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

Brigham Young University Law School Dean James R. Rasband has announced the appointment 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 of hundreds of conferences, at BYU and throughout the world.

Scharffs, who is the Francis R. Kirkham Professor of Law at BYU, will begin as Director of the Center on May 1, 2016. He succeeds W. Cole Durham, Jr., who has served as Director of the Center since its beginning. Durham will assume the role of Founding Director of the Center, also on May 1.... more

Image for @Law and Religion: International Headline News
Law and Religion: International Headline News
Facebook icon

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies maintains a Headlines News service covering news about freedom of religion or belief internationally, sent to subscribers daily (Monday - Saturday). All interested may subscribe to this service, free of charge, here.    

A searchable archive of Law and Religion Headlines, in three categories, may be found at the following links: [International News] [Europe News]  [U.S. News] 

Please note that the headlines posted do not necessarily reflect opinions or attitudes of members of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies. We strive for balance in presenting issues of potential interest to our readers. 

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 this be done?" Professor Scharffs presented... more

Image for Delegation from France visits the Center

On Friday, 4 March 2016, a delegation from France, invited to the United States under the auspices of the Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program, and arranged by the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy, visited the International Center for Law and Religion Studies as part of their time at Brigham Young University. The three French visitors, Ali Dahmani, Director, ACSECE, Capelette Mosque, Marseille; Frederique Neau-Dufour, PhD, Director, European Center of Deported Resistance Members; and Emmanuel Valency, Rabbi of Bordeaux and Southwestern France, met with Cole Durham, Center Director, and Gary Doxey, Associate Director. The meeting included an overview of the Center and its mission, as well as a comparison between the... more

Image for OSCE/ODIHR Trains Ukrainian Lawyers on Litigation Related to Freedom of Religion or Belief
Mikolaj Wrzecionkowski, Assistant Programme Officer at OSCE/ODIHR, during a training in Kyiv, on right to freedom of religion or belief for lawyers in Ukraine, 11 February 2016
Credit: OSCE/Tetyana Korshykova

From the OSCE website: 

The right to freedom of religion or belief in the case law and practice of the European Court of Human Rights was the focus of training organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on 11 and 12 February 2016 in Kyiv.

The event provided 17 lawyers with a greater understanding of the main principles underpinning the right to freedom of religion or belief as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, as well as of the relevant case law and the procedural aspects of bringing cases before the Court.

"Freedom of religion or belief under the European Convention of Human Rights is valueless unless the right can be enforced through legal process," Mark Hill,  a barrister specializing in human rights and law and religion who represents clients in the United Kingdom... more

Image for Parliamentarians Meet at Palace of Westminster to Discuss Freedom of Religion or Belief

The Steering Group of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) met on 9 February 2016 at the Palace of Westminster, United Kingdom, to reflect on the outcomes of the New York summit that took place in September 2015 and create a roadmap for future activities of the IPPFoRB.  Hosted by Baroness Elizabeth Berridge of the House of Lords, members of the Steering Group include Abid Raja, Norwegian MP; David Anderson, Canadian MP; Leonardo Quintão, Brazilian congressman; Jose M Ibañez, Paraguayan MP; Uziel Santana, IPPFoRB Secretariat; and Knox Thames, IPPFoRB Secretariat.  David Kirkham, Senior Fellow, represented ICLRS at the meeting.  The group noted the contributions BYU and ICLRS made to the formation of the panel two years ago in Oxford. For more information on the New York summit, see the IPPFoRB news release

Image for Kirkhams Represent the Center at Copt Commemorative Service in London

On 10 February 2016 David Kirkham, Senior Fellow, and his wife Judy represented ICLRS at a Coptic service commemorating the anniversary of the 21 Copts murdered by religious extremists in Libya in 2015 for being "people of the cross." The service, held at the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, Palace of Westminster, United Kingdom, was presided over by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, and introduced by The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons.  Bishop Angaelos spoke of his compassion for the victims and their families, for whom they were in Egypt trying to make a living, as well as for the need for prayer for victims and perpetrators alike.

Image for Brett Scharffs Speaks at St. John's Law School Colloquium in Law and Religion
Photo courtesy of the Center for Law and Religion
at St. John's Law School

On February 1st 2016 Professor Brett Scharffs spoke at the Center for Law and Religion at St. John's Law School as part of its third biennial Colloquium in Law and Religion. This seminar invites leading law and religion scholars to make presentations to an audience of students and faculty. Professor Scharffs was the first speaker of the ongoing series.

