Elder Oaks "Worst Person in the World" Says Keith Olbermann

Friday, October 16, 2009

[Video here] What in the world could Elder Oaks of the LDS Church have done to incite such bitter hatred from the liberal left? Turns out he was standing up for freedom of religion and speech. From the Article IV Blog:

Elder Oaks is member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Church”). He’s also a lawyer, a former professor of law at the University of Chicago, past President of BYU, and a former member of the Utah Supreme Court. He is a formidable legal and political thinker and a clear writer. His speech, given to students at BYU-Idaho (a college owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or “the Church”), has a simple thesis: There is a “battle” underway over “the meaning of religious freedom under the United States Constitution,” and that battle “is of eternal importance.” Nothing terribly surprising there, coming from a churchman. The controversy has arisen from Elder Oaks’ comments about what is happening now in the arena of religious freedom in the USA:

Unpopular minority religions are especially dependent upon a constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion. We are fortunate to have such a guarantee in the United States, but many nations do not. The importance of that guarantee in the United States should make us ever diligent to defend it. And it is in need of being defended. During my lifetime I have seen a significant deterioration in the respect accorded to religion in our public life, and I believe that the vitality of religious freedom is in danger of being weakened accordingly. (Emphasis added.)

Then Elder Oaks zeroed in on the problem of “silencing religious voices in the public square” and in the process, used the Proposition 8 battle as an example. In other words, he touched the “third rail” of the modern culture war: gay marriage. It’s important to note that Elder Oaks did not talk about gay marriage, only about the reaction to the active involvement of the Church and its members in supporting Proposition 8. In other words, the Oaks speech was about religious freedom, but it somehow earned him designation as one of the”worst people in the world” by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. (A badge of honor to some, I suppose.)

The Key Points of The Speech

So what did Elder Oaks say to incite such a venomous attack from the wild-swinging Olbermann? Well, this:

For example, a prominent gay-rights spokesman gave this explanation for his objection to our Church’s position on California’s Proposition 8:

“I’m not intending it to harm the religion. I think they do wonderful things. Nicest people. . . . My single goal is to get them out of the same-sex marriage business and back to helping hurricane victims.”

Aside from the obvious fact that this objection would deny free speech as well as religious freedom to members of our Church and its [Prop 8] coalition partners, there are other reasons why the public square must be open to religious ideas and religious persons. As Richard John Neuhaus said many years ago, “In a democracy that is free and robust, an opinion is no more disqualified for being ‘religious’ than for being atheistic, or psychoanalytic, or Marxist, or just plain dumb.”

Still looking for a statement worthy of “worst people in the world” designation? Maybe it was this:

[W]e must speak with love, always showing patience, understanding and compassion toward our adversaries. We are under command to love our neighbor (Luke 10:27), to forgive all men (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10), to do good to them who despitefully use us (Matthew 5:44) and to conduct our teaching in mildness and meekness (Doctrine and Covenants 38:41).

Even as we seek to speak with love, we must not be surprised when our positions are ridiculed and we are persecuted and reviled. As the Savior said, “so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12). And modern revelation commands us not to revile against revilers (Doctrine and Covenants 19:30).

Well, no, it probably wasn’t that. Maybe it was this:

[W]e must not be deterred or coerced into silence by the kinds of intimidation I have described. We must insist on our constitutional right and duty to exercise our religion, to vote our consciences on public issues and to participate in elections and debates in the public square and the halls of justice. These are the rights of all citizens and they are also the rights of religious leaders. While our church rarely speaks on public issues, it does so by exception on what the First Presidency defines as significant moral issues, which could surely include laws affecting the fundamental legal/cultural/moral environment of our communities and nations.

We must also insist on this companion condition of democratic government: when churches and their members or any other group act or speak out on public issues, win or lose, they have a right to expect freedom from retaliation.

Uh-oh. Now we are getting somewhere. Elder Oaks seems to be about to decry the retaliation and intimidation that Prop 8 opponents employed against Mormons – and many others – who supported Prop 8. I am talking about the publication of maps showing the homes of individuals who donated to the Yes on 8 campaign; boycotts of their businesses; identification of Mormons among the public lists of donors to the Yes campaign; and other admitted efforts at intimidating voters from exercising their Constitutional rights.

This is no joke, by the way. I remember hearing Fred Karger, the leader of the charmingly named Californians Against Hate, say on the Al Rantel show (KABC radio, Los Angeles) that the reason donors were being identified and harassed was to make sure they thought twice about donating the next time there is an election about same-sex marriage.

