Image for @US Headline News and Opinions
Freedom of Religion or Belief: Headline News and Opinions

Please note that the opinions expressed in articles on this page, or biases reflected in the items on the Headline News Pages — [U.S. News] [International News] [Europe News] — do not necessarily reflect opinions or attitudes of members of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, who maintain these news summaries. We strive for balance in presenting issues of potential interest to our readers. 

Image for UN Side Event: World-wide Human Rights, Religious Liberty and Religious Minorities

June 10, 2014 – United Nations  
[Thanks to Nancy Lyon in Geneva]

A United Nations side event, World-wide Human Rights, Religious Liberty and Religious Minorities, was held in Geneva on 10 June 2014. The event was sponsored by the Permanent Delegation of the Council of Europe, Permanent Mission of Uruguay, Spain, and Canada and the International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty. The event presented and discussed perspectives on protecting freedom of religion and the rights of religious minorities, highlighting the importance that all actors work closely together to promote world peace.   

The International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty proposed a holistic... more

Image for Religious Freedom Linked to Economic Growth, Finds Global Study

Washington, D.C., May 29, 2014 – Religious freedom is one of only three factors significantly associated with global economic growth, according to a new study by researchers at Georgetown University and Brigham Young University. The study looked at GDP growth for 173 countries in 2011 and controlled for two-dozen different financial, social, and regulatory influences.

As the world navigates away from years of poor economic performance, religious freedom may be an unrecognized asset to economic recovery and growth, according to this new study. The study examines and finds a positive relationship between religious freedom and ten of the twelve pillars of global competitiveness, as measured by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (see example in chart at right).

The study, however, goes beyond simple correlations... more

Image for 2013 Retrospective

Newsletter 21 December 2013 

Dear Friends,

On behalf of all of us working at the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU, I want to extend our warmest personal holiday greetings. We approach the conclusion of another year of endeavor with gratitude for new friendships made and longtime friendships strengthened and renewed.

Reviewing the events of the past year while preparing our 2013 Annual Report has reminded me of the remarkable opportunities we have had to collaborate with others. This year we held our 20th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium, devoted to discussions about "Religion and Human Rights."... more

Image for Pew Research: Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High

Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project, January 14, 2014

The share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. A third (33%) of the 198 countries and territories included in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas. The sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, which still is feeling the effects of the 2010-11 political uprisings known as the Arab Spring.1 There also was a significant increase in religious hostilities in the Asia-Pacific region, where China edged into the “high” category for the first time.... more

Image for Center Hosts Panel Discussion Following Special Rapporteur UN Report
Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations, and Heiner Bielefeldt, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief

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... more

Image for 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... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Puskar v. Krco, (IL App., Sept. 23, 2013), involves a complicated dispute over whether or not the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanante of New Gracanica Diocese of the United States and Canada reunited with the Serbian Orthodox Church based in Belgrade, Serbia.  In 1992, the two organizations took steps to unite by adopting Transitional Regulations.  Bishop Longin, appointed by the Belgrade church, announced in 2009 that a reorganization had occurred and that there is no longer a split between the Metropolitanante Diocese and... more

Image for CEO of Assemblies of God speaks at BYU Sept. 16
George O. Wood

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... more

Image for Pew Research: Arab Spring Adds to Global Restrictions on Religion

Results of a new Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project study on social hostilities toward and global restrictions on religion were released on 20 June 2013. This is the fourth time the Pew Research Center has reported on religious restrictions around the globe.   

From the Report:  "At the onset of the Arab Spring in late 2010 and early 2011, many world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, expressed hope that the political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa would lead to greater freedoms for the people of the region, including... more

Image for Gerhard Robbers, 34th President of the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag
Chancellor Angela Merkel with the Kirchentag President, Gerhard Robbers (photo credit: Kirchentag Jardine)

As President of the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag (German Protestant Church), Professor Gerhard Robbers presided over the 34th Annual Protestant Church Conference held May 1-5, 2013 in Hamburg, Germany.  Some 160,000 people — including a number of high-profile politicians — met to pray, celebrate, and discuss together in the event, whose theme was "Soviel du brauchst" ("As much as you need").

