Webinar Episode 1: Introduction

In this introductory episode, panelists provide thoughtful reflections on the status of religion and response of religious actors to the global pandemic.


Webinar Summary

Judd Birdsall begins the discussion by recapping how religious activity typically increases in response to crisis. However, with restrictions on physically gathering to worship, the effect on religious activity to this pandemic appears more uncertain. Francesco Di Lillo follows with an internal perspective on the response of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While emphasizing efforts the Church has made to comply with government direction, he also emphasizes the role all churches can play to ensure social distancing doesn’t become social isolation. Next, Brett Scharffs highlights the legal framework surrounding the crisis, analogizing the current pandemic restrictions on religion to a “stress test” on freedom of religion and belief. He advocates using the legal frameworks currently in place to help us distinguish restrictions that are truly essential. Marco Ventura then describes the need for religious actors to both understand and act. He underscores the potential for religion to emerge as a critical voice in society to build solidarity out of the complex issues of the pandemic. The webinar concludes as panelists respond to questions about the effects on elderly worshippers, a “religious recession,” and looking ahead to the long-term changes in religion that could result from COVID-19.


Dr. Pasquale Annicchino, Bruno Kessler Foundation/CIRIS

Dr. Judd Birdsall, Cambridge Institute on Religion & International Studies

Francesco Di Lillo, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – European Union Office

Prof. Michael Mohallem, FGV Escola de Direito do Rio de Janeiro

Prof. Brett Scharffs, International Center for Law and Religion Studies, BYU Law School

Prof. Marco Ventura, Bruno Kessler Foundation/University of Siena