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Image for Religious Freedom Annual Review 2018: Religion and the Common Good
Elder L. Whitney Clayton. Photo by Madeline Mortensen, BYU Photo.

The fourth Religious Freedom Annual Review of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies has concluded on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Some 500 participants in the event heard US media, legal, and religious leaders speak on topics such as why religious freedom matters, how to find common ground with LGBTQ rights, religious freedom in the media, and how to promote religious freedom in their communities.

The Event in the Press

Keynote speakers were Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Emma Green, religion specialist writer for the Atlantic and recipient of the 2017 Religion News Association's award for excellence in religion-news analysis. Other speakers included Professor attorney Nathan Lewin; Professors Sahar Aziz, Thomas Berg, Angela Carmella, and William Eskridge; author Tom Christofferson; Imam R. Ossma Bahloul, Resident Scholar of the Islamic Center of Nashville; San Clemente Mayor Tim Brown; Neill F. Marriott, Former Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; writer-scholars Teryl Givens and Fiona Givens;  activist scholars the Reverend Eugene F. Rivers, III and Dr. Jacqueline C. Rivers; and "the Godfather of all religion reporting and religion news," Terry Mattingly.

More from the impressive lineup of presenters: J. Stuart Adams, Pamela Atkinson, Haroon Azar, Chelsea... more

Image for Wednesday Keynote Session: Elder L. Whitney Clayton
Elder L. Whitney Clayton. Photo by Madeline Mortensen, BYU Photo.

by Andrew Birkinsha, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

The welcome and keynote session Wednesday Morning was given by Elder L. Whitney Clayton, senior president of the Presidency of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His remarks focused on how religious identity deserves the same legal and social considerations being given to racial, gender, and sexual identities. 

In his speech, “In the Marrow of Their Bones: A Latter-day Saint Experience of Religion as Identity”, Elder Clayton highlighted his, and the church’s, pioneer heritage. He indicated that religious beliefs are not just a common choice, but an integral part of people’s lives, a “foundation of character.” He expressed fear that society sees religion as a dangerous and outdated way of thinking that should be cast aside as soon as possible. Elder Clayton closed by claiming that government should not be allowed to constrain religion to private homes as if it were a disease, and that rights to religious thoughts and beliefs should be equal to the claims of other minorities. 

Image for Wednesday Genneral Session: Why Religious Freedom Matters to Me - Terryl and Fiona Givens
Fiona Givens

by Andrew Birkinsha, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

The first general session was moderated by Gary B. Doxey, Associate Director, ICLRS, and featured Terryl and Fiona Givens authors of The God Who Weeps, The Crucible of Doubt, and The Christ Who Heals

Terryl Givens opened the session with the belief that religion is more relevant and more present in the interim public lives of humankind than we have often been willing to recognize. He posited that humans live their lives by religious truths even if they go unarticulated. He highlighted that original sin created a negative view of humanity but that humanity, at the end of World War II adopted a universal value--the right to life. He closed his remarks with the belief that religions can be more successful in the next few years if they tap into what makes us human. 

Fiona Givens closed the session with remarks on what it takes to... more

Image for Wednesday General Session: How can Religion Contribute to the Common Good? - Angela Carmella, Holly Hollman, Erik Owens, and Michael Wear
Erik Owens, Holly Hollman, and Michael Wear

By Bekah Chamberlin, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

The Wednesday afternoon general discussion session, titled “How Can Religion Contribute to the Common Good?” was a question and answer based panel, moderated by Michael D. Frandsen, Director of Public Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The four speakers were Angela Carmella, Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law; Holly Hollman, General Counsel and Associate Executive Director, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty; Erik Owens, Director of the International Studies Program, Associate Professor in Theology and International Studies, Boston College; and Michael Wear, Founder, Public Square Strategies, and Author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America... more

Image for Wednesday General Session: Finding Common Ground and the Common Good on Religious Liberty and LGBTQ+ Rights - Shapril LoMaglio, Tyler Deaton, William Eskridge Jr., Thomas C. Berg
Thomas C. Berg, Tyler Deaton, Brett Scharffs, Shapri LoMaglio, William Eskridge Jr.

