PROVO -- Today, as democracies are born while people watch on worldwide television, it is important to guard religious freedom, Sen. Orrin Hatch told delegates to a symposium at BYU's law school Sunday night.
Hatch echoed the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said the basic human freedoms were freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear and freedom from want, and that the United States was responsible for helping people across the globe to enjoy those freedoms.
More than 50 years after that Roosevelt speech to Congress, Hatch told delegates from 36 countries, including China, Mongolia and Iran, that the job of ensuring those freedoms is far from done -- even in industrialized countries such as France.
"Developments in France have been particularly troubling because one would expect France to be one of the leaders on a human-rights issue," Hatch said. But in "June of 1995, the French National Assembly established a parliamentary inquiry commission charged with 'studying the sect phenomenon' in the country.
"In January of 1996, the commission issued a report that among other things blacklisted 172 religious groups," Hatch said.
The French Senate will soon consider legislation that would "create a dangerously broad weapon for fighting unpopular religious groups," he said. Germany has also limited religious freedom, Hatch said. In Germany, the controversial Church of Scientology, founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and embraced by a number of Hollywood celebrities, has endured discrimination by the government.
And Hatch told the delegates he is a man who knows about persecution. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "is the only church against which an extermination order was signed by the governor of Missouri. . . . In our relatively short modern history, Mormons have known persecution." Missouri Gov. Lilburn Boggs signed an order expelling the Mormons from the state in October 1838 after bloody battles between LDS converts and others living there.
"My faith was brutally, murderously persecuted," Hatch said as he appealed for recognition of freedom to worship as a basic human right.
"As I speak with you tonight . . . I recognize that we are still working to advance [religious] protections."
Hatch said his unsuccessful run for the presidency was an attempt "as a Utahn and a United States senator and a Christian man and a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . . . to knock down barriers of prejudice against my faith." Soon after he announced his campaign, a national news program anchor told Hatch that polls showed 17 percent of people would not vote for him because he was a Mormon. "I can't do anything about bigots or bigotry, but I can help people understand my faith," Hatch said he told the man.
"Then my sense of humor took over . . . I said, 'I'm not going to put myself in his shoes, but if the Savior himself came down [to run for president] he would have 17 percent against him too.' "
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