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Secularism is growing obstacle for Mormon Church

An

attorney for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints predicts

secularism will be one of the most significant obstacles facing the LDS

Church over the coming decade.

William

F. Atkin, associate general counsel for the LDS Church, made the

prognostication Saturday during an address at the 2010 J. Reuben Clark

Law Society Conference on the University of Utah campus.

"When

governments become neutral towards religion, we see less and less

protection of religion and religious activities," he said. "Secularism

in the world is neutral at best towards religions and hostile at worst.

We're seeing more and more that it is hostile, not just neutral,

towards religion."

In the United States, secularism could result in changing how the tax code treats nonprofit religious organizations.

"We

think there's going to be a tightening now of what kind of entities get

tax-exempt status," Atkin said. "Maybe churches are no longer going to

be viewed as such a positive influence in society — therefore (maybe)

they're not going to be granted tax-exempt status."

Abroad,

secularism is manifesting itself in a wave of anti-discrimination

measures in Europe that could, for example, prevent the LDS Church from

requiring its employees to adhere to a basic level of personal

worthiness and moral conduct.

"We're

seeing more and more, particularly in Western Europe, the countries who

are very secular are pushing anti-discrimination and not permitting any

religious exclusions," he said.

According

to Atkin, additional "trends that are here and coming in the next 5-10

years that have the possibility of impacting the church adversely"

include an increase in audits of church financial records as

governments searching for more revenue during a global economic

downturn and immigration restrictions that stand to severely limit the

number of visas available to the church for full-time missionaries.

He

also provided some context for the wide range of issues the LDS

Church's Office of General Counsel routinely confronts. "The Office of

General Counsel takes care of the legal affairs of the church. We want

the church to be legal wherever we are so that the enemies of the

kingdom cannot attack us because we've done something incorrectly."


E-mail: jaskar@desnews.com