BYU’s Freedom of Religion or Belief Club hosted its first advocacy training in conjunction with the Religious Freedom Institute.
Speakers presented on religious freedom advocacy and answered student questions over Zoom on March 27.
The panel included the Rev. Monica Dobbins of the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City, UVU Interreligious Engagement Coordinator Ellie Thompson and BYU history professor Grant Underwood.
Information on the event and speakers is available on the BYU Freedom of Religion or Belief Club website.
Jim Bennett, associate director of the Center for Religious Freedom Education, opened the event with the question, “Is religious freedom a human right?” He explored several definitions of religion and discussed how it is universal.
“Religious freedom is the right of every person to be religious — to search for truths about a greater-than-human source of being and ultimate meaning and to order one’s life in accord with those truths when found,” Bennett said.
He explained the idea of human dignity, which is a worthiness possessed by every human being. “Human dignity is rooted in and inseparable from religious ideas.”
Speakers also discussed some ways students can advocate for religious freedom in government.
Research and education are the start to becoming a religious freedom advocate, said David Trimble, the Religious Freedom Institute vice president of policy. He suggested several internships and government opportunities for students to build a career in advocacy.
“When religious freedom is threatened, we react,” Trimble said. “I’m convinced in an advocacy model moving forward, we’ve got to be more proactive.”
BYU journalism professor Joel Campbell used examples from his New York study abroad with communications students to show the importance of building connections and understanding. He encouraged students to be involved in local government coalitions, bills and interim studies.
BYU law professor David Moore encouraged students to influence the judiciary branch through voting, playing a role in the community and working through organizations like the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.