G20 Interfaith Forum in Turkey: Religion, Harmony, and Sustainable Development

A Message from the Conference Conveners 

Religion plays a major role in global events, touching issues from medical ethics to cross-border conflicts to macroeconomic trends. However, religion can be misunderstood or even overlooked as a factor in world events and, thus, the contributions faith and religion make to social well-being and policies, which impact national and international communities, are often not recognized.

The 2015 G20 Interfaith Forum held in Istanbul 16-18 November. 2015 brought together scholars, lawyers and political leaders, with faith and interfaith leaders from around the world for three days of discussion and dialogue as a substantial contribution to the G20 Economic Summit. The gathering was designed to showcase the scholarly and societal contributions of various faith traditions and philosophies from around the world, and to create opportunities for communication and relationship building and raise the profile of participating communities, groups, and organizations.

Conference Convenors were

Brett Scharffs at Notre Dame Law Review Symposium, 6 November 2015

Professor Brett G. Scharffs, Center Associate Director and Law School Associate Dean for Faculty and Curriculum, participated the Volume 91 Symposium of the Notre Dame Law Review: Religious Liberty and the Free Society: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae. The Symposium opened on November 5, 2015 with an address from Bishop Daniel E. Flores, Bishops of Brownsville, Texas, and continued on November 6 with a series of panel discussions moderated by Hon. Richard Sullivan, Southern District of New York. Professor Scharffs participated on the panel “Examining the History of Digntitatis Humanae and Religious Freedom” with Phillip Muñoz, Notre Dame Law School and Anna Su, University of Toronto Faculty…

Cole Durham Participates in “Religion, Security and Human Rights” Conference at European Parliament, 10 December 2015

The European Platform against Religious Intolerance and Discrimination (EPRID) organized a conference on Human Rights Day, 10 December, 2015, titled “Religion, Security and Human Rights”. The conference, held in Brussels Belgium at the European Parliament, included speakers such as Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt, U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Dr. Kishan Manocha, Senior Advisor at OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Dr. Liviu Olteanu, Secretary General & Director of Conscience and Liberty from the Association Internationale pour la Défense de la Liberté Religieuse, Ms. Kalpna Devi, Human Rights Defender from Pakistan, and the Center’s director, Professor Cole Durham….

Sudanese Delegation Visits the Center

On December 8, 2015, a delegation of Sudanese visitors, invited to the United States under the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, visited the International Center for Law and Religion Studies. The objective of their visit was to promote religious tolerance and peaceful settlement of conflicts. Center Managing Director, Robert Smith, met with the delegation. 

Current sanctions imposed upon Sudan were the primary topic of concern. The delegates were particularly interested in discussing Professor Smith’s congressional testimony on 18 September, 2014 in which…

Protecting Religious Freedom: An Interfaith Invitation

Protecting Religious Freedom: An Interfaith Invitation: Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right that protects the consciences of all people. It allows us to think, express, and act upon what we deeply believe. But in many parts of the world, as in the United States, this freedom is eroding. Religious organizations and individuals face increasing restrictions as they participate in the public square, express their beliefs, or serve in society. A panel of local faith leaders and international experts met on 10 November 2015, at the First Baptist Orlando Faith Hall in Orlando, Florida, to…

UN Side Event: Annual Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

A series of events under the theme Comparative and International Perspectives against the Background of the Annual Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief was held in New York City on October 22 and 23, 2015 in connection with the delivery of the Annual Report at the United Nations by Special Rapporteur Heiner Bielefeldt.

Following the delivery on Thursday of the Report entitled “The Rights of the Child and His or Her Parents in the Area of Freedom of Religion or Belief”, a reception was held honoring Heiner Bielefeldt and discussing…

Archbishop William E. Lori Receives 2015 International Religious Liberty Award

The J. Reuben Clark Law Society and the International Center for Law and Religion Studies are honored to announce that the Most Reverend William Edward Lori, in presented with the International Religious Liberty Award for 2015. 

Archbishop Lori is Archbishop of the Baltimore Archdiocese and head of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He has played a leading role in gathering an interfaith coalition to promote the freedom to exercise one’s faith in both private and public life. 

Religious liberty “is not merely a privilege that the government grants us and so may take away at will, Archbishop Lori observed in an address before Congress in 2011. Religions liberty, rather, “is inherent in our very humanity, hard-wired into each and every one…

Advancing Freedom of Religion or Belief for All: Experts Gather at Halki, 7-9 September 2015

Press Release No: 15/34 – September 2015 – Istanbul/Heybeliada

From September 7 to 9 more than 40 human rights experts from across Europe journeyed to the hilltop theological school of Halki on the Turkish island of Heybeliada. Once the heart of theological education for the Orthodox world, the school closed in 1971 as a result of a ban on private higher education in Turkey. Arriving by plane, train, and even by foot, participants discussed and debated approaches to advancing freedom of religion or belief.

