Brett Scharffs Appointed to BYU Law School’s Rex E. Lee Chair

by Andrew Hoffman, BYU Law Student

On 15 November 2017, the J. Reuben Clark Law School held the final of this semester’s three investiture ceremonies. Professor Brett Scharffs was honored with appointment to the distinguished Rex E. Lee Chair, a position created to honor the late Rex E. Lee, a former Solicitor General, Dean of the Law School, and President of Brigham Young University. Dean Gordon Smith and Professor Cole Durham provided a few introductory remarks before Professor Scharffs was formally invested.

Dean Smith praised Professor Scharffs for his achievements in the field of legal scholarship. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, while president of BYU, remarked that it is the duty of the law school to produce great scholarship that is not just great in the eyes of church membership, but in the eyes of the general citizenry. Throughout his twenty years of teaching, Professor Scharffs has published in renowned legal journals and is well-known…

Jane Wise

Jane Wise has joined the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School as an Associate Director. She comes most recently from twenty years as an adjunct professor (advocacy faculty) at the Law School, where she served on the legal writing and external relations committees. She taught legal writing, lawyering skills, and law and literature courses in the classroom, as well as legal writing classes online. She developed curricula for the American legal academy including materials for English as a–second-language law students, and the writing curriculum she helped design for BYU Law’s Rex E. Lee Advocacy Program was ranked 17th in the nation for legal writing programs in law schools by U.S. News and World Report in 2000,…

The Center Welcomes Sharman Blood as a Conference Liaison

Sharman Blood has joined the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University as a Conference Liaison. Sharman’s past experience includes working for the Office of Public Liaison at the White House and later as a research assistant for a policy research group before moving to San Francisco. While in the Bay Area, Sharman earned an MA in education from Stanford University and taught high school for several years working with at-risk students. She has also owned her own bookkeeping business and served for a time as the Public Affairs Director for the San Francisco Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sharman will assist in coordinating and organizing the annual International Law and Religion Symposium as well as other conferences worldwide. She looks forward to working with others who are passionate about the Center’s mission.

The Center Congratulates the 2017 Law School Graduates

The Center has the privilege of working with some of the best and the brightest students at the J. Reuben Clark Law School. As research assistants, Student Fellows, and members of the Student Management Board and Symposium Executive Committee, they are an essential part of the work the Center does. They often continue to assist in the cause of freedom of religion or belief in their professional lives outside of the university. The Center congratulates this year’s BYU Law School graduates, thanks them for their service, and wishes them the very best in the future.    

Here are highlights of just a few of the students who have…

Graduation Spotlight: Andee DeVore

Andee Devore was recently spotlighted by the BYU Law School. A member of the 2017 BYU Law Graduating Class, Andee served the Center as Co-Chair of the Documents Committee for the 2016 Annual Symposium. She was also a recipient of the Center’s 2017 Outstanding Service Award.

From BYU Law School Website

Helping others heal has been an important aspiration of BYU Law student Andee DeVore ‘17. She originally intended to fulfill this desire by attending medical school. She had completed her medical pre-requisite courses and graduated in public health when she felt nudged in a different direction. As she considered options, her brother, who was finishing law school, planted a seed: “He recommended looking into law school; after that point, I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility. Within a year it turned into a reality.” 

At the beginning of DeVore’s law school experience, she worried about not having a career that would give her the opportunity to help people heal. However, as time proceeded, she learned that lawyers help people heal in different ways. “Though it may not necessarily be healing of the physical body, lawyers can heal people by guiding them through disputes and providing them with peace in their lives,” she said. 

DeVore’s interest in the healing aspect of the law led her to mediation. “Mediation…gives parties an opportunity to candidly address all of their relational issues and come to a resolution they believe is fair for everyone involved,” she said. DeVore continued to develop mediation skills she learned in the classroom through clinical work. 

One clinical experience that stands out in DeVore’s memory was helping two parties who were not seeing eye-to-eye on an issue come together. “Talking things out and helping them understand where the other side was coming from really helped them to fix that relationship, and perhaps they even returned to a relationship that was stronger than in the beginning,” she said.

