News Story

Elder Cook Calls for Global Effort to
Protect Faith and Religious Freedom

Apostle Gives Law School Lecture in Australia

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took the Church’s effort to protect and strengthen religious freedom to a global audience Wednesday. Elder Cook addressed students, faculty and staff at the Sydney campus of the University of Notre Dame Australia School of Law, a private Catholic university in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on Wednesday, May 27, 2015.


Downloadable HD B-roll of Elder Quentin L. Cook's address for journalists
Downloadable HD SOTs of Elder Quentin L. Cook's address for journalists
Downloadable HD Elder Quentin L. Cook MOS for journalists
Downloadable HD linecut of Elder Quentin L. Cook's full address for journalists

“My plea today is that all religions join together to defend faith and religious freedom in a manner that protects people of diverse faith as well as those of no faith,” said Elder Cook, who has a legal background. “We must not only protect our ability to profess our own religion but also protect the right of each religion to administer its own doctrines and laws.”

Elder Cook, who has spoken on the subject frequently, joins two other apostles who have recently addressed religious freedom around the world. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a high-ranking governing body of the Church, addressed the Argentina Council for Foreign Relations on April 23. In addition, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve was in Brazil on April 29 to deliver an interfaith address on the topic.

In a news release, Professor Michael Quinlan, dean of the School of Law Sydney, said it was the first time the Annual Religious Liberty Lecture would be delivered by an expert in the area of religious freedom from overseas. “Religious liberty is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today, so for this reason four years ago the School of Law, Sydney introduced an Annual Religious Liberty Lecture,” said Quinlan, who introduced Elder Cook.

A large audience gathered to hear the lecture, including Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy and his wife, June; Elder Jeffrey D. Cummings, an Area Seventy; and other university and Church dignitaries. Elder Cook was joined by his wife, Mary.

Elder Cook’s address was given just prior to the 800th anniversary of the completion of the Magna Carta, the English charter of 1215, which will be celebrated June 15. “Natural law or even a belief that we are accountable to God is not in fashion in much of the legal world today,” he said. “But the recognition that individual rights are part of the design of a loving Creator is part of both Catholic and Latter-day Saint theology.”

Elder Cook explained that the Magna Carta influenced the laws of historical British Commonwealth countries, including Australia and the United States.

“Today, the spirit of the Magna Carta lives on in the religious freedoms Australia and the United States secure to churches, religious organizations, and individual believers,” he said. “In the American colonies, the Magna Carta was drawn on heavily in both the Declaration of Independence and the First Amendment to the American Constitution.”

“People of faith must be at the forefront in protecting religious freedom — a freedom from which many other essential freedoms emanate,” said Elder Cook. “Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are both at the heart and the foundation of representative democracy. Freedom to believe in private and to exercise belief and speech in the public square are essential to protecting inalienable rights.”

During his talk, Elder Cook showed a video produced by Faith Counts, a multifaith organization that represents millions of Americans. The video features Clayton Christensen, a professor at the Harvard Business School and a member of the Church, who discusses religion and democracy.

In mentioning religious freedom disputes happening in the U.S., Elder Cook said, “Protecting those who feel accountable to God for their conduct is the ‘fighting in the trenches’ that is going on in the United States today.”

Elder Cook said the Church maintains that those who want their rights protected must be willing to protect the rights of others. “We see no justification in not giving to those who have same-gender attraction and the LGBT community protection in housing and employment and some other basic public accommodation protections. Our doctrinal commitment to be compassionate requires us to support these basic rights and to treat everyone with civility and respect.”

“While no country is perfect and every country faces challenges, I’m pleased to say that to a very significant degree all these vital safeguards for religion are woven into the fabric of Australian law and society,” said Elder Cook, who applauded Australia for upholding religious liberty in its Constitution and in Australian law at federal, state and territorial levels.

“Australian and United States citizens, Catholics and Latter-day Saints, must be part of a coalition of countries and faiths that succor, act as a sanctuary, and promulgate religious freedom across the world,” proclaimed Elder Cook. He reported that the Church and its members in Australia have been active in organizing and supporting events that promote a better understanding of religion and religious liberty.

“Church members freely hold and express their beliefs, not only privately but publicly among their friends, neighbors, and colleagues,” added Elder Cook. “The Church itself is free to establish and preach its doctrine, own property, establish local wards and stakes, call and release priesthood leaders, and otherwise govern its ecclesiastical affairs — all with little or no interference from government.”

Elder Cook also expressed his appreciation for the close association the Church has with Catholic leaders in the United States to work together on issues of mutual concern. “I hope we can do that here in Australia,” he concluded.

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