Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Hundreds of same sex marriage supporters stand with signs stating their views as Traditional marriage supporters gather Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at the Utah State Capitol to celebrate marriage.

During an event in support of traditional marriage at the Utah State Capitol a proponent of same-sex marriage held a sign in protest that read: "Close your bibles and open your hearts." This statement highlights the tension between religion protecting moral standards in society and those seeking tolerance for activities that heretofore were considered immoral.

Certainly, all of us should be tolerant in our personal interaction with others, especially with those who are different from us. We should not condemn anyone for seeking societal acceptance. It is a natural desire to want to be accepted. Even more, we should nurse the wounds of those who suffer.

However, that cannot be the objective when passing legislation and adjudicating the law. If society is to be preserved, legislation must be advanced and upheld by the courts to protect the moral well-being of the many, even if a few regrettably suffer as a consequence. To do otherwise will ultimately harm many more than would be helped. What good is toleration in the law for the few if the whole of society is diminished?

Indeed, because immorality has been tolerated, we now have the highest divorce rates ever, with vast numbers of children being victimized because of it; over 40 percent of children are born out of wedlock; millions of babies have been aborted; generations of children are swallowed up by welfare dependency; and the prisons are overflowing. We have yet to experience the full consequences of our morally compromised society — compromised in the name of toleration.

Because each new generation of lawmakers and judges adapts to the moral environment it inherits, it often cannot see the corrosive and accumulating impact of compromising moral standards in the law. What is worse, in this generation, it has devolved to the point that attempts to uphold moral standards in the law have been interpreted by the courts as "animus" against individuals or classes of individuals. In other words, the courts have ruled that legislation to preserve morality in the law is demonstrated hostility towards others.

In contrast to the legal interpretation of morality in the law for this generation, John Adams, a Founding Father, said, "It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue." He further stated, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

John Adams, along with many other Founders, recognized the importance of morality in the law as necessary for a free and virtuous republic to endure through the ages. Thus, they presciently drafted the First Amendment to the constitution, memoralizing foundational freedoms for religion.

In so doing, they fully anticipated that religion would play an essential role securing the future of the Republic by advancing morality in society. They expected succeeding generations to honor the God-given religious rights they memorialized in the constitution for that purpose.

Today, in the name of tolerance for the few, there are demands on religion to close its scriptures, forsake its own constitutional rights and retreat from the public square. Religion may retreat as it has too often in the past, or it can advocate for faith, family and freedom, securing the moral well-being of society as expected by the Founders when they drafted the First Amendment.

What religion chooses to do will in large measure determine whether the Republic as defined by the Founders can long endure.

Sen. Stuart C. Reid represents Utah Senate District 18.