I came across an article by James E. Faust, apostle, member of the first presidency of the Church, prominent democrat, and legal authority. From a talk given back in 1992 Elder Faust gave some rather poignant commentary on the state of morals in America. In one section he discussed the need that we have as citizens, not just Mormons, to protect moral principles and the freedom to practice religion against those forming an ambigious but real force in this country. He calls this anti-religious/anti-moral group a Civil Religion. To define this group he stated the following:
"There seems to be developing a new civil religion. The civil religion I refer to is a secular religion. It has no moral absolutes. It is nondenominational. It is nontheistic. It is politically focused. It is antagonistic to religion. It rejects the historic religious traditions of America. It feels strange. If this trend continues, nonbelief will be more honored than belief. While all beliefs must be protected, are atheism, agnosticism, cynicism, and moral relativism to be more safeguarded and valued than Christianity, Judaism, and the tenets of Islam, which hold that there is a Supreme Being and that mortals are accountable to him? If so, this would, in my opinion, place America in great moral jeopardy.
For those who believe in God, this new civil religion fosters some of the same concerns as the state religions that prompted our forefathers to escape to the New World. Nonbelief is becoming more sponsored in the body politic than belief. History teaches well the lesson that there must be a unity in some moral absolutes in all societies for them to endure and progress. Indeed, without a national morality they disintegrate. In Proverbs, we are reminded that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34.)"
The article continues to articulate through legal explanation and process, the threat that the first amendment to the constitution is under as well as the threat to personal freedom that sweeping governmental powers can produce. Through the Free Exercise Clause, and the Establishment Clause, (one could add the Commerce Clause) the government has been given power to restrict what the founding fathers placed as the foundational and preemptive rights in the Bill of Rights that states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof".
The Mormon faith, as it is often referred, encompasses every aspect of my life. The food that I eat, the books that I read, the employment I am engaged, my marriage, and every other conceivable part of my life is influenced by my membership and trust in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Therefore, in my opinion, there is no government regulation that does not have some attachment or relationship to the first amendment to the constitution. I make no apologies for this stance.
Some have proposed that there is no room for a discussion of God and Politics. From my perspective, that is precisely the problem we are having in this country. Greed is immoral, sexual sin is immoral, and slavery, financial or otherwise, where one man is in bondage to another, is immoral. In fact, much of the problems that we face as a society are based on violation to moral laws of honesty. I do advocate higher moral standards for this country both publicly and privately. I am not advocating a national religion, but I am advocating that God, more generally speaking, morals, have an absolute and irreplaceable part in CIVILIZED society. To eliminate the discussion of morals in society is to eliminate the influence of God in our society, a God in whom we trust. To eliminate God is to eliminate order as God is a God of the truest order. If the constitution is to have any value to its people, then the first and foremost principles that lay at its foundation should be honored, and protected. It is the people who must first be moral, and then the government will follow.
There has been no more persecuted religion in and by the United States than has been the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I say that without any reservations. Any honest research into the history of the church from the time of Joseph Smith's first vision, to current times, will show that the Mormons have found constant persecution based solely on their religious beliefs and affiliation. The Extermination Order from Gov. Boggs of Missouri given in 1838-39 gave governmental authority to kill people by any means (including being raped to death - which happened to the people in Far West) simply because they were Mormon. Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith were illegally incarcerated on charges of treason against the state of Illinois without due process of law and murdered two days later while in jail. Polygamy laws were directed specifically and by name to target those of the Mormon faith. Johnston's army was sent to Utah under order of the President to control and put down the Mormons. Books have been and are being written on this subject to illustrate that in every case where religious persecution has happened against the Mormon's, it has been done at the violation of moral, legal, and constitutional authority.
To this end, Mormons have every reason to believe, both historically, and based on Elder Faust's words, to consider the First Amendment to the Constitution as the most important in the bill of rights. Second to the first amendment in importance is any clause, such as the commerce clause, and any other like unto it that provides the government with sweeping authority over the lives of its citizens. I consider these regulations important so far as they are a violation not only the first amendment, but to the rest of the constitution of the United States as well. For me and my life, there is no real way to separate my life with my religion as my religion covers all aspects of my life. Therefore, I believe, to curtail the rights guaranteed under the first amendment is a violation of moral law that we as a nation should all stand to defend - not ignore, repress or persecute.