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Religion and 3 Cs for overcoming polarization

Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit
Notre Dame Law School professor Stephanie Barclay moderates a panel discussion during the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind., on Monday, June 28, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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As I covered a recent conference and heard an expert offer three “Cs” for overcoming polarization, it reminded me of an important position paper delivered by the chief lawyer for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The first of the expert’s three Cs — compromise, critique and celebrate — echoed a notable 2016 talk by Elder Lance B. Wickman, an emeritus General Authority Seventy and general counsel for the church.

Elder Wickman outlined a hierarchy of religious freedoms. He said Latter-day Saints should prioritize defending the innermost core of those freedoms but be willing to compromise on those outside the core.

“What I am suggesting is that if we want to preserve religious freedom and live in peace in a society that is increasingly intolerant of faith, then we will have to be very clear about what matters most and make wise compromises in areas that matter less,” Elder Wickman said then. “Because if we don’t, we risk losing essential rights that we simply cannot live without.”

(Read his full remarks here.)

The expert at the recent Notre Dame Law School Religious Liberty Summit was John Inazu, a professor of law and religion at Washington University in St. Louis.

Here’s a snapshot of his 3 Cs:

  • Compromise

“To me, religious freedom in this country is fundamentally about compromise and ... it doesn’t have to be winner-take-all. That also implies that everybody loses a little bit, and I think in our partisan wars and framing around some of these issues, we’re not willing to think about what true compromise and true sacrifice might mean and, actually, when you think about the heart of what all civil liberties are and religious liberty included, it’s a kind of compromise. We don’t have a theocracy precisely because we allow dissent in different kinds of religious practices or other things that really matter. And the only way to finally and fully figure out how to live together is through a kind of compromise. That doesn’t mean compromising your beliefs, your fundamental convictions, but it does mean a kind of political compromise.”

  • Critique

“There are a lot of people that are against any form of compromise ... We’re reticent to critique our friends and our allies when they step out of line, when they refuse to compromise, but the key to overcoming polarization will include some willingness to critique our own. So I think about on the right, the white evangelicals ... who do not tolerate religious freedom for everyone, who are actively out to suppress the rights, especially of American Muslims and others. There have to be, from white evangelical leaders, a critique of those voices, and a strong critique of those voices, even at the expense of mutual platforms and friendships, at some point. There are Republican elected officials who are actively against religious freedom for all, and there have to be critiques of those as well. There are progressive organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU, that are not fundamentally for religious freedom for all, and progressives on the left need to critique those for the sake of compromise.”

  • Celebrate

“We need to celebrate events, and here again I think about the social media context, where nobody likes to listen to nuance and nobody likes to listen to compromise and yet that’s fundamental, key to the success of all civil liberties, so we need to celebrate those voices, celebrate the stories that are nuanced, that are surprising, that are sometimes very ordinary, and think about how to support each other in the midst of this ... I think it’s important to celebrate the voices that are trying to do the more ordinary work of suggesting compromise, of suggesting the importance of religious freedom for all. We’re not going to get there on Twitter, and so we need to start doing this more in person, and I would encourage all of us to listen better to each other, to be more charitable in our understandings of each other.”

My recent stories

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What I’m reading

I highly recommend this interesting and informational story: 5 facts about one of the most influential and forgotten Latter-day Saint apostles.

Saturday is Pioneer Day in Utah. Elder Ronald A. Rasband recently told KSL-TV why the annual state holiday remains important. President Dallin H. Oaks spoke at a recent event and said the pioneers’ example of inclusion should be a guiding principle for church members: “We live in a time when inclusion is needed — in political relations, in cultural relations, in legal relations — and it’s not forthcoming in our society. As a church and as a culture, we need to lead out in demonstrating inclusion, not dissent, diversity, diversion or opposition.”

President Thomas S. Monson announced plans for a Nairobi Kenya Temple in April 2017. I covered President Russell M. Nelson’s visit to Nairobi in April 2018, when excited Kenyans longed for news of when the temple would be built. President Nelson told them it is easier for church leaders to build a temple than it is for them to build a people ready for the temple. “I don’t know how long it will take to build that temple,” he said then, “but let’s have a little contest: See if you can build your lives to be ready and your ancestral documentation to be ready for when the temple comes.” Now the church has announced that it will break ground for the Nairobi temple on Sept. 11. The Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Temple is scheduled on Aug. 21.

The Washington D.C. Temple will open its doors to the general public next year for the first time since 1974. The temple’s renovation was completed last year, but the open house originally scheduled last fall was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington Post’s highly respected religion reporter Michelle Boorstein covered this week’s announcement that the open house will be held from April 28-June 4, 2022.

Meet the nine new members of the Primary General Advisory Board.

Do you know anyone with the last name Butler? Do you know where that name comes from? One journalist with that name recently got an interesting assist from the Family History Library while gathering background for a documentary. The story includes an interesting tie to nearly every American president.

I’m sorry this story is behind a paywall at The Athletic, because it is delightful: “Why Bugs Bunny is the greatest athlete in movie history.” The short film “Baseball Bugs” is my personal favorite. I could watch it over and over. After reading this article, a rewatched it with our youngest daughter and then introduced her to the first of the trilogy of footraces between Bugs and Cecil the turtle.

Fascinating piece on how someone gets on a stamp, made more interesting to me because the person in question is Hall of Fame baseball player Yogi Berra.

Behind the scenes

The Church News’ Sydney Walker continued her excellent series on church councils by providing a rare glimpse inside the weekly meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Jeff Allred’s photos added greatly to the package.

The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather for their weekly meeting at the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather for their weekly meeting at the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf chat prior to The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints weekly meeting at the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf chat prior to The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints weekly meeting at the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News