Religious Liberty Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C.

The Second Annual International Religious Liberty Award Dinner took place on October 6 at the historic Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., honoring Kevin "Seamus" Hasson's lifetime of service to the cause of religious freedom. founder of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The event was co-sponsored by the D.C. Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society and the J. Reuben Clark Law School's International Center for Law and Religion Studies and was made possible by the Host Committee, Event Sponsors, and the Sterling and Eleanor Colton Chair in Law and Religion.

Michael Merrell, master of ceremonies and Chair of the International Religious Liberty Award Committee, began the evening by welcoming the distinguished guests. After an invocation by Elder Jack Gerrard of the Quorum of the Seventy, Law Society Chapter President Ginny Isaacson gave opening remarks and announced the winners of the student writing competition. First place was awarded to Kevin Brady (University of Chicago Law School), and second place was awarded to R. Walker Humphrey II (Charleston School of Law).

Following a special musical number performed by Rebecca Takemoto and Gene Summers entitled "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" (accompanied by Ginny Bywater), remarks and tributes were offered by religious, academic, and political leaders in honor of Hasson.

Presenters included BYU Law School Dean James Rasband, who sounded a recurring theme for the evening, that people of faith everywhere have a friend in Hasson. General Counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Elder Lance Wickman, described Hasson as not only a good friend, but a man who is passionate in the defense of others' faith while remaining true to his own core beliefs. Wickman also shared that in Hasson's eyes those who are least favored among us are often refined by such experiences and have the stronger faith as a result- a perspective that resonated with many in the audience.

Becket Fund Senior Counsel Hannah Smith followed Rasband by highlighting some of Hasson's notable achievements, including successfully defending the use of "Under God" and "So Help Me God" under the legal theory that it was a reflection of the Founding Fathers' political persuasions rather than a particular religious preference. Smith concluded with a quote from Seamus that had influenced her greatly: "we are never better than when we are defending each other."

Cole Durham, founder and director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, reflected on Hasson's lifetime of service, highlighting both major historic efforts as well as recent achievements in defense of religious freedom.

After accepting the award, Hasson reflected on key turning points in his life as well as notable moments in his advocacy of religious liberty. He commented that many political leaders today choose not to see that freedom of conscience, including religious freedom, is a thread running through the U. S. Constitution, as well as other founding documents. Hasson added that without conscience, social order and decency fall apart, a fact reflected in modern society. He concluded by thanking the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, the International Center for Law and Religion Studies and the LDS Christ for being good friends personally and professionally and for standing tall at a critical time for the defense of religious freedom.

By Michael Isom