The 650-page program of the Congress listed 2500 events, from the opening service on Wednesday afternoon to the "vast closing Eurcharist" on Wednesday evening. The text for the closing eucharist was from Micah: "They shall all sit under their own vines, and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid." The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd... more

News today included news on a number of amicus briefs filed in the Supreme Court Case Town of Greece v. GallowayDue to the Court's briefing schedule, almost all of these briefs support allowing legislative prayer in the Town of Greece.  Other briefs opposing the town's practice of prayer will be filed later. A complete list of the briefs will be posted here For convience, we link directly to the briefs filed which were notable:

  • The United States argued that prayers with Christian references are consistent with Marsh v. Chambers.
  • 85 members of the House
... more
Image for 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... more

Image for Center Signs MOU Concerning Religious Freedom with Vietnamese Delegation and IGE

Washington, D.C. – (June 27, 2013) For over 10 years, the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), in partnership with its Vietnamese country partners have convened government and religious leaders to build consensus about how to best make religious freedom viable and sustainable in Vietnam. Through IGE’s work with government officials and religious organizations,  IGE has catalyzed and contributed to sustainable change in the country, developing trusted networks of partners with which to inculcate policies that ensure that people of all faiths and none have full freedom of... more

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.

In a separate ruling, in the case Holligsworth v. Perry, the Court also ruled that it could not decide if California's Proposition... more

Image for Religious Liberty Leader Elder Dallin H. Oaks Awarded Becket Fund’s Highest Honor

From the Becket Fund website:

New York City, NY  (16 May 2013) –  Tonight Elder Dallin H. Oaks received the highest honor awarded by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the nation’s premier religious liberty law firm, at the 18th anniversary Canterbury Medal Dinner at the Pierre in New York City, NY.

The Canterbury Medal, the Becket Fund award, is given to a person who has “most resolutely refused to render to Caesar that which is God’s.” This year’s medalist, Elder Oaks, Apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, received the award in recognition of his work defending religious liberty, as a Chicago Law professor, Utah Supreme Court Justice, and Church... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

May 9, 2013.  In a long-running free-exercise/ free-speech case, in March a the federal district court in Puerto Rico, on remand from the 1st Circuit, ordered neighborhood homeowners' associations (urbanizations) that allow entry into the neighborhood only through an unmanned locked gate operated by a key, access code or beeper to provide Jehovah's Witnesses who wish to proselytize in the neighborhood access equal to that of residents. (See prior posting.) Apparently the negative response to the ruling impelled the court to issue... more

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Conference Call Transcript – 30 April 2013

A new Pew Research Center survey of Muslims in 39 countries around the globe finds that most adherents of the world’s second-largest religion are deeply committed to their faith and want its teachings to shape not only their personal lives but also their societies and politics. While many Muslims favor making sharia official law in their country, the report finds that there also is widespread support for democracy... more

Image for The World's Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society

Pew Research Center Report, April 30, 2013.  A new Pew Research Center survey of Muslims around the globe finds that most adherents of the world’s second-largest religion are deeply committed to their faith and want its teachings to shape not only their personal lives but also their societies and politics. In all but a handful of the 39 countries surveyed, a majority of Muslims say that Islam is the one true faith leading to eternal life in heaven and that belief in God is necessary to be a moral person. Many also think that their religious leaders should have at least some influence over political matters. And many express a desire for sharia – traditional Islamic law &ndash... more

Image for Applying God’s Law: Religious Courts and Mediation in the U.S.

Pew Research Center Report April 8, 2013Across the United States, religious courts operate on a routine, everyday basis. The Roman Catholic Church alone has nearly 200 diocesan tribunals that handle a variety of cases, including an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 marriage annulments each year. In addition, many Orthodox Jews use rabbinical courts to obtain religious divorces, resolve business conflicts and settle other disputes with fellow Jews. Similarly, many Muslims appeal to Islamic clerics to resolve marital disputes and other disagreements with fellow Muslims.

... more
Image for Gay Marriage Around the World – Pew Forum Analysis

Pew Research Center Report, updated April 23, 2013. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has updated  a report first issued on 8 February 2103 concerning gay marriage worldwide. A growing number of governments around the world are considering whether to grant legal recognition to same-sex marriages. About a dozen countries currently have national laws allowing gays and lesbians to marry, mostly in Europe and the Americas. In three other countries, including the United States, some jurisdictions allow same-sex couples to wed, while others... more

Image for Tahir Mahmood – Commemorating the Author's 50th Year of Academic Pursuits

On Friday, 12 April 2013 in New Dehli, the Vice-President of India, Janab M. Hamid Ansari, launched a new book by Professor Tahir Mahmood commemorating the author's 50th year of academic pursuits: Religion, Law & Society across the Globe. Friends and colleagues worldwide were invited to attend the event, which was chaired by Dr. Ashok K. Chauhan, Founder-President of Amity chain of Universities.

