Thursday General Session: What Can a Lay Person do to Protect Religious Freedom? – Neill F. Marriott

By Austin Atkinson, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

The second half of the Thursday morning general session was moderated by Jane Wise, Associate Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University and featured Neill F. Marriott, Former Second Counselor, Young Women General Presidency, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Neill F. Marriott’s words were titled “What Can a Lay Person Do to Protect Religious Freedom?” She pointed out that she was likely the only layperson speaking at the conference, never having been involved with the law and divinity schools like many of the others. Marriott spoke of her father, a judge, attorney, and member of the board at the First Methodist Church in Alexandria, Louisiana, coming to her when she was twelve years old and asking whether they could let black people into their church. Even at that young age, she felt what was right, replying to her father’s inquiry, “Daddy, could you really stand at the door and turn them away?” We need to be willing to change our views so that a culture can start to shift and a groundswell of unity begins. This unity will not come without one-on-one experiences. Sister Marriott then outlined three important ways to protect religious freedom: be aware, be articulate, and be active. She said that there is goodness in all of us, and while it may be idealistic, there are bridges to be built across gaps of differences. Marriott closed by describing a huge mural she saw while on an escalator in Johannesburg, which included the words, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Only then will greater freedom grow and understanding deepen.