To our friends of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society:
This special edition of the Newsletter of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) at J. Reuben Clark Law School has been created for you, to inform you of activities of the Center that might be of interest to you, and to invite you to join with us in our upcoming 16th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium, in person at the Law School, or by receiving the live broadcast of the opening session on Sunday evening, 4 October 2009.
Many of you who have affiliation with or interest in the Center will have heard from us already this week. We are sending this special edition to reach the rest of you, and to provide more information about the important work of the Center and its influence throughout the world, and to let you know about the live stream, in English, Portuguese, and Spanish, of this year’s opening Symposium session from the Law School’s Moot Court Room.
In early 1990, not long after the disintegration of Communism in Eastern Europe, I was taken to meet with a group of university political science professors in a bleak but newly hopeful Romania. I was moved and astonished by their question: “Could you show us or get us a copy of a constitution? We have never seen one.” The experience was one of many in those years of so much swift and surprising social change that reinforced my determination to bring together what I knew to be the particular talents of BYU Law School faculty and students with scholars, legal professionals, and government and religious leaders in all parts of the world, in friendship and productive dialogue that would help build laws that would create, teach, and bolster notions of and structures for liberty, and very importantly religious liberty, in many parts of the world.
International issues of the BYU Law Review, begun in the mid-1980s, launched as a result of student initiatives at the time, led to the first of what would become the Annual International Law and Religion Symposium in October 1994. This led not only to successive annual symposia at BYU, but to a snowballing range of activities in other parts of the world. The International Center for Law and Religion Studies was formally established and commenced operations as of January 1, 2000, to provide the institutional base for longer-term initiatives in the field of law and religion throughout the world. During the succeeding decade, BYU has emerged as a recognized leader in the field of religious rights, both at the national level in the United States and internationally. Work in the United States has included Congressional testimony in support of draft legislation and participation in numerous conferences in the U.S. Internationally, ICLRS personnel are now instrumental in organizing and participating in 20-30 regional conferences and law reform consultations each year in countries around the world.
Fifteen years of Annual Law and Religions Symposia have now brought nearly 800 experts in law and religion from more than 100 countries to the Law School to present, to discuss, to teach, and to learn. This has only been possible because of the volunteer work of hundreds of students (including many of you during student days), as well as many others in helping to host and maintain contacts with many who attend.
We also have been expanding our international web presence, as described elsewhere in this newsletter. We are in constant need of volunteers who can help us improve, expand, and update materials on various country portals, and also who can help us stay in touch with experts in other countries. You can view our efforts by visiting the Center’s websites, the ICLRS main website, the European issues site, the Law and Religion database site, and finally our new site devoted to issues surrounding constitution building in Nepal. We hope you check these sites soon and often, finding them useful, watching our progress, and making suggestions for improvement.
The Center is honored once again this October to be able to host the Symposium, bringing more than 70 leading scholars, members of the judiciary, and government and religious leaders from some 40 countries to discuss challenges and successes in implementing principles of religious freedom worldwide. We are particularly pleased that this year, for the first time, our friends in many places will be able to hear the opening session of the Symposium, in their own homes, by accessing the live stream through the ICLRS website. We issue a special invitation to all of you in the Clark Society to join us at the Law School if you are in town, or to listen at 7:00 p.m. MDT on Sunday night to our distinguished guests, Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency and Justice Pius Nikonzo Langa, immediate past Chief Justice of the South Africa Constitutional Court, both of whom have made profound and far-reaching contributions to the cause of human freedom.
To access the live stream, you may click on one of the following links: ENGLISH PORTUGUESE SPANISH. For more information about testing and accessing these links, please see the article below. Please be forewarned that there may be problems for Mac users that can be solved with some advance preparation.
Please also see the articles below for more information about the Center, about the Symposium and our honored guests, and about how you can help in this important work. Again, please join us Sunday evening, and for other Symposium sessions as you are able. You are most welcome.
W. Cole Durham, Jr.
Susa Young Gates University Professor of Law
Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies