Elder Oaks on Religious Freedom and the Proposition 8 Aftermath

Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke at BYU-Idaho today on religious freedom but garnered coverage for his remarks on the lasting effects of Proposition 8.

The anti-Mormon backlash after California voters overturned gay marriage last fall is similar to the intimidation of Southern blacks during the civil rights movement, a high-ranking leader in the LDS Church says in a speech to be delivered Tuesday.

More than just commenting on Prop 8, Elder Oaks’ talk “Religious Freedom” deals with some of the concerns he has with those trying to silence religious voices in political debate and the conflict of religious freedom with “newly alleged civil rights.”

Apparently anticipating the attention this would get Elder Oaks spoke with the AP reporter before the talk.

In an interview Monday before the speech, Elder Oaks said he did not consider it provocative to compare the treatment of LDS Church members in the election’s aftermath to that of blacks in the civil rights era, and said he stands by the analogy.

“It may be offensive to some — maybe because it hadn’t occurred to them that they were putting themselves in the same category as people we deplore from that bygone era,” he said. . .

In an interview Monday, Elder Oaks said the Proposition 8 saga was one of several trends that motivated him to deliver the address, but it was “not the trigger.”

“There are civil rights involved in this — the right to speak your mind, to participate in the election,” Elder Oaks said. “But you don’t have a civil right to win an election or retaliate against those who prevail.”

Elder Oaks said he is specifically concerned about a movement toward using hate crimes laws to prosecute or threaten preachers who preach that homosexual acts are sinful.

Elder Oaks’ address also rejects any religious test for public office. He said that if “a candidate is seen to be rejected at the ballot box primarily because of religious belief or affiliation, the precious free exercise of religion is weakened at its foundation …”

In the interview Monday, Elder Oaks said he was referring in part to the 2008 presidential bid of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose LDS faith troubled some evangelicals.

The LDS Newsroom has a news release “Apostle Says Religious Freedom Is Being Threatened.”

Elder Oaks’ talk “Religious Freedom” transcript.

31 thoughts on “Elder Oaks on Religious Freedom and the Proposition 8 Aftermath

  1. Dan

    Jeez, what the heck is “threatened?” Christians make up, what, 80% of this country? Our system of law is designed by a mixture of secular principles and Judeo-Christian morality. I guess the Founding Fathers should have nixed that whole secular thought process and stuck solely with religious rule.

    It’s disappointing to see this kind of talk, though I am betting we will never hear this kind of talk from Elder Oaks in New York City. He says this to red meat eating BYU-I students, so much in their bubble that they feel so threatened to speak freely about their religion in Idaho!

    I’ll tell you when you should be concerned about religious freedom actually being threatened here in America. When religions only represent half the population in this country and the First Amendment is repealed. That’s when religious freedom is truly under threat in this country. Anything before that is posturing a victim position.

    Maybe Christianity needs to be lessened here in America. All this power has truly corrupted it, and it needs to be a minority again to truly hark back to its roots and really be Christ-like to others.

  2. Javelin

    I don’t see the Mormons being treated badly because of Prop 8. Sure, some loss their job because they didn’t know that a contribution becomes public record, but most of us still go to work, school, Wal-Mart without fear.

    I see the real issue here to be about those of us who voted against Prop 8 but cannot say so in church. There was so much misinformation brought into church during the First Presidency announcement. I found it strange to hear from the pulpit how churches are losing their tax exemptions, when the church in New Jersey volunteered to pay taxes on their gazebo which sits on public land.

  3. Jack Mormon

    Javelin – if just one Mormon lost a job because a contribution to the Prop 8 campaign became public record, that’s bad treatment. No one should ever lose a job because of lawful off-the-job political activity, unless they breach a clearly-publicized “morals clause”.

    What’s of greater interest is that Elder Oaks’ speech took place less than 24 hours after the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Harry Reid had criticized the Church’s involvement in the Prop 8 campaign. While the timing appears fortuitous, I don’t believe there is a connection, because Elder Oaks did not mention Senator Reid by name in the speech.

  4. Javelin


    Worse than the few Mormons who lost their jobs is the thousands of gays who were denied the right to marry. When one loses their job, they can get another one. When one loses their right to marry the person they love, they can’t get around that. I would say that discriminating a minority group of people is immoral.

    Back to Elder Oaks comment, it is silly to say that the anti-Mormon backlash is comparable to the civil rights backlash. No one is getting killed for voting yes on 8. I haven’t seen any police officers spray Mormon missionaries with high-powered water hoses. It’s just silly to make the comparison.

