By Rachel Lewis
More than 60 government and legal representatives from over 38 countries are participating in BYU”s Ninth Annual International Law and Religion Symposium October 6-8.
The conference is held to give participants a chance to share their countries” cultures, especially focusing on the interaction between law and religion.
“It”s an opportunity to see how law governs religions in different countries, to be able to share information, put experts and government leaders in touch with each other and start a process of on-going scholarly contact,” said Elizabeth A. Clark, associate director of the BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies.
This year marks the ninth year the conference has been held at BYU.
“It”s been growing every year. This is our largest conference to date and it keeps growing. It is very exciting,” Clark said.
Participants include the Minister of Cults and Religion from Cambodia; heads of departments of religious and foreign affairs from Argentina, Brazil, Ethiopia and Mexico; heads of national governmental human rights commissions from Fiji, Peru, and Vietnam; and numerous other scholars and government leaders.
The conference is a rarity among universities. Clark said, “there are few schools in the country that deal with church and state issues, and none of them can deal with it as well as we can here at BYU because of the language background of our students and faculty.”
The conference has also helped The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints relate with other countries.
“One of the most important things we have obtained from this conference is that we have become friends with government officials,” said Arturo Lopez, a church official in Mexico, Central America and South America.
“We believe some of the problems we have in The Church, such as opposition, originate in ignorance. When those in government get to know us a little better, doors are open,” Lopez said.
This year the focus of the conference is “New Impulses in the Interaction of Law and Religion.” Topics of discussion include the treatment of religious minorities, trends in the media”s coverage of religious believers and organizations, and related problems involving the interface of law and religion in a variety of cultural settings.
The conference began Sunday evening Oct. 6 at 7:00 and will continue from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Oct. 8.
Students are welcome and encouraged to attend the conference at no cost. The conference is held in room 303 of the Clark Building.