By Bekah Chamberlin, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

The Wednesday afternoon general session titled Finding Common Ground and the Common Good on Religious Liberty and LGBTQ+ Rights was moderated by Brett G. Scharffs, Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies, and Rex E. Lee Chair and Professor of Law, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University. The four speakers were Shapri LoMaglio, Vice President for Government Relations and Executive Programs, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities; Tyler Deaton, President of Allegiance Strategies; William Eskridge Jr., John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence, Yale Law School; and Thomas Berg, James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of St. Thomas School of Law.

Shapri LoMaglio talked about how religious freedom is on a negative trajectory in... more

Image for Thursday Keynote Session: Emma Green
Emma Green. Photo by Gabriel Mayberry, BYU Photo.

by Diana Flores, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

In the 21 June 2018 keynote session, W. Cole Durham Jr., Founding Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, welcomed participants to the second day of the Religious Freedom Review. Emma Green, religion specialist writer for the Atlantic and recipient of the 2017 Religion News Association’s award for excellence in religion-news analysis, gave the keynote address on the legal and political landscape of religious liberty.  

Emma Green began by stating that an era of fracture has developed during the Trump administration and this current political climate. She believes that the biggest legacy to come from this time is a legacy of division, of internal grappling over identity. She explained that this is relevant to religious freedom because the way communities define and think about... more

Image for Thursday General Session: Why Religious Freedom Matters to Me - Dr. Jacqueline Rivers and Rev. Dr. Eugene Rivers
Dr. Jacqueline Rivers and Rev. Eugene Rivers. Photos by Gabriel Mayberry, BYU Photo.

By Austin Atkinson, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

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. Speakers were Jacqueline C. Rivers, Executive Director and Senior Fellow for Social Science and Policy of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies and Lecturer, Harvard University, and Eugene F. Rivers, III, Reverend, Activist, and Political Analyst and Cofounder, the Boston TenPoint Coalition.

Dr. Jacqueline Rivers began the session with her remarks titled "Why Religious Freedom Matters to Me." She labeled religious freedom as a "God-given right and responsibility," and urged those in attendance to live consistently within their religious convictions. She expounded on the meaning of religious... more

Image for Thursday General Session: What Can a Lay Person do to Protect Religious Freedom? - Neill F. Marriott
Neill F. Marriott. Photo by Gabriel Mayberry, BYU Photo.

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... more

Image for Thursday General Session: Getting it Right: Media Coverage of Religious Freedom - Sahar Aziz, Emma Green, Holly Hollman, Terry Mattingly, Bobby Ross Jr.
Holly Hollman, Hannah Smith, Bobby Ross Jr., Sahar Aziz, Terry Mattingly, Emma Green

by Chase Olsen, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

This general session was moderated by Hannah Clayson Smith, senior fellow at ICLRS. Panelists included Sahar Aziz, Emma Green, Holly Hollman, Terry Mattingly, and Bobby Ross Jr. The panel discussion surrounded the questions of why media coverage of religion and religious freedom has lost traction in news and journalism, as well as what journalists and religions can do to improve their dialogue and coverage of religious freedom issues. 

So why doesn’t the religion beat get the same or similar coverage as other beats? The panelists agreed that the biggest factor in the decline in coverage on religion is economic downturn and the need for news outlets to focus on what makes money. However, another issue that is seen is that news outlets often feel they can cover religion appropriately by... more

Image for Thursday General Session: Bridging Cultural and Personal Divides: Creating a Culture of Civility and Respect - Brett Scharffs, Tom Christofferson, Kristen Looney
Tom Christofferson

by Gabriell Sabalones, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

The speakers for the final plenary session of the 2018 Religious Freedom Annual Review were Brett Scharffs, BYU Professor and Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, Tom Christofferson, author of That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon's Perspective on Faith & Family, and Kristen Looney, Director at the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute. 

Brett Scharffs, in his remarks drew on various examples from the Book of Mormon of individuals who had been persecuted on account of their religious beliefs including Samuel the Lamanite, who was shot at with stones and arrows as he preached from the top of a wall, those being mocked by the people in the great and spacious building from Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life, and the prophet Abinadi, who was burned alive for having preached to the people. Scharffs observed that some incorrect conclusions may be drawn from these examples. One might conclude that we need to constantly be on the offensive or defensive; “throwing stones, literal... more

Image for Thursday Concluding Session: Elizabeth Clark, W. Cole Durham, Jr., Brett Scharffs
W. Cole Durham, Jr. Photo by Gabriel Mayberry, BYU Photo.

by Gabriell Sabalones, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

In the conclusory session that wrapped up the two-day long Religious Freedom Annual Review, the speakers that presented were Elizabeth Clark, Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, W. Cole Durham, Jr., Founding Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, and Brett G. Scharffs, Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies. 