Professor Mahmood is a renowned jurist, well-known in India and abroad for his expertise in religion and the law, human rights and civil liberties, especially the law relating... more

Image for UN Resolution A/HRC/22/L.9 on freedom of religion or belief adopted by consensus

Reported by Don and Ellen Holsinger in Geneva

GENEVA (22 March 2013) – In its concluding day, the 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council passed resolution A/HRC/22/L.9 on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The resolution was adopted by consensus, meaning without vote, even though one Ambassador spoke against it. Following the intervention of the US ambassador, who made repeated and accusatory remarks about Iran’s failure to respect freedom of religion and to protect religious minorities... more

Image for UN Resolution A/HRC/22/L.40 on religious tolerance and freedom
OIC Coat of Arms

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... more

Image for The Oxford Journal of Law and Religion

The Oxford Journal of Law and Religion was introduced to the Oxford Journals collection in 2012. The first issue appeared in print on 1 April 2012, followed by the second issue on 1 October. These issues, along with advance access to the third issue, to appear in early 2013, are available free of charge on the Journal's website

The new journal was developed "in response to the recent proliferation of research and writing on the interaction of law and religion cutting across many disciplines." The launch of the Journal was marked by Oxford Journal of Law and Religion Colloquium, hosted by the Religion and International Relations Programme of the Centre for Christianity and Culture and held 19 April 2012 at Regent's Park College, Oxford... more

Image for The Global Religious Landscape – 18 December 2012

A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major Religious Groups as of 2010

Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.... more

Image for Pew Forum Report – 14 December 2012

Americans Learned Little About the Mormon Faith, But Some Attitudes Have Softened

America’s "Mormon moment" is over, and public opinion appears to be little changed. Eight-in-ten Americans (82%) say they learned little or nothing about the Mormon religion during the presidential campaign, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. Most Americans still are unable to correctly answer basic questions about the history and sacred texts of the Mormon Church. And three-in-ten Americans continue to consider the Mormon religion a non-Christian faith, though there appears to be some warming of attitudes toward Mormonism, especially among religious groups that voted heavily for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.

... more
Image for The Science and Religion Dialogue: Past and Future

The University of Heidelberg (Germany) and the John Templeton Foundation hosted a major conference on “The Science and Religion Dialogue: Past and Future” from October 25th to 29th, 2012.

Featuring renowned speakers in the area of science and religion, the event commemorated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sir John Templeton and the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the John Templeton... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In United States v. Dillard, (D KA, March 7, 2013), a Kansas federal district court held that the clergy-communicant privilege extends only to members of the clergy and not to a lay counselor providing religious counseling or other support through a religious program. Defendant, Angel Dillard, visited inmates at the Sedgwick County jail through a non-profit religious ministries program.  In the case, the federal government is seeking information on Dillard's communications through the program with Scott Roeder, who is serving... more

Howard Freidman, Religion Clause

In Thompson v. Commissioner, (USTC, March 4, 2013), the U.S. Tax Court faced the question of the extent to which a taxpayer entering an installment agreement for the payment of back taxes should be allowed to continue to tithe to the Mormon Church.  George Thompson, who was a volunteer shift coordinator and a stake scouting coordinator for the Church, sought a partial payment installment agreement with the IRS for the over $880,000 in taxes and penalties he owed. The IRS offered an agreement under which he would pay $8389 per... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking building on last March's Advance Notice, designed to accommodate objections of religious non-profit organizations to the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate. Under today's proposal: 

Group health plans of "religious employers" are totally exempt from the contraceptive coverage mandate.  Today's proposal revises the definition of "religious employer" from the March release. The proposed exemption now conforms to language... more

Image for Addressing Assembly, UN expert urges States to do more to protect the right of religious conversion
Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

25 October 2012 – A United Nations independent expert today urged the international community to consistently respect, protect and promote the human right to freedom of religion or belief in the area of conversion.

“The right of conversion and the right not to be forced to convert or reconvert belong to the internal dimension of a person’s religious or belief-related conviction, which is unconditionally protected under international human rights law,” the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, said in a news release, issued as he presented a report on his work to the UN General Assembly.