  5. Dan

    Bad treatment? Comparing Mormons to blacks fighting the civil rights is insulting to those who died fighting for their civil rights. Losing some jobs? Jeez man, blacks couldn’t go to school! They were forced to the back of buses. They were lynched solely because they were black. Show examples of Christians in America lynched because they were Christian. Show where they are actually discriminated against because of their religion. Worse in this comparison is the fact that blacks didn’t choose to be black, but those who follow Christianity choose that path.

    Personally I am tired of hearing Christians take on the persecution complex. Christians are not persecuted in this country. They are, at this moment, in charge. They dictate the path of this country. If they get some push back, it is not persecution, it is not victimization. Jeez, people, stop the whining and be Christ like men.

  6. mark

    You are reaping what you sowed by sticking your nose and fat wallet into another state’s Human Rights issue. The state of Utah’s Mormon and non Mormon residents suffer for you bigotry, and you deserve the title HATE STATE, you earned it. My entire maternal extended family are LDS members, (who all love and respect me as openly gay) and I’ll never return to visit them inside Utah…..NEVER!

  7. mark

    LDS you might not want to make comparrisons to Black’s oppression.
    SERIOUSLY you stated they were marked with the sin of CAIN,, discriminated against a Black Boy Scout and lost a huge lawsuit to NAACP. Your temple thugs MURDERED the body guard of the thrown out elder, who dared ordain a Black man into your priesthood.
    THESE cases made your miraculous epiphany that Blacks could join the priesthood….what a coincidence.

  8. mark

    Oaks LIED saying no one threatened or suppressed the No on prop 8 supporters. FOUR yes on prop 8 sent BLACKMAIL letters attempting to extort $10,000.00 from No on prop 8 donors. They admitted sending these blackmail letters which is punishable by 4 years of prison and thousands of dollars of fines. One of the four was an LDS lawyer.
    There are video tapes of No on prop 8 homes and driveways vandalized.

  9. mark

    EVERY donor on any initiative KNOWS their donation is PUBLIC RECORD.
    don’t claim anyone didn’t Know this in advance, how do you think those 4 blackmailer’s got names and addresses of No on prop 8 donors?

  10. mark

    I knew and loved visiting Utah, we went annualy. My great grandparents lived in the Territory of Utah, My grandfather at 16yo survived standing next to the mine cave in which killed his father,, and took on the responsibility of raising 9 siblings, one still in the womb. My mother drove forklifts at the Navy base in WW 11, I was blessed Mormon at birth, as were my brothers. I spent summers at family reunions in Price canyon and skiied Park City at Easter in short sleeved shirts.
    I know Utah and LDS. The mutant BUSY BODIES like Buttlar aren’t the Mormons I know.

  11. David H. Sundwall Post author

    mark –

    Thank you for sharing your Utah and LDS bona fides.

    I’m sorry you don’t want to come back to Utah but you’re welcome to if you change your mind.

    While I appreciate comments, I will start spamming yours if you don’t spare us your venting.

  12. gomez

    Dan, I don’t think Elder Oaks was comparing the Prop 8 situation to those blacks who fought for their civil rights or to their general treatment during that time. I think he was comparing it to the specific incidents of voter intimidation.

  13. Ray

    Elder Oaks’ comments were a stretch. I wish he had stated things a bit differently. What bothers me about the church’s position on this issue and others such as the ERA, as that it is always against any expansion of human rights, seldom for. And since he brought up Civil Rights, what exactly did the church do to expand civil rights back in the 1960s? My recollection is nothing, nada, zippo.

  14. LRC

    “EVERY donor on any initiative KNOWS their donation is PUBLIC RECORD.”

    To be fair, for many of the Mormon donors, this point was not, NOT emphasized whatsoever. They had donation forms in their foyers with fine print on the back side of the forms. While there are some politically savvy members in California, the vast majority were probably unaware that their donations would become a matter of public record. And church leaders who visited members in their homes and called them to persuade them to donate really didn’t emphasize the public record stuff very much.

    At the same time, people who were affected by boycotts and/or lost jobs (most of whom were voluntary resigners, not involuntary firees, for the record), were targeted Because They Supported Proposition 8, NOT BECAUSE THEY WERE MORMONS.

    If Mormons were losing jobs simply because they were LDS, that would be a story about religious persecution. But that is not this story.

  15. Ben

    Dan, you’re misreading Oaks through your usual leftist bias. He’s not comparing Mormons to civil rights workers. He’s comparing the backlash against Mormons to the backlash against civil rights workers. Perhaps that’s too fine a distinction for you to see through your leftist goggles.

