Center Hosts Panel Discussion Following Special Rapporteur UN Report

Report by Lawrence Richard Peterson Jr.

Between October 28 and 30, 2013, Professor Cole Durham of the J. Reuben Clark Law School’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies was involved in events featuring Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief.

On Monday, October 28th, the Canadian Mission to the United Nations hosted a side event on the UN campus moderated by Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom. On Tuesday, Professor Durham attended the UN Committee on Human Rights where Professor Bielefeldt presented his report.  

On Wednesday the International Center for Law and Religion Studies co-hosted with the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief a luncheon and panel discussion featuring Professor Bielefeldt. Other panelists were Laksmi Puri, deputy executive director of UN Women, Gulalai Ismail, founder and chairperson of Aware Girls, Margareta Grape, representative to the UN of the World…

Louisiana same-sex marriage case dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds

On November 27, one of the 20+ same-sex marriage cases proceeding in the United States was dismissed based on sovereign immunity of the party sued, the state Attorney General.  District Judge Matin L. C. Feldman ruled that the Attorney General had little to do with enforcing how Louisiana defines marriage, so he could not be sued. As such, while other cases will undoubtedly go forward and face the issus of same-sex marriage and associated religious liberty concerns, this one will not without a reversal of this narrow ruling by a higher court and further procedings at the District Court level.  It is unknown if the plaintiffs will appeal this ruling.

Helen Alvaré, Distinguished Lecture on Family

Helen Alvaré, Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law, delivered the Distinguished Lecture on Family [Video Link], sponsored by Brigham Young University’s Wheatley Institution, on 14 November 2013.

At George Mason, Professor Alvaré teaches Family Law, Law and Religion, and Property Law.  She publishes on matters concerning marriage, parenting, non-marital households, abortion and the First Amendment religion clauses.  She is faculty advisor to the law school’s Civil Rights Law Journal, chair of the Task Force on Conscience Protection of the Witherspoon Institute (Princeton, New Jersey), president of the Chiaroscuro Institute (New York, New York), chair of the Catholic Women’s Forum, a consultor for the Pontifical Council of the Laity…

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Gives Faith, Family and Society Lecture

The third lecture in the Faith, Family and Society series at Brigham Young University was given by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Monday, Oct. 21, at noon in the Wilkinson Student Center Varsity Theater. The lecture was titled “A Clear and Present Danger: Religious Liberty, Marriage and Family in the Late Modern Age.” 

Since 1993, Dr. Mohler has served as president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world. He has been recognized by many…

CEO of Assemblies of God speaks at BYU Sept. 16

The Brigham Young University Lectures on Faith, Family and Society series hosted George O. Wood, CEO of the Assemblies of God, Monday, Sept. 16, at noon in the Wilkinson Student Center Varsity Theater. His lecture was titled “Faith and Family: My Personal Journey.” The lecture was sponsored by the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding, Religious Education and the International Vice President’s Office.   

Wood was elected CEO of the Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world, in August 2007. The church has more than 12,400 congregations in the U.S. with more than three million members and adherents. He also serves as chair…

Same-sex marriage / sexual orientation–related headlines: August 24, 2013

In the news today relating to same-sex marriage / sexual orientation and religious freedom:

  • A Santa Fe New Mexico County Clerk began issuing same-sex marriage licenses under New Mexico Court order. A judge ordered Santa Fe County, New Mexico to either begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples or appear in Court explaining why she shouldn’t have to on Sept. 26, The Clerk previously opposed the New Mexico Supreme Court issuing a simillar ruling, but has also stated that she “would love to be able to issue marriage licenses” to same-sex couples.  Also in New Mexico, Doña Ana County has begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses, despite no legal order to do so.
  • In a separate case The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a photographer has no right to refuse to photo a same-sex commitment ceremony.  The full text of the ruling is here.  The statement by the photogrpher’s attorneys is here, stating “This decision is a blow to our client and every American’s right to live free” and alluding to a potential Supreme Court petition. A representative of the ACLU stated: “When you open a business, you are opening your doors to all people in your community, not just the select few who share your personal beliefs,” Analysis from HeritageJonathan TurleyNational Review Online, SCOTUSblog and Think Progress.
  • A new lawsuit in Federal Court challenges a ban on sexual orientation change therapy for minors recently passed in New Jersey. This mirrors a California lawsuit presently before the Ninth Circuit.
  • The New York Times today highlights a conservative Catholic and former editor of First Things whose views on gay marriage have changed. 

See more same-sex orientation-related headlines:  United States     Europe   International

Robert P. George Chair of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, took the oath of office as Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on 9 September 2013. Professor George was appointed to the Commission in 2012 by Speaker of the House John Boehner and is serving his first term as a Commissioner. 

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, USCIRF’s outgoing Chair and an appointee of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, announced Professor George’s selection. “I have been honored to work alongside Professor George this past year in the struggle to guarantee religious freedom abroad for people of every faith and shade of belief. He is a true human rights champion whose compassion for victims of oppression and wisdom about international religious freedom shine through all we have accomplished this past year. Our bipartisan Commission is united in its admiration for Professor George’s skills as an advocate and leader of the international religious freedom movement. The Commission is eager to continue its work under his able leadership.”  

The USCIRF was created by Congress as part of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and reauthorized by Congress in 2011. The nine Commissioners of this independent, bipartisan advisory body are appointed by the President of the United States and the leadership of both parties in the House and Senate. The Commission’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.


Supreme Court’s Rulings in DOMA and Proposition 8 Cases

26 June 2013

Today the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case United States v. Windsor that a federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and woman, “has the necessary effect… to demean” persons in a same-sex marriage if it is recognized by the state.  While this has no effect at this time on how a state defines marriage, the language has broad implications for future cases. [Full opinion, dissents, and Syllabus.]

In a separate ruling, in the case Holligsworth v. Perry, the Court also ruled that it could not decide if California’s Proposition 8, defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, is constitutional because the right party did not appear to defend it. This means that the original District Court ruling—that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional—is likely to go into effect, legalizing same-sex marriage in California. The Court did not comment on the merits of the case, but it appears unlikely that they would entertain a challenge by the “right party,” in part due to their broad language in the Defense of Marriage Act case.

In response to the ruling, California Governor Edmund G. Brown has directed the California Department of Public Health to advise county officials that the district court’s injunction against Proposition 8 applies statewide and that all county clerks and county registrar/recorders must comply with it. However, same-sex Californians will not be able to marry until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirms the stay of the injunction, which has been in place throughout the appeals process, is lifted.

UN Resolution A/HRC/22/L.40 on religious tolerance and freedom

Reported by Don and Ellen Holsinger in Geneva

GENEVA (22 March 2013) – ARTICLE 19 and Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) welcome the new resolution on combating religious intolerance, which was adopted by consensus on 22 March 2013 at the 22nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). We call on all States to continue to engage in dialogue in good faith to protect the mutually reinforcing rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and belief and non-discrimination, including…