Reports of individual session of the 20th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium appear here as soon as they become available. Check back often! (If you have a report or useful photographs to share, please send them directly to Donlu Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
A full table of texts, recordings, and photographs from the Symposium are being assembled here. Please note that the default is to show presentations available in English. Written texts are also available in French, Italian, Spanish, and Ukrainian. Note that languages available may be selected from the dropdown menu at the top right of the page.
Delegates, invited guests, and listeners worldwide via live webcast of the opening session of the 20th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium were privileged to hear compelling and provocative keynote addresses by Judge Françoise Tulkens, and Professor Malcolm Evans OBE, who spoke to the topic Religion and Human Rights.
Those assembled in the Moot Court of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, as well as those listening in via live webcast, were first welcome by Law School Dean James R. Rasband, after which the speakers were introduced by W. Cole Durham, Jr., Director of the Law School’s Internation Center for Law and Religion Studies, the Symposium’s sponsoring organization, who also presented the Center’s Distinguished Service Award…
Joseph Hepworth, Brent Andrus, and Donlu Thayer reporting
This first plenary session of the 20th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium addressed “Religious and Philosophical Bases of Human Rights.” The session opened with an introduction by Brett G. Scharffs, BYU Law School Associate Dean and International Center for Law and Religion Studies Associate Director, followed by welcomes from Law School Dean James R. Rasband and Brigham Young University President Cecil O. Samuelson. Guest moderator Zachary R. Calo, Professor of Law, Valparaiso University School of Law, superintended…
Jordan Pendergrass and Joseph Hepworth reporting
The Symposium’s second plenary session, entitled “Judicial Perspectives on Religion and Human Rights,” was a lighting round of questions and answers. The session was moderated by J. Clifford Wallace, Chief Judge Emeritus, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Judge Wallace introduced the session as a conversation between judges and explained that he had not given his colleagues advance notice of what he might ask them. The panelists…
Joseph Hepworth reporting
Moderator: Elizabeth A. Clark
Speakers: Renáta Uitz, Mark Hill, Ian Linden, Anthony Gill
Renáta Uitz, Professor and Chair, Comparative Law Program, Central European University
Professor Uitz described the clash between freedom of religion and other human rights. She suggested that it might be useful to take a second look at the picture. We arrived at the same-sex marriage debate after a decades-long transformation of family law. For example, the status of children born out of wedlock was a development in family law that affected the status of children adopted by gay couples.
By juxtaposing gays and believers, the legal profession has had a big role in generating these clashes. The clash between freedom of religion and the right to private family life is illustrated by the conflict over child custody when a marriage is dissolved. One of the parents joins or leaves a religious community, and a custody dispute arises. When these cases get to court, at least in Europe, the domestic court discusses the lifestyle choices of the parent that the parent imposes on the child. The measuring stick is normalcy. If it is not “normal,” the court may interpret the choice as harmful to the child.
Instead of focusing on the rights, Professor Uitz suggested that we should focus on the underlying relationships that create the rights. She stressed the importance of becoming aware of our majoritarian biases. Those biases undercut the claims of a religious minority. Courts might engage in a de facto establishment of religion through bias.
Professor Uitz suggested that same-sex marriage is less about redefining religious marriage, and more about defining all civil marriages to be equal.
Mark Hill QC, Honorary Professor, Centre for Law and Religion, Cardiff, University, United Kingdom; Extraordinary Professor, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Professor Hill suggested that the greatest tension between rights relates to human sexuality and religious rights. Early decisions affecting sexuality focused on other rights, such as rights of association, rather than religious rights. Religion has two aspects, belief and outward manifestation. The first is not qualified; the second is subject to limitations. The European Court has redefined the definition of the family.
The tension is exacerbated by the distinction between liberty and equality. Equality may work to the disadvantage of those who want to exercise religious rights. But in a curious way, the equality may work to the advantage of minority religious groups. With equality, there may be a race to the bottom, driving out religion. On the other hand, raising other religions to the status of the majority religion would have the opposite effect.
