In addressing the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief of the UK (APPG) May 1, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke of the importance of religious freedom in society.
Everyone has a stake in ensuring the freedom of religion or belief, whether or not you believe in God, he said.
“Today a substantial amount of the social welfare delivered to vulnerable communities comes from the freewill offerings of religious entities and religious people. They give food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless and jobs to the unemployed,” said Elder Christofferson.
These comments come at a time when the concept of religious freedom is increasingly maligned, said Tim Schultz, president of the 1st Amendment Partnership, an organization whose mission is to promote and protect religious freedom for people of all faiths. He said that these days, religious freedom is linked with controversial lawsuits and legislation, rather than the people and faith groups it's protecting around the world.
Nick Fish, national program director of American Atheists, also spoke to the APPG. American Atheists is an organization that works to protect the civil rights of nonbelievers around the world.
“In this political climate, it's important to remember the value of religious freedom in countries where members of a dominant faith group can silence or imprison nonpractitioners, including atheists,” he said. “In nations where apostasy is a crime, and I'm talking primarily about nations where there is an official state religion, people who leave the faith or are in any way critical of it are imprisoned, put to death and subject to brutal punishment for their beliefs.”
Celebrating diverse religious practices leads to many positive outcomes, including in the business world, Elder Christofferson said. “Countries with strong traditions of religious freedom tend to be not only more stable and safe, but more prosperous. A recent study reached the remarkable conclusion that the presence of religious freedom in a country is one of only three factors significantly associated with global economic growth."
The study he referred to, co-authored by Brian Grim, president and founder of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, emphasized religious freedom’s role in keeping the peace. It described religious diversity as an insurance policy against the kind of tensions and conflict that drain money from an economy.
"Religious hostilities and restrictions create climates that can drive away local and foreign investment, undermine sustainable development, and disrupt huge sectors of economies,” the study reported.
The full article is online on the Deseret News.
From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.
The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.