April 5, 2016

Religious Freedom in the 21st Century: Mormon Studies Conference 2016

We express our deep appreciation to all the speakers and attendees at our “Religious Freedom in the 21st Century” conference which was held March 25-26 at Claremont Graduate University. The event was co-sponsored by the Howard W. Hunter Foundation and Drs. Oi-Lin and Tei-Fu Chen (founders of Sunrider International). We express sincere thanks to the Chen family, whose generous $100,000 gift includes establishment of the Drs. Oi-Lin and Tei-Fu Chen Family Graduate Fellowship in support of tuition relief for our bright young corps of Claremont Mormon Studies graduate students.

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More highlights, photos, and videos from the event are posted below (courtesy of Rob Briggs, Kenn Rasmussen, and Tom Evans).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provided the Keynote Address entitled, “Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Society,” and was featured in the Mormon Newsroom with the headline “Mormon Apostle: Seek a Cease-Fire in the Culture Wars”:

Elder Oaks’ full transcript can be linked to here.

Photos of the keynote address can be seen below:

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Roundtable Discussion
Religious Freedom, Politics, and Law in Contemporary America
Moderator: Doug Fabrizio​, host of KUER’s “RadioWest”

  • Kathleen Flake is the Richard L. Bushman Chair of Mormon Studies at the University of Virginia. She’s the author of The Politics of Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle.
  • Monica Miller is Senior Counsel at the American Humanist Association’s Legal Center in Washington, DC. Her work focuses on issues surrounding the separation of church and state, which she litigates across the country.
  • Rev. Steve Pieters is a retired pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church. He’s also an LGBT activist, and served for 11 years as field director for MCC’s AIDS Ministry.
  • Michael Uhlmann is a professor of politics and policy at the Claremont Graduate University. He had a distinguished career in government which included serving as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

The panel discussion was recorded live for Rebroadcast as an episode of KUER’s “RadioWest”.  Click here to listen to the panel discussion on KUER. 

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Kristen McMain Oaks, wife of Elder Dallin H. Oaks, spoke at a morning devotional hosted by the Mormon Women’s Oral History Project at Claremont Graduate University. Her remarks were entitled, “Women for All Seasons.” Oaks has a doctorate in education from Brigham Young University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in special education from the University of Utah.  She is the author or co-author of three books, and worked for many years as an international educational consultant with Houghton Mifflin’s high school division.

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Judge Thomas Griffith​ of the Washington DC Court of Appeals provided the concluding Keynote Address entitled “Religious Liberty after Obergefell.”

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Other events from the conference are listed below.  Check back soon to see photos and videos.


Welcome and Introduction

Patrick Mason​, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies, Associate Professor of Religion, Claremont Graduate University


Historical and Theoretical Considerations

Moderator: Taylor Kerby, Claremont Graduate University


“Catholics in the Tri‐Faith Movement: Race, Religion, and American Freedom, 1920‐1950”

Tisa Wenger​, Associate Professor of American Religious History, Yale Divinity School and Yale University

“Religious Freedom: From What? For What? Liberalism and Mimesis”

Sherman Jackson​, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture, University of Southern California
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Islam and the Protection of Religious Minorities

Moderator: Shelby Hamm, Claremont Graduate University

“Religious Freedoms for Minorities in Muslim Majority Countries: Lessons from the Struggle Against Apartheid”

Rashied Omar​, Research Scholar of Islamic Studies and Peacebuilding, University of Notre Dame

“Islam, Religious Freedom, and Intra‐Muslim Conflict”

Amjad Khan​, Adjunct Professor of Law, UCLA Law School; Partner at Brown, Neri & Smith LLP
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“Guantanamo: The American Gulag”