Professor Hill suggested that respect may not be the answer, and the court of human rights may not have the answer. Respect may be the answer in the ivory tower of academia, but it does not work in the courts. Litigants do not respect each other. The gravity of religious rights protection may be moving to the European Court of Luxemburg. No need to go to home court first. Luxemburg is very fast. Cases brought in Luxemburg are private. Resolution is not best resolved by the courts and lawyers. Citizens have a duty not to engage in undignified litigation. The majority of these issues are sorted out by common sense in other forums. Professor Hill proposed more mediation. He observed that judges do not have the answers. We have over exaggerated views of the capacity of judges to resolve these issues, particularly issues of gay marriage.
Ian Linden, Senior Advisor, Tony Blair Foundation; Associate Professor in the Study of Religion at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London
Professor Linden suggested that there is a tension between universality and particularity, with an international dimension. We should think of human rights in terms of citizenship and the rights of citizens and international order. Being more than citizens creates different tensions in different political contexts. Different identities differ in their weight and value. Religious identity covers a large part of human life. Theology is about everything; sexuality identity is only about one thing.
Focusing on gay marriage, Professor Linden suggested that civil partnership is differentiated from marriage. Calling it gay marriage required a redefinition of the term marriage.
Professor Linden concluded by arguing that litigation is not the way to resolve clashing identities. It’s a failure on the part of religious leaders. They did not recognize civil partnerships. Programmatic secularism pushed religion to the corner. What needs to be sought now is better dispute resolution, more mediation.
Professor Linden also observed that if religious communities do not show love toward gay members, what they say will be seen as homophobic. It’s a natural human reality.
Anthony Gill, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Washington
Professor Gill began his remarks with the observation that the United States is the “birthplace of modern religious freedom, but we are losing it.”
Professor Gill made two points. First, if you want religious liberty, you have to go in all the way for liberty, period. He contrasted the Catholic church’s opposition to abortion rights in the Affordable Care Act with the support of the loss of other liberty in the same Act. The bigger the government, the less liberty. The bigger the state, the more the need for tax revenue. Religious groups do not generate a lot of tax revenue, so when a government is looking for revenue, it will discriminate against religions. A larger state will create a lot of bureaucratic interest that crowds out what religions do. Religions are not needed to do a lot of things if the state does them. If we want to fight for religious liberty, we need to fight for other liberties as well, including a smaller state.
Second, Professor Gill discussed the benefits of religious liberty. If you move from less religious liberty to more, there will be winners and losers. The losers always fight back. It’s important to appeal to the interests of the government, which writes the rules. Religious liberty creates a lot of economic benefits. It performs a lot of social services that do not need to be performed by the state.
To bring the 20th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium to a close, Professor Cole Durham invited eight Symposium delegates
to join him in making summary comments. The delegates expressed their appreciation for the organizers of the conference and the gracious reception from volunteers and organizers alike. They also reflected on insights and inspiring concepts from the symposium. …
Joseph Hepworth reporting
Moderator: Thomas B. Griffith, Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
Volodymyr Zagoldnyi, Judge, Supreme Court of Ukraine
Judge Zagoldnyi began his presentation by observing that conflict between religions is quite natural in the process of globalization. In Ukraine, Article 35 of the Constitution protects religious freedom. Each person has freedom of thought, including the right to change religion. The state interferes with religion only as necessary to protect public order. Religious organizations in Ukraine do not perform public functions. Clerics have the right to participate in political affairs. Religious organizations must register with the state if they want to publically express their faith. Ukraine is one step away from becoming part of the European Union. Judge Zagnoldnyi expressed his hope that human rights and freedom will continue to expand as Ukraine becomes part of the European Union.
