At the recent press conference (April 6th 2008) celebrating Elder Christofferson’s Apostleship, he was asked to comment about a local issue by The Salt Lake Tribune’s Jessica Ravitz. The question was about a situation that centered around a local group’s wishes to erect a monument displaying their, 10 commandments style, ‘Seven Aphorisms of Summum‘. The group wishes to erect their monument next to an established monument of the ten commandments which is located in a public city park. Jessica asked Elder Christofferson if he had anything to say regarding their wishes.
Jessica Ravitz: As an attorney who was born in Pleasant Grove who has done a lot of inter-faith work, and who practiced law in our Nations Capital, I wonder what your reaction is to this?
I was interested by this question and wanted to know what group wanted to display their list of beliefs (since the name of the Church wasn’t made available at the conference). I wanted to know if it was a group that opposed the church’s teaching. I was interested in the question up until the point where he answered the question. As he answered the question I was shocked by what I was hearing. I asked myself . . . Did he just say what I thought he said? I picked up my remote and backed it up a bit. I was correct in what I heard. The newly appointed Elders response was:
Elder Christofferson: . . . . I don’t know the specifics of the case you’re mentioning. Obviously. And the Supreme Court hasn’t seen fit to ask my opinion as yet. But in general principles my experience is . . . that there is generally . . . room for a great deal of diversity and variety in our societies in our cultures to coexist. And I leave the matters of establishment of religion and freedom of religion in the hands of the Supreme Court. . . .
The Government of The United States of America was established because the we were trying to not become a Government who establishes it own religion. The First Amendment of our United States Constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
What I thought Elder Christofferson was going to say kinda goes like this:
. . . I will leave the matters of establishment of religion to the specific religions in this country and I hope the Supreme Court will treat all religions, not just our own, on a level playing field and that way freedom of religion, which is protected to under the law, will be upheld by the laws of this country. .
The U.S. Government was set up so the Government wouldn’t meddle in Church matters. Now either I have a warped understanding of the laws of our country and the First Amendment, or Elder Christofferson misspoke on this subject. I have looked around on the news sites and I might have missed anyone else reporting on this one. I even looked on The Salt Lake Tribune’s news site and the story that Jessica wrote were of the questions other reporters asked.
Did anyone else catch this. Read below for the entire interview. Follow this link (Press Conference Audio) for the audio portion of Jessica’s question and Elder Christofferson answer.
Jessica Ravitz: Hi Elder Christofferson my name is Jessica Ravitz I’m with the Salt Lake Tribune. And what you just said is a perfect segway into what I wanted to ask you. Um. Elder Wirthlin spoke this morning about having compassion for those who are different. And just this week the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from pleasant grove. The place were you grew up . . .or were born. . . .
Elder Christofferson: (Jokingly) Don’t blame it on me.
Jessica Ravitz: Which would like to ban a small religious group here in Salt Lake (one that is obviously very different than your own) um from displaying a monument in a public park that would list their principles and be featured next to a monument listing the 10 commandments, that is already standing there. So as an attorney who was born in pleasant grove who has done a lot of inter-faith work, and who practiced law in our nations capital, I wonder what your reaction is to this? To this whole idea of religious displays in public space.
Elder Christofferson: I really set myself up didn’t I? (Laughter) I don’t know the specifics of the case you’re mentioning, obviously and the Supreme Court hasn’t seen fit to ask my opinion as yet. But in general principles my experience is that there is generally room for a great deal of diversity and variety in our societies in our cultures to coexist. And I leave the matters of establishment of religion and freedom of religion in the hands of the Supreme Court and I am happy to say that I used to be a lawyer and am not. But I agree with Elder Wirthlin and with the Brethren of the 12 and the first presidency generally. And it really is our desire to be good neighbors and to be seen as good neighbors and to be helpful and to allow others to do the same.