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University of Utah President Michael K. Young says religious freedom on defensive

Published: Monday, April 4 2011 10:42 p.m. MDT

ARGUMENT 3: RELIGION HAS A NEGATIVE IMPACT

Young said this argument likens religion to corporate entities. It holds that religions, like corporations, are usually motivated by money and power and are prone to socially harmful behavior and misconduct and need to be regulated heavily. Religions endanger social justice, harmony and diversity.

These three arguments may pose a threat to religious liberty, but Young cautioned against casting the arguments proponents as enemies. "I don't think these people are, for the most part, ill intentioned. I don't think they are out there saying, 'Let's see if we can suppress a religion today,'" Young said. "That is not what is going on."

Young admitted that even though he sees the danger of these arguments, they are not even on the public's radar.

Young said polling data shows that the majority of Americans believe religion is essential, but also think the amount of protection religion has is about the right amount. They are more worried about the government promoting and sustaining religion. "The perception is not that there is some problem arising in this gradual way," Young said.

But if an incremental, and non-dramatic, erosion of religious liberty is to be stopped, Young said that people need to be attentive to the problem and not rely on institutions like the LDS Church to monitor it. He said people should be on the lookout for problems — particularly on the local level that might escape attention.

Young emphasized the importance of cultivating allies by working with organizations in civil rights areas. He said the goal is to get freedom of religion linked in their minds with other civil rights.

Young also thinks religious people need to be better champions of broader civil rights. "We should be among the most passionate civil libertarians in the world," Young said. He expanded this during the question and answer period following his presentation by saying that "we all ought to be members of the ACLU."

To Young, religious freedom is not just about making the world safe for Mormon missionaries — it is about free will and agency. "We have a profound moral obligation to protect religious freedom, not only on our behalf, but on behalf of so many others around the world."

Email: mdegroote@desnews.com

TWITTER: twitter.com/degroote

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