The following was taken from an article on the Center for Law and Religion's website:

This week, the Center hosted BYU Law School Professor Brett Scharffs in our biannual Colloquium on Law and Religion. Brett, who is BYU’s associate dean and the associate director of its magnificent International Center for Law and Religion Studies, presented his draft, "Four Models of Public Discourse and their Implications for the Public Sphere." Brett has been a great friend of the Center for several years and we were delighted to have him with us. 

Image for Vietnam Government Committee for Religious Affairs Receives Delegation of US lawyers

GCRA Press Release — GCRA receives US lawyers delegation

Prof. Cole Durham, Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies under Brigham Young University led a delegation to visit the Government Committee for Religious Committee (GCRA) on January 20.

Joining the US delegation included First Secretary of the United States Embassy in Hanoi David V. Muehlke, Political Officer of US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh city Garret Harkin.

Welcoming the delegation were Vice Chairman of the GCRA Bùi Thanh Hà, representatives from the National Assembly Committee for Culture, Education, Youth, Adolescents and Children, the Government Office, the Ministry of Justice and the GCRA Departments for International... more

Image for David Kirkham Speaks at NATO Workshop 'Security and Religion' – January 2016

David Kirkham, ICLRS Senior Fellow for Comparative Law and International Policy, spoke in late January 2016 at a high-level workshop on 'Security and Religion' at NATO Headquarters, in Brussels. The meeting brought together leading experts and practitioners--scholars, diplomats, religious leaders, NGO representatives and others—from both sides of the Atlantic, the Western Balkans, and the Black Sea.

The workshop examined current challenges to security, with a specific focus on 'soft security' issues, and the cultural and religious contributions to the peaceful development... more

Image for Cole Durham Participates in 'Religion, Security and Human Rights' Conference at European Parliament

The European Platform against Religious Intolerance and Discrimination (EPRID) organized a conference on Human Rights Day, 10 December, 2015, titled "Religion, Security and Human Rights". The conference, held in Brussels Belgium at the European Parliament, included speakers such as Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt, U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Dr. Kishan Manocha, Senior Advisor at OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Dr. Liviu Olteanu, Secretary General & Director of Conscience and Liberty from the Association Internationale pour la Défense de la Liberté Religieuse, Ms. Kalpna Devi, Human Rights Defender from Pakistan, and the Center's director, Professor Cole Durham.... more

Image for Sudanese Delegation Visits the Center

On December 8, 2015, a delegation of Sudanese visitors, invited to the United States under the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, visited the International Center for Law and Religion Studies. The objective of their visit was to promote religious tolerance and peaceful settlement of conflicts. Center Managing Director, Robert Smith, met with the delegation. 

Current sanctions imposed upon Sudan were the primary topic of concern. The delegates were particularly interested in discussing Professor Smith's congressional testimony on 18 September, 2014 in which... 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 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 ICLRS at the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies participated in three sessions of the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions in Salt Lake City. W. Cole Durham, Jr., Center Director, and Brett Scharffs, Associate Director, organized these sessions to discuss religious freedom issues highlighted by Parliament organizers.

Durham moderated the panel Religion, Religious Freedom and Development, featuring the following global experts... more

Image for Archbishop William E. Lori Receives 2015 International Religious Liberty Award

The J. Reuben Clark Law Society and the International Center for Law and Religion Studies are honored to announce that the Most Reverend William Edward Lori, in presented with the International Religious Liberty Award for 2015. 

Archbishop Lori is Archbishop of the Baltimore Archdiocese and head of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He has played a leading role in gathering an interfaith coalition to promote the freedom to exercise one’s faith in both private and public life. 

Religious liberty "is not merely a privilege that the government grants us and so may take away at will, Archbishop Lori observed in an address before Congress in 2011. Religions liberty, rather, "is inherent in our very humanity, hard-wired into each and every one... more

Image for Elder Rasband speaks on 'religious freedom and fairness for all' in student body address

Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called for “religious freedom and fairness for all” in an address to the student body at Brigham Young University on Tuesday, September 15, 2015. 

