I recently received an email that I hope proves to be untrue. It came from a credible source and it said that the White House this year would not display any “Christmas trees” as in years past. Instead, they would be designated “Holiday Trees.”
If we take Christ out of Christmas, why celebrate the holiday at all?
There are many rights and freedoms available to people living in the United States because of the creation of a Constitution by inspired men. That Constitution has brought about the freedom to participate in religious activities not only in this country but throughout the world.
Dallin H. Oaks recently gave an address to university students in Rexburg, Idaho. His comments in that discourse, I believe, are worth repeating here.
“Truly,” said Mr. Oaks, “this nation’s most important export is its Constitution, whose great principles stand as a model for the rights and protection of all flesh.”
The guarantee of religious freedom is included in the First Amendment to the Constitution. “Nevertheless, because governments have legitimate regulatory powers to protect the welfare of their citizens,” Mr. Oaks said, “the conflict between the constitutional freedom of the people and the responsibilities of the government is the central issue of religious freedom.
“The greatest infringements of religious freedom occur when the exercise of religion collides with other powerful influences in society. Among the most threatening collisions in the United States today are, one, the rising strength of those who seek to silence religious voices in public debates; and, two, perceived conflicts between religious freedom and the popular appeal of newly alleged civil rights.
“The tide of public opinion in favor of religion is receding,” said Mr. Oaks, “and that will impinge on religious freedom. In fact, the Proposition 8 election in California (a proposal to restore the law limiting marriage to a man and a woman) was not about civil rights, but about what equal rights demand and what religious rights protect. At no time did anyone question or jeopardize the civil rights of Proposition 8 opponents to vote or speak their views.
“The real issue in the Proposition 8 debate—an issue that will not go away in many years to come and for whose resolution it is critical that we protect everyone’s freedom of speech and the equally important freedom to stand for religious beliefs—is whether the opponents of Proposition 8 should be allowed to change the vital institution of marriage itself.
“Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights. We must not be coerced into silence by intimidation. We must insist on the freedom to preach the doctrines of our faith,” he said, “without fear of retaliation.”
Mr. Oaks went on to say, “We must be careful never to support or act upon the idea that a person must subscribe to some particular set of religious beliefs in order to qualify for a public office. Wise religious leaders and members will never advocate religious tests for public office. Fragile freedoms are best preserved when not employed beyond their intended purpose.”
“It was Christian principles of human worth and dignity that made possible the formation of the United States Constitution over 200 years ago, and only those principles in the hearts of a majority of our diverse population can sustain that Constitution today,” Mr. Oaks said.
“Religious values and political realities are so interlinked in the origin and perpetuation of this nation that we cannot lose the influence of Christianity in the public square without seriously jeopardizing our freedoms.”
I believe that the Constitution of this great land grants us the right to worship Almighty God according the dictates of our own consciences. But each of us, in turn, must grant to all others the same privilege; let them worship how, where or what they may.
Mr. Oaks said that while we must stand up for our religious beliefs, “we must speak with love, always showing patience, understanding and compassion toward our adversaries.”
As for “holiday trees” in the White House, I hope not.
Source: “Religious Freedom Is At Risk” by Marianne Holman, The Deseret News, week ending October 17, 2009.