2017 Religious Freedom Annual Review: Interviews, News Coverage

The 2017 Religious Freedom Annual Review, hosted by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) of BYU Law School, took place 6-7 July 2017 at the Conference Center on the campus of Brigham Young University.

Watch this space for links to recordings and photographs of the event.  And please see the links below for radio interviews with participants and local news coverage.

Among the highlights of this outstanding event were a keynote address by Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, followed by an opening General Session featuring addresses by Brett G. Scharffs, Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (whose title was “Religious Freedom as an Article of Faith”) and Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation and former…

Senator Jeff Flake Keynotes at 2017 Religious Freedom Annual Review

Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona was the keynote speaker at the 2017 Religious Freedom Annual Review, held July 6-7, 2017, in the Conference Center on the Campus of Brigham Young University. Hosted by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies of BYU Law School, the Annual Review provides an up-to-date review for lawyers and nonlawyers on religious freedom challenges in the United States and around the world.

Senator Flake’s keynote address is available on the Center’s Facebook page.

As a member of the US Senate, Senator Flake sits on the Judiciary Committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Foreign Relations Committee where he also serves as chairman of Subcommittee on African Affairs. Senator Flake is a fifth-generation Arizonan who was raised on a cattle ranch in Snowflake, Arizona. The town was named in part for Senator Flake’s great-great grandfather. After serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of…

Keynote Session: Opening Remarks Summary and Keynote Address – Senator Jeff Flake

by Amy Andrus, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

In the keynote session, Dean D. Gordon Smith of the J. Reuben Clark Law School welcomed participants to the 2017 Religious Freedom Annual Review. He stated that during his first year as dean one of his biggest surprises has been the influence of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS). As he travels around the country and the world, he associates with people who are aware of the ICLRS and its work. Dean Smith asserted, “There is nothing we do at the law school that is more important than the work Cole Durham, Brett Scharffs, Elizabeth Clark, and others who work at the Center are doing.” Dean Smith thanked participants for joining in the efforts of the ICLRS and encouraged them to continue promoting religious freedom for the benefit of all.

In his introductory remarks, ICLRS Director Brett G. Scharffs explained that the purpose of the ICLRS and its Religious Freedom Annual Review is to seek “Fairness for All,” which is a central tenet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Scharffs quoted Church…

General Session: Brett Scharffs and Katrina Lantos Swett speak on Religious Freedom

by George Simons, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

The first general session Thursday morning was moderated by W. Cole Durham Jr., Founding Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies. The speakers were Brett G. Scharffs, Francis R. Kirkham Professor of Law and Director of the BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School, and Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, and the former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. 

In his presentation titled “Religious Freedom as an Article of Faith,” Brett Scharffs developed principles of religious freedom by drawing upon the Eleventh and Twelfth Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Scharffs’ highlighted that the 11th Article of Faith does not begin with “We believe” but rather is the only Article that begins with “We claim.” This first clause “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God,” illustrates the basic principle of freedom to worship. The second clause, “according…

Workshop: How Broad is Religious Freedom? Constitutional & Legislative Protections – Melissa Rogers

by Dianna Odell, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

Melissa Rogers, Nonresident Senior Fellow in Governance Studies of the Brookings Institution and former Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Professor Frederick Gedicks, Guy Anderson Chair & Professor of Law of BYU Law School, spoke on Thursday, July 6 on “How Broad is Religious Freedom? Constitutional and Legislative Protections.”

Gedicks opened the session by discussing religious liberty generally, focusing on both freedom for religion and freedom from religion. Professor Gedicks distinguished between the “Private Religious Space,” which is a core space to protect freedom for religions with the “Public Secular Space,” another core space that provides protections from religion. Professor Gedicks emphasized the importance of allowing both the private religious space and the public secular space ample “elbow room” to exercise their freedoms so that they can coexist together.&nbsp…

Workshop: Religion in Public Schools: What Rights do Parents and Students Have? – Steven Collis

by Scott Mosley, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow, with contributions by Neal Liu, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

Steven T. Collis, a chair of Holland & Hart LLP’s nationwide religious institutions and First Amendment practice group, spoke Thursday afternoon on the religious rights of parents and students in public schools. He made clear that there are many gray areas regarding religious freedom in public schools the courts are currently trying to navigate. To ensure these rights are properly respected by public schools, parents and children must know their rights, advocate for their rights, and teach these rights to their communities, school administrations, teachers, and students. Mr. Collis presented some broad principles that can be applied in a variety of settings to show how parents and students can advocate for their rights.

