August 2010 - Christianity Today

Comments of ICLRS Associate Director Brett G. Scharffs concerning the May 2010 Canadian court ruling in Heintz v. Christian Horizons have been quoted in the 20 August 2010 online edition of Christianity Today. The case, from the Ontario Divisional Court, involved an employee who alleged discrimination by a Christian organization because she is a lesbian. Observers have noted that the court's ruling was "jarring" in its confusing explanation that religious organizations in Canada can claim exemption to Canadian law that bars discriminatory hiring, "if they are primarily engaged in serving the interests of their religious community, where the restriction is reasonable and bona fide because of the nature of the employment."

What was most troubling about... more

Image for Interfaith Roundtable at St. Marks in Salt Lake City – 26 July 2010

July 2010 - Salt Lake City

The critical value of working together to promote common causes such as the principles of religious freedom was a primary motivational factor addressed by Gayla Sorenson, Senior Fellow for the International Center for Law and Religious Freedom, as she participated in the panel discussion, “Digging Deep: Personal and Religious Motivations for Interfaith Work.” The panel was part of the... more

June 2010 - Washington, D.C.

In an opinion piece in the 25 June 2010 Washington Post, Thomas Farr, visiting professor at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, has issued sharp criticism of the Obama administration for "sidelining" U.S. religious freedom policy. Pointing to the much-criticized 18-month delay in the appointment of a Religious Freedom Ambassador, Farr praises the recent nomination of Pastor Suzan Johnson-Cook to the post. He notes, however, that her position will be undermined because the "Obama... more

June 2010 - Washington, D.C.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced on 15 June 2010 President Barack Obama's nomination of Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook as the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, filling an 18-month vacancy in this critical diplomatic post. "Dr. Johnson Cook is an experienced religious leader with a passion for human rights and an impressive record of public service," said Secretary Clinton. "President Obama could not have found a more fitting choice for this important position." If approved, Dr. Johnson... more

Image for U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Releases 2010 Report
From the cover of the USCIRF 2010 Annual Report

April 2010 - Washington, D.C.

In a statement released on 29 April 2010, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, detailed abuse of religious freedom rights in 28 nations, many of which are at the top of U.S. foreign policy agenda, including Afghanistan, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Commissioners also provided recommendations to the Obama Administration, the U.S. State Department, and members of Congress regarding ways in which U.S. policy can promote... more

Image for Russian Translations of Law and Religion Texts
Moscow Launch Event from the website of the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice

April 2010 - Provo, Oslo, Moscow, Kyiv

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University and has sponsored the Russian translation and publication of two important reference works in the field of law and religion: a religion and belief deskbook and a text by Gerhard Robbers. Both works will provide significant resources for comparative understanding of issues affecting religious believers and groups for the Russian-speaking world.

The Russian translation of "Facilitating Freedom of Religion or Belief: A Deskbook," co-sponsored by the... more

Image for Professor Cole Durham Testifies at Indonesia Court Hearing on Blasphemy Law

March 2010 - Jakarta

Breaking News 19 April 2010: The Court's ruling has upheld the law.

Participating via teleconference from the United States, Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University, Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., testified concerning Indonesia's blasphemy law at a session of the Indonesia Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi) in Jakarta on 24 March 2010. Recognized as a world expert in this matter, Professor Durham spoke during a Court session on a civil society petition for a review of the blasphemy/heresy... more

Image for Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy

March 2010 - Geneva

W. Cole Durham, Jr., Susa Young Gates Professor of Law and Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University, participated in a panel on defamation of religion and freedom of speech during the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, held 8-9 March 2010 in Geneva, Switzerland. Organized by an international coalition of human rights NGOs, the Summit offered "dissidents and human rights activists from around the world a global platform and forum to share their personal struggles, their... more

Image for 'Service for Good through the Law,' J. Reuben Clark Society Conference 2010

February 2010 - Salt Lake City

Some 800 members of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society - attorneys, professors and students - gathered during 11-13 February in Salt Lake City for the Society's Annual Conference, "Service for Good through the Law." Participating as a panel were representatives of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, Director W. Cole Durham, Jr., Associate Director Robert T. Smith, and Fellows Program Manager Gayla Moss Sorenson, who spoke to the issue "Strengthening Religious Liberty Around the World." The video presentation of this panel... more

Image for 'Religion, Law and Governance in Southeast Asia: Comparative Legal Perspectives' - Conference in Malaysia