J. Clifford Wallace, Chief Judge Emeritus, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Judge Wallace began his remarks by observing that human rights are only theories until there is a court to enforce the right. Most judicial proceedings outside the United States are influenced by international norms. That is not the case in the United States. The Constitution is not a “rights” constitution. The idea was to limit the power of the federal government. The only right included in the body of the Constitution is the right to patent. Immediately after the Constitution was adopted, the first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights was adopted. The First Amendment does not give rights to people. It limits the power of the federal government. The first of two clauses, the “Establishment Clause,” prohibits the federal government from establishing a state religion. The second, the Free Exercise Clause, prohibits the federal government from interfering with the exercise of religion. But neither clause gives any right to an individual. The Establishment Clause prohibits a monopoly on religion, encouraging competition among religions. The idea is to unburden religions from government. Those that meet the needs of the citizenry will flourish; those that do not will diminish. The Free Exercise Clause prevents the Government from interfering with those economic principles. The United States does not embrace international documents unless they are adopted by Congress in a treaty. Then they become the law of the land. Judge Wallace concluded his remarks by reviewing a number of cases of the United States Supreme Court that have diminished religious freedom.
Gaylee Coverston reporting
Moderator: Stanley Martineau
The Latin America: Community Leaders session brought together a panel of community leaders from Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic.
The session began with Elias Szczytnicki of Peru, the Secretary General and Regional Director of Religions for Peace in Latin America and the Caribbean. This great community advocate created a clear picture…
Moderator: Patrick J. Thurston
Gonzalo Guerrero, Director, Chile Religious Affairs Office
Maria Esperanza Adrianzen Olivos, Director of Interfaith Affairs, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Peru
Ximena Guzmán, Director of the Department of Entry Processing, National Directorate of Immigration
Eliseo Rosales Avalos, Director General, Federal Heritage Administration (INDAABIN), Mexico
Gaylee Coverston reporting
Moderator: Gary B. Doxey
The distinguished Attorney General of Columbia, Alejandro Ordoñez Maldonado, opened the session with a discussion of the importance of social and political debate to improve the quality of freedom of religion and conscience. According to Article 19 of Colombia’s Constitution, a person does not have to act contrary to their conscience. True freedom must allow for action or inaction in accordance with one’s own personal beliefs. Mr Ordoñez concluded with a personal experience dealing with the issue of personal conscience versus social/political pressures and duties.
The second presenter, Mário Alfredo Pinel Rosales, a Congressman from the National Congress of the Republic of Honduras, gave an overview of the Constitutional process regarding human rights and freedom of religion. Honduras has opened its country to all denominations, with the intent of offering equal opportunity for religious entities. Actual application still requires effort and tolerance. Mr Rosales believes that, with care, religious freedom and human rights can be achieved as Honduras moves forward in an attitude of respect.
Following Mr Rosales, José Ricardo Lopes Pescador, the General Director of Fideicomiso Fondo National de Fomento Ejidal of the Republic of Mexico, spoke on Constitutional reform in Mexico regarding religious freedom. He presented a historical overview of Mexico’s religious freedom and human rights legislation, citing the many changes from Mexico’s original separation of church and state in 1857. Presently, the most recent additions to Mexico’s Constitution in articles 24 and 130, were finally approved in July of this year. The process was long but finally achieved, giving hope to all nations that improving human right issues is a reality if we move forward with determination.
The concluding speaker for this breakout session was Maria Patricia Ariza Velasco from Colombia. She is the fourth Deputy Attorney of the Council of State of the Office of the Attorney General of Colombia. Dr. Ariza opened her presentation noting that human rights and religious freedom issues in this era began in earnest as a response to the atrocities of World War II. She continued by recognizing the reality of religious violence. In the Western World the violence regarding human rights tends to be insidiously emotional versus physical. Today’s holocaust occurs as we force others to disregard their personal identity, by demanding that they act contrary to their consciences. She also alluded to Article 19 of Colombia’s Constitution as a step forward in allowing for freedom of conscience. To preserve human dignity, we must allow a person to be who they are in public as well as in private.