First: Religious freedom is a gift to the world and it matters. Everyone has a religion, even those who claim they are not religious. Why? Because everyone has answers to religious questions, even if they are agnostic. And while some may think religion is a cause of war, experience and reality show that in actuality, the lack of religious freedom is a cause of war. Religious freedom has helped to eradicate…

Workshop: The Quest for an Interfaith Post-Partisan American – Brian Farr

by Shaun Belliston, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow, and Joshua Prince, 2016 ICLRS Student Fellow

In his July 6 presentation, Brian Farr, board member of the Utah International Relations and Trade Commission, discussed ways to create civility in an uncivil world. He emphasized that although it may appear to the contrary, differences of religious affiliation can actually be beneficial to society, not harmful. He argued that religious differences “should enrich—not eclipse—the things that we have in common with other faiths.”

The discussion of religion in the public square, therefore, should not be suppressed but encouraged. As we find common values, we will stem the tide of partisanship and live to learn in peace and harmony with one another.

Farr also discussed principles for creating civility. For example, there is a need for individual responsibility, integrity, respect for freedom of religion and other basic rights, and intergroup cohesion. Without these things, it will be difficult to prevent or suppress violence that results from differences in culture and perspective. 

Workshop: Religion and the Workplace: What Employers Should Know – Derek Davis

by Kyle Harvey, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

Dr. Derek Davis, former director of the J.M. Dawson Institute on Church-State Studies at Baylor University, presented on the legal framework behind religion and the workplace. Dr. Davis began his presentation addressing the relevant law that governs workplace interactions, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The key language that Dr. Davis drew upon was that employers must “reasonably accommodate” religious practices of their employees, so long as the accommodation does not create an “undue hardship” on the employer. 

Dr. Davis then delved deeper into what might constitute “religious accommodation.” Dr. Davis explained that a particular day of worship, certain clothing practices, etc., could be the types of accommodations that an employee might seek….

Workshop: A Voice of Reason: Shaping Public Policy Through Serving in Local Government – Candace Andersen

by Dianna Odell, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

Candace Kay Andersen spoke on Thursday, June 6, 2017 on shaping public policy through serving in local government. As the current Contra Costa County Supervisor, previous Mayor of Danville, previous City Council member for both Danville Town and Morgan Hills City, and a current member of 24 local and regional boards and commissions, Supervisor Andersen spoke from a wealth of experience on shaping public policy through local politics.

Supervisor Andersen addressed many reasons why it is important to participate in local government. First, by participating in local government, we are placed in a position to create laws, rather than just responding to…

Workshop: Using Business to Advance Religious Freedom – Brian Grim

by Amy Andrus and Athelia Graham, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellows

Brian J. Grim, founder and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, conducted a workshop at the 2017 Religious Freedom Annual Review entitled “Using Business to Advance Religious Freedom.”

Grim discussed the Corporate Pledge on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), a new instrument medium-to-large companies can sign that publicly demonstrates a commitment to practice no preference or discrimination based on employees’ religion. Grim asserted that the Pledge sends a clear message to current and prospective employees of a given business that “you can work here without changing who you are.” According to Grim, FoRB can become “one component of a company’s overall strategy to value its employees and increase their loyalty,” which benefits employees, employers, customers, and shareholders alike.

Grim’s Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is also developing a corporate diversity index, based on a…

General Discussion Session: A Conversation on the Changing Face of Religion in American Public Life – Cox, Uddin, & Moreland

by Justin Miller, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

ICLRS Associate Director Elizabeth Clark moderated a session with panelists Daniel Cox, Asma T. Uddin, and Michael P. Moreland.

