Saturday, March 24, 2007

Obama and the Proper Role of Religion in Government

Over the past two months, I have gained an appreciation for Edward Lalone's writings. He is a fellow LDS supporter of Barack Obama. His thoughts are very insightful.

There was recently an email sent out to the Mormons for Obama listserv asking about Mormons and Romney vs Obama. Brother Lalone sent out a reply, which I asked him to repost as a blog entry on the Mormons for Obama blog, which he did.

I'll post the Romney stuff later, but I want to concentrate today on one aspect that he raised as it relates to Obama and the proper role of religion in government.

To begin we should probably take a look at D&C 134 because this section of the Doctrine and Covenants gives special treatment to our beliefs on the role of government and of individuals in relation to government. I want to draw special notice to D&C 134:4 and then to something Obama has said.

D&C 134:4 explains that,

"We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others..." - D&C 134:4

Obama has said,

"Liberalism teaches us to be tolerant of other people's religious beliefs, so long as those beliefs don't cause anyone harm or impinge on another's right to believe differently."

Obama's position on the role of religion in public policy is also consistent with the views which have been expressed by the general authorities. In the words of Elder Oaks,

"Some moral absolutes or convictions must be at the foundation of any system of law. This does not mean that all laws are so based. Many laws and administrative actions are simply a matter of wisdom or expediency. But many laws and administrative actions are based upon the moral standards of our society. If most of us believe that it is wrong to kill or steal or lie, our laws will include punishment for those acts. If most of us believe that it is right to care for the poor and needy, our laws will accomplish or facilitate those activities. Society continually legislates morality. The only question is whose morality and what legislation. In the United States, the moral absolutes are the ones derived from what we refer to as the Judeo-Christian tradition, as set forth in the Bible—Old Testament and New Testament...To avoid any suggestion of adopting or contradicting any particular religious absolute, some secularists argue that our laws must be entirely neutral, with no discernable relation to any particular religious tradition. Such proposed neutrality is unrealistic, unless we are willing to cut away the entire idea that there are moral absolutes."

I'll add here some words of Barack Obama that I think are relevant on the subject that Edward left out:

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn't want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles. (emphasis added)

Click here to read more of Edward Lalone's Post.
Click here to read Barack Obama's Speech on Religion.


1 comment:

James said...

Hooray! Hooray! More LDS Obama supporters. I've got an article about Romney and why I can't support him at (Mormons For Peace)

So far Obama is the only person I do feel comfortable supporting. I'm so excited there is a Mormons4Obama website! I had no idea. I can't get the link to work but I'll keep trying and get the word out.