In her closing remarks, Clark thanked those who had made the event possible, both as speakers and as organizers. She explained that her comments would be brief because, she quipped, “I’m the only thing standing in between you and the rest of your life.” Clark used her time to argue the need to come back to the “common good.” She observed, “We’re... more

Image for Workshop: Media Stream: Religious Freedom 101 for Journalists Part 1: How Did We Get Here - Thomas C. Berg
Thomas C. Berg

by Abdullah Hassan, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

The session “Religious Freedom 101 for Journalists Part 1: How Did We Get Here” was moderated by Jane Wise, Associate Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University. The speaker was Thomas C. Berg, James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

Professor Berg began his presentation by talking about the development of religious freedom over the last 50 years. He started in the present with the two most recent Supreme Court cases, Trump v. Hawaii (discriminatory restriction aimed at one faith, Islam)... more

Image for Workshop: Media Stream: Religious Freedom 101 for Journalists Part 2: Where are we Headed - Kelsey Dallas, Bobby Ross Jr., Gene Schaerr
Carrie Moore, Kelsey Dallas, Bobby Ross Jr., and Gene Schaerr

by Abdullah Hassan, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

The session “Religious Freedom 101 for Journalists Part 2: Where are we Headed” was moderated by Carrie Moore, newsroom manager at BYU Universe. Members of the panel included Kelsey Dallas, religion reporter at Deseret News, Bobby Ross Jr., chief correspondent at The Christian Chronicle and Gene Schaerr, Schaerr Duncan LLP. 

The focus of this panel was to discuss the importance of reporting on religious freedom and how the reporting might change moving forward. The panel began the discussion focusing on if the media as an institution values religious freedom? Kelsey Dallas and Bobby Ross Jr. talked about how their newspapers value religious freedom because they both write for... more

Image for Workshop: Religious Freedom Issues Facing American Muslims
Dan Peterson, Sahar Aziz, Haroon Azar, Ossama Bahloul

By Austin Atkinson, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

This breakout session was moderated by Daniel C. Peterson, Professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic, Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages, Brigham Young University. The panel of speakers included Sahar Aziz, Professor of Law and Chancellor's Social Justice Scholar, Center for Security, Race, and Rights, Rutgers University Law School, Haroon Azar, Senior Fellow, Burkle Center for International Relations and Program Director, Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom, UCLA, and Ossama Bahloul, Resident Scholar, Islamic Center of Nashville and Founder of Islamin500.org.

The panel fielded questions from Peterson, including discussion about the current general atmosphere for American Muslims, feelings and thoughts about the proposed immigration ban and the impact it might have, how various... more

Image for Workshop: Recent Legal Religious Freedom Developments - Nathan Lewin, Kelly Shackelford, Walter Weber
Hannah Smith, Walter Weber, Kelly Shackelford, Nathan Lewin

by Chase Olsen, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

In a survey of legal issues, debates, and Supreme Court cases surrounding religious freedom moderated by ICLRS Senior Fellow Hannah Clayson Smith, panelists Walter Weber, Kelly Shackelford, and Nathan Lewin weighed in on current trends in the United States.  

The session began with a brief explanation of several key issues and debates in the courts. Walter Weber, Senior Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, touched on issues such as state coercion of activity, speech, or complicity in activities contrary to someone’s religious convictions. 

State coercion of action, speech, and complicity, are almost constantly at issue. And many questions about them come before the courts regularly. Should an individual be forced to perform an activity that is contrary to their... more

Image for Workshop: Media Stream: The Seven Deadly Sins of the Religion Beat – Terry Mattingly
Terry Mattingly

by Diana Flores, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

Terry Mattingly, nationally syndicated religion journalist and founder and editor of GetReligion, as well as Senior Fellow for Media and Religion at The King’s College in New York City, spoke on Thursday, 21 June 2018 on seven deadly sins of religion writing. Professor Mattingly stated his seven deadly sins in the affirmative when actually meaning the negative. 

