The following press release originally appeared on Newsroom.
The setting Monday was fitting for a panel on interfaith cooperation. An Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined a Catholic cardinal, a Pentecostal scholar and a rabbi at a Catholic university in the United States for its inaugural religious freedom summit.
His Eminence Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York since 2009, delivered the keynote at the University of Notre Dame’s first Religious Liberty Summit. Three others then spoke: Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Dr. Jacqueline Rivers, a Pentecostal and the director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies; and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York.
Elder Cook said that too often today the good of religion is overlooked or viewed negatively. Borrowing a phrase from one Jewish leader, he lamented how many today are “tone deaf to the music of faith.” Thus, the Apostle spoke about two of the blessings that flow from the religious impulse: accountability and good works.
“Accountability to God for our relationships with each other is a powerful force for good and strongly supports democracy,” Elder Cook said. “Being accountable sustains and blesses the values that are most important for societal unity.”
Elder Cook noted how religion has moved religious people, such as William Wilberforce (Great Britain) and the Quakers (early America) to abolish slavery. He also pointed to the animating force of faith in people such as Martin Luther King Jr., who promoted civil rights in the United States in the 1960s.
Elder Cook said some people claim that upholding the principles embedded in the U.S. Constitution (such as religious freedom) does not square with protecting the rights of minority groups. He pushed back, saying that support of the Constitution and advocacy for “strong, peaceful efforts to overcome racial and social injustice are not opposites. Eliminating racism at all levels needs to be accomplished. And, historically, religious conviction has been one of the great forces in accomplishing that goal.”
Helping the world better recognize the good that people of faith do must be a joint project, Elder Cook said.
“My plea today is that all religions work together to defend faith and religious freedom in a manner that protects people of diverse faith as well as those of no faith,” the Apostle said. “Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, Muslims, Latter-day Saints and [people of] other faiths must be part of a coalition of faiths that succor, act as a sanctuary and promulgate religious freedom across the world. We must not only protect our ability to profess our own religion, but also protect the right of each religion to administer its own doctrines and laws.”
He challenged summit attendees to “tack against the prevailing winds of disbelief and division. You will know best how to accomplish this and stand as a beacon of belief and unity in a world that often devalues both.”