The International Center for Law and Religion Studies was honored to welcome Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, who currently serves as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, as the keynote speaker at the opening session of the 23rd Annual International Law and Religion Symposium on 2 October 2016. At the same meeting Professor Cole Durham presented Professor Bielefeldt with the Center's Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the interest of freedom of religion or belief worldwide.
Professor Bielefeldt was appointed to his position as Special Rapporteur on 18 June 2010, and his term of office will continue until November 1, 2016. He holds both a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tübingen and a post-doctoral Habilitation Degree in Philosophy from the University of Bremen, following upon undergraduate studies in Philosophy and Catholic Theology at both institutions. Professor Bielefeldt teaches in the areas of political science, philosophy, law, and history and has taught in faculties of law and philosophy at the universities of Tübingen, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Toronto, and Bielefeld.
From 2003-2009 he served as Director of the German Institute for Human Rights, and during 2008-2009 he was Chair of the Subcommittee on Accreditation of National Human Rights Institutions, International Coordinating Committee, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In 2009, he was appointed professor in the newly created Chair of Human Rights and Human Rights Policy at the University of Erlangen, which position he held at the time of his appointment as Special Rapporteur.