smith, Elder Hales reiterated, “I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination [as for a Mormon….] It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul—civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.”
In a world that all too often is prompt to criticize and belittle others, Elder Hales taught the importance of tolerance and respect. He said, “No one should be criticized, persecuted, or attacked by individuals, or governments either, for what he or she believes about God.”
He decried those expressing hypocrisy and noted that “some are offended when we bring our religion into the public square, yet the same people who insist that their viewpoints and actions be tolerated in society are often very slow to give that same tolerance to religious believers who also wish their viewpoints and actions to be tolerated.”
He warned that “the general lack of respect for religious viewpoints is quickly devolving into social and political intolerance for religious people and institutions.” And that, “No government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience.”
He also emphasized that beliefs mean very little without the ability to express them. He declared the four cornerstones of religious freedom established by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as essential: the freedom to believe, share, assemble and live or exercise faith.
The urgency Elder Hales saw for protecting rights of conscience was unmistakable. Emphasizing the importance of individual volition, he said “As we face increased pressure to bow to secular standards, forfeit our religious liberties, and compromise our agency,” we must run “together with a covenant to act.” To members of his faith and others, he cried, “Don’t walk! Run!” Run to exercise and protect these freedoms.
In memory of Elder Hales and the many others that have sacrificed to protect our religious liberty, For Religious Freedom has developed a forum to assist others in finding resources to help them Act Now to protect religious freedom. Four steps are emphasized as outlined by Elder Hales.
- Become Informed. “Be aware of issues in your community that could have an impact on religious liberty” – Elder Hales. Individuals can Subscribe or Follow On Facebook to receive updates about what is occurring related to religious freedom. Members can also share articles with the community and recommend resources helping others to become informed.
- Join with Others. “In your individual capacity, join with others who share our commitment to religious freedom. Work side by side to protect religious freedom” – Elder Hales. All are invited to sign a Pledge and join a community with others similarly committed to supporting the four cornerstones of religious freedom. Resources are provided helping to identify other online forums, organizations and events focused on protecting religious freedom. All lists and recommendations are generated by members.
- Raise Your Voice. “We [all] have a responsibility to work together with like-minded believers, to raise our voices for what is right” – Elder Hales. Community members can Report Religious Freedom Concerns, alerting others to potential issues. They can share insightful Articles about religious freedom and also recommend actions assisting others to raise their voice.
- Be an Example in word and deed. We “all [are] invited, in our capacity as citizens, to share our personal witness with conviction and love” – Elder Hales. Be an example by sharing with others. Share Your Story. Share with others why your faith matters, what religious freedom means to you and what you are doing to protect religious freedom. As we share with others, we can increase understanding regarding different religious beliefs and inspire others to take action.
Elder Hales taught that “as those around us make choices about how to respond to our beliefs, we must not forget that moral agency is an essential part of God’s plan for all His children…. We have a responsibility to work together with like-minded believers, to raise our voices for what is right. …. all [are] invited, in our capacity as citizens, to share our personal witness with conviction and love — every man [and woman] according to his [or her own] mind.”