In his report, Mr. Bielefeldt analyses the patterns of abuses that are perpetrated in the name of religious or ideological truth claims in the interest of promoting national identity or protecting... more

Image for Religious and belief communities discussed at OSCE human rights conference
(L-r) Professor W. Cole Durham, a member of ODIHR’s Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief; Robert-Jan Uhl, ODIHR’s Adviser on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and Floriane Hohenberg, the Head of ODIHR’s Tolerance and Non-Discrimination

Religious and belief communities should be granted quick, simple and non-discriminatory access to legal personality, said participants at a meeting on the margins of the OSCE's annual human rights conference in Warsaw on 2 October 2012.

Representatives of civil society and religious communities at the meeting noted that in the 1975 Helsinki Document, all participating States committed themselves to "recognize and respect the freedom of the individual to profess and practice, alone or in community with others, religion or belief".

"Although this means that religious or belief communities are not obliged to seek official recognition for their activities, they do often need recognition of their legal personality as a practical matter: to be able to open bank accounts, enter into contractual obligations and purchase real estate, for example," said Robert-Jan Uhl, ODIHR's Adviser on Freedom... more

Image for Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life has on September 20, 2012 released the third in a series of reports analyzing the extent to which governments and societies around the world impinge on religious beliefs and practices. The new report looks at the extent and direction of change in religious restrictions from the year ending in mid-2009 to the year ending in mid-2010. Where appropriate, it also compares the situation as of mid-2010 with the situation in the baseline year of the study (mid-2006 to mid-2007). According... more

Image for First Freedom Center Report: Minority Religious Communities at Risk

The First Freedom Center has published a "major report monitoring freedom of religion and conscience," its second Minority Religious Communities at Risk. Authors of the report were experts / practitioners who were asked to give their views on "factors which most affected the lives and fortunes of members of minority religious communities during 2011." The authors are Ambassador Akbar Ahmed (Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University), Ambassador Randolph Bell (President of the First Freedom Center), Commissioner Felice Gaer (U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom), Daniel S. Mariaschin (Executive Vice President of B'nai B'rith International), Tad Stahnke (Director of Policies and Programs at Human Rights First), and the Rev. Canon Dr. Andrew White (vicar of St. George's Anglican Church in Baghdad).... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In a ceremony at the White House (President's remarks), President Obama yesterday [August 6, 2012] signed HR 1627, the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act.  Section 601 of the Act prohibits demonstrations (including picketing, speeches and handbilling) within 300 feet of a military funeral or at the residence of the deceased service member or veteran's family during the period from 2 hours before to 2 hours after the funeral. It also prohibits activities within 500 feet of a military... more

Washington, DC — On the heels of a months-long heated debate on religious liberty, a new national survey finds that a majority (56%) of Americans do NOT believe that the right of religious liberty is being threatened in America today. Roughly 4-in-10 (39%) believe religious liberty is under attack.

The new PRRI-RNS Religion News Survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, allowed those who said religious liberty is under attack to explain in their own words why they felt the right of religious liberty... more

Image for The World's Muslims: Unity and Diversity

Pew Research Center Report, August 9, 2012The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are united in their belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad and are bound together by such religious practices as fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and almsgiving to assist people in need. But they have widely differing views about many other aspects of their faith, including how important religion is to their lives, who counts as a Muslim and what practices are acceptable in Islam, according to a worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public... more

East Rutherford, New Jersey (ENInews)—It has been described as a spiritual calling, a labor of love, a rich opportunity to connect with thousands of years of Jewish history and religion. It has also been called a relentless endeavor and a marathon of study. There are no vacations, no shortcuts, Religion News Service reports. For 7 1/2 years, day in and day out, Jews around the world have studied a new double-sided page of the Talmud, the biblical commentary that, written over centuries, serves as a guide to spirituality and practical life. On the evening of 1 August... more

Image for U.S. International Religious Freedom Report for 2011 Issued, 30 July 2012

"Religious freedom provides a cornerstone for every healthy society. It empowers faith-based service. It fosters tolerance and respect among different communities. And it allows nations that uphold it to become more stable, secure and prosperous.”  – Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton

The annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom – the International Religious Freedom Report – describes the status of religious freedom in every country. The report... more

Image for Ambassador Cook Presents the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report

