1 of 9
Andrew Harnik, Associated Press
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg, Florida, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016.

Editor's note: The Deseret News has asked the major presidential candidates to share their views with our readers. We've published exclusive op-eds from Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. We are pleased to offer this exclusive op-ed from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

I’m running for president to make sure our country continues to live up to our founding principles. Those timeless ideas teach us that we’re stronger together when we work in unison to solve our problems, no matter what we look like, where we come from or how we pray.

That last one is important. As Americans, we hold fast to the belief that everyone has the right to worship however he or she sees fit.

I’ve been fighting to defend religious freedom for years. As secretary of state, I made it a cornerstone of our foreign policy to protect the rights of religious minorities around the world — from Coptic Christians in Egypt to Buddhists in Tibet. And along with Jon Huntsman, our then-ambassador in Beijing, I stood in solidarity with Chinese Christians facing persecution from their government.

We stood up for these oppressed communities because Americans know that democracy ceases to exist when a leader or ruling faction can impose a particular faith on everyone else.

That was true all the way back in 1786, when Thomas Jefferson wrote that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion.” One year later, that idea was enshrined in our Constitution forever. It’s one of the sacred ideals that defines us as a country. And it’s something that Donald Trump doesn’t seem to grasp.

Every day, Trump continues to prove he lacks the morals to be our commander-in-chief. In just the last couple of weeks, he’s attacked the parents of an American soldier who gave his life for this country. He’s all but proposed abandoning our NATO allies, and we recently learned he even mused about the possible first-use of nuclear weapons.

With a new, outrageous headline seeming to pop up every day, it’s easy to forget that Trump showed us his true colors early on, when he proposed banning all Muslims from our shores.

Trump’s Muslim ban would undo centuries of American tradition and values. To this day, I wonder if he even understands the implications of his proposal. This policy would literally undo what made America great in the first place.

But you don’t have to take it from me. Listen to Mitt Romney, who said Trump “fired before aiming” when he decided a blanket religious ban was a solution to the threat of terrorism.

Listen to former Sen. Larry Pressler, who said Trump’s plan reminded him of when Missouri Gov. Lilburn Boggs singled out Mormons in his infamous extermination order of 1838.

Or listen to your governor, who saw Trump’s statement as a reminder of President Rutherford B. Hayes’ attempt to limit Mormon immigration to America in 1879.

Instead of giving into demagoguery, Gov. Gary Herbert is setting a compassionate example and welcoming Syrian refugees fleeing religious persecution and terrorism. Once they’ve gone through a rigorous screening process, he is opening your state’s doors to some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

Americans don’t have to agree on everything. We never have. But when it comes to religion, we strive to be accepting of everyone around us. That’s because we need each other. And we know that it so often takes a village — or a ward — working together to build the change we hope to see.

And let’s be honest, there’s a lot we still need to accomplish. We need to elect a president with the experience to keep us safe. We need to create an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.

That means passing comprehensive immigration reform to bring families out of the shadows and keep kids and parents together; ensuring equal pay for women; finally joining every other advanced country in the world in guaranteeing paid family leave; and providing early childhood education, so every child can reach his or her God-given potential.

This November, what’s at stake is nothing less than the kind of nation we want to be.

It’s up to us whether we’ll retreat behind Trump’s notion that there’s only one right way to be an American, or whether we’ll recognize the fundamental wisdom of our Constitution that teaches we all need each other for this country to flourish.

As Sister Rosemary M. Wixom once said, “As individuals we are strong. Together, with God, we are unstoppable.”

151 comments on this story

Sister Wixom is right, and she’s not alone. Generations of LDS leaders, from Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to Gordon Hinckley and Thomas Monson, have noted the infinite blessings we have received from the Constitution of the United States.

The next president will swear an oath to preserve, protect and defend that document for successive generations. And if you give me the honor to serve as your president, I will fight every day to carry out that sacred responsibility.

Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.