Controversies over unpopular religious practices and intolerance toward minority religions are older than the document that protects them. What is and is not protected under the First Amendment? The question has been asked often throughout our nation’s history, each time with the blinding spotlight of public scrutiny shining on a different minority religious group—including, of course, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Though the role of scrutinized/persecuted minority religious group has not been an easy or particularly pleasant one for Mormons to play, their struggles have contributed to a valuable service for all Americans, religious and nonreligious alike. The Mormon experience of pushing for political, cultural, and social acceptance has helped to shape our understanding—and expand our appreciation—of both the “free exercise” and “establishment” clauses of the First Amendment. From polygamy to the 2012 presidential race, the experience of LDS Americans—politicians, prisoners, and proselytizers alike—has mirrored that of other minority religious groups pushing to both live out their faith and live fully as part of the patchwork of our nation: Native Americans using peyote as part of religious ceremonies; Jehovah’s Witnesses abstaining from saying the Pledge of Allegiance; Muslim students wearing headscarves to public school; and Catholics rejecting evangelical Christian drug rehabilitation programs that contradict their own faith—just to name a few! Join us to hear Eunice Rho of the American Civil Liberties Union explore how Mormons and other religious minority groups have helped to strengthen religious liberty in the United States by demanding that the government fully “enforce” the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Ms. Rho will also discuss how ongoing religious discrimination against different groups in different parts of the country continues to keep the ACLU very busy in defense of religious liberty.
Eunice Hyon Min Rho