20th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium


Over 80 delegates from 43 countries discussed religious freedom at the 20th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium at BYU this past week.

In the past 20 years the symposium has had over 1,000 delegates from 120 countries come to participate.

According to Erica Berret, an executive committee member for the symposium, the purpose was to “bring people around the world to discuss religious freedom.”

Among the crowd of delegates were Supreme Court justices from other countries, professors from visiting universities, lawyers, various international government figures and a few BYU students.

In a continuing struggle to bring about religious liberty the symposium meets every year at the BYU law school to address an issue. This year’s theme was religion and human rights.

Berret explained that the symposium always starts on a Sunday so the delegates can be taken to General Conference.

The next couple days are followed by keynote speakers and addresses given by the delegates themselves. The symposium concluded with a luncheon with the Church General Authorities in Salt Lake City at Temple Square.

Overall, the conference is held so the delegates can learn from one another.

Rana R. Arn’out, magistrate court judge, judicial council, Madaba court of first instance, from Jordan, said she felt a big burden to go home and tell her associates, especially other female judges, what she learned.

Arn’out was not alone in expressing her appreciation of the symposium because of the insights and ideas it generated.

The strength of the symposium was a result of a diverse group of delegates, from across the globe, sharing ideas but this also made it difficult to organize.

The delegates did not all speak the same language, and as a result the symposium had to be translated into 13 different languages.

The symposium thanked the student executive committee that helped coordinate travel arrangements for the 80 delegates and organize the symposium.

The student executive committee also recruited 70 student volunteers to help.

In addition to hosting the annual symposium, the International Center for Law and Religious Studies at BYU actively promotes religious liberty across the world by hosting similar conferences in other countries.

The Center also provides daily an “email headlines news service” that sends links to big news happenings across the globe that relate to religious issues.

The headline news feed is free and sends emails six days of the week.

At the conclusion of the symposium, delegates were encouraged to let the International Law and Religion Headlines news service know about things going on in their own countries that they might want to share.

Delegates were also asked to write down what they learned at the symposium and how they hope to implement it to contribute to law reform and the implementation of religious freedoms worldwide.

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