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Past Conferences & Events

The Center sponsors, co-sponsors, and participates in numerous conferences annually. To date (mid 2015), the Center, since its inception in 2000, has helped organize more than 300 academic conferences and workshops in approximately 50 countries. These events involve government, academic, and religious leaders, and are aimed at making a practical difference in the implementation of religious freedom principles. The Center typically partners with local and international leaders in the field, allowing for diverse viewpoints and backgrounds to be represented in each of the conferences.

Image for First Certificate Training in Myanmar:  Religion and the Rule of Law

From 30 November to 9 December, 2015, Professors W. Cole Durham and Brett G. Scharffs, Director and Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, participated in a Religion and Rule of Law Certificate Training Program in Myanmar. The 10-day event was sponsored by the Institute for Global Engagement, Brigham Young University, the Venerable Sitagu Sayadaw, The Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar, and the Myanmar Council of Churches. This was believed to be the first event of its kind to be held in Myanmar. Participants included leaders from each of the country’s major religious communities.

The theme of the conference was Religion, Rule of Law, and Security. Participants examined the connection between religion and the rule of law, and international human... more

Image for G20 Interfaith Summit in Istanbul: Religion, Harmony, and Sustainable Development

A Message from the Conference Conveners 

Religion plays a major role in global events, touching issues from medical ethics to cross-border conflicts to macroeconomic trends. However, religion can be misunderstood or even overlooked as a factor in world events and, thus, the contributions faith and religion make to social well-being and policies, which impact national and international communities, are often not recognized.

The 2015 G20 Interfaith Summit held in Istanbul 16-18 November brought together scholars, lawyers and political leaders, with faith and interfaith leaders from around the world for three days of discussion and dialogue as a substantial contribution to the G20 Economic Forum. The gathering was designed to showcase the scholarly and societal contributions of various faith traditions and philosophies from around the world, and to create opportunities for communication and relationship building and raise the profile of participating communities, groups, and organizations.

... more
Image for Protecting Religious Freedom: An Interfaith Invitation

Protecting Religious Freedom: An Interfaith Invitation: Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right that protects the consciences of all people. It allows us to think, express, and act upon what we deeply believe. But in many parts of the world, as in the United States, this freedom is eroding. Religious organizations and individuals face increasing restrictions as they participate in the public square, express their beliefs, or serve in society. A panel of local faith leaders and international experts met on 10 November 2015, at the First Baptist Orlando Faith Hall in Orlando, Florida, to... more

Image for Rights Cherished or Freedoms Perished? Symposium in London, 9 November 2015

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies and the Brigham Young University London Centre were among sponsors of a breakfast symposium held Monday 9 November 2015 at the Inns of Court in London, entitled "Rights Cherished or Freedoms Perished? Perspectives on the future of freedom of conscience, religion and belief and freedom of expression."  

Mark Hill QC hosted the event at the Francis Taylor Building, Inner Temple. Speakers were Tim Wilson, Australian Human Rights Commissioner, and Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked Online, Britain’s first on-line only current affairs magazine, and a columnist for the Big Issue in London, the Australian in Sydney and a blogger... more

Image for UN Side Event: Annual Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

A series of events under the theme Comparative and International Perspectives against the Background of the Annual Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief was held in New York City on October 22 and 23 in connection with the delivery of the Annual Report at the United Nations by Special Rapporteur Heiner Bielefeldt.

