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Image for A Welcome from the Founding Director

Welcome, Visitors, to the website of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University Law School. We hope you will enjoy learning more about our mission and the many people and endeavors involved in helping us accomplish it.

The Center was formally established and commenced operations as of January 1, 2000, to provide the institutional base for our long-term initiatives in the field of law and religion throughout the world. During the succeeding decade and a half, we have emerged as a recognized leader in the field of religious rights, both at the national... more

Image for Brett G. Scharffs Appointed Director of International Center for Law and Religion Studies

Outgoing BYU Law School Dean James R. Rasband announced the appointment, effective May 1, 2016, of Brett G. Scharffs as the new Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies.

The Center, since its beginning on January 1, 2000, has played an internationally significant role in the work of the Law School. With a mission to help secure the blessings of freedom of religion and belief for all people, Center faculty and staff, aided by hundreds of BYU law students, have worked to disseminate knowledge and expertise regarding the interrelationship of law and religion, through scholarship, network building, participation in law-reform processes, and organization and sponsorship... more

Image for 4th ACLARS Conference: 'Religious Pluralism, Heritage, and Social Development in Africa'

The Fourth Conference of the African Consortium of Law and Religion Studies (ACLARS), "Religious Pluralism, Heritage, and Social Development in Africa", is underway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, hosted by the University of Addis Ababa and held at the African Union from Sunday, 22 May to Tuesday, 24 May, 2016. A workshop for early career scholars was held immediately prior to the conference on May 22.

The conference was designed to focus on the topic of religious pluralism in Africa, particularly in relation to contemporary questions of heritage and social development. "Heritage" is to be understood broadly as including religious, cultural, legal, and historical traditions, and the way these shape religious identities and societies in Africa today. The topic includes the challenges for organizations like UNESCO and ICOMOS to promote and protect heritage in diverse African contexts. The scope... more

Image for Religious Freedom and Security: Central European University, Budapest, 20-21 May 2016

The Department of Legal Studies at Central European University and the International Center of Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) at Brigham Young University co-sponsored a conference in Budapest, Hungary on 20-21 May 2016. The conference titled Religious Freedom and Security explored topics such as addressing the religious factor in conflict settings, rights and security, and approaches to religion and security issues.

The conference opened with a welcome and introduction by Renáta Uitz, Chair of the Comparative Constitutional Law Program at CEU, followed by a keynote address by Husain Haqqani, Former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, and currently Director for South and Central Asia, Hudson Institute, Washington DC. Professors W. Cole Durham, Jr., Founding Director, and Brett G. Scharffs, Director, represented ICLRS in... more

Image for And They Are Off! Student Research Fellows Embark on their Summer Internships

On May 3rd, Associate Director Elizabeth Clark met with the 2016 Student Research Fellows to prepare them for their responsibilities. The students were given background on the workings of the Center and insight into their new responsibilities. And then they were off. Each of the students is assigned as a legal extern to a legal counsel office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a portion of the summer and will spend the remainder of the summer working closely with the Center faculty on presentations, publications, and other projects. 

Watch this page as we highlight these outstanding students throughout the summer.  

Center Director Brett G. Scharffs' paper "Religious Majorities and Restrictions on Religion", now available in pre-publication form, is among the top 10 downloads on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) in two categories:  Law & Religion eJournal Top Ten and Political Behavior: Race, Ethnicity & Identity Politics eJournal Top Ten.

The paper was first presented in November 2015 at the Notre Dame Law Review Symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dignitatis Humana Declaration on the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedoms in Matters Religious, the Catholic church's landmark document on religious freedom, which arose from the Second Vatican Council in December 1965. Professor Scharffs' paper will appear in Vol. 91 No. 4 of the Notre Dame Law Review, the issue devoted to the Dignitatis Humanae Symposium

Image for Announcing the 23rd Annual International Law and Religion Symposium: <br />Religious Rights in a Pluralistic World, 2-4 October 2016

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies is pleased to announce the 23rd Annual International Law and Religion Symposium, to be held 2-4 October 2016 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The theme of the Symposium will be "Religious Rights in a Pluralistic World." Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, who currently serves as the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, will be the keynote speaker.