Moderator: Scott Isaacson
Click names to view PowerPoint presenations (in Spanish):
Marcos González Sánchez, Professor of Ecclesiastical Law, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain
Juan Martin Vives, Secretary of Student Management, Universida Adventista del Plata, Argentina
Efrén Chávez Hernández, Professor, Legal Research Institute, National Autonomous University of Mexico
Victor Jesus Alvarez Medina, Director General, Administrative Studies Center, Venezuela
Moderator: Richard “Dic” Johnson
Luis Pedro del Valle, Partner, Arias & Muñoz, Guatemala
Moisés Arata Solís, Professor, University of Lima, San Martín de Porres and San Ignacio de Loyola, Peru
Clarence Antony Nigel Hughes, Attorney at Law, Hughes, Fields & Stoby, Guyana
Yoel Rivas, Yoel Rivas Martinez Law Firm, Venezuela
Brent Andrus reporting
Moderator: David Kirkham
Shiferaw Teklemariam – Minister of Federal Affairs, Ethiopia
Ethiopia has a long history of religious tolerance. Christianity is the largest faith, followed by Islam at one third of the population. Christianity and Islam coexist without major problems. Religious protection has been provided by the constitution for the past twenty two years. No one religion is favored and freedom of worship is guaranteed. New legislation has been proposed that provides for a more straightforward and manageable process for the registration of churches, providing for ownership of property and the right to sue (and be sued). Some religious organizations could be refused recognition if they do not meet certain requirements, including a minimum number of members.
Yao Kouadio – Chief of Staff, Ministere de l’Interieur, Ivory Coast
The country recognizes and espouses plurality…of religions, cultures and ideology. There exists about 367 churches in the country today. The constitution states the country is a democracy and embraces equality and respects all beliefs. The country is non-denominational, neutral, and favors no community to believers. It encourages interdenominational dialogue between religions, particularly between various Christian sects and Islam. The government sees religion as the leaven of national unity. It allows religions to practice their faith according to their statutes, as long as they comply with the laws of the land. The State does forbid the use of religion for political ends.
René Ferguson – Principal Tutor, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
South Africa has shifted from a racist society to one of democracy and openness since Apartheid was abolished in 1994. South Africa is home to many religions – various Christian churches, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism. Indigenous religions are also prominent. With the large diversity of faiths, significant tensions exist in society. These tensions have spilled into public education, the presenter’s field. The Constitution provides for equality for all, including conscience, religious belief, and free exercise of worship and assembly. A Policy on religious education in public schools was put forward in 2003 to provide guidelines for fair and equal treatment of religious education in the classroom, particularly for minority religions. Historically, majority religions were favored at the expense of minority religions. The new religious education policy attempts to correct this bias. One continuing problem is the acceptance or repression of dress and behavior associated with minority religion customs.
Moderator: Fred W. Alexgard
Mohamed Abdelaal, Assistant Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law, Alexandria University Faculty of Law
Erdogan Arslan, Vice President, Turkey Yozgat City Platform
Michel André Touma, Assistant Editor-in-Chief, L’Orient-Le Jour
Moderator: John R. Rosenberg
Marco Frenschkowski, Prof. Dr., University of Leipzig, Germany
José Ferrer Sánchez, Professor, Peace and Conflicts Institute, Granada University, Spain
Eugenia Paola Carmona Diaz de Leon, Foundation of the Parliamentary Group for the National Action Party of the House of Representatives, Mexico
Jordan Pendergrass reporting
Moderator: Mark Choate
Speakers: Claudio Mario Betti, Anna Nardini, and Andrea Pin.