  16. Chris H.

    Leftist goggles? Dan, WTF? Why haven’t you told me about these goggles? I want some. Since I likely cannot find them here in Provo, will you send me some to me?

  17. Chris H.


    I would recommend checking out the bookstore at the New School. If anyone would have leftist goggles, it would be them. Don’t forget to get me one.

  18. MiVu

    Retaliation against even 1 person cannot be tolerated in a free and democratic society — it doesn’t have to be against a minimum # of people before it should be designated as wrong, or meet a certain percentage. Wrong is wrong when it comes to retaliating against those who voted for a proposition that ultimately won. This response is out of line no matter how you look at it: “I’ll tell you when you should be concerned about religious freedom actually being threatened here in America. When religions only represent half the population in this country and the First Amendment is repealed. That’s when religious freedom is truly under threat in this country. Anything before that is posturing a victim position.” Just replace the word “religion” with Jews and re-read it — I’ll tell you when you should be concerned about Jewish freedom actually being threatened here in America. When Jews only represent half the population in this country and the First Amendment is repealed. That’s when Jewish freedom is truly under threat in this country. Anything before that is posturing a victim position. — in light of crimes against Jews even when they represented the majority in society that’s an assinine argument and in that light it becomes very apparent how bigoted the statement is. The reason why everyone needs to be concerned about post-voting intimidation, no matter what their personal views are, is because when it’s tolerated or ignored in instances that don’t have a direct effect on you personally, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes routinely acceptable and you become a victim of it as well. Too many who have commented here have gone off on tangents instead of debating what was actually said. You can try to excuse it all you want, but the “cause” does not and should not ever justify the means. Never once did the LDS church ask its members to intimidate or discriminate against those opposed to Prop 8, in fact, quite the contrary – the LDS church leaders exhort again and again to be kind, tolerant and peaceful. The best thing leaders for gay rights can do to move a few more notches up the public respect ladder is publicly reprimand those who retaliated. I’m not trying to say that there was never an incident where a pro Prop 8 voter didn’t act inappropriately toward an opponent, but the LDS church never sent out emails or instructions to masses of people to use boycotting or any other such tactics. What’s really difficult to wrap my mind around is that those upset about Prop 8 passing were so unconcerned about publicly calling for retaliation — as if they expected the masses to support them in it, and that’s exactly the point Oaks is trying to illuminate. We should ALL be concerned, very very concerned and disturbed by that.

  19. grandmap

    I think that we are ALL forgetting the one element here. A loving Father placed us all here on this earth to make our own choices, which should not be forced on another…be it black,white, gay, straight..etc. We DONT have all the answers other than we are His children and in the end each indivudual will be judged according to his/her works. If you want to make a particular lifestyle choice, then that is your decision, and your responsibility to your Maker when your life is complete. I just ask that you don’t flaunt, waive or parade it around. We are all on different emotional/spiritual planes on this earth and sometimes we become a little too (in)human and forget to respect the rights of others and we shout and scream that we are victims. I say let’s all leave our “victimization” aside and just be decent respectful people.

  20. Benjamin

    Dan you’re very right about the weirdness of the civil rights comparison in the light of the Church’s stand about black civil rights during the 1960’s. It’s almost as though some leaders have some sort of historical amnesia or something.

  21. Stephen

    Tying into the aftermath of Mormon involvement with Proposition 8, ABC 4 in Salt Lake City is reporting this morning that LDS documents regarding LDS opposition to gay/lesbian marriage may be raised at the federal trial on Proposition 8 going on right now in San Francisco. According to the article:

    “ABC 4 News is being told that some of the LDS Church’s activities could be brought up at the California federal trial on the future of gay marriage.

    According to our sources, the San Francisco City Attorney has shown interest in and is expected to soon receive hundreds of documents about the LDS Church’s opposition to gay marriage.

    ABC 4 News is also being told that copies of these documents were sent by special courier to the City Attorney’s office and they were sent in just the last few days.

    Again, according to our sources, the San Francisco City Attorney, Dennis Herrera, requested, perhaps, as many as 1,500 copied documents about the LDS Church’s opposition to gay marriage.

    The documents reportedly deal with the LDS Church’s earlier efforts to defeat gay marriage movements in other states, efforts going back a number of years.”

    The full article is at http://www.abc4.com/content/news/state/story/Will-LDS-Church-documents-surface-at-California/wkS0bvB77kSpGjgHwMM90g.cspx

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