J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Elder Dallin H. Oaks at the Annual Orange County Religion & Law Symposium

On February 4, 2011, over 800 attendees at the Annual Orange County Religion & the Law Symposium gave Elder Dallin H. Oaks a standing ovation at the conclusion of his landmark address on "Preserving Religious Freedom", given at Chapman University School of Law (to access the transcript of Elder Oaks' speech, click here). At the conclusion of the speech, John Eastman, the former Dean of Chapman, said that "Elder Oaks' address was one of the three most significant events ever held at the Law School" - the other two being the respective visits of Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Yet, the speech was only one component of Elder Oaks' historic visit. Immediately afterwards, Elder Oaks went into a radio studio where he was interviewed live on the nationally syndicated Hugh Hewitt radio talk show for two hours. This was a remarkable opportunity for a nationwide audience to hear from a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Oaks not only responded to Hugh Hewitt's varied questions about religious freedom, the LDS Church and BYU, but Elder Oaks also spontaneously answered live questions posed by listeners calling in from all over the country. Having clearly enjoyed the interview, Hugh Hewitt remarked that Elder Oaks was a "pretty towering intellect to probe for a couple of hours!"

Significantly, the genesis for these events was the result of years of efforts by the members of the Orange County Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society to cultivate and grow the Annual Orange County Religion & the Law Symposium within the Orange County legal community. The very first Symposium was sponsored by the JRCLS back in 2005. Chapman University School of Law agreed to host the location for the event, and was so impressed with the outcome that Chapman then agreed to continue hosting the Symposiums annually for as long as the JRCLS wished to hold them. The Orange County Symposiums have now been held each year from 2005 to the present, and have always offered continuing legal education credits.

Much of the success of the Symposiums has derived from the wide variety of co-sponsors who have willingly become involved with the programs. Over the years, the Orange County JRCLS has approached many law schools, religiously affiliated bar association groups, and other organizations of interest in order to form a consortium committed to hosting an annual forum where academic topics concerning religious liberty could be openly discussed and debated. In 2011, the co-sponsors of the Symposium included not only Chapman University School of Law, but also Pepperdine University School of Law, the University of California-Irvine School of Law, Western State University College of Law, and Whittier Law School. Additional co-sponsors included the Christian Legal Society of Los Angeles, the Orange County Jewish Bar Association, and the Orange County Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society.

Jeff Shields, a former JRCLS Chapter Chair who has been in charge of each of the Annual Symposiums, strongly urges other JRCLS Chapters to organize similar events in order to create interfaith bridges among the legal community. According to Shields, "The key to obtaining support and co-sponsorship is to point out that these are not "Mormon" programs, but, rather, unique opportunities for lawyers, judges and academics to gather together and discuss important and timely topics relating to religious liberty. Generally speaking, people of all faiths have far more in common on these subjects than differences." The Orange County Chapter would be more than willing to assist any other JRCLS Chapter contemplating putting on similar programs, and can be contacted through Jeff Shields at jeff@shieldslawoffices.com.

Posted: 2011-04-01