Why Religious Freedom Matters to Me

Chris Seiple is the president emeritus of the Institute for Global Engagement, a think- and do-tank operating at the intersection of religion, realpolitik, and reconciliation. The following is an edited summary of his remarks at the ICLRS 2022 Religious Freedom Annual Review, 16 June 2022.

Religious Freedom Is the Only Thing that Works

Why does religious freedom matter to me? The answer is that religious freedom is the only thing that works. It is the only thing that brings together principles and practicality in a way that speaks to all audiences and serves all citizens. It is as simple as that. It is a philosophy of self, societal, and state governance, holistic from the bottom up (the individual/grassroots) to the top down (the institution/government). This approach works, but it takes a lot of work to make it work.


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The Foundational Character of Freedom of Religion or Belief

W. Cole Durham, Jr., is president of the G20 Interfaith Forum Association and is the Susa Young Gates University Professor of Law and founding director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) at the J. Reuben Clark Law School of Brigham Young University. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School and is a founding editor-in-chief of the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion

This post was initially presented as a keynote address at the Fringe Conference held on 5 July 2022 at Portcullis House, Westminster, United Kingdom, in conjunction with the International Ministerial on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The address was part of a session titled “Preventing Violence, Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief—An Overview.” The event was hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, among others, and sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the ICLRSThe post was originally posted on the G20 Interfaith Forum blog, Viewpoints.

Today I want to advance seven reasons for thinking freedom of religion or belief is foundational: It is historically foundational, philosophically foundational, institutionally foundational, and empirically foundational. It is instrumentally foundational in that it is the best tool we have for forging peace in a highly pluralistic world, and it is intrinsically foundational because it protects the core of human dignity. Finally, it is foundational in being a critical criterion of justice. Let me provide a thumbnail sketch of each of these points.


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