Gay marriage debate shows threat to religious freedom

In a 2009 devotional at BYU-Idaho, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said something that I had never fully considered before he said it:

“Religious belief is obviously protected against government action. The practice of that belief must have some limits. ... But unless the guarantee of free exercise of religion gives a religious actor greater protection against government prohibitions than are already guaranteed to all actors by other provisions of the constitution (like freedom of speech), what is the special value of religious freedom? Surely the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion was intended to grant more freedom to religious action than to other kinds of action. Treating actions based on religious belief the same as actions based on other systems of belief should not be enough to satisfy the special place of religion in the United States Constitution.”

That Elder Oaks’ words were right on target needs little further evidence than some of the debate emerging following New York’s recent decision to define marriage as including those who come from the same sex.

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