Participants were drawn from CEC Member Churches, civil society, academia, and the European Institutions. Topics covered included the need for religious literacy, the role of religion in the public and political spheres, the need for greater internal and external coherence of…

Advancing Freedom of Religion or Belief for All: Cole Durham Joins Experts in Turkey

Professor Cole Durham, Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (Brigham Young University, USA), and President of the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (Milan, Italy) was among the Experts gathered at the Theological School Halki in Istanbul/Heybeliada, Turkey, from 6-9 September 2015, to discuss “Advancing Freedom of Religion or Belief for All”. The conference convened under the auspices of The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Conference of European Churches (CEC), as Churches Together for Human Rights. For an account of the conference, see CEC&nbsp…

Highlighting the Peace-Making Power of Religion, Despite its Mixed Track Record – 2015

The 17th annual “Meeting of Experts,” organized by the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) met August 10-14, 2015, at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. A diverse panel of scholars, representing universities and organizations from seven countries, examined the role of religion in current global conflicts while also focusing on ways that faith can forge peace. Presenters included Robert A Seiple, current IRLA president, and Professor Cole Durham, acting in his role as President of the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies. You may read more about the meeting at the link below. 

Brett Scharffs at Symposium in Beijing on Marxist Theories of Religion – May 2015

Dean Brett G. Scharffs, Associate Dean for Faculty and Curriculum, Francis R. Kirkham Professor of Law, and Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, participated in a Symposium on Marxist Theories of Religion sponsored by the Institute of World Religions, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on May 30-31, 2015, in Beijing. Professor Scharffs’ presentation was titled, “The Relationship of Religion and the State: The Surprising Similarities and Important Differences in the Political Philosophy of Marx and Locke.” The paper, which will be published in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Journal of the Institute of World Religions, will focus on a narrow question: How should we understand the respective views of Karl Marx and John Locke on the ideal relationship of religion and the state?

The paper focuses not on the respective views of Marx and Locke about the truth of (some) religion, its social value, or its historical prospects. Rather, it focuses on the particular issue of how the state should situate itself institutionally vis-à-vis religion. Professor Scharffs argues “that for all their differences – and they are legion – there is a surprising overlap between Marx and Locke in their thinking about the political and legal stance that the state should take towards religion as a social institution. Both argue, powerfully and unequivocally against an alignment of religion and the state, and both argue for a strong separation of religion and the state. The expectation of the ultimate outcome of this separation is different. Locke expects ‘true’ religion to flourish; Marx expects religion, stripped bare of state sanction and support, to gradually recede and perhaps disappear. But that is a question history will answer. For the state, here and now, and all the more in the ‘new normal’ of globalization and rapid social change, both would reject a management mindset and agree that the proper political stance of the state should be one of institutional and financial separation.

BYU conference explores what’s next for religious freedom

From Deseret News, Monday July 6 2015 6:40 pm MDT, updated July 7 12:45 am

PROVO — Utah lawmakers struck a compromise between anti-discrimination and religious freedom earlier this year, but left the sticky matter of public accommodations for another day. 

It is one of many issues that could arise in the near future as the tension between often competing rights continues to mount in Utah and across the country.

Cole Durham, director of the BYU International Center for Law and Religious Studies, said he would be surprised if the state didn’t address whether businesses can discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, such as bakers, florists and photographers…

Developing a Multilateral Approach to Freedom of Religion or Belief: A European Perspective

The Conference Developing a multilateral approach to freedom of religion or belief: a European perspective was held 9-11 February 2015 at Wiston House, Wilton Park. Wilton Park is an international forum for strategic discussion located in Sussex, United Kingdom. The Wilton Park conference was part of a larger project of transatlantic policy dialogue funded by the British Council/Luce Foundation Bridging Voices programme entitled ‘Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) and Foreign Policy: A transatlantic dialogue for a multilateral approach to religious freedom’. The first leg of will focus on the emerging European approach and the U.S./European divide, but will also starting opening up the discussion over the policy prospects of a joint…

Religion and the Secular State: National Reports

The General Reporters, Javier Martínez-Torrón of the Law Faculty of Complutense University in Madrid and Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University, along with Donlu Thayer, project editor, are pleased to announce the publication in final form  (July 2015) of the National Reports prepared on this topic “Religion and the Secular State” for The 18th Congress of the International Academy of Comparative Law, held in Washington, DC in July 2010.

The Congress is the once-every-four-years meeting of the experts of the International Academy of Comparative Law. The 18th Congress was the first of this nearly 100-year-old Academy to be held in the United States. The Reports prepared on the the topic Religion and the Secular State

Report: Launch Event for the ODIHR/Venice Commission Guidelines on the Legal Personality of Religious or Belief Communities – 4 February 2015

Report from Cole Durham at the European Parliament

On February 4, 2015, the European Parliamentary Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance hosted, at the European Parliament in Brussels, a launch event for the newly published ODIHR/Venice Commission Guidelines on the Legal Personality of Religious or Belief Communities.

The event was chaired by MEP Dennis de Jong, Co-President of the Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance of the EU Parliament, and featured introductory remarks by Snježana Bokulić, Head of the Human Rights Department, OSCE/ODIHR; a presentation of the Guidelines by Finola Flanagan, Former Member of the European Commission for Democracy Through Law (The Venice Commission) and Engy Abdelkader, Member of the OSCE/ODIHR Advisory Panel on Freedom of Religion or Belief; and comments by John Kinahan, of Forum 18.  After formal presentations…