"Religious freedom is a fundamental human right, and is essential for a stable, peaceful, and thriving society. ... Freedom of religion is not just an American right, but the right of all people.  It goes hand-in-hand with freedom of expression, freedom of speech and assembly. And when religious freedom is restricted, all these rights are at risk. And for this reason, religious freedom is often the bellweather for other human rights; it's the canary in the coal mine.... more

Image for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on International Religious Freedom

"Where religious freedom exists, so do the others." – Secretary Hillary Clinton

Religious freedom is under attack around the world, from religious extremists who consider any deviation from their own beliefs as sufficient justification for violence to governments who fall short of their obligations to protect the rights of all their citizens. In the face of these threats, the United States and others face the challenge of how best to protect and promote religious liberty around the world. This task is particularly important at a time when many countries in... more

State Department unveils upgrades for 2011 International Religious Freedom Reports

Media Note, Office of the Spokesperson, Washington, DC, 30 July 30, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has transmitted the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report to Congress and released it to the public. This report is a valuable tool for interested citizens, students, researchers, nongovernmental organizations, and governments. The report focuses special attention on key trends such as the impact of political and demographic transitions on religious minorities; the effects... more

Image for Two appointed to Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

President Obama announced on 26 July 2012 his intention to appoint two new Members of the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood PartnershipsMaria T. Nagorski and Elder Steven E. Snow.

Maria T. Nagorski:  Maria T. Nagorski is the Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Fair Chance. Fair Chance partners with community-based nonprofits to increase their ability to address issues related to child poverty. Previously, from 1999 to 2007, Ms. Nagorski provided leadership and training services to a variety of organizations, including the United Nations World Food Programme, the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, and the International Youth Foundation. From 1994 to 1999, Ms. Nagorski was the Founder and Executive Director of Center for Youth as Resources, a national organization focused on engaging youth in service, philanthropy, and leadership in their communities.  Concurrently, from 1985 to 1999, she was the Deputy Executive Director of the National Crime Prevention Council. Ms. Nagorski is an active member of Leadership Greater Washington and was awarded a 2010 Purpose Prize Fellowship by Civic Ventures. Ms. Nagorski received a B.A. in History from the University of Rochester.

Elder Steven E. Snow:  Elder Snow currently... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Last Friday, the Catholic Health Association (CHA), which represents more than 2000 Catholic health care organizations and facilities, submitted a comment letter (full text) to the Department of Health and Human Services taking issue with the Obama administration's proposed compromise to deal with objections of religious organizations to the mandate that health insurance policies cover contraceptive services. CHA's letter has attracted a good deal of press attention (Washington Post; National Catholic Register) because CHA's support was... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced last week that at its Spring meeting which ended Friday, the National Review Board (NRB), a lay group advising it on handling of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, issued "A Ten Year Progress Report" (full text of June 1, 2012 report). Here are excerpts from the Report:

In 2002, the bishops of the United States approved the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Ten years later, there has been striking improvement in the Church’s response to and treatment of... more

Howard Friedman, Religlion Clause

A study published in the June/July issue of Free Inquiry magazine titled How Secular Humanists (and Everyone Else) Subsidize Religion in the United States estimates that federal, state and local governments, through tax deductions, exemptions and direct expenditures, subsidize religion in the United States in an amount equal to at least $71 billion per year. Yesterday's Washington Post reports on the study.

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Baptist Press reports on a June 11 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from over 140 leaders of Christian churches, educational institutions and other Christian organizations protesting the "two-class concept of religious organizations" that has been created by attempts to accommodate faith-based objections to the Obama administration's mandate on contraceptive coverage in health insurance policies. (Full text of letter.)  The letter says in part:

[W]e are united in opposition to the creation in federal... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

On Tuesday [14 June 2012], the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions held a hearing on "Equality At Work: The Employment Non-Discrimination Act" (full text of witness statements and video of full hearing). The bill, S. 811, would bar employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  In connection with the hearing, 37 faith groups released a letter they had sent to each member of the Committee urging passage of the bill, saying "we cannot tolerate arbitrary discrimination against... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Voters in North Dakota yesterday soundly defeated Initiated Constitutional Measure No. 3 that would have placed a broad version of state religious freedom restoration laws in the state's constitution.  With all votes counted, the results were 107,680 (64.04%) No; and 60,465 (35.96%) Yes. (Official results).