Daniel Cox, Director of Research at the Public Religion Research Institute, began the panel by presenting some of his research on religious change and decline. In recent years, there has been a rather precipitous decline in those identifying as Protestants while Catholics have remained relatively stable and the unaffiliated have steadily grown. Much of the decline has been in White Protestants while African-American Protestants have remained stable and Latino Protestants have grown. White Catholics have also steeply declined while Latino Catholics have greatly increased. The unaffiliated have grown from 5% in 1972 to 25% in 2016 which leads Cox to believe that this is not merely a case of young people always being less religious than the previous generation.

The reason most people give for leaving their religion is because they stopped believing. This occurs before their 18th birthday in 62% of cases. However, most…

General Session: Hot Topics Involving Religion in American Public Life: The Future of Faith-based Partnerships, Reconciling Religion and Other Civil Rights and More — Carlson-Thies, Rogers, and Dushku

ICLRS Associate Director Gary Doxey moderated the Thursday afternoon general session, “Hot Topics Involving Religion in American Public Life: The Future of Faith-based Partnerships, Reconciling Religion, and Other Civil Rights and More”. 

Stanley Carlson-Thies, Founder and Senior Director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, spoke on “Creating a Pluralist Government Rules Suitable for a Diverse Society”. He feels that pluralism is the way to protect Civil Rights and Religious Freedom and feel like both “sides” win.

He made four points concerning the topic of Pluralism:

1.  A Civil Rights/Anti-Discrimination Model is not the only solution, and is not necessarily the right solution.&nbsp…

General Session: Why Religious Freedom Matters to Me – Helen Easterling Williams & William Atkin

by Joshua Prince, 2016 ICLRS Student Fellow

ICLRS Associate Director Jane Wise moderated the first general session on July 7, 2017. There were two speakers: Helen Easterling Williams, dean of Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, and William Atkin, Associate General Counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Each spoke on what religious freedom meant to them individually.

Helen Easterling Williams spoke of Biblical experiences that show how connected mankind is with deity. She read from passages throughout the Bible that pointed to a strong truth, that she is a “daughter of the most high god.” From these passages, mankind can know for sure that man is endowed with God’s DNA and blessed with His proclivities. She argued that these scriptures established both her cultural and her biblical identities.

Williams said that “religious freedom allows us to explore both realistically and authentically.” Through religious freedom…

General Session: Preserving Religious Diversity in Higher Education – Jackson, Reilly, LoMaglio, & Sandberg

by Scott Mosley, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

In the second general session on Friday morning a panel of speakers spoke on the preservation of religious diversity in higher education as described below. The session was moderated by ICLRS Director Brett Scharffs.

John Jackson, President of William Jessup University, began his presentation by quoting John Adams, who stated, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion…Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Today, there are many sources of conflict including liberty, religious freedom, and the constitution. Concerning higher education, all but one of the Ivy League schools began as religious schools. While many schools have shifted toward secularization, how can a school choosing to remain religious respond to the ever-changing pluralistic environment caused by changing…

Workshop: Religious Liberty & Religious Literacy in American Public Schools – Nathan C. Walker

by Joshua Prince, 2016 ICLRS Student Fellow, and Cecilia Matos, Religious Freedom Annual Review Volunteer

Reverend Nathan Walker is the Executive Director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum in Washington D.C. The Religious Freedom Center envisions a world where everyone throughout the world is free in their religious practices and beliefs. 

One issue that is hindering the furthering of religious freedom is a lack of religious literacy. The Newseum is trying to rectify that through a 5-fold plan. First, they seek to promote civil dialogue by engaging leaders in discussions about religious freedom and literacy in the public square. Second, they strive to equip schools by training teachers and leaders. This allows them to fully understand their rights and their students’ rights, under the law, to religious freedom in their schools. Third, they engage the public by promoting public programs to aid in religious freedom in public schools. Fourth, they provide funding, through scholarships, for religious freedom or liberty courses. And fifth, they have a unified commitment…

Workshop: How to Reach Out and Find Common Ground with LGBTQ Communities – Isom, Jenkins, & Darger

By Athelia Graham, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow, with contributions by Kyle Harvey, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

This session was moderated by Steven M. Sandberg a member of the Office of General Counsel of Brigham Young University.  The participating panelists were Ally Isom, Director of Institutional Messaging for the LDS Church; Addison D. Jenkins, current BYU student and former president of Understanding Same Gender Attraction (USGA), a student run organization at BYU; and Liz Darger, Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator (SWA) at Brigham Young University.  

