Education Week: How political free speech influences the LDS Church

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Michael Dwyer
Counterprotesters stand on the periphery of a “Free Speech” rally staged by conservative activists on Boston Common, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Boston. BYU professor Quin Monson addressed the paradox between First Amendment rights and religous intolerance in his Education Week address. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Mormons are uniquely positioned to foster discussions about religious freedom despite facing hostility from both sides of the political spectrum, BYU political science professor Quin Monson said during his Aug. 22 Education Week address.

Monson said religious “nones” have been increasing over time and that up to one-third of 18- to 24-year-olds do not identify with a religion.

“Big picture here is that we’re seeing an increasingly more secular American society,” Monson said.

Monson said social issues, especially those surrounding marriage, have also changed during this shift in religious behavior.

With data from the Pew Research Center, Monson showed that attitudes towards gay marriage have completely switched over the past 14 years.

In 2001, 57 percent of the country did not support gay marriage while 35 percent did. In 2015, 57 percent supported gay marriage while 39 percent did not.

Both political sides and all religious group have also trended up in its support of gay marriage, according to Monson’s presentation.

Monson said attitudes toward the importance of the Sabbath across the country have dropped 24 percentage points, while church attendance has dropped 28 points.

“Look at what’s happened in terms of our attitudes about marriage in the intervening years, what’s likely to happen to our attitude about the Sabbath day in the coming years, and it will tell you a lot about where we can strengthen our own families and children and grandchildren and so on,” Monson said.

Monson said there’s an American paradox between religious freedom as guaranteed in the First Amendment and intolerance and how social norms govern what we see as acceptable to say and do regarding other religions.

Monson said leaders from the political left tend to denounce anti-Muslim rhetoric while leaders from the right tend to give mixed or even blatantly anti-Muslim answers.

Monson challenged listeners to seek fairness for all groups, whether religious or social. He said Mormons are in a unique position between political groups because they receive hostility from both political sides.

“If we want to be treated in a way that allows us to observe our religious beliefs and act as we want religiously, we have to stand up for people with whom we sometimes disagree,” Monson said. “We have to agree with them on something; we have to get behind this idea of fairness.”

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