During DeVore’s second year of law school, she was the ADR Society President and had the opportunity to present her research on women and peace negotiations at the Peace and Justice Conference at Utah Valley University. Currently, DeVore works at the BYU Center for Conflict Resolution.

DeVore will miss her experience at BYU Law, particularly the people. “My classmates and professors have instilled in me a deep desire to use my law degree to benefit and serve others, and my greatest wish is that I will be able to live up to their examples,” she said. 

After graduation, DeVore plans to work for a mediation firm in Provo. “I’m really looking forward to strengthening my mediation skills so I can help other people find healing,” she said. In addition, DeVore will work towards fulfilling her dream to create an NGO geared toward providing higher education and ADR training to women in developing countries. “Mediation skills can be helpful in every aspect in life,” she said. 

Management Board Students Compete in National Law and Religion Moot Court

Four members of the Center Management Board competed in the Touro Law Center’s Fourth Annual National Law and Religion Moot Court. The two teams, 3Ls Tanner Bean and McKenna Mills Collins, and 2Ls Jessica Farnsworth and Joshua Prince, each wrote an appellate brief as if briefing for the U.S. Supreme Court, on both sides of a religious freedom issue. Specifically, the students argued whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding from Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC concerning the ministerial exception’s application to employment discrimination claims, should extend to cover wrongful termination claims about breach of contract…

Center Welcomes Ján Figeľ to the Academic Advisory Board

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University is honored to announce that Dr. Ján Figeľ, the European Commission’s first Special Envoy for promotion of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) outside the European Union, has accepted the invitation to join the Center’s Academic Advisory Board. The fourteen members of this distinguished group of globally recognized scholars make outstanding contributions to illuminating the intricacies of religious freedom principles and promoting enlightened discussion of those principles, significantly advancing the Center’s mission and the cause of religious freedom throughout the world. Since his appointment as Special Envoy in May 2016, Dr. Figeľ has worked tirelessly throughout the world to fulfill his mission, and in the process has enriched a great many of the Center’s endeavors…

Erlend “Pete” Peterson Named as Center Senior Fellow for the Middle East

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU Law School is pleased to announced that Erlend “Pete” Peterson, recently retired from service as Brigham Young University’s Associate International Vice President, has accepted a position as Center Senior Fellow for the Middle East.

During his fifty years of full-time employment at BYU, Pete served in several professional positions in Admissions and Records (35 years), as Assistant Dean, Associate Dean, and Dean of Admissions and Records (25 years). For the past 15 years he was Associate International Vice President, which included many international roles and hosting, including a close working relationship with the International…

The Center Welcomes Adesina J. Olukanni in the Role of Senior Fellow for Africa

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University Law School is pleased to announce that Adesina J. Olukanni, recently retired as the Director of Public Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for Africa West Area, has accepted an invitation to serve as the Center’s Senior Fellow for Africa. He was the Country Director in Nigeria for Church Education Systems between April 2004 and March 2007. He came into Public Affairs in April of 2007 as the Director of Public Affairs for the Church in the Africa West Area and the Africa South East Area.

Adesina has served in numerous Church positions, including high counsellor, branch president, district president’s counsellor, district president, mission president’s…

Hannah Clayson Smith Delivers 2017 Durham Lecture: “Religious Liberty: The Promise of American Religious Pluralism”

Hannah C. Smith, Senior Counsel for Becket Law, Washington, DC, delivered the 2017 G. Homer Durham Lecture at the J. Reuben Clark Law School on 26 January at the J. Reuben Clark Law School. She spoke on the topic “Religious Liberty: The Promise of American Religious Pluralism.”

Smith began the lecture by looking at religious freedom through the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She quoted several religious leaders and established four primary doctrinal themes: the conflict between religious and secularist voices; the growing intolerance towards religious viewpoints; the need for religious institutions and individuals to raise their voices; and the need for tolerance and respect as a two-way street. Religious freedom embraces the right to worship, speak, and act and protects the individual and the organization. Yet she also stressed that religious freedom does have limits. 

Smith then turned to secular sources to further examine religious freedom and established that religious freedom goes to the heart of who we are. It is the right of one to act in the manner that one believes is morally right. And that right is not limited to the private sphere but includes the public realm as well.   