Elder Rasband acknowledged that many students may associate the term “religious freedom” with the term “freedom to discriminate”. However, Elder Rasband reminded the audience that the Church has consistently taken a stand for freedom of choice and conscience. He noted the historic compromise reached earlier this year in Utah, benefitting both the LGBT and the religious communities. He stated, “No doctrinal or religious principles were sacrificed.... more

Image for Advancing Freedom of Religion or Belief for All: Experts Gather at Halki
From the website of the Conference of European Churches

Press Release No: 15/34 - September 2015 - Istanbul/Heybeliada

From September 7 to 9 more than 40 human rights experts from across Europe journeyed to the hilltop theological school of Halki on the Turkish island of Heybeliada. Once the heart of theological education for the Orthodox world, the school closed in 1971 as a result of a ban on private higher education in Turkey. Arriving by plane, train, and even by foot, participants discussed and debated approaches to advancing freedom of religion or belief.

Participants were drawn from CEC Member Churches, civil society, academia, and the European Institutions. Topics covered included the need for religious literacy, the role of religion in the public and political spheres, the need for greater internal and external coherence of... more

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 Highlighting the Peace-Making Power of Religion, Despite its Mixed Track Record
Photo credit: Barry Bussey

The 17th annual "Meeting of Experts," organized by the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) met August 10-14, 2015, at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. A diverse panel of scholars, representing universities and organizations from seven countries, examined the role of religion in current global conflicts while also focusing on ways that faith can forge peace. Presenters included Robert A Seiple, current IRLA president, and Professor Cole Durham, acting in his role as President of the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies. You may read more about the meeting at the link below. 

Image for Professor Scharffs Participates in Two Indonesian Programs on Sharia and Human Rights

In June 2015 Professor Brett Scharffs participated in two teaching programs designed to create bridges between Islamic Law and Human Rights. One program was held at a leading secular university in Yogyakarta, Gadja Mada University, and the other was at an Islamic University in Malang, Muhammadiyah University. The programs bring together experts on Human Rights and on Islamic Law with students of law, Islamic Law, sociology and history, as well as practitioners from a range of NGOs. Professor Scharffs made presentations on the history and drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and freedom of religion from a human rights perspective. The papers from the courses are being compiled into a textbook that will be published in both English and Bahasa in Indonesia next year. John Lowe, who just completed his first year at BYU Law School, also participated in the program, providing informal translation support and helping with logistics.

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 BYU conference explores what's next for religious freedom
Michael Purdy, Sen. Stuart Adams, Prof. Robin Fretwell Wilson. Photo by Tom Smart, Deseret News

From Deseret News, Monday July 6 2015 6:40 pm MDT, updated July 7 12:45 am

PROVO — Utah lawmakers struck a compromise between anti-discrimination and religious freedom earlier this year, but left the sticky matter of public accommodations for another day. 

It is one of many issues that could arise in the near future as the tension between often competing rights continues to mount in Utah and across the country.

Cole Durham, director of the BYU International Center for Law and Religious Studies, said he would be surprised if the state didn't address whether businesses can discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, such as bakers, florists and photographers... more

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

The Conference Developing a multilateral approach to freedom of religion or belief: a European perspective was 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 programme entitled ‘Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) and Foreign Policy: A transatlantic dialogue for a multilateral approach to religious freedom’. The first leg of will focus on the emerging European approach and the U.S./European divide, but will also starting opening up the discussion over the policy prospects of a joint... more

Image for Elder Holland speaks on Faith, Family, and Religious Freedom at Chapman University

ORANGE, CALIFORNIA

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discussed the issues of faith, family and religious freedom on the campus of Chapman University on Thursday, February 26, 2015. Elder Holland was on the southern California campus when the Fish Interfaith Center was launched a decade ago, and he returned this week to help the center celebrate its 10th anniversary.

 –  From Mormon Newsroom (see link below).

 

Image for <em>Religion and the Secular State: National Reports</em> now available in final form

Professor Javier Martínez-Torrón of the Law Faculty of Complutense University in Madrid, and Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University, General Reporters for the topic "Religion and the Secular State" for The 18th Congress of the International Academy of Comparative Law, along with Donlu Thayer, project editor, are pleased to announce the publication in final form of the National Reports prepared on this topic.