These two paragraphs are probably the most controversial of Elder Oaks’ speech:

Along with many others, we were disappointed with what we experienced in the aftermath of California’s adoption of Proposition 8, including vandalism of church facilities and harassment of church members by firings and boycotts of member businesses and by retaliation against donors. Mormons were the targets of most of this, but it also hit other churches in the pro-8 coalition and other persons who could be identified as supporters. Fortunately, some recognized such retaliation for what it was. A full-page ad in the New York Times branded this “violence and intimidation” against religious organizations and individual believers “simply because they supported Proposition 8 [as] an outrage that must stop.” The fact that this ad was signed by some leaders who had no history of friendship for our faith only added to its force.

It is important to note that while this aggressive intimidation in connection with the Proposition 8 election was primarily directed at religious persons and symbols, it was not anti-religious as such. These incidents were expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest. As such, these incidents of “violence and intimidation” are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic. In their effect they are like the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation. (Emphasis added.)

The bolded language seems to have driven some people up a wall. Note: Elder Oaks did not compare the harassment of Mormons and other Proposition 8 supporters to the evils inflicted on African-Americans during the civil rights era. He instead addressed the effect of those “incidents of violence and intimidation.”

Elder Oaks also said “we must insist on our freedom to preach the doctrines of our faith,” and that

“as advocates of the obvious truth that persons with religious positions or motivations have the right to express their religious views in public, we must nevertheless be wise in our political participation. . . . even the civil rights of religionists must be exercised legally and wisely. . . . The call of conscience — whether religious or otherwise — requires no secular justification. At the same time, religious persons will often be most persuasive in political discourse by framing arguments and positions in ways that are respectful of those who do not share their religious beliefs and that contribute to the reasoned discussion and compromise that is essential in a pluralistic society.”

Not exactly firebrand stuff, is it?[...]

So, Elder Oaks said, in essence, that religious expression is under fire in the United States and that religious people (indeed, all people) ought to be able to speak peaceably in the public square, about public issues, without fear of retaliation for doing so. That earned him the brickbats of the Left – who thus ironically proved Elder Oaks’ point.

Talk radio host and cultural commentator Dennis Prager often says that the Left believes that because they are inherently and unquestionably right, their tactics can never be legitimately questioned. The reaction to the Oaks speech certainly seems to support that thesis. A calm, closely-reasoned speech that urges love and tolerance, but that also urges that religious people should be able respectfully to stand their ground on moral issues, without fear of retaliation, produces a firestorm of
criticism. Good. That means the debate is going on. May the best, most principled arguments win.

[Read the full text of Elder Oak's Speech here.]


Olbermann is such a baby. Who outside of grade school writes a "Worst Person in the World" list? And when he could have included child-molestors, rapists, totalitarian dictators on the list, he puts a clergyman and two reporters at Fox he disagrees with?!!

What dismal number have his ratings reached now? How long until all of America is on that list for ignoring his immature rants?

I lost any respect I could have had for Olbermann when it came out that he was sleeping with a young reporter that he in turn pulled strings to get hired on at MSNBC. She must have an iron will to succeed (and an iron stomach) to sleep with that one!

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight. Out of all the murderers, child molesters, rapists, terrorists, etc on the earth today, Olbermann lists a man who is trying to remind people about respect and religious freedom as the 3rd worst person in the world? I think Olbermann's opinion indicates more about where he himself ranks. I hope someone calls him out on this.

Anonymous said...

I've never listened to Olbermann, and now I never will!! Now I know that whatever he is saying is not what my God wants me to hear.

Anonymous said...

The point of Elder Oak's talk was to show that the Church will be descriminated against for their beliefs, but to stand ground and not retaliate.
Now being called "The Worst Person In The World"
Thanks for proving Elder Oak's point, Olbermann. Your making a prophet out of him.

Anonymous said...

I heart that last comment. Well said!!

Rachel said...

It is nothing short of hilarious that Elder Oaks is on a "Worst People" list. I loved this post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts along with it!

Anonymous said...

I believe Elder Dalin Oaks to be another Mormon lyer and a scam.

The Mormon Church spends most of its time defending its self, hes just one more example.

If we want to protect our "Freedoms" & the Constitution we need to get Mormons out of US politics

So... you want to deny Mormons their freedom of speech and their right to participate in democracy? Who's the bigot here again?

Unfortunately for you freedom to practice religion is protected by the First Amendment. Does it bother you at all that you are against the First Ammendment?

If you were paying attention (and not full of blinding hate), you would see that the LDS Church almost never responds to popular criticism. Case in point: Olbermann's childish rant.

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