January 2010 - Kuala Lumpur

Representatives from the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU, including International Advisory Council Chair Duane Madsen, ICLRS Historian Erlyn Madsen, IAC member Linda Nearon, and ICLRS Managing Director Robert T. Smith, participated in a very successful conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, during 29-31 January 2010.  Addressing "Religion, Law and Governance in Southeast Asia: Comparative Legal Perspectives," the conference was co-sponsored by the Center in cooperation with the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS), the Faculty of Law of the University of Malaysia, and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies of Amity University (India).  The conference Keynote Address by YAB Prime Minister of... more

Image for 'Religion, Ethics, and Peace:  Honoring the Career of Professor David Little'
Harvard Divinity School Image

November 2009 - Boston

David Little, Professor of the Practice in Religion, Ethnicity, and International Conflict, has retired from Harvar.  To mark this event, the "Conference on Religion, Ethics, and Peace: Honoring the Career of Professor David Little," co-sponsored by Harvard Divinity School and the Kroc Institute for International Peace at the University of Notre Dame, was held on November 13-14, 2009 at the Harvard Divinity School in Boston.  The conference brought together leading scholars in the fields of religious ethics... more

Image for 'Reconciling Religious Values with Professionalism and Civility,' Religion and Law Program of the St. Thomas More Society, 5 November 2009
Members of the St. Thomas More Society of Utah Religion and Law panel discussion were, from left, Father Michael Sciumbato, Alan Bachman, Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., Michael Lee and Michael Zimmerman. Durham served as the group’s moderator.
IC ph

November 2009 - Salt Lake City

The St. Thomas More Society of Utah presented its First Annual Religion and the Law Program: "Reconciling Religious Values with Professionalism and Civility" on Thursday, November 5, 2009 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The program focused on the blending of spiritual beliefs with professionalism, civility, and professional responsibility. The panel discussion was moderated by Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University. Panelists included Alan Bachman, Assistant Utah Attorney General; Michael Lee, partner at Howrey LLP; Father Mike Sciumbato, Parish Priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church; and Michael Zimmerman, partner at Snell and Wilmer and former Chief Justice of the Utah State Supreme Court. 

Image for Freedom of Belief Seminar in Santiago, Chile

October 2009 - Santiago

ICLRS Advisors for Latin America, Gary B. Doxey (Center Associate Director) and Scott R. Isaacson (Senior Fellow and Executive Director for Latin America) will travel to Santiago, Chile, to attend an International Seminar, "Right to Freedom of Belief 10 Years after the Enactment of Law No. 19.638 [The 'Chilean Law of Worship'] on Legal Constitution of Religious Entities." The... more

Image for Distinguished Service Award for Religious Freedom to Judge J. Clifford Wallace

October 2009 - Provo

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies is pleased to honor Senior Judge J. Clifford Wallace, Chief Judge Emeritus of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit with the 2009 Distinguished Service Award for Religious Freedom, presented Sunday, October 4, during the opening session of the Sixteenth Annual International Law and Religion Symposium.  "Judge Wallace has contributed to the growth of strong judiciaries in many parts of the world, particularly in Asia," notes ICLRS Director, Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr. "He has been a remarkable judge, a remarkable friend of democracy and democratization, and a great friend of human liberty. We are grateful that we have been able to work with such a remarkable friend and supporter of the Center.  And this is part... more

Image for Mormon Tabernacle Choir & Tom Brokaw Present Special – '9/11: Rising Above'

Guest narrator Tom Brokaw will join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square to present a special broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word to be aired on Sunday morning, September 11, marking the tenth year since the tragedy that shook Americans and friends worldwide at the losses resulting from terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington DC, and the prevention of attacks by heroes on United Airlines Flight 93 over Pennsylvania. Mr. Brokaw, who was for 21 years the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News and is "one of the most trusted and respected figures in broadcast journalism," has received numerous honors for his work, including the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award and an Emmy Award. He joined the Choir and Orchestra in recording a program... more

Image for Conferences in Bratislava, Slovakia, and Volgograd, Russia

October 2009 - Bratislava and Volgograd

International Center for Law and Religion Studies Associate Director Elizabeth Sewell and ICLRS Director W. Cole Durham, Jr. participated in recent conferences in Slovakia and Russia respectively.  Professor Sewell presented a paper,"State Funding and Autonomy of Religious Groups," at the conference "Financing of Churches and Religious Societies in the 21st Century," an international conference held under the auspices of the Minister of Culture of the Slovak Republic, 14-15 October 2009 in Bratislava.  Professor Durham traveled to Volgograd, Russia, to participate in a "Dialogue between the State and Religious Associations in Contemporary... more

