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Christians & Jews Condemn Anti-Mormonism
The National Conference of Christians and Jews Statement on Religious Freedom and Mormonism (As adopted by the Virginia board of Directors, 1994).
It is the position of the National Conference of Christians and Jews of the Virginia Region that the First Amendment right to the separation of religion and state and the right to freely exercise one's own faith is fundamental and inviolate. The right of any group to practice their faith in whatever manner consistent with public health and safety cannot and must not be infringed.
We further recognize that with every right there are also responsibilities that are equally part of our democratic process. Religious freedom is not the right to condemn, impugn, ridicule, or attack the beliefs of others. The responsible exercise of religious freedom includes the acknowledgment of according the same right to all others and a tolerance for the differences between and among all faiths.
The National Conference is particularly concerned with the growing number of attacks on religious beliefs and practices by a number of groups and individuals within our society. Such attacks, that utilize false or misleading information that is intended to promote religious bigotry, are acts of intolerance and prejudice. They are both irresponsible and anti-democratic in nature. The recent attacks from a number of sources on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) reek of the same prejudice that, in the past, we have often seen used against Jews, Catholics, Muslims, and many others. This kind of behavior needs to be identified and condemned for what it is: religious intolerance and blatant bigotry.
These attacks on the Mormon Church have come in three forms: preaching, publications, and video presentations. Honoring the freedom to speak and preach from the heart, the National Conference takes issue with using the pulpit, any pulpit, to promote misleading, distorted, false and/or bigoted views of any religious body. An example of such a distortion is the growing use and presentation of two videos: "The Godmakers" and "The Godmakers II". These videos, developed by an anti-Mormon group intent upon vilification and hatemongering, are designed to misstate, malign, and encourage the hatred of a well established group of Christian believers and they ought to be repudiated by all people of good will. We quote from the NCCJ "Programs in Pluralism" of April 1984:
"The Godmakers" ... does not, in our opinion, fairly portray the Mormon Church, Mormon belief, or Mormon history. It makes extensive use of half-truths, faulty generalizations, erroneous interpretations, and sensationalism. It is not reflective of the genuine spirit of the Mormon faith. It appears to us to be a basically unfair and untruthful presentation of what Mormons really believe and practice.
Mrs. Gillian Martin Sorensen, immediate past president of the National Conference, noted in news release in December of 1992 that
..."Godmakers II" carries the odious scent of unreasoning prejudice. Let the public beware ... Frank discussion of the truth of claims of different faiths is a legitimate avenue of inter-religious dialogue. But base appeals to fear and hatred have no place in such efforts, and must be condemned wherever they are encountered ... "Godmakers II" is an affront to religious understanding.
As people of good will, we in the National Conference of Christians and Jews join with our national leaders in the condemnation of any attempt to use one's first amendment religious freedom as a smoke-screen behind which one might hide while engaged in actions which must rightly be named as religious bigotry.
It is not the policy of the National Conference to promote one religious faith over another or to champion the views of any religious group. However, it is our intent and our very purpose to oppose vigorously the actions of any group, religious or secular, that would enhance or engender religious prejudice.
It is the view of the National Conference that videos, tapes, books, and other media that are used to foster religious prejudice are deserving of our contempt and condemnation. Thomas Jefferson, one of Virginia's greatest citizens and the author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Liberty, wrote in that document that, "... all men shall be free to profess, and by argument, to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
We, the Board of Directors of the Virginia Region of The National Conference, are in full agreement with Mr. Jefferson and we call upon all people of conscience and good will to acknowledge and protect the religious rights of every citizen as they would also desire to have their rights acknowledged and protected.
Adopted with a unanimous vote by the Virginia Regional Board of the NCCJ, February 4, 1994.