January 8, 2012, Deseret News writer, Joe Walker listed the top ten anti-Mormon statements of 2011, as claimed by a new internet group sponsored by FAIR, an LDS apologetic organization based at Mormon-owned Brigham Young University. (To read the article follow the link here.) Walker is critical of those public figures who are critical of Mormonism. What Walker doesn’t realize, and perhaps never learned, is that expressing one's opinion is constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. Sadly, this is something that those who are raised in the Mormon culture do not appreciate. The very essence of our country's incredible freedom is based upon freedom of speech. With narrow exceptions, such as shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater, “fighting words,” as defined under case law or defamatory statements, American citizens are free to express their opinions. None of the statements cited are outside First Amendment protection.
This is the problem with growing up a Utah Mormon. By attempting to control what Mormons read, view or otherwise learn, the LDS Church has heavily censored thoughts and the ability to reason. When an authoritarian government—whether religious or secular—acts in this manner—restricting access or promoting mind-control tactics—those subject to this tyranny suffer serious intellectual impediment. Only in a community of freely circulating ideas can one truly choose what makes sense, sounds credible and even "feels right." This is the beauty of our country.
Certainly Mormons take no pause in criticizing Catholicism and historically, even Christianity, or other such religious organizations who have many fervent believers. In history, despots Mao Tse-tung and Stalin are criticized; so is the political philosophy of communism, but that doesn’t translate into an attack on those subjected to the political philosophy. Comparing opinion statements regarding the belief system called Mormonism, doesn’t necessarily involve a criticism of the average Mormon. On the other hand, criticism of those who have chosen to step beyond Mormonism's strictures is leveled vehemently by those who remain. From the pulpit LDS leaders have even engaged in name-calling of those who have chosen to leave Mormonism behind; they are "junk yard dogs," or snakes. These are kindergarten ad hominem attacks which only reveal the ignorance of the speakers.
Our nation will always be at least a moderately pluralistic society; with regard to life philosophy or religious belief systems the only desirable limit is where those statements threaten the safety of individuals or claim as facts, things that are not. Attorney Richard Packham's version of Mark Twain's quotation comes to mind: "one man's sacred cow is another man's hamburger." And that, my friends, is just how it is—thanks to our founding fathers.