Professor Scharffs in Bukhara, Uzbekistan: Human Dignity—From the Punta del Este Declaration to the Bukhara Declaration

Brett G. Scharffs is Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies and Rex E. Lee Chair and Professor of Law at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School.

International Center for Law and Religion Director Brett Scharffs, along with Associate Director Elizabeth Clark and BYU Law Professor Eric Jensen, participated in an international forum in Uzbekistan, held at the Academy of Public Administration, 16–20 May 2022. In Tashkent, they helped organize a certificate program on religion and the rule of law, co-organized by the University of World Economy and Diplomacy. In Bukhara, Professors Scharffs and Clark participated in a conference on the Dialogue of Declarations that sought to build on momentum from other declarations relating to religious tolerance and freedom and culminated in the promulgation of the Bukhara Declaration. This blog post is adapted from Professor Scharffs’s discussion of the Punta del Este Declaration on Human Dignity for Everyone Everywhere, an initiative he helped lead.

I’ve been invited to speak about the Punta del Este Declaration on Human Dignity for Everyone Everywhere and the role of human dignity in creating communities of toleration and respect, which is one of the primary calls to action in the Bukhara Declaration we are here to adopt and celebrate today. I begin by reading the first sentence of Article One of the Punta del Este Declaration because it resonates with the themes of this conference and with recent efforts to emphasize human dignity in Uzbekistan.

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Interview: Brett G. Scharffs on Teaching Law and Religion Globally

Brett G. Scharffs is Rex E. Lee Chair and Professor of Law at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School and Director of the Law School’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies. He received his JD from Yale Law School, where he was Senior Editor of the Yale Law Journal. He has previously taught at Yale University and the George Washington University Law School. Scharffs has been a visiting professor at Central European University in Budapest, University of Adelaide School of Law in Australia, and Doshisha University in Kyoto. He has helped organize a Certificate Training Program on Religion and the Rule of Law in Beijing in partnership with Peking University Law School’s Center for Administrative and Constitutional Law. He also co-organizes similar programs in Vietnam, Myanmar, and Uzbekistan. He has been working to develop a masters-level course on Shari’a and Human Rights with two universities in Indonesia. Scharffs has written more than 100 articles and book chapters and has made more than 300 scholarly presentations in 30 countries. His field-creating casebook, Law and Religion: National, International, and Comparative Perspectives (co-authored with W. Cole Durham, Jr.) was published by Wolters Kluwer in 2009, with an extensively revised and updated second edition appearing in January 2019. Scharffs was interviewed by Dmytro Vovk

IDEAS AND CONCEPTS BEHIND TEACHING LAW AND RELIGION

What is the place of law and religion courses in legal education?

Traditionally, U.S. law schools have treated law and religion as almost exclusively a course focused on the U.S. experience. There might be a little bit of history, but it focuses almost exclusively on the First Amendment and perhaps a few statutes, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In our teaching, we had been teaching international students quite frequently, including at Central European University. And what we wanted to do is teach a course that was fundamentally different. It would have a U.S. component, but that would only be one leg of a three-legged stool; the other two components would be international law and comparative law. So when we teach, we do include U.S. materials because they’re important, and they’re illustrative. We focus largely on the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause. The international human rights component focuses primarily on international human rights instruments, beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and then a lot of cases that have been decided by courts, principally the European Court on Human Rights, interpreting those treaties. For the comparative law piece, we focus on interesting counterparts to the U.S. and international materials, often cases dealing with the same subject matter. In our casebook, we have examples from more than 20 countries. These tend also to be based upon national constitutions and constitutional interpretations by courts, but also statutes and administrative practice. The centerpiece of our approach is believing that we all face a set of common problems. And we can learn to find better solutions in our own homes by being aware of the successes, the contrast, and the failures in other places and other legal regimes.

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Remarks on the Punta del Este Declaration on Human Dignity for Everyone Everywhere

Ana María Celis Brunet is a Professor of Law at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and Director of the UC Center for Law and Religion

In October 2021, thanks to the leadership of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS), we gathered four countries from the Southern Cone—Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile—in a Forum on Human Dignity and Religious Freedom. It seems particularly important to devote time to reflect on human dignity for everyone everywhere, which corresponds to the title of the 2018 Punta del Este Declaration.

The Declaration reflects the combined work of a group of people motivated by discussions initiated by Jan Figel, the former Envoy for Freedom of Religion for the non-European countries of the European Union, with the support of the ICLRS. This group seized the opportunity to build on and further develop religious freedom as a fundamental human right on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, emphasizing the perspective of human dignity.

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