The proposed constitutional amendment... more

Image for 2012 American Values Survey

The latest Pew Research Center American Values study finds that the United States continues to be a highly religious nation. Two-thirds of the public (67%) agrees with each of a series of three religious statements, affirming that prayer is an important part of their daily life, that “we will all be called before God at the Judgment Day” and that they never doubt the existence of God. When the first values study was conducted in 1987, a virtually identical number (68%) agreed with all three of these statements.... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

On June 6, a subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held hearings on a series of bills, one of which was HR 2720 (full text) which is designed to clarify the VA's role in military funerals.  Witnesses on Panel 3 and the submission of Rep. Poe at the focus on this bill, which was prompted by a dispute last year over rules at the National Cemetery in Houston, including allegations that the Department of Veterans Affairs restricted religious content at ceremonies. (See prior posting.) The government claimed... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

On May 24, the State Department released the 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in a new streamlined format that includes a country-specific executive summary and examples of the significant human rights problems reported in each country.  The report can be accessed for each country, or a customized report across any number of countries by human rights topic can be created online. A report by CNS News this week illustrates, however, that the new format has become part of the partisan... more

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Surprising scientific disclosures in a lengthy New York Times article today could change the debate over the Obama administration's health insurance contraception coverage mandate. The free exercise challenges to the mandate have been given special force because the mandate covers Plan B and Ella-- so-called morning-after pills-- which until now had been thought by most of the public to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the wall of the uterus.  That is seen by many objectors as equivalent to abortion. (Background... more

Image for Professor Mary Ann Glendon appointed USCIRF Commissioner

WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on May 23, 2012 announced his appointment of Mary Ann Glendon to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

"USCIRF welcomes Mary Ann Glendon," said Ambassador Jackie Wolcott, Executive Director of USCIRF. "Given her remarkable depth of knowledge, experience, and commitment, I am confident that she will be a great asset to our Commission and its mandate, helping us advance the cherished right of freedom of religion or belief around the world and support its integration into our country’s foreign policy... more

Image for Reverend William J. Shaw Appointed to Second Term as USCIRF Commissioner

On May 11, 2012, President Obama announced his appointment of the Reverend William J. Shaw to his second term on USCIRF. President Obama appointed Reverend Shaw on June 2010 to serve his first term. Reverend Shaw has served as Pastor of the White Rock Baptist Church in Philadelphia since 1956. Reverend Shaw served as President of the National Baptist Convention, USA Inc. from 1999 to 2009.   He currently sits on the Board of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and has served as President of The Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Philadelphia and Vicinity... more

Image for Elliott Abrams Appointed USCIRF Commissioner
Photo by Gage Skidmore

On May 15, 2012, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his appointment of Elliott Abrams to USCIRF. Mr. Abrams was a Commission member for three years beginning in 1999, serving as chair from 2000 to 2001. Elliott Abrams is a lawyer and foreign policy expert who served in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.  From 2005 to 2009 Mr. Abrams served President Bush as Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy.  Mr. Abrams has held many senior positions in the White House and at the Department of State.... more

Image for Sam Gejdenson Appointed USCIRF Commissioner

The U.S. Congress has appointed the Honorable Sam Gejdenson to serve as a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recommended Mr. Gejdenson. 

 "USCIRF welcomes Representative Gejdenson as our newest incoming Commissioner," said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair.  He will make significant contributions to our work on behalf of the cherished right of freedom of religion or belief and its fuller integration into U.S. foreign policy and national security." ... more

Image for Scharffs and O'Crea Discuss Religion in the Secular State at Clark Society Event in London
Brett Scharffs with JRCLS London Chapter Members & Guests

On 21 April 2012 the London Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society sponsored an event hosted by the law firm Latham & Watkins, Bishopsgate, London. The event featured a discussion of the topic "A secular state preserves religious freedom" by Dr. Ronan McCrea, a barrister lecturing at University College London, and Professor Brett G. Scharffs, Francis R. Kirkham Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, USA, and Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies.  

Dr. McCrea is author of Religion and the Public Order of the European Union (OUP 2011), which was Shortlisted for The Peter Birks Prizes for Outstanding... more

Image for Dr. Tahir Mahmood and Dr. Saif Mahmood Publish Muslim Law in India and Abroad

The 34th book by renowned Muslim scholar Dr. Tahir Mahmood has just been published by the Universal Law Publishing Co. The work, Muslim Law in India and Abroad, is co-authored by Dr. Mahmood's son, Dr. Saif Mahmood, Advocate, Supreme Court of India. Earlier versions of this book have been extensively cited in many Supreme Court and High Court judgments, and the work is considered as the most reliable contemporary authority on the Muslim Law of India.

