by Lindsay Bragg
Senator Joseph Lieberman highlighted the similarities between members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Orthodox Jews as he spoke at Tuesday’s Forum.
“I do feel a special connection to the Mormon faith and to BYU because of the principles it stands for,” he said.
Lieberman spoke of a common bond between people of different faiths. They are joined together by a common belief in God.
“My Jewish faith is central to my life,” Lieberman said. “It has given me foundation, order and a sense of purpose in my life.”
He spoke of some of the rules Orthodox Jews are expected to follow. There are standards about what Jews can eat and when and customs regarding standards of dress, especially for Orthodox Jewish women.
The two faiths also share another striking similarity.
“Central to my faith and of course the Mormon faith is observing the Sabbath,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman is firm in his devotion to observing the Sabbath. He will not ride in cars on the Sabbath and he tries to avoid working between sundown on Friday and sundown on Saturday. At the beginning of his career, he said people were irritated or even angry when he would turn down invitations to events on the Sabbath. As people discovered he did this routinely and consistently, they were less upset.
Lieberman does vote on important issues on the Sabbath. He doesn’t want to deprive his constituents of their representation.
“When life intersects with religious law, life has to triumph, especially on the Sabbath which is a day to celebrate God’s gift of life,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman doesn’t see the Sabbath as an obligation. He describes it as one of the purest joys of his life.
“It started as a directive, but we observe it as a gift,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman also said America is a nation that defines itself not by physical borders, but by common beliefs. Anyone trying to remove faith from the public square is doing something unnatural.
“America has been from the beginning a faith-based initiative,” Lieberman said.
Religion is a fundamental aspect of American history and culture. The Declaration of Independence describes people as “being endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights.” The foundation of our government is built on religion.
“[The First Amendment] guarantees a freedom of religion, not a freedom from religion,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman commented on American’s tolerance for different religions. He said he felt inspired and empowered by John F. Kennedy’s election. Every time a door opens for one group of people, it makes it easier for others to open it as well.
“[There is] an American spirit of generosity, tolerance and acceptance of religious differences,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman was the first Orthodox Jew nominated for a presidential office when he ran for Vice President in 2000. He feels his ticket was judged based on policies, not religious affiliation.
“A candidate does not give up the freedom of religion when they run for political office,” Lieberman said.
With Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, he hopes voters will vote based not on faith, but on personal qualities.
“Americans will be challenged again to be true to the principle of religious freedom,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman said his experience with members of the LDS Church has led him to see members in a positive light.
“The greatest argument against this bigotry [against the LDS Church] should be the conduct of individual men and women of the Church,” Lieberman said in a Q-and-A following the Forum. “Don’t hesitate to speak up in your own defense, because you’ve got a lot to defend.”
Lieberman finished by dissuading people’s pessimism of the 21st century. He said it will be another great century, but we have to make it so. Our values can be a source of strength.
“The combination of faith, which leads to hope, good values and hard work leads to a good result,” Lieberman said.