Center welcomes new Associate Director Hannah Clayson Smith

Hannah Clayson Smith named as new Associate Director of the ICLRS

Hannah Clayson Smith, an accomplished legal expert and two-time clerk for the US Supreme Court, has been a passionate advocate for religious freedom throughout her entire career. In addition to contributing to over 25 Supreme Court briefs in the defense of 13 major faith groups,
Smith has supported the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) in diverse projects aimed at promoting religious freedom over the years.

“My husband John and I were law student research assistants to Professor Cole Durham when the Center was founded in 2000. We have been committed to the Center’s mission for over 25 years, first as students, then as alumni and donors. I am delighted to expand that involvement, now as Associate Director,” Smith said.

Smith has been actively involved with ICLRS conferences, particularly those based in the Washington DC area, for several years. As a senior fellow, she frequently collaborated with Professor Durham in the development of presentations for interfaith forums.

Earlier this year, Smith assumed the role of National Coordinator for the Religious Freedom Alliance Council. This position has placed her at the forefront of discussions on religious freedom across the country. In addition to supporting those who are conducting events and forums that focus on the promotion of freedom of religion or belief, Smith has sought out new allies and organizers to add their voices to the movement.

“There’s a real excitement among members of the church and people of other faiths to educate themselves, to get involved, to teach their children, and to join forces with those who share the common cause of protecting religion and human dignity,” she noted. “This year, we have assisted Alliance events in Charlotte, Dallas, DC, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Tampa Bay.”

As a new associate director, Smith will continue in her role as National Coordinator while working more closely with ICLRS in their contributions to worldwide freedom of religion or belief.

Smith is intimately connected to the topic of religious freedom, in part due to her experience as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France where she encountered persecution firsthand. Moreover, her family’s connection to the topic of religious freedom is over a hundred years old.

“My family’s genealogy goes all the way back to the very beginning of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have read their journals and have shared their writings with my children. The passion I have for religious freedom stems from an understanding of how vital freedom of conscience is to each person in finding truth as they believe God has spoken truth to them. I know how important it was for my ancestors, and I know how important it is for people of faith everywhere today to be able to search, ponder, pray, and follow the dictates of their conscience.” Smith’s unwavering dedication to safeguarding religious freedom, rooted in her personal experiences and family legacy, will continue to shape her contributions to the cause of freedom of religion or belief while she serves as an ICLRS Associate Director.

Hannah’s full bio