by Richard Page
The Vietnam breakout session enjoyed the convergence of a distinguished panel of speakers and robust and lively collection of listeners. The session was moderated by Richard Page, International Fellow, International Center for Law and Religion Studies. The panel was led by Dr. Le Ba Trinh, Vice-Chairman of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, who described the history of constitutional and other regulatory treatment of religion and religious organizations. He summarized the steady progress in Vietnam of the protection and accommodation afforded religious freedom, highlighting (1) the explicit extension of such rights to foreigners in the Constitution of 2013 (such rights previously being textually tied to “citizenship”) and (2) a series of improvements reflected in the draft law on religion currently being considered by the government. These improvements include a movement toward a “notification” approach and away from an “approval” approach to regulation and a substantial streamlining of registration and other procedures. The two other speakers, Ms. Tran Thanh Huyen and Ms. Thi Phuong Thao Phung, each a young scholar, echoed these observations and also broadened the discussion into specific contextual circumstances. The excellent presentations were followed by 15 minutes of questions and discussion.