Following the delivery on Thursday of the Report entitled "The Rights of the Child and His or Her Parents in the Area of Freedom of Religion or Belief", a reception was held honoring Heiner Bielefeldt and discussing the report.... more

Image for Fourth Certificate Training in Vietnam: Religion and the Rule of Law

Brigham Young University Law School professors Cole Durham and Brett Scharffs, Director and Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, participated in the fourth Certificate Training Program on Religion and the Rule of Law in Vietnam, held 14-23 September 2015 in Hanoi. Co-sponsored by the Center, the Institute for Global Engagement, and the University of Social Sciences and Humanities Hanoi, these annual training programs bring together experts in religion and good governance from Asia, Europe, and the United States with government officials, policy advisors, faith leaders, researchers, professors, and students — this year almost 70 of them — to strengthen a growing network of experts on law and religion in Vietnam and throughout Southeast Asia. In addition to providing course materials based on the Vietnamese translation of their casebook, Law and Religion: National, International, and Comparative Perspectives, Scharffs and Durham joined with IGE personnel to respond to the invitation of the Vietnamese National Assembly to provide feedback and recommendations on the country's current draft law on religion.

Image for Advancing Freedom of Religion or Belief for All: Cole Durham Joins Experts in Turkey
From the Facebook page of the Conference of European Churches

Professor Cole Durham, Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (Brigham Young University, USA), and President of the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (Milan, Italy) was among the Experts gathered at the Theological School Halki in Istanbul/Heybeliada, Turkey, from 6-9 September to discuss "Advancing Freedom of Religion or Belief for All". The conference convened under the auspices of The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Conference of European Churches (CEC), as Churches Together for Human Rights. For an account of the conference, see CEC Press Release No: 15/34... more

Image for Religious Freedom Annual Review 2015: 'Fairness for All'

Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert, Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson of the University of Illinois College of Law, and Director W. Cole Durham Jr. of BYU Law School's International Center for Law and Religion Studies were among the experts participating in the 2015 Religious Freedom Annual Review," Fairness for All," sponsored by the Center and hosted July 6-8 by BYU Continuing Education.

Click to view conference

The purpose of the event was to provide an update for lawyers and nonlawyers on religious freedom challenges in the... more

Image for The 2015 Oxford Conference: Magna Carta and Freedom of Religion or Belief

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies, in cooperation with the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, hosted its 2015 Oxford Conference June 21-24  at St Hugh's College, Oxford, commemorating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, "the greatest constitutional document of all times—the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot".{*} 

SOME PHOTOS FROM THE CONFERENCE MAY BE FOUND HERE.

The event began with a devotional Sunday evening at the Oxford LDS Meetinghouse, featuring an address Religious Freedom and the Habits of the Heart by Elder Bruce C. Hafen, Emeritus General Authority and Member of the First Quorum of Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a violin performance of Ave Maria (Bach / Gounod) by Mark Oshia of Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, accompanied by Elder Hafen.

Monday featured presentations... more

Image for Brett Scharffs at Symposium in Beijing on Marxist Theories of Religion

Dean Brett G. Scharffs, Associate Dean for Faculty and Curriculum, Francis R. Kirkham Professor of Law, and Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, participated in a Symposium on Marxist Theories of Religion sponsored by the Institute of World Religions, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on May 30-31, 2015, in Beijing. Professor Scharffs' presentation was titled, "The Relationship of Religion and the State: The Surprising Similarities and Important Differences in the Political Philosophy of Marx and Locke." The paper, which will be... more

Image for Advances and Setbacks in the Legal Protection of Religious Freedom, Mexico City, May 2015

The 15th Annual Colloquium of the Latin American Consortium for Religious Liberty was held May 21-23, 2015 at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, Mexico. Sponsored by the Latin American Consortium for Religious Liberty, the Universidad Iberoamericana, and the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU, the conference focused on the theme "Advances and Setbacks in the Legal Protection of Religious Freedom". The inaugural session was chaired by the principal host and organizer of the colloquium, Prof. Dr. Alberto Patiño Reyes of Universidad Iberoamericana.  Other participants included Prof. Dra. Maria Concepción Medina González, acting as the "Relatora General" of the colloquium. Prof. Dr. Raul Gonzalez Schmal, who delivered the inaugural address, and Prof. Dra. Carmen Asiaín Pereira, President of the Latin American Consortium... more

Image for Religious Freedom and Religious Pluralism in Africa: Prospects and Limitations

The Third Conference on Law and Religion in Africa took place in Windhoek, Namibia, May 18-May 19, 2015. This memorable and very successful conference focused on the theme "Religious Freedom and Religious Pluralism in Africa: Prospects and Limitations." Some sixty participants are participatee in the conference, from 17 countries:  UK, US, Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, South Africa, Senegal, Namibia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Uganda, Belgium.