The book was launched on Tuesday, 27 March 2012, at the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi by Hon'ble Mr. Justice Altamas Kabir, Chief Justice of India-designate, at a function jointly organized by the the Association of Scholars of Religion and Law and the publishers. Hon'ble Mr. Justice Badar Durrez Ahmad, Judge, High Court of Delhi spoke on the book... more

Image for Dr. Robert P. George and Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser Appointed USCIRF Commissioners

March 26, 2012 | by USCIRF

The U.S. Congress has appointed two individuals, Dr. Robert P. George and Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, to serve as Commissioners on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Comprised of nine commissioners, USCIRF monitors and advocates for religious freedom abroad wherever that right is being abused. USCIRF also offers policy solutions to improve conditions... more

Image for Katrina Lantos Swett Appointed USCIRF Commissioner

Lantos Foundation Media Release - 28 March 2012

The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice is pleased to announce that Katrina Lantos Swett has been appointed to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The appointment was made on Monday, March 26th, 2012 by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The USCIRF was created by Congress as part of the International... more

Image for Conversations with America: Religion and Foreign Policy

On 23 January 2012, Suzan Johnson Cook, United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, was joined by Dr. Chris Seiple, President of the Institute for Global Engagement, in a discussion of "Religion and Foreign Policy," as part of the State Department's online video series "Conversations with America." 

Dr. Seiple and Ambassador Cook, among others, serve as Co-Chairs to the Religion and Foreign Policy working group of Secretary Hillary Clinton's Strategic Dialogue... more

Image for Mourning the Passing of Human Rights Champion Abdelfattah Amor

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies joins the international religious freedom community in mourning the death on 2 January 2012 of Tunisian human rights advocate Professor Abdelfattah Amor. Professor Amor served from 1993 to 2004 as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. At the time of his death, Dr. Amor was a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, and had recently been appointed as president of Tunisia’s National Commission for the Investigation of Corruption and Bribery.... more

Image for Hosanna-Tabor 'Ministerial Exception' Headlines

"This is a huge win for religious liberty. The court has unanimously confirmed the right of churches to select their own ministers and religious leaders. It has unanimously held that the plaintiff in this case was a minister for purposes of the rule. It has unanimously held that the courts cannot inquire into whether the church had religious reasons for its decisions concerning a minister. The longstanding unanimity in the lower courts has now been confirmed by unanimity in the Supreme Court." – Douglas Laycock, Counsel for the Petitioner

29 January 2012. The Supreme Court has shown unity, but little guidance. (Robert Barnes, The High Court, The Washington Post... more

From The New York Times Opinion pages' Room for Debate, a discussion by American religious freedom experts on the topic "Is America's Religious Freedom Under Threat?" 

Tim Shah and Tom Farr  
    Religion in the Public Square.

Michael McConnell  
    Falling short of our ideals.

Rajdeep Singh  
    Liberty is elusive for Sikh Americans.

Noah Feldman 
    As American as religious persecution.

Salam Al-Marayati 
    A campaign against patriotic Muslims.

Helen M. Alvaré 
    Human rights vs. religious freedom?

Hamza Yusuf   
    Federal law, at least, is on our side.

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan  
    A risk even for the majority.

Image for House Judiciary Committee Hearing on The State of Religious Freedom

The Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives held a hearing on Wednesday, 26 October 2011 on the subject "The State of Religious Freedom in the United States." The hearing convened under the auspices of the Subcommittee on the Constitution by direction of the Chairman of the Committee, Trent Franks. Witnesses included Bishop William Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut; Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State; and Colby M. May, Senior Counsel and Director of the Washington Office of the American Center for Law and Justice. Reports of the hearing and testimony transcripts are available at the following links... more

Image for Inaugural Meeting of State Department Working Group on Religion and Foreign Policy

From the Institute for Global Management24 October 2011

On October 18th, the U.S. Department of State (Office of the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs) launched its Working Group on Religion and Foreign Policy as a part of the Secretary of State's "Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society." Representatives from civil society—including religious leaders from around the... more