Ally Isom, Director of Institutional Messaging for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, emphasizes the importance of language as being “the key to our understanding.” In her efforts to restructure mormonandgay.lds.org – a new website initiative by the LDS church that hopes to remove divisions between God’s children, whatever their sexual identification may be, she highlighted…

Workshop: Building an A Team for Religious Freedom- Jeremiah Morgan

by Scott Mosley, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

Jeremiah Morgan, General Counsel to the Supreme Court of Missouri, discussed the importance of working as a team when defending religious freedom. He shared his experience when he was assigned to defend the Missouri Constitution’s definition and provision that marriage was between a man and a woman in a same sex marriage case in Missouri. He asked other attorneys if they would help him but they did not want to work on the case. Eventually he found someone who would if their name was left off the case. He learned in the courtroom when he was the only attorney at his table that going it alone is not the way. And while we may want to go it alone like Captain America, it is not the way we can accomplish the greatest good. Teamwork is what is needed….

Workshop: What does the Separation of Church and State Really Mean? The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause – Silas Allard

by Amy Andrus, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

Silas W. Allard, associate director of Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion, presented a workshop on religious expression in the public square entitled “What Does the Separation of Church and State Really Mean? The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.”

Allard explained modern U.S. Supreme Court Establishment Cause jurisprudence in terms of two competing analytical frameworks that have existed since the Founding: separation and accommodation. Whereas separationists believe the purpose of the Establishment Clause is to keep religion and state as far apart as possible, accommodationists view religion as a necessary force in society through which moral and civic virtue and community identity are developed. Therefore, accommodationists are more willing to allow government support of religion to achieve these desirable social ends.

Allard explained that neutrality––a tenuous middle ground…

Workshop: Religion and the Workplace: Workers’ Rights and Accommodations – Samuel Nielson

by Justin Miller, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

Samuel P. Nielson, a labor law attorney at Sessions Kimball, gave a presentation on workers’ rights and accommodations. Religious rights in the workplace are governed by both federal and state law. Under federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. State Laws may apply with fewer employees (e.g. California applies to employers with 5 or more employees).

Employees are entitled to be free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, while employers must make reasonable accommodations for their employees’ sincere religious beliefs. These beliefs are subjective to the employee and may include attending a worship service, daily prayers, religious dress and grooming, etc. Some conflicts cannot reasonably be eliminated, and the employee is not entitled to the accommodation of his or her choice. Furthermore, individual employee rights take precedence over customer preferences….

Workshop: Freedom of Religion Through Human Rights Education – Donald Holsinger

By Taylor Shaw, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

Donald B. Holsinger, PhD, Co-director, Geneva Office for Human Rights Education Kennedy Center for International Studies, spoke on human rights and the need for greater education. Donald started by giving a brief history of human rights. He discussed the work of Eleanor Roosevelt and the impact her influence had on educating others about human rights. 

Dr. Holsinger spoke about the difference between human rights education and learning about human rights abuses. He said “Human rights education is the teaching and learning of human rights.” He went on to list certain difficulties human rights education is currently facing. “Human rights education is expensive and difficult and often it’s talked about more than it’s done.” 

Dr. Holsinger listed three…

General Session: What Can Make a Difference in Promoting International Religious Freedom? – Lantos Swett, Durham, & Hill

by Justin Miller, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow

Professor Brett Scharffs moderated an International Religious Freedom panel comprised of Katrina Lantos Swett, President, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and former U.S. Commissioner for International Religious Freedom, Kent R. Hill, Executive Director, Religious Freedom Institute, and W. Cole Durham Jr., Susa Young Gates Professor of Law and Founding Director, ICLRS, J. Reuben Clark Law School, BYU.

Scharffs opened the discussion with a question about each individual’s personal involvement with religious freedom. Lantos Swett began by focusing on her legacy as the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. She recounted their experiences in leaving Hungary with the aid of Raoul Wallenberg, a prominent Swedish diplomat who also happened to be Christian. The experience of having someone who made common cause with those with whom he had little in common saved their faith in humanity….