Religious Freedom Empowers Women, LDS Leader Says

By Taylor, Scott | Deseret News (Salt Lake City), November 11, 2017 | Go to article overview

Religious Freedom Empowers Women, LDS Leader Says


Taylor, Scott, Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


SALT LAKE CITY - Speaking Thursday at the European Parliament on women's rights to freedom of religion and belief in Brussels, Belgium, the leader of the LDS Church's women's organization cited global challenges, opportunities and successes - and pointed out the religious aspects stemming from the nine-month kidnapping of Utah's Elizabeth Smart 15 years ago.

Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, highlighted the importance of religious devotion to women, underscored that freedom of religion or beliefs links with women's other rights and cautioned that mandating acts of women's faith can be harmful.

"Instead of governments compelling what women do, how to do it and when to do it, we must make sure their human rights - including their right to the religious beliefs of their choice - are respected," she said.

Sister Bingham was one of two keynote speakers at "Women in Faith: A freedom of religion or belief perspective," which was co-hosted by European Parliament member Anna Zaborska, a Slovak politician representing that country's Christian Democratic Movement. Also co-hosting was the LDS Church's European Union Office, which supports the faith's government relations throughout Europe.

"Empowering women should be a priority for all, because they are a potent force for creating a society where peace, religious freedom and human rights can truly thrive," Sister Bingham added.

Noting that Smart resided in a country where she could hold to her faith, Sister Bingham said: "That faith carried her through some of the worst things people can suffer. Yet, in a striking contrast, her victimization was committed in the name of religion. When she was found on March 12, 2003, she had been dressed in robes and her face veiled. Her captor claimed to be a prophet."

Women can be victims of terrible acts supposedly committed in the name of faith, Sister Bingham said, mentioning female genital mutilation, bodily appendages being removed and honor killings as examples.

"Violent acts like these can overshadow the great good that religious faith and devotion can help women accomplish in our society," she added. "If women of faith do not recapture the narrative of what their religious devotion means to them, and the negative narrative dominates, unintended consequences could occur."

She cited a number of international statements on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, drawing from the European Convention on Human Rights, the World Conference on Human Rights, and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief at the United Nations. …

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