J. Reuben Clark Law Society

New Year Kicks off With Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett Fireside

The Annual Fireside of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society was held in the Little Theatre of the Conference Center on Friday January 23, 2015. Jeremiah Morgan, International Chair, welcomed 12,000 members in 200 chapters. He encouraged members to embrace the spirit of the “Build and Extend” membership drive. He reminded us of the similarities to the title of liberty: current world circumstances provide the opportunity to defend faith, family, and religious liberty by reaching out and gathering together. Following Jeremiah’s remarks, Chair-Elect Virginia Tate Isaacson offered the opening prayer. Students from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School provided a musical selection, “The Lord is My Shepherd”.


The Franklin S. Richards Public Service Award was presented James R. Moss (Chair, Service & Outreach Committee) to the Utah Salt Lake Chapter for its outstanding and longstanding pro bono clinic. The clinic assists to unite families, clear up criminal and immigration matters, provide trusts and wills for terminally kill, and other legal matters to help keep people from being homeless.


James R. Rasband, Dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School, presentation Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett with the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Distinguished Service Award for her international contributions to human rights and strengthening U.S. policy. In addition to her responsibilities as mother, wife, and sister, she currently serves as the Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal body that uses international standards to assess and monitor the conditions abroad of religious freedom or belief and makes recommendations to the President, Secretary of State and Congress.


Dr. Lantos Swett was introduced by her good friend Jeffrey R. Holland, who she became acquainted with during her years at Yale University. She grew up in the California Bay Area with an intuitive love for truth. Of particular importance to her passion for religious liberty was the influence of her father, the late congressman Tom Lantos, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, who raised his children to “give service to the world.” In particular, she drew strength from his optimism and perspective for the future. In addition to a Political Science degree from Yale University, a Juris Doctor from University of California Hasting’s College of Law, she earned a PhD with a focus on Human Rights and United States Foreign Policy in 2006 from the University of Southern Denmark.

Dr. Lantos Swett’s remarks focused on how all human rights are tied together, and “religious freedom is pivotal.” Real people suffer when religious freedom is not protected. The scope of this suffering includes restrictions on thought, belief, and behavior. Like all human rights, “religious freedom is the birthright of humanity.” Religious freedom includes removing coercion, to allow people to choose and practice beliefs peacefully and to remain true to their deeply held beliefs. International citizens are entitled to live out beliefs openly, peacefully, and without fear, yet 76% of the world population—5 billion people—live in prohibitive places whether through state hostility toward religion or belief, sponsorship of a particular religion, enforcement, or state failure to protect religious groups.


Not only is protecting religious liberty the right thing to do, but she demonstrated through historical example how it is also the smart thing to do: with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Huguenots once again became the targets of religious hostility, resulting in an exodus to neighboring nations. The effect was not only a step backwards for religious freedom but also a encumbrance to the French economy. Dr. Lanto Swett reminded us that such impunity undermines rule of law and encourages vigilante violence; we often don’t realize the magnitude of humanity’s loss when religious freedom is denied. She reminded us of the suffering currently happening in Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Russia. These and other examples demonstrate that religious freedom is necessary for social stability, peace, prosperity, increased status for women as opposed to poverty and violence. “When men and women are free to pursue and understand truth for themselves they are empowered to build societies,” said Lantos Swett at the conclusion of her remarks.


The Hawaii Chapter used the broadcast as the centerpoint of their opening social on Friday, February 20, 2015 at the historic Honolulu Tabernacle. Following chapter tradition, BYU-Hawaii prelaw students joined JRCLS members and their families for a potluck dinner followed by a rebroadcast of the fireside. “It’s a good opportunity for the society members to visit and network with the students, and to mentor them,” commented Adam Lang, current Hawaii Chapter Chair.


This broadcast is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese to all chapters and individuals wishing to view or review it: http://www.jrcls.org/firesides/archive.php.


By Danielle Dallas

Posted: March 10, 2015