ICLRS and a Symposium on Religious Freedom in Costa Rica, June 2017

Gary Doxey, Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, ICLRS Senior Fellow Scott Isaacson, and Jeff Robinson, member of the ICLRS International Advisory Council, traveled to Costa Rica for meetings in June. Among others, they met with personnel from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica, and with members and staff of Costa Rica’s unicameral congress, the Asamblea Legislativa

On June 9 ICLRS, in collaboration with the Asamblea Legislativa, held an international symposium “Religious Freedom Challenges in Costa Rica: A Pending Human Rights Commitment”. The symposium discussed the importance of religious freedom and the need to reform current Costa Rican law to protect it better. Rep. Fabricio Alvarado and other members of the Legislative Assembly have been collaborating with the Center during the past three years to draft and refine religious freedom legislation that Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly is now considering. 

A highlight of the symposium was the speech of Elder Dale G. and Sister Ruth L. Renlund of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Renlund spoke about his long experience as a cardiologist helping heart transplant patients. He analogized that religious freedom is like the medicines he used to suppress the body’s negative immune response to a transplanted heart. Religious freedom softens the otherwise negative reactions some members of society may feel toward those with whom they disagree. It is a necessary ingredient for treating our fellow human beings with respect in today’s world of strong differences of opinion.

Participants included a who’s who of influential politicians and community leaders, among them: Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera; the president of Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly, a member of the Supreme Court, three presidential candidates, the president of the bar association, and numerous leaders of both major and minor faith groups in Costa Rica, as well as critical invitees from surrounding countries. All these participants expressed commitment to religious freedom and to improving religious freedom law.

“What was truly unusual about this conference,” said Gary Doxey, “was to have Elder Renlund and the president of the country speak in the same session. The number and level of influencers present in this symposium made it exceptional.”

The event was hosted at the Colegio de Abogados y Abogadas (Bar Association) of Costa Rica. Other co-sponsors included Participación Ciudadana (a Costa Rican government agency), and the Latin American Consortium for Religious Liberty.