Image for BYU Law Students Strong in National Advocacy Competitions

September 2009 - Provo

Students from the J. Reuben Clark Law School won three national competitions in the Moot Court and Trial Advocacy programs during the school year 2008-2009, placing BYU Law School fourth in the nation on Brian Koppen’s Law School Advocacy rankings.  For more information about these outstanding achievements, please click on the link below:

Image for ICLRS Director Cole Durham Participates in OSCE Meetings in Vienna

July 2009 - Vienna

Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, Brigham Young University Law School, was one of the principal theme introducers at the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Freedom of Religion or Belief organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) held in Vienna, Austria on 9-10 July 2009.  Virtually all of the member states of the OSCE ("Vancouver to Vladivostok moving east")... more

Image for Landmarks Commission Threatens Presbyterian Church Ministry

July 2009 - New York City

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has summoned the West Park Presbyterian Church to a hearing, as a first step toward seizing control of the Church's building as a municipal landmark, the first time that the Commission has sought to impose landmark regulations on an individual church over its objection since 1981. The Rev. N. J. L'Heureux, Jr., Executive Director of the Queens Federation of Churches and Chairman of the New York State Interfaith Commission on Landmarking Religious Property, told the Commissioners that the unanimous action of Congress in adopting the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in 2000 was heavily influenced by the New York City LPC's aggression against religious properties in the City. (Information and accompanying photograph taken from The Nexus of Queens Issue #369, July 19, 2009.)

Image for BYU International Law Chapter Voted Most Improved

June 2009 - Provo
By Lee Simons

Brigham Young University's chapter of the International Law Students Association was selected to receive the "Most Improved Chapter" award for 2008-2009.  BYU competed with more than 100 chapters internationally and was one of five winners. 
Over the last year, the ILSA chapter at the J. Reuben Clark Law School... more

Image for Religious Liberty and Religious Property Conference
Image from the website of the Nootbaar Institute,
Pepperdine University,

January 2009 - Malibu, California

On 30 January 2009, the Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics at Pepperdine University School of Law hosted a Conference at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.  The conference was titled "Religious Liberty & Religious Property Disputes: Who Owns the Lord's House?" Conference director Robert F. Cochran, Jr., the Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law and director of the Nootbaar Institute explained the focus of the gathering:  "We live in a time of uncertainty about the status of religious liberty. Courts have ordered religious hospitals and medical personnel to offer services that violate their religious beliefs. Sex abuse cases call into question whether courts can defer to church supervision of clergy, and religious organizations that require employees to share their religious commitments are charged with employment discrimination. At this conference, we considered the status of religious liberty in the United States."

January 2009 - Nashville, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C.  

The First Amendment Center, with offices at Vanderbilt University and in Washington, D.C., has recently launched a new website dealing with freedom of religion in American public schools. Intended as a first step toward creating a one-stop web-based resource for schools and communities addressing these issues, this site, moderated by Charles C. Haynes, Senior Scholar at the First Amendment Center, provides news, commentary and analysis, and blog discussion.

Image for Gerard Noodt Foundation Established in Europe
Photo from the website of the Gerard Noodt Foundation,

June 2008 - Geneva

As a result of the generous support by the Noot family, the Gerard Noodt Foundation for Religious Freedom has been established in the Netherlands. It will assist with a number of important initiatives, including continuing sponsorship of the Strasbourg Consortium, an important initiative of the Center. The representatives of the Noot family made a presentation to the participants in the Strasbourg Conference Consortium in Geneva, Switzerland held in June 2008. This initiative was conceived by the desire of David Christensen, the Executive Secretary to the International Advisory Council of the Center and long-time support. David is related to the Noot family and has joined together with Sir Ari Noot, Hans Noot and Ari Noot, Jr., to create a foundation to honor the important contributions to religious freedom by their ancestor, Gerard Noodt (1647-1725). Gerard Noodt was... more

June 2008 - Geneva

During 21-23 June 2008, Professor Cole Durham, Professor Robert Smith, and Dr. David Kirkham from the ICLRS participated in the annual meeting of the organization Focus on FoRB. This conference included the participation of a number of distinguished scholars, including Asma Jahangir, the U.N. Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Religion or Belief. During the 3-day session, the conference discussed a number of important topics, including the status of Islam in Europe, identifying and responding to vulnerabilities, and current U.N. perspectives on the freedom... more

4 September 2007 - Belgium

A US Department of State spokesman commented on the recommendation of a Belgian prosecutor that the Church of Scientology stand trial for fraud and extortion, following a ten-year investigation, which concluded the group should be labeled a criminal organization. The spokesman said that if authorities have evidence that Belgian law was violated, appropriate legal steps should be taken, consistent with Belgium's obligations to protect freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. He reiterated, however, that the US would oppose any effort to stigmatize a group based on its religious beliefs, and would be concerned about any infringement of individual rights based on religious affiliation.