Deadly Sin No. 1: Use simplistic labels as often as possible (for example, moderate or fundamentalist). Mattingly explained that simplistic labels do not tell us what people actually believe. In general, do not use a label such as fundamentalist unless the religious group uses the term as a way of self-identification.

Deadly Sin No. 2: Assume that religion equals politics. Professor Mattingly stated that this is the basic worldview of many newsrooms, however, the press cannot simply assume that a religious person is acting... more

Image for Workshop: Media Stream: Reliable Sources
Molly Redden, Kristi Stone Hamrick, Joel Campbell

by Diana Flores, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

Joel Campbell, an associate teaching professor in journalism at Brigham Young University, moderated this session. The participating panelists were Kristi Stone Hamrick, President of KSH Media, Inc. and Molly Redden, Senior Politics Reporter at Huffington Post

The discussion focused on ways that religious leaders, lawyers, and other advocates can make themselves reliable sources and create working and functional relationships with reporters. Kristi Stone Hamrick defined a reliable source as someone who fills many roles in the story. She explained that a news story contains multiple roles such as victim, adversary, expert, and advocate. In her point of view, the weakest place in the story is the expert because every person has an area in which he or she is reasonably intelligent. She stated... more

Image for Workshop: Political Engagement: How can I Get Involved? - J. Stuart Adams, Pamela Atkinson, Tim Brown
Paul Edwards, Pamela Atkinson, J. Stuart Adams, and Tim Brown

by Abdullah Hassan, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

The session “Political Engagement and How to Get Involved” was moderated by Paul Edwards, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications and Policy for Utah Governor Gary Herbert. Members of the panel included J. Stuart Adams, Senator from district 22 and Majority Whip in the Utah State Senate, Pamela Atkinson, an advocate, philanthropist, and advisor to Governor, Gary Herbert and Tim Brown, Mayor of San Clemente California.  

The focus of this panel was to discuss the importance of being politically involved within your community, the costs that come with political engagement, and the benefits to society. The panel began the discussion with a simple question, “Why should people be involved in politics in the first place?&rdquo... more

Image for Workshop: Religious Freedom and Media Coverage in Higher Education - Beck A. Taylor, Katie Mangan, and Scott Jaschik
Beck Taylor, Katie Mangan, Scott Jaschik, Clark Gilbert

By Austin Atkinson, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

This breakout session was moderated by Clark Gilbert, President, BYU-Pathway Worldwide. The panel of speakers included Beck A. Taylor, President, Whitworth University and President, American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities, Katie Mangan, Senior Writer, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Scott Jaschik, Editor and Cofounder, Inside Higher Ed.

The panel first discussed what issues and stories from 2018 would be the leadoff stories, moving on to the biggest concerns for religious schools, and discussing methods for opening dialogues between religious higher educational institutions and the media. Clark Gilbert set the stage by acknowledging that there is no force that more unifies and causes contention in America than religion does. There are people with good... more

Image for Workshop: Fostering Faith and Community at BYU with LGBTQ Students - Julie L. Franklin, Benjamin Schilaty, Jordan Sgro
Steve Samdberg. Bemka,om Schilaty, Jordan Sgro, Julie Franklin

by Chase Olsen, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

A panel discussion on Fostering Faith and Community at BYU with LGBTQ students was moderated by Steve Sandberg, Deputy General Counsel at BYU. The panel consisted of Jordan Sgro, Benjamin Schilaty, and Julie Franklin. 

The panel displayed an attitude of hope and optimism for BYU to continue to improve its relationships with LGBTQ students and faculty. Jordan Sgro, Chief Program Officer at Encircle, an LGBTQ+ Family and Youth Resource Center in Provo, encouraged the BYU community to ask questions and seek to understand the LGBTQ students’ experiences. Sgro shared a quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the LDS church, stating, “We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing.&rdquo... more

Image for Workshop: Teaching About Religion in Schools - Linda Wertheimer
Linda Wertheimer

By Rachel Mabey Whipple, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

The Thursday workshop “Teaching about Religion in Polarizing Times” was moderated by Gary B. Doxey, Associate Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University. The speaker was Linda K. Wertheimer, Journalist and Author of Faith Ed: Teaching About Religion in an Age of Intolerance.

Linda Wertheimer (she humorously noted that she is not that Linda Wertheimer from NPR) led a lively interactive workshop to explore the topic of education about religion, as opposed to religious education or indoctrination, in United States public schools. ... more