The session dedicated to Italy began with the furthering of a common Symposium theme: the language of the human rights framework. Claudio Mario Betti, Assistant to the President, Community of Sant’Egidio, made it clear that a small “s” makes a big difference; a discussion of “religion and human rights” is often overly theoretical while a discussion of “religions and human rights” typically deals with concrete persons and things. During his presentation Dr. Betti emphasized the need for good human rights language and lamented many religious actors’ ignorance and inability to understand the human rights vocabulary. He explained how religions play an important role in the development of identity and the fostering or repairing of healthy relationships. Although it is difficult to do, Dr. Betti further explained, religions must be properly oriented to human rights and human rights must be properly oriented to religions. Using the current conflict in Syria as an example, he described how religious actors and non-religious actors can value life, peace, and stability and at the same time have drastically different mechanisms for achieving those ends. Dr. Betti is a historian and teacher of international relations and conflict resolution. He has spent many years interacting with different religious actors.
The session’s second speaker was Anna Nardini, Director General, Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Ms. Nardini has extensive experience in matters of government and religion and religious freedom. During her remarks, she provided an overview of the Italian government’s modern history of the relationship between church and state, emphasizing the Italian commitment to religious freedom. Ms. Nardini affirmed the centrality of religious freedom in the Italian constitution as a right for both individuals and associations. She described the government’s position toward the Catholic church and the process by which other religious groups have established agreements with the government. There are a number of benefits available to minority religious groups, including the following: choice in religious education; recognition of a faith’s theological study; marriage within a particular faith tradition; building rights (eg, security against inappropriate police invasion); and ministerial benefits. During the question and answer portion of the session, Ms. Nardini talked about the growth of Islam in Italy, referencing particularly the array of Italian mosques.
Andrea Pin, Lecturer in Comparative Law, University of Padua, was the session’s final speaker. Dr. Pin began his remarks by discussing Lautsi v. Italy, a case addressing the permissibility of crosses hanging in classrooms of Italian state schools. He furthered the dialogue regarding the search for European identity, and linked that dialogue to European national efforts to achieve neutrality, in some situations, and religious freedom, in others. He discussed the risks of state neutrality and the need for an umbrella of pluralism broad enough to cover Europe, a need that has derived from a poorly fitting blanket of universal neutrality. Dr. Pin addressed the religious history of Europe and the varying levels of secularism throughout Europe, and prescribed the means by which states may retain their religious roots while preserving religious freedom. Religious pluralism works at the European level, Dr. Pin explained, but at a state level there is simply too much of an influence of the historical majority religion to disregard the prominence of that majority religion.
Moderator: Brett G. Scharffs
Makoto Ida, Professor, Keio University Law School, Japan
Rakesh Hamal, Executive Director, GP Koirala Foundation for Democracy, Peace & Development; Chairman, National Rehabilitation Society for the Disabled (NGO), Nepal
Jordan Pendergrass reporting
During one of the Symposium’s first breakout sessions, which was moderated by Joel S. Selway, Assistant Professor, Political Science, Brigham Young University, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was represented by
Joseph Hepworth reporting
Moderator: Richard Page
Moderator: Douglas McAllister
Speaker: Quivido T. Oregines, Professor, Xavier University
Joseph Hepworth reporting
Moderator: Michael L. Jensen
Yakov Krotov and Zorica Angelovsska-Kovasevikj
Yakov Krotov, Priest, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Reunited, Russia
The lack of religious freedom is in the center of public discussion in Russia. Russia can be characterized as a state without law. If you are a member of the Russian ruling elite (about 25% of the population), you have the right to violate some of the laws, depending on your status. The Russian President can violate all laws. There is a gap…
Jordan Pengergrass reporting
The Symposium’s second plenary session, entitled “Judicial Perspectives on Religion and Human Rights”, was a lighting round of questions and answers. The panelists were all esteemed judges from Africa: Samuel Kofi Date-Bah, Justice, Supreme Court of Ghana; Annel Musenga Silungwe, Honorable Chief Justice (Rtd.), Technical Committee on Drafting the Zambian Constitution; and Eberhard Bertelsmann, Judge, North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, South Africa.  …