18 October 2011. Embrace secularism; keep religion out of politics. (Ronald A. Lindsay, The Washington Post)

18 October 2011. Secularism and its discontents. Interview with José Casanova. (McGill Daily [Canada])

10 September 2011.  Tolerance and Secularism (II) (Salman Arshad, The International Herald Tribune)

10 September 2011.  Secularism: The religious touchstone in vogue. (Rümatho Nyusou, The Morung Express)

7 September 2011.  Secularism doesn't equal tolerance. (Daniyal Noorani, The International Herald Tribune)

Image for Justice Zakeria Mohammed Yacoob at Symposium Opening Session

Heidi Carmack
BYU Law School Reporter

South Africa’s Justice Zakeria Mohammed Yacoob was the keynote speaker in the opening session of the 18th Annual International Center for Law and Religion Studies Symposium, "Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Age: Trends, Challenges and Practices.' Justice Yacoob called listeners to action, stating that all people have the potential to add value in this critical fight for religious freedom.

"Religion, conscience, thought and belief should, I believe, be regarded as the core of our humanity as a crucial component of our humanness," Justice Yacoob said. “They are indeed so crucial and so essential that I doubt whether we would be able to call... more

Image for Apostle Dallin H. Oaks Speaks of Truth and Tolerance, Decries Moral Relativism

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed a gathering in the Marriott Center on the campus of Brigham Young University, on the evening of 11 September 2011. Before his calling as an Apostle in 1984, Elder Oaks had served as a distinguished practitioner and teacher of law in Chicago and Utah. Formerly President of Brigham Young University, Elder Oaks was at the time of his call to Church leadership a member of the Utah State Supreme Court.... more

Image for J. Reuben Clark Law Society Sponsors Video, Facebook Page

In keeping with its mission to "affirm the strength brought to the law by a lawyer’s personal religious conviction [and] strive through public service and professional excellence to promote fairness and virtue founded upon the rule of law," the J. Reuben Clark Law Society (JRCLS) has produced a video, "Lawyers as Healers," now showing on YouTube. The video features attorney and public servant James E. Faust (1920-2007), who was a member of the governing council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving an Apostle and as counselor to the President of the Church. 

The JRCLS also invited interested parties to visit its Facebook page... more

Image for ICLRS Directors Speak at Clark Society Leadership Conference

Beginning Thursday, September 29 the J. Reuben Clark Law Society and BYU Law Alumni hosted the annual Leadership Conference at Aspen Grove in Provo Canyon. Professor Gary B. Doxey, Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, with additional remarks by Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., ICLRS Director, as well as William F. Atkin, International Chair of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society. Other highlights of the conference included showcasing keynote speaker Judge Milan Smith from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the highly anticipated LDS Church Area Legal Counsel Reports on Friday. Training sessions led by Chapter leaders on technology tools, pro bono programs, Women in the Law and chapter finance were held Friday afternoon. BYU Law Alumni board officers and class representatives along with members of the JRCLS chapters and delegates representing several countries were in attendance for the conference.

"Given the state's size and influence, New York’s legislation will surely be a baseline for any state that recognizes same-sex marriage through legislation going forward. The wrangling over ... religious protections is evidence of just how important they are. Without such protections, groups that hew to their religious beliefs about marriage would be at risk of losing government contracts and benefits and would be subject to lawsuits from private citizens. ... If New York's law stands for anything, it is that legislatures can advance one civil right without simultaneously eroding another." – Robin Fretwell Wilson, The New York Times (Opinion)

24 July 2011.  Liberty's loss:... more

3 June 2011.  Leonard Leo (USCIRF Chair), Thomas Farr (Berkley Center), Joseph Grieboski (Institute on Religion and Public Policy), and Brian Grim (Pew Forum) testify at Congressional Hearing: Prioritizing International Religious Freedom in U.S. Foreign Policy

05 June 2011

3 June 2011.   Arab Summer: How unstable will the Middle East's new democracies be? (Fred Kaplan, Slate Magazine)

3 June 2011.  Europe must rise to the challenges presented by the Arab Spring. (Timothy Garton Ash, Huffington Post)

2 June 2011.

Image for ICLRS Fellows and Executive Committee Members in Moot Court Competitions
2010 Rex E. Lee Moot Court Competition Finalists

Febuary 2011 - Washington, D.C., New York, Chapel Hill

Students from the J. Reuben Clark Law School, including several ICLRS Student Research Fellows and members of the Symposium Executive Committee, are participants in the 2011 Moot Court competitions. 2009 Student Fellow Elsa Jacobsen is part of the 5th Annual National Religious Freedom Moot Court Competition hosted by the George Washington Law School and sponosed by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society. 2010 Student Fellow and Executive... more