By Kent Larsen
LDS Politician Worries That War Will Hurt Religious Freedom
PROVO, UTAH -- Speaking at BYU's 8th annual International Law and
Religion Symposium, Senator Gordon Smith (R-Oregon), one of five
members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the
U.S. Senate, worried that the current war on terrorism would lead
some governments to "sacrifice some freedoms for security," and
worried that religious freedoms would be among those sacrificed.
Smith's comments were echoed by other speakers at the three-day
symposium which ended yesterday.
Organizers of the group say that the symposium is the world's leading
religious liberty conference, drawing international legal and
religious scholars annually to look at religious freedom around the
world. Smith, and Jorgen S. Nielsen, director of the Center for the
Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at the University of
Birmingham, addressed the opening session of the conference.
Smith also pointed out that some western countries, including
Germany, France and Belgium, have recently embraced laws that list
some religions as "dangerous cults," allowing prosecution of priests
and lay leaders if they are engaged in "mental manipulation." "Even a
Mormon Sunday School teacher could be prosecuted under some of these
laws," said Smith.
But he offered some hope for the future of religious freedom, saying
that it is based on democracy, "The dictatorships don't allow freedom
of speech, religion and thought," Smith said. "And I can't think of a
democracy that has attacked another democracy."
But Professor Nielsen, the other speaker in the opening session,
noted that religion is sometimes seen as the cause of conflict in the
world, in such places like Bosnia, Northern Ireland and, of course,
Israel. But, he said, its not that simple, "Religion is not the cause
of war. It is part of the armory," said Nielsen. "It is used to
broaden support for your side."
Nevertheless, added J. Reuben Clark Law School Dean H. Reece Hansen,
the religious overtones in the current war will be "profoundly
important for the future of our world." Now, more than ever, "there's
not been a more pressing time" to allow religious freedom and
"appreciate each other and honor differences as a human family."
Will war spur crackdown on religious freedoms?
Deseret News 8Oct01 T4
By Jeffrey P. Haney: Deseret News staff writer
Y. speaker says there's no better time for tolerance