Thursday, October 20, 2011

Speaking Up

Before I started law school I was told that the discussions in law classes often challenged your beliefs. I knew that those kinds of situations were inevitable, especially considering I was leaving BYU to study at Arizona State. But for whatever reason, belief-challenging discussions didn’t seem to present themselves until this semester.

In addition to the Con Law class I am taking this semester I am also taking a seminar on free speech. Over the course of yesterday’s class the discussion turned to de-regulating the availability of pornography and allowing more swear words in TV broadcasts. Everyone in the room that contributed to the discussion appeared to be in support of both ideas, at least to a certain extent. I chose to stay quiet on those topics, although I later regretted my silence. Toward the end of class our professor quoted a story about John Stuart Mill and how Mill believed religious questions were irrelevant to his parliamentary duties, after which he said, “I wish the Republicans would take this suggestion to heart, given the recent comments about Mormonism being a cult. But that’s unlikely to happen.” Considering the amount of thought I have given to this subject as of late, I spoke up. I mentioned that several of the candidates in the debate on Tuesday night said things similar to Mill, although not all of them. As it turned out, no one else in the room had seen the debate, but everyone expressed surprise at the idea that a Republican would support an idea they agreed with. At that point, the girl next to me said, “let me guess, was it the Mormons?” After I said yes, she responded with, “it figures” (I wasn’t sure how to take that, and I still don’t).

I’m not saying that I’m opposed to people challenging my political ideologies, or that Mormonism is connected to the Republican Party. However, it’s interesting to learn how to contribute to religious/moral/political discussions when I feel so outnumbered, even at the #1 most "Mormon-friendly law school" of 2010. It causes me to wonder if I will continue to feel like a minority after I graduate. Either way, I'm definitely not at BYU anymore.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Presidential Primaries and the Religious Test Clause

Considering the fact that there are two members of the LDS church running for President, it seemed inevitable that the “Mormon issue” would rise to the surface again. Mitt Romney attempted to confront the criticism regarding his faith in the 2008 election, but it didn’t seem to quell the unwarranted fears of those that don’t understand LDS doctrine. Around the same time Mitt Romney confronted the religion issues facing his candidacy, Barack Obama was forced to fend off allegations that he was not a Christian and was, in fact, Muslim. Personally, I was shocked at how serious these religious issues were at the time. In this country of religious liberty I assumed that, as a society, our level of religious tolerance was higher than it proved to be. Last week, those ghosts of 2008 seemed to emerge all over again.

Article VI paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution provides that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” This Religious Test Clause clarifies that United States officials, including the President, are not required to accept a particular religion or faith in order to obtain their office. Certainly, when individual Americans voice a religious preference for candidates of public office they do not violate this clause; however, acting on such a preference violates its spirit. No candidate for the presidency of the United States should be excluded from consideration simply because they are Christian or not.

One thing I noticed this past week is a relatively high level of support for the church in the face of bigoted attacks. This support, coming from the general public and the media alike, seems to be greater than it was 3 to 4 years ago. It is likely that the church and its members will continue to be under the microscope in the near future, but I have faith that the American people in general will abide by the spirit of the Religious Test Clause and choose our next President according to the vital issues of our time and not religious misunderstandings.