2000 Conferences

Lithuania Conference, in Vilnius, Lithuania, December 2000. At the request of the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice, the Center co-organized a conference, Law and Religion in Civic Society. The conference brought together key government leaders, academics, organizers of a new Commission focusing on new religious movements, and representatives of many religious organizations to discuss issues related to freedom of religion and belief, particularly those related to the formation of the Commission. The conference provided a valuable chance to help influence the nature of the observatory and ensure that it is dedicated to neutral fact-finding and information dissemination, rather than making sweeping generalizations or targeting minority religions.

Seventh Annual Day for Freedom of Religion or Belief, in New York City, New York, November 2000. Professor Durham was one of two speakers at the Seventh Annual Day for Freedom of Religion or Belief in New York City, organized by the UN Non-governmental Organization Committee for Freedom of Religion and Belief. This was a major event that attracted high-level dignitaries.

Balkans Conference, October-November 2000. Professor Durham was invited to be the sole international scholar to participate in the Conference of Ministers of Religious Affairs from Balkan countries in Romania on October 30-November 3, 2000. This was a unique opportunity, as the conference brought together the heads of departments of religious affairs and other key government leaders from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, and Yugoslavia.

Azerbaijan Conference, October 27-28, 2000. The Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan invited the Center and the International Academy for Freedom of Religion and Belief (of which Professor Durham is an Executive Board member) to co-sponsor and organize this conference, designed to serve as a foundation for government efforts to draft new legislation on religious liberty. The conference was attended by the justices and staff of the Constitutional Court, heads of all the major denominations in Azerbaijan, and pertinent heads of departments from the presidential administration and parliament, as well as cabinet ministers, university professors, appellate court justices, state prosecutors, and law enforcement officials.

Seventh Annual International Law and Religion Symposium: Comparative Constitutional Perspectives on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; Catholic University and George Washington University, Washington, D.C., October 2000. The Center, together with a team of student volunteers, organized and hosted the conference “Comparative Constitutional Perspectives on Freedom of Religion and Belief,” the Seventh International Law and Religion Symposium held at BYU. The conference attracted 66 participants from more than 38 countries, including the Minister of State from Zimbabwe; justices from the Constitutional Courts of Poland and South Africa; members of parliament from Ecuador and Ukraine; the Deputy Minister of Justice from Mozambique; the advisor on non-Catholic churches for Mexican President-elect Vincente Fox; the head of the Russian Public Affairs Division of the Presidential Administration (which includes responsibility for the media and churches); and heads of departments or committees on religion from Armenia, the Czech Republic, and Romania. Participants from the United States included Sen. Orrin Hatch, Judge J. Clifford Wallace of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Prof. David Little from Harvard Divinity School, and Michael Young, dean of George Washington Law School.

Conferences on Draft Laws in Bulgaria and Ukraine, September-October 2000. Professor Durham was one of the lead organizers of conferences in Sofia on October 19-20, 2000, and in Kiev on September 10-13, 2000, both focusing on pending church-state legislation in those countries. In Ukraine, Professor Durham had opportunities to meet individually with and present a paper to a conference attended by the all the members of the Ukrainian Parliament’s Committee on Religious and Cultural Affairs, as well as heads of other major committees.

Russian Leadership Program, July 2000. With a grant of $120,000 from the Library of Congress, the Center organized a conference, “Leadership Dialogue on Freedom of Religion and Belief.” The conference, held in Washington, D.C., and at BYU, brought together 30 distinguished Russians, who were either government officials responsible for state interaction with religion at the federal or regional level in Russia, or who came from Russian non-governmental organizations that work on religion matters. The Russians had opportunities to meet with U.S. government leaders, church-state scholars, and LDS Church leaders.

Russian Conference: “From the Policy of State Atheism to Freedom of Conscience,” May 2000. Professor Durham played a central role in efforts to bring about this conference, which brought 150 individuals, both top federal leaders and local heads of religious affairs and relevant Ministry of Justice officials from 80 of Russia’s 89 regions. It also attracted representation from the European Court of Human Rights, the OSCE, U.S. Embassy Officials, and leaders of many of Russia’s religious groups. As many of the religious freedom problems in Russia arise at the regional and local levels, this conference constituted an important opportunity to open dialogue with many of the officials that deal with religious affairs at these levels. It had added credibility because it was co-organized by the Russian Academy of State Service, which is the premier institution charged with training Russian governmental officials.