In an increasingly pluralistic world, societies and legal systems struggle to articulate the roles religion and religious believers play in their communities.  How should a legal system protect the rights of religious groups and believers?  What role should neutrality, secularism, or dominant religions play in civic life?  How can we articulate the relationship between religious rights and culture, particularly in a time of shifting cultural norms?  How can religious rights best protect religious minorities or religious believers in a pluralistic world?... more

Image for Professor Scharffs Presents on Religious Majorities and Religious Freedom

At a recent gathering of a select group of university professors, businesspeople, NGO organizations, and students in Padua, Italy on 6 May 2016, Professor Brett Scharffs made a dinner presentation and led a discussion on the topic of the role that religious majorities play in either promoting or limiting religious freedom. The presentation was organized by the Associazone Culturale Antonio Rosmini, Padova. 

In his presentation, Professor Scharffs noted that in most countries where there is a dominant religious group representing more than 70% of the population, social science research finds there is usually high or very high legal restrictions on freedom of religion, as well as high or very high social hostilities based on religion.... more

Image for Professor Scharffs Lectures on Hate Speech at the University of Padua

On May 6th, 2016 Professor Brett Scharffs, Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, spoke at a conference on Comparative Perspectives on Hate Speech, at the Treviso Campus of the University of Padua. The conference included students studying comparative public law and economic and social rights. In his speech, "Beyond Juris Centric Approaches to Hate Speech," Professor Scharffs addressed the role that audiences play in the phenomenology of hate speech. He noted that usually hate speech does not result in direct physical harm to either the speaker or the victim of hate speech, but audiences are often provoked to violence. But it is noteworthy that often there is a significant passage of time between the initial hate speech and the violent reaction that the hate speech... more

Image for Heiner Bielefeldt to Deliver Keynote Address at Symposium 2016

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies is honored to announce that Heiner Bielefeldt, who currently serves as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, will be the keynote speaker at the 23rd Annual International Law and Religion Symposium, to be held 2-4 October 2016 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Professor Bielefeldt was appointed to his position as Special Rapporteur on 18 June 2010. He holds both a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tübingen and a post-doctoral Habilitation Degree in Philosophy from the University of Bremen, following upon undergraduate studies in Philosophy and Catholic Theology at both institutions. ... more

Image for Professors Durham and Scharffs teach Comparative Freedom of Religion at CEU

Professor Brett Scharffs and Professor Cole Durham, Director and Founding Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young Universtiy, have concluded their annual course, Comparative Freedom of Religion, in the Department of Legal Studies at Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Hungary. The class, beguan by Professor Durham in April and concluded by Professor Scharffs on May 5, 2016 included 26 students from 18 different countries, and addressed law and religion issues regarding both individual freedom of religion and belief and institutional arrangements between religion and the state from an international law and comparative law perspective. Topics covered included comparative constitutional law approaches to the regulation of religious groups; tensions that arise between freedom of religion and other important... more

Image for The Seventh Annual Religious Liberty Student Writing Competition

The District of Columbia Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society and the International Center for Law and Religion Studies are pleased to announce the Seventh Annual Founding Fathers Religious Liberty Writing Contest... more

Image for Brett Scharffs and BYU Law Students in Venice for Conference and Moot Court Competition
Photo credit: Fondazione Marcianum

Professor Brett Scharffs, Center Associate Director and Law School Associate Dean for Faculty and Curriculum, participated at the conference "The Legitimate Scope of Religious Establishment", held March 7-9, 2016 in Venice, Italy.  The conference was sponsored by the Fondazione Studium Generale Marcianum (Fondazione Marcianum), and features prominent academics from throughout the world, assembled to discuss such questions as "What are the essential features of establishment regimes? Should any limits be set to the establishment of religion? Are there any means of support that should be ruled out? May a decent state grant preferential treatment to one religion over other religions (or some of them)? If so, on which basis could... more