JRCLS Annual Leadership Conference

Brigham Young University law professor Gary B. Doxey addressed the J. Reuben Clark Law Society as the keynote speaker for the annual JRCLS Leadership Conference at Aspen Grove on September 29. Doxey, associate director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, gave a brief perspective about the decay of religious freedom throughout the world and emphasized the "subtle erosion" of religious liberty in the United States. He issued a call to action to be active in defending religious freedom for all people.

"We are too often passive or reactive in our defense of religious freedom," Doxey said. While a vast majority of Americans value religious freedom in the abstract, "almost no one can get their arms around why or what it all means beyond simply worshiping as they please."

Doxey noted that since 1990, religious freedom has been "forced off the constitutional pedestal and into the political process," and said religion " now has to compete against other considerations in public policy decisions." He added that strong protection of religious freedom ultimately depends on how much society values religion and the moral values it teaches, and these are in decline.

"We must seek to influence behavior in society," Doxey said. "We also have to defend the structures and institutions; we need allies in this fight."

Following Doxey's address, BYU law professor W. Cole Durham and general counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, William F. Atkin, joined Doxey for a question and answer session. Durham fielded a question about how lawyers can contribute to the cause of religious freedom, saying lawyers should be involved in cases in their own communities, whether or not the cases relate to their own particular faith.

"[Doxey] talked about the political process, and that this is where we can make the biggest difference," said Heather Pack, a student at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. "I never thought about it that way."

By Elaine Young