Finally, she turned to the concept of religious pluralism. The United States of America, she reminded us, is a nation founded on a religious diversity that had existed no where else in the world. And yet, the struggle to get along has been with us since the beginning. Citing history, she examined some of the early struggles of our nation to achieve religious pluralism. 

In closing, Smith quoted D. Todd Christofferson. “Things may get worse before they get better. But these are our times. This is our moment to defend our fundamental freedoms. With courage, conviction, and civility–drawing upon our noble heritage as Americans–each one of us can make a profound difference.”

The Center Mourns the Passing of Longtime Friend and IAC Member Gary Anderson

With grief and grateful memory, the Center notes the passing of Gary Anderson, a longtime friend of the Center and, with his wife, Lynn Fechser Anderson, member of the International Advisory Council. After a beautiful and successful life, including 57 years of marriage to Lynn, Gary passed away May 27, 2017 at age 79, following a long, courageous, and optimistic battle with Lewy Body Disease. Gary graduated from Brigham Young University after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil. He then earned a law degree from the Berkeley Law School. While a partner with a San Francisco law firm, Farella, Braun and Martel, Gary served on the Board of Visitors for the BYU Law School, as chairman of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society for the San Francisco…

Summer Research Fellows for 2017

The 2017 Summer Research Fellows of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies have now returned from their internships and have begun the research and writing projects that will occupy them for the rest of the summer. Each year the Center welcomes a group of outstanding scholars who have completed their first year of study at the J. Reuben Clark Law School into the Research Fellows Program. The program brings the students into the worldwide work of the Center, as they complete internships with the offices of the legal counsels of The…

ICLRS Presents 2017 Outstanding Service Awards

The BYU Law School held its annual Barrister’s Ball and Awards Banquet at the Provo City Marriott on Wednesday 29 March 2017. The banquet and ball are an opportunity to recognize students and faculty for outstanding achievement over the past year. 

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies recognized nine law students for their dedicated service to the Center and to the cause of international religious freedom. Founding Director Cole Durham presented the award to Laura Shrum, Cami Schiel, Scott Ludlow, Bradley Rebeiro, Cara Duchene, McKenna Mills Collins, Andee Gempeler DeVore, Michael Goodrich, and John Sellers (not pictured). These students have served many hours as Student Research Fellows

Center Welcomes Denise Posse-Blanco Lindberg as Senior Fellow for Latin America

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University Law School is pleased to announce that Denise Lindberg, Senior District Judge, Third Judicial District Court, State of Utah, has joined the Center as a Senior Fellow for Latin America. Denise was born in Cuba, and educated in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the United States. In 1963, her family came to the US, settling in New Rochelle, New York.

Denise attended Brigham Young University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Communications, and the University of Utah where she received a master’s degree in Educational Psychology in 1973, a master’s degree in Social Work in 1978, and a Ph.D in Health Sciences in 1980. During—and…

Iraqi-Kurdistan Delegation Visits the Center

Under the auspices of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs visited the Center. The delegation included the Spokesperson and Director General of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs (MERA), who was responsible for creating Directorates for all of the religious minorities within the Ministry to assure that underrepresented groups had a voice within the government. Other ministry delegates represented Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian communities. 

Objectives of the visit included helping MERA strengthen interfaith cooperation…

The Center Bids Farewell to Akinola and Dolapo Ibidapo-Obe

The Center was honored and most pleased to enjoy the visit of Professor Akinola Ibidapo-Obe and his wife, Dolapo, to Provo during the 2016-2017 school year. Professor Ibidapo-Obe (“Professor Akin”) is former dean of the Faculty of Law and former director of the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Nigeria. As a visiting scholar at BYU Law School Professor Akin was part of the teaching team for the advanced courses in International Protection of Religious Freedom and U.S. Church and State, taught by Professors Brett Scharffs and Cole Durham. 

Professor Akin has been a key figure in several successful events sponsored by the Center in Nigeria over the past two years, beginning with his hosting, as Dean of the Faculty of Law at Lagos, an international conference “Towards Law and Religious Freedom in Africa” in February 2015, and including…