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Q&A: Evangelical leader Richard Land shares views on LDS Church, threats to religious liberty, other issues

Published: Friday, Sept. 6 2013 3:50 p.m. MDT

Land: I think the federal government has become far more intrusive in attempting to circumscribe religious rights up to and including the current (administration) talking about "freedom of religion" as opposed to "religious freedom." Freedom of religion is freedom of a religion to worship and to have your own faith in your own house or your own house of worship, as opposed to religious freedom, which is far more robust and far less sterilized than freedom of religion. We believe in free exercise of religion, which is the right to bring your faith into the marketplace and into the public arena. There is no question there is a far more hostile attitude among secular centers of power in the United States toward religious freedom than there was when I started (at the ERLC) in 1988.

DN: Is there a concern that religious liberty could become a partisan political issue?

Land: It could become a partisan political issue. If it does ... it will be one of the two political parties’ fault. Take the issue of abortion. As far as I am concerned, abortion should not be a political issue. The fact that it is a political issue is a shame and a disgrace to the Democratic Party. If it is partisan issue, that’s their fault, not the Republican Party’s fault and not pro-life’s fault.

To some degree (religious freedom) has become a partisan issue. But let me put it this way: (former President) Bill Clinton mentioned Jesus, Jesus Christ, God and religion twice as often as (former President) George W. Bush ... in an election year. But liberals didn’t criticize (Clinton) because they liked what he did with it. But they did not like what Bush was doing with it. They said it was a violation of the separation of church and state.

DN: What are the most important religious freedom issues today?

Land: The free exercise of faith. ... Let’s be very clear, the gay and lesbian and transgender folks don’t want to live and let live. They want their behavior affirmed as normal and healthy, and they want anyone who disagrees with that for whatever reason to be ostracized to the level of Klansmen. That’s their agenda, and that’s obviously a threat to religious freedom if you're a traditional Christian following the last 1,800 years of Christian teaching … which is pretty clear that homosexual behavior is contrary to God’s will. And we have a right to say so without being attacked and without having economic thuggery committed against us.

I can’t comprehend I live in a country where the government is going to fine people for living their religious convictions (by not complying with the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate). The federal government is saying, if you don’t acquiesce to our beliefs (that employees have a right to birth control through their health care plan) we’re going to fine you. Frankly, I predict (the government) will lose in the Supreme Court. I believe this current Supreme Court will vote 5-4 for a religious exemption (to the contraception mandate) because at least five justices understand the Constitution.

DN: Research has shown that as many as a third of young adults in America identify as so-called "Nones," or they are not affiliated with a religion. What are your views on those findings, and what are evangelicals doing to address that?

Land: The nomenclature is unfortunate. What it says is they have no affiliation with any religious group. It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in God. A lot of them do. Probably about half of those people will come back to some form of faith when they get married and have children. That was the experience of my generation. ...

This generation I find to be to some degree an enigma. As a baby boomer I am awed by the dedication and commitment of today’s seminary students. On other side of the coin, I find this to be a more self-absorbed generation. I find those who aren’t in seminary to be extremely self-absorbed and fairly pleased with themselves. If you think you are the source of satisfaction, you don’t need the church. ...

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