Did Elder Cook just stretch the truth or was it the Correlation department?

In December of 2011 Elder Quentin L. Cook gave a commencement address entitled “Restoring Morality and Religious Freedom.” I’m going to put aside the fact that Phelps v. Snyder would indicate that we have not lost our “Religious Freedom” just like our country hasn’t been “taken from us,” for a minute.

This address was given to a BYU Idaho graduation class, however it was re-published using the same data and questionable sources despite having 8 months to review. Thus I believe the article should be held to a tighter scrutiny.

While the article talks about how we int he Church are under attack and how we can & need to work with other religious groups, Elder Cook seems to grasp at cases where religious freedom is being trampled upon. In this attempt the example he uses touches on homosexuality and being myself I am going to focus on that piece of the article.

For your reference, the article can be found here – http://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/09/restoring-morality-and-religious-freedom?lang=eng

Elder Cook in discussing the shift in our religious freedom states “A British high court recently denied a Christian family the right to foster children because the children could be “‘infected’ by Christian moral beliefs.” 21

“The ruling demonstrates just how radically things have shifted.One of the reasons the attack on moral and religious principles has been so successful is the reluctance of people of faith to express their views. 22”

When I read this I thought to look at the citation and in the footnotes, the citation links to an article from Charisma Magazine (A Pentacostal magazine who’s recent OpEd leads with “We stand with Todd Akin”) – http://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/570-news/featured-news/12897-uk-court-rules-christianity-harmful-to-children

Elder Cook’s assessment of the case in his above paragraph states the opinion of the court was that children could be “infected” by Christian moral beliefs. The article itself that he points to reads “The Judges stated that Christian beliefs on sexual ethics may be ‘inimical’ to children, and they implicitly upheld an Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) submission that children risk being ‘infected’ by Christian moral beliefs.”

By the article’s own admission the Court didn’t state that children could be “infected” by Christian moral beliefs, but that this was the opinion of the magazine. By the use of “implicitly” rather than “explicitly” we know that the court never stated that the children could be “infected.”

In fact, in reviewing the judgment of the actual case the word “infected” or any of its variations is not used once in the entire 34 page opinion. –http://www.scribd.com/doc/49752804/Johns-Approved-Judgment-2-11

Furthermore, the only reference to the view of “infection” was that during the case, the Equality and Human Rights Commission argued that children risk being ‘infected’ by Christian moral views.

Thus if we follow the daisy chain backwards Elder Cook is quoting Charisma Magazine, who is using a phrase from the arguments as a de facto representation of the courts opinion. As a graduate of Stanford Law school in 1966 and as an attorney for 27 years it is safe to presume that Elder Cook understands that arguments made in court by the winning side do not mean the judgment agreed with every argument and that without explicit reference to the argument of “infection” that there is no sound reason to suggest that the court agreed with that piece of the argument.

In fact, as a practitioner of the law, Elder Cook should have known far better than to represent the words of the British high court in such a manner as to imply that it was the court’s opinion that “children could be ‘infected’ by Christian moral beliefs.”

What is even worse though about this situation is that in looking at the previous version of this address Elder Cook doesn’t cite Charisma Magazine as a source and doesn’t quote “infected” in the text. (See http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/the-restoration-of-morality-and-religious-freedom &http://www2.byui.edu/Presentations/Transcripts/Graduation/2011_12_16_Cook.htm)

Instead it appears that this citation has been added explicitly in the past 8 months. This means that someone (Elder Cook, Correlation, an intern) felt the correct need to cite this strong assertion made by Elder Cook. In doing so they chose a source that illustrates the exact opposite without correcting the message going out to members in this month’s Ensign.

This represents either a serious mistake that needs to be corrected or perhaps something more meant to highlight religious freedom on the eve of Mitt Romney receiving the Republican nomination for President on Today.

I hope you take the time to read through Elder Cook’s address and my thoughts around this line and comment below on them.

  • LC

    I read the article, and I liked it a lot. I understand these days LDS in the US have to show their patriotism and stuff. But like you I was really intrigued by this comment, and I went to check the source. Like you I was kind of shocked. How can Elder Cook use this source?, in using this type of quotation? I don’t understand it. Going over BBC news, it’s found out that it happened because a social worker asked to the couple if they would accept an homosexual kid (I guess if it the kid latter becomes gay), and they said no. The judges said: “No one is asserting that Christians – or, for that matter, Jews or Muslims – are not fit and proper persons to foster or adopt. No-one is
    contending for a blanket ban.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-12598896
    The way it’s quoted in the Ensign, as if the court said “children could be ‘infected’ by Christian moral beliefs” is wrong. It is done in order to make a point, (religious freedom is under threat) that is confusing and perhaps as you suggest “stretchs the truth”. I have been a member all my life, and I have never felt bad about an article in the Ensign. Greetings from Europe.