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 of us by our Creator. Thus government has a perennial obligation to acknowledge and protect religious liberty as fundamental, no matter the moral and political trends of the moment.”*

In his speech at the Awards Dinner, Archbishop Lori recalled the “renewed vision of religious freedom” of Pope Francis, who, during his recent visit to the United States, “spoke of the commitment of faithful people to build a society that is ‘truly tolerant and inclusive’, a society that rejects ‘every form of unjust discrimination’.” Pope Francis reminded us that “Religious liberty remains one of America’s most precious possessions” and “encouraged us to be good citizens who are vigilant, ready “to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”

In his address before Congress, Pope Francis “returned to the importance of religious freedom” and “helped us see ourselves anew”: “Just legislation that reflects God’s law unifies peoples and nations because it respects transcendent human dignity. Unjust legislation that contradicts that law of God inscribed in human nature ultimately leads to disunity and to the trampling of fundamental rights & liberties.”

Throughout his visit, the Holy Father called upon Americans to remember the ideals upon which our Nation was founded, to recall the “iconic figures in our culture” who worked to create “a new birth of freedom” that “requires us to serve the common good with bedrock convictions about our shared human dignity, a dignity that is the basis for human solidarity. He called for respect of those decisions that rightly belong to individuals, families, churches, and institutions at the local level that serve the common good.”

In concluding his remarks Archbishop Lori observed that we do well to remember the words of Joseph Smith:  “I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.”

“This evening you do me great honor and I am both humbled and joyful.” said Archbishop Lori. “With all my heart I thank you and join with you in asking God to bless us and to bless our beloved country, the United States of America.”

See complete text of Archbishop Lori’s remarks here.

The award to Archbishop Lori was presented at the International Religious Liberty Awards Dinner held at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC on Thursday, October 8, 2015, an event co-sponsored by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University The Center for Civil and Human Rights of the University of Notre Dame, the Religious Freedom Project of Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, and the Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America.

Winners of the Sixth Annual Founding Fathers Student Writing Competition were also honored at the dinner.

The International Religious Liberty Award, now in its sixth year, has been awarded to Senator Joseph Lieberman; Becket Fund founder Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson; Professor Douglas Laycock; Dr. John Graz, Secretary-General of the International Religious Liberty Association; and US Congressman Frank Wolf.