International Religious Freedom Events in Guatemala, 6-7 March 2018

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) participated in a series of activities concerning religious freedom in Guatemala and Central America from March 6-7, 2018. The culminating event was an international conference on “Religious Freedom, the Secular State, and Conscientious Objection” at which Elder Quentin L. Cook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave the keynote address. The event was sponsored by ICLRS, Asociación la Familia Importa (AFI), Mormon Helping Hands, and the Universidad de San Carlos.

Events began with a meeting between associate director Gary Doxey and senior fellow Scott Isaacson and members of the Guatemala Congress to discuss law reform. A similar meeting was held with all seven members of the Junta Directiva that presides over Congress. 

The Institute of Human Rights of the Universidad de San Carlos hosted a brief conference at the University’s historic colonial campus in Antigua. The event drew a group of 40 professors, lawyers, former judges, university administrators, and city officials. Scott Isaacson and Gary Doxey spoke, respectively, on comparative religious freedom law in Latin America and the question of why robust religious freedom is fundamental for society to flourish. 

The events culminated with the conference on “Religious Freedom, the Secular State, and Conscientious Objection” on March 7. Approximately 130 academics, religious and government leaders participated including ambassadors from Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Panama and leaders from other Latin American nations. Multiple religions were represented. 

Elder Cook was the keynote speaker. In his comments, Elder Cook said, “We who feel a responsibility before God have the obligation to live just lives, to serve our God and our fellow human beings, to obey the law and to be good citizens and friends in everything we do. To the extent that we do so, both our fellow citizens and government officials will be able to better appreciate the value of religion and the principles that allow us to live in accordance with it. “

Monseñor Nicolás Henry Thevenin, the apostolic nuncio of Guatemala, delivered the opening remarks of the conference. Gary Doxey and Scott Isaacson both spoke.