J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Fourth Religious Freedom Annual Review Instructs and Edifies

The BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies

Brett G. Scharffs
hosted its fourth Religious Freedom Annual Review at the BYU Conference Center in Provo, Utah, on July 6-7, 2017. Ably conducted by Brett G. Scharffs, Director of the Center, and Elizabeth A. Clark, Associate Director of the Center, the Annual Review consisted of two full days of outstanding presentations on the subject of religion in education, the workplace and the public square.
Around 400 attendees from all over the country convened to listen to approximately 35 different speakers address hot topics concerning religious freedom, both domestically and abroad. Among the featured speakers were: Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona, who spoke of his legislative experiences at the heart of government in Washington, D.C.;  Katrina Lantos Swett, former Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, who spoke of her experiences across the globe, and particularly relating to standing up for individual religious liberty in countries where persecution against minority religions is severe; and William F. Atkin, Associate General Counsel for the LDS Church, who expressed his deep personal convictions as to “why religious freedom matters to me.” 

Helen Easterling Williams
Among the numerous excellent speakers and panels, there were a number of highlights that made the Annual Review so worth attending. For example, Helen Easterling Williams, who serves both as a Dean at Pepperdine University and as a Pastor at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, California, not only expressed her sincere testimony of God, but also enthralled the audience by putting many of her feelings to music, which she sang beautifully a cappella. Melissa Rogers, who served as Special Assistant to President Obama and as Executive Director of the White House Office on Faith–based and Neighborhood Partnerships, spoke of the breadth of the right of

Bill Atkin with Senator Jeff Flake
religious freedom, along with the constitutional and legislative protections available for it. Steven M. Sandberg, Deputy General Counsel for BYU, moderated an illuminating panel on reaching out and finding common ground with LGBTQ communities. The panel stressed compassion and tolerance, and featured Liz Darger, who is the Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator at BYU, Ally Isom, who is Director of Institutional Messaging for the LDS Church, and Addison Jenkins, who is the former President of USGA (Understanding Same Gender Attraction), which is a student-run organization seeking to improve the lives of LGBTQ students at BYU. 
Those interested in obtaining further information about protecting and promoting religious freedom can go to the Center’s website at: https://www.iclrs.org/, with additional resources available from the LDS Church at: https://lds.org/religious-freedom?cid=rdb_v_religious-freedom_eng, and from the J. Reuben Clark Law Society at: https://www.freedom-of-religion.org/.  
By Jeffrey W. Shields, JRCLS Religious Freedom Committee Chair

Posted: July 31, 2017