27 August 2007 - United Kingdom
By Maria Mackay

Christian lawyers are urging Christian organizations to express their concern over a number of ongoing Government consultations questioning the 'public benefit' of Christian charities. The Lawyers' Christian Fellowship (LCF) and its partner group Christian Concern for Our Nation (CCFON) have voiced concern over the implications of ongoing Government consultations which call into question the 'public benefit' of Christian charities. Under the Charities Act 2006, it can no longer be presumed that the services of charities working to advance religion have a public benefit. Instead, the Government is proposing that every charity prove its public benefit on a yearly basis. Groups failing to satisfy Government officials of their public benefit could lose their entitlement to Registered Charity status as well as a number of financial benefits such as recovering tax on donations through Gift Aid.

29 August 2007 - Russian Federation

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexiy II, told an Italian paper that a first meeting with Pope Benedict would only make sense if the Vatican gave up any missionary ambition to spread Catholicism in his country.

28 August 2007 - Belgium
By Lucia Kubosova

The European Commission is considering whether to launch an investigation into tax exemptions provided by the Italian state to the Catholic Church in Italy. "There is no investigation for the moment. We have addressed the Italian authorities and asked them for information about this," the commission's spokesman for competition told journalists on Tuesday (28 August). He added that the EU executive is looking into "certain tax concessions" enjoyed by the Italian church, such as an exemption from communal tax, real estate tax or company tax. A similar query has been launched into the activities and tax provisions for the Catholic church in Spain and Belgium, the spokesman added.

27 August 2007 - Serbia & Montenegro

A Serbian court in the municipality of Velika Plana has awarded custody of an 8-month-old baby girl to her father because the baby's mother was believed to be a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The mother, who says she is not a member of the religious group, is now taking legal action against the judge responsible for the custody ruling. Observers say the case reveals disturbing details about Serbia's judicial procedures as well as its attitudes toward religious minorities. The judge made his ruling in the course of divorce proceedings, and awarded primary custody rights to the father despite the fact that the baby was still breastfeeding.

22 August 2007 - Norway

Two important Christian and Muslim groups signed a joint declaration Wednesday supporting the right to convert between religions without fear of harassment as a basic religious freedom. The Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relation and the Islamic Council of Norway, which have met regularly since 1993, said they believe this is the world's first such joint declaration by national religious organizations. "We reject and want to work against violence, discrimination and harassment due to a person wanting to convert or having converted from one religion to another," said the declaration, signed by Tveit and Shoaib M. Sutlan, secretary general of the Islamic Council. Sultan said conversion between Islam and Christianity was uncommon in Norway, "but it is still important to establish this important principle."

Image for Conference of Religious Leaders with Presidents of the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission Discuss Human Dignity

15 May 2007 - Brussels

Leading representatives of the three monotheistic religions met on 15 May 2007 in the Berlaymont building on the initiative of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Together with German Chancellor and European Council President Angela Merkel and European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pattering, President Barroso co-hosted the discussions, which were attended by 20 leading representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths in Europe. He had hosted similar meetings in 2005 and 2006, but this is the first time such a gathering... more

3 November 2006 - Istanbul

The Summit for Religious Leaders of Muslim Countries and Communities of Africa, hosted by the Directorate of Religious Affairs of Turkey, began with a ceremony on Wednesday at the Dolmabahce Palace on the shores of the Bosphorus in Istanbul.

2 November 2006 - India

In presenting the 21st Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration to noted Hindi film lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that promotion and safeguarding the unity and integrity is a national cause, adding that India's democracy was built on its civilizational commitment to pluralism. The prime minister emphasized that religious intolerance was alien to both the country's culture and its constitutional values.

5 October 2006 - Russian Federation

The European Court of Human Rights has handed down a ruling on the "CASE OF THE MOSCOW BRANCH OF THE SALVATION ARMY v. RUSSIA." The court found in favor of the Moscow Branch and awarded 10,000 Euros in damages.