Focus on Constitution

New ‘secular creed’ threatens liberty

A full transcript of President Faust's talk will be posted as soon as it is prepared.

LOGAN, Utah — Religious liberty intended by the Founding Fathers is being eroded by the development of a new "secular creed," President James E. Faust observed Sept. 16 at a Sunday evening program commemorating the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

 President James E. Faust addresses congregation at Cache Valley, Utah, in commemoration of signing of U.S. Constitution.
President James E. Faust addresses congregation at Cache Valley, Utah, in commemoration of signing of U.S. Constitution. Credit: Photo by R.Scott Lloyd

Held in the Spectrum, the special events center on the Utah State University campus, the program was the opening event in the 10th Annual Cache Valley Commemoration of the Sept. 17, 1787, adoption. Other activities were to include the annual pageant, "A Day to Remember," on Sept. 21 and 22, also presented on the campus.

A fly-by of F-16 fighter jets from Utah's Hill AFB was canceled due to military restrictions in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., announced Scott N. Bradley, commemoration chairman.

President Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, said an apt title for his remarks might be "Being Serious about What the Constitution Says."

"However, for what I say I take full responsibility, for I alone am responsible," he added.

He focused his remarks on 22 words of the First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech."

"The pre-eminence in the Constitution of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment has been overshadowed by the establishment clause and the free speech clause," noted President Faust, who was an attorney by profession before being called as a General Authority. "In this I believe there has been a turning away from the intent of the Founding Fathers in the Supreme Court's interpretation of these clauses of the First Amendment," he said.

He observed that 10 years ago, courts gave careful scrutiny to any proposed law that might interfere with religious liberty. "The government was required to show that first, it had a 'compelling governmental interest' that justified the interference with the Constitutional right, and second, that this 'compelling governmental interest' could not be achieved through some other less intrusive means."

A 1990 court case in Oregon, however, had the effect of abandoning the "compelling interest" requirement in such cases, he said. "According to the [U.S. Supreme] Court, the religious exclusion to public policy was 'a luxury we can no longer afford.' "

That court ruling was followed by a Congressional act attempting to restore a "compelling governmental interest," but the court held the act unconstitutional, he said, adding that Congress then passed a law that limited the compelling interest to land acquisition and use of real estate owned by churches.

"There seems to be developing a new secular creed," he lamented. "It has no moral absolutes. It is non-denominational. It is non-theistic. It is politically focused. It is antagonistic to religion. It rejects the historic religious traditions of this nation. It feels strange. If this trend continues, non-belief will be more honored than belief. While all beliefs must be protected, are atheism, agnosticism, cynicism and moral relativism to be more safeguarded and valued than Christianity, Judaism and the tenets of Islam which hold that there is a Supreme Being and that mortals are accountable to Him? If so, this would, in my opinion, place this nation in great moral jeopardy."

Flags, flowers are placed in memorial.
Flags, flowers are placed in memorial. Credit: Photo by R.Scott Lloyd

President Faust said that for those who believe in God, "this new secular creed fosters some of the same concerns as the state religions that prompted our forefathers to escape to the New World. Non-belief is becoming more sponsored in the body politic than belief. I believe there is great danger in this to our state and nation. History teaches the lesson well that there must be a unity in some moral absolutes in all societies for them to endure and progress. Indeed, without a national morality they disintegrate."

The new "secular creed" is not a religion in the traditional sense, but rather, it teaches "a sectarian philosophy that is hostile to traditional religion," President Faust said. "It has its own orthodoxy. It could even end up in an ironic violation of the federal Constitution that states that there shall be no religious basis for office. Will irreligion become a test for preference?"

He lamented: "So now we find ourselves in a situation where, unlike the pilgrims, the Mormon pioneers and others, there is nowhere to go to escape a de facto secular creed that continually limits public religious expression and fosters the secular values and expressions. How do we preserve the essence of our humanity?"

The home may be the last refuge, President Faust said. "We must teach our children and grandchildren. The moral teachings of all our churches must have an honored place in our society. The general decline in the moral fabric of the citizenry places a greater responsibility on homes and churches to teach values — morality, decency, honesty, respect for others, patriotism and honoring and sustaining the law.

"We can also exercise our right, with all other citizens, to vote for men and women who reflect our own values. We can also express our views as all other citizens have a right to do in the legislative process of both the state and the nation. With all others we can claim our rights of free expression. We can petition for the redress of grievances.

"We can help educate the coming generation about their rights and duties. We can educate ourselves about the important moral issues of our time. We must hold to our beliefs and do what we can, for there is no desert to flee to in order to have full freedom. There is no place across the waters for pilgrims."

Music for the program was provided by a combination of choirs from the LDS Institute adjacent to the campus, New Horizons and the Northern Utah Choral Society. The congregation joined in on the closing selection, "Battle Hymn of the Republic," with a patriotic fervor resulting from the events of recent days.

Ruth Belliston, a member of the Laurel class presidency in her ward in Hyde Park, Utah, presented her winning speech from the contest held in conjunction with the commemoration.

"The price has been paid; we must be willing to defend our liberty at all costs," she said. "Our price to pay is to be strong in supporting those principles these beloved founders died for, to be diligent and watchful in exposing attempts to undermine our freedom and to be willing to serve the God of this land who will fight our battles for us as long as we have the courage to stand up for those things that are right."

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