Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Current Events . . .

Events in the past few weeks, it seems, have brought an end to the same-sex marriage debate in Idaho, and in the nation.

The Supreme Court declined to hear appeals on lower court rulings overturning same-sex marriage bans, effectively setting the lower courts’ decisions as the law of the land.

The debate has caused me some personal concern as I attempted to reconcile my faith and my belief in the U.S. Constitution. I could see no legal means that states – or the federal government – could use to justify same-sex marriage bans. I kept coming up against the bulwark of the 14thAmendment, specifically Section 1.

This equal protection clause was used to combat laws in the later years of the Idaho Territory and the first years of the state of Idaho which forbade Mormons from holding public office, serving on juries, and even voting. Ignoring the so-called “equal protection clause” while amending state constitutions (and, effectively, the U.S. Constitution through court decision) seemed hypocritical, to say the least.
Apparently, I need not worry that my faith is in question. Messages delivered at conference Oct. 4-5 gave me some comfort, and some things to think about.

First, from Dallin H. Oaks:

In public, what religious persons say and do involves other considerations. The free exercise of religion covers most public actions, but it is subject to qualifications necessary to accommodate the beliefs and practices of others. Laws can prohibit behavior that is generally recognized as wrong or unacceptable, like sexual exploitation, violence, or terrorist behavior, even when done by extremists in the name of religion. Less grievous behaviors, even though unacceptable to some believers, may simply need to be endured if legalized by what a Book of Mormon prophet called “the voice of the people.”

On the subject of public discourse, we should all follow the gospel teachings to love our neighbor and avoid contention. Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious. We should be wise in explaining and pursuing our positions and in exercising our influence. In doing so, we ask that others not be offended by our sincere religious beliefs and the free exercise of our religion. We encourage all of us to practice the Savior’s Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”

When our positions do not prevail, we should accept unfavorable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries. In any event, we should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation.

Next, from the official church spokesman:

The succession of federal court decisions in recent months, culminating in today’s announcement by the Supreme Court, will have no effect on the doctrinal position or practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is that only marriage between a man and a woman is acceptable to God. In prizing freedom of conscience and Constitutional guarantees of the free exercise of religion, we will continue to teach that standard and uphold it in our religious practices.

Nevertheless, respectful coexistence is possible with those with differing values. As far as the civil law is concerned, the courts have spoken. Church leaders will continue to encourage our people to be persons of good will toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or non-belief, and differences in sexual orientation.

The issue has also percolated through to our state officials. Says Idaho Gov. Butch Otter:

I continue to believe that the federal courts are mistaken in abandoning the sanctity of traditional marriage and in undermining the will of Idaho voters and each state’s right to define marriage," Otter said in a brief emailed press release. "But we are civil society that respects the rule of law. We have done all we can through the courts for now to defend traditional marriage in Idaho.

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