The Congress is the once-every-four-years meeting of the experts of the International Academy of Comparative Law. The 18th Congress, held in Washington, DC, in July 2010, was the first Congress of this 90-year-old Academy to be held in the United States. The Reports prepared on the the topic... more

Image for Archbishop Charles J. Chaput Speaks at BYU, Visits the Center

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput visited Brigham Young University on January 23, 2015, where he spoke to students, faculty, and guests on the topic "The Great Charter at 800" as part of BYU's "Faith, Family and Society" lecture series. Afterwards he met with leaders of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at the BYU Law School.

Archbishop Chaput was born in 1944 in Concordia, Kansas.  He joined the Capuchin Franciscan order in 1965 and was ordained a priest in1970.  He holds master’s degrees in theology and religious education, and served... more

Image for Report: Launch Event for the ODIHR/Venice Commission Guidelines on the Legal Personality of Religious or Belief Communities - 2015

Report from Cole Durham at the European Parliament

On February 4, 2015, the European Parliamentary Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance hosted, at the European Parliament in Brussels, a launch event for the newly published ODIHR/Venice Commission Guidelines on the Legal Personality of Religious or Belief Communities.

The event was chaired by MEP Dennis de Jong, Co-President of the Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance of the EU Parliament, and featured introductory remarks by Snježana Bokulić, Head of the Human Rights Department, OSCE/ODIHR; a presentation of the Guidelines by Finola Flanagan, Former Member of the European Commission for Democracy Through Law (The Venice Commission) and Engy Abdelkader, Member of the OSCE/ODIHR Advisory Panel on Freedom of Religion or Belief; and comments by John Kinahan, of Forum 18.  After formal presentations... more

Image for The Year in Review 2014

Newsletter 24 December 2014 

Dear Friends,

As 2014 comes to a close, we at the International Center for Law and Religion Studies look back on a busy and productive year. We are constantly conscious of how much of our success depends on collaboration with others, particularly those receiving this newsletter, and for that collaboration we express our gratitude. We are working on an annual report for 2014, which will provide a more comprehensive review of activities, but we did not want to let the Christmas and New Year’s season pass without sharing greetings and appreciation.

Most notable as we look back is the impressive series of conferences in which the Center has participated, often as a co-sponsor. In addition to our annual International Law and Religion Symposium in Provo, we participated in or co-organized more than twenty-five other conferences this year. These included conferences held on every continent except Antarctica. Particularly significant... more

Image for Symposium 2014: Senator Hatch Receives Distinguished Service Award

The 21st Annual International Law and Religion Symposium opened on Sunday evening, October 5, 2014, in the Moot Court Room of the J. Reuben Clark Law School on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Those in attendance and listening in via live webinar were welcomed by Law School Dean James R. Rasband and Brigham Young University President Kevin J Worthen. Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., Director of  the Symposium's sponsoring organization, the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, presented the Center's Distinguished Service Award to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who... more

Image for Freedom of Religion Is Topic of UN Side Event, October 2014
Heiner Beilefeldt in NYC, 2014
Photo by Laurie Williams Sowby

Report by Laurie Williams Sowby, Deseret News, October 31

It began with a Jewish piano teacher who was dismissed from her job at a European music conservatory because she refused to give exams on Saturdays, the day she honored as the Sabbath. When he heard of the case, Professor Heiner Bielefeldt knew religious freedom in the workplace was an issue he wanted to pursue. Dr. Bielefeldt, human rights professor at the University of Erlangen-Nürnburg in Germany, was appointed as U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2010 with a three-year renewal of his appointment in 2013. He presented his report at the United Nations Oct. 23 and headed panels on the topic Oct. 23 and 24 in New York. 

The U.N. side event on Oct. 24, co-hosted by the United Kingdom and BYU’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies, featured several noted authorities in the field. The session was attended by 60 people, including diplomats from missions to the U.N. and representatives from... more

Image for Intensive Master Level Course in Yogyakarta : Sharia and Human Rights: Scholarly Background and Cases of Controversy in Contemporary Indonesia

Professor 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 at BYU Law School, participated in an Intensive Master Level Course on Sharia and Human Rights: Scholarly Background and Cases of Controversy in Contemporary Indonesia, held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 2-6 June 2014. The event was co-sponsored by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the  Faculty of Law, Universitas Gadjah Mada... more