J. Reuben Clark Law Society

The BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies Hosts
Third Religious Freedom Annual Review

The BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies held its third Religious Freedom Annual Review from July 7-8, 2016. From the first year it was held, attendance has nearly tripled with over 300 people participating in this year’s conference.

The conference kicked off with star power. Emeritus General Authority and current general counsel for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lance B. Wickman, opened the conference. President Matthew S. Holland of Utah Valley University immediately followed Elder Wickman.

Elder Wickman’s talk did not shy away from the difficult issues that today’s religious liberty advocates face. He told the audience that we must identify our religious freedom priorities and then, when necessary, compromise on issues that may be on the periphery. By identifying which are core and which are negotiable, we stand a better chance of maintaining the issues that are of greatest importance. He indicated that we can no longer rely on the U.S. Constitution to do the hard work in protecting our freedoms, but must engage in the hard work of being actively involved in our communities. After all, the founders drafted the Constitution to provide a framework for the American people to work out their differences, not to provide all the answers to difficult issues the country would face. A copy of his remarks are available in Mormon Newsroom under http://goo.gl/qEQzBg.

Following Elder Wickman, President Holland of Utah Valley University described how America’s Founding is still relevant to difficult, contemporary issues. He went through a number of scenarios where the Founding is helpful. For example, although the Puritans were not known for creating a place where religious liberty could thrive, they developed principles that became foundational to our system of government, such as separation of church and state.

Conference goers benefited from many other topics. They ranged from subjects as diverse as “Christian Bigots” and “Muslim Terrorists:” Religious Freedom in a Polarized Age to very practical subjects such as How Can I Discuss Religious Freedom Effectively? The new director for the International Center for Law and

From left to right: David Masci,Thomas C. Berg, Tim Schultz, and Brett G. Scharffs

 Religion Studies, Professor Brett Scharffs, outlined a methodology for reducing perceived conflicts between religious freedom and LGBTQ rights. Alexander Dushku and Professor Steven D. Smith offered different frameworks to think about religious freedom and how to confront current cultural trends. The conference provided attendees with a tremendous variety of ideas on how to be involved in protecting religious freedom. Selected video recordings, transcripts and other materials from the conference will be available at http://goo.gl/xbOVRK


By:  Robert Snyder, Member, Religious Freedom Committee of Law Society



Posted: July 29, 2016