Participants discussed such topics as:

  • African traditional law / religion
  • Human rights and dignity (including rights of children, the disabled, the elderly and women)
  • Implications of globalisation, neo-liberalism, democratisation, and fragile states for religious
... more
Image for Conference: 'Religious Freedom Development in the Sphere of Law' – Yerevan, Armenia

With thanks to Ryan Andersen

From May 13-15, scholars and attorneys from the United States, Europe, and Central Asia met in Yerevan, Armenia to participate in the conference "Challenges and Opportunities: Religious Freedom Development in the Sphere of Law".  The International Center for Law and Religious Studies and the Coordinating Counsel for CIS and Baltic Countries on Theoretical and Practical Aspects of Religious Studies (Kyiv, Ukraine—Moscow, Russia) co-hosted the event, which focused on the development of law and religion in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

See conference reports and photographs from the website Religions in Armenia.  More Conference photos are here.

Topics ranged from religion and the environment, the religious aspect of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and its effects on religious life in Ukraine, religious divides... more

Image for 'Religion and the Rule of Law Comparative Studies:  Vietnam and the United States'

Press Release from the Institute for Global Engagement

From 11-12 May 2015, the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), in partnership with Brigham Young University (BYU) and Vietnam National University’s University of Social Sciences & Humanities (USSH), conducted a "Religion and the Rule of Law Comparative Studies: Vietnam and the United States" conference in Washington, DC. The conference examined religious freedom, good governance, and policymaking in the U.S. and Vietnam.

Conference participants focused on four cross-cutting themes: 1) Registration and legal status of religious groups; 2) Rights of religious foreign entities and individuals; 3) New religions; and, 4) Religious property. Experts from both countries brought various academic, religious, legislative, and international... more

Image for Conference in Jerusalem: Legal and Moral Challenges of Religious Resurgence

Professor Cole Durham and Dean Brett Scharffs, Director and Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS), participated in the conference "Legal and Moral Challenges of Religious Resurgence" held 22-23 March 2015 in Jerusalem, at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Co-sponsored by the Institute and the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (Milan) (ICLARS), the conference featured presentations from scholars from Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom.  Participants were greeted and welcomed by Director of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Gabriel Motzkin; by Professor Durham, and by Joseph David, Associate Faculty Member, University of Oxford and Professor of Law, Sapir Academic College, who joined again for Closing Reflections. José Casanova, Head of The Berkley Center’s Program on Globalization, Religion... more

Image for International Conference: Towards Law and Religious Freedom in Africa

An International Conference "Towards Law and Religious Freedom in Africa" was held at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, February 26-28, 2015. The conference was an initiative of the Centre for Human Rights of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos in collaboration with the Nigerian Bar Association (Lagos and Ikeja Branches); the African Consortium for Law and Religion Studies, South Africa, and the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University. 

The Chief Host and Host of the event were the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Professor Rahamon A. Bello, FAEng, and the Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Professor Akin Ibidapo-Obe... more

Image for Developing a Multilateral Approach to Freedom of Religion or Belief: A European Perspective

W. Cole Durham, Jr., Professor of Law and Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, Brigham Young University, Provo delivered a paper "Protecting FoRB in situations of conflict: from the Balkans to the Middle East and the Ukrainian crises" at the Conference Developing a multilateral approach to freedom of religion or belief: a European perspective, held 9-11 February 2015 at Wiston House, Wilton Park. Wilton Park is an international forum for strategic discussion located in Sussex, United Kingdom. 

The Wilton Park conference was part of a larger project of transatlantic policy dialogue funded by the British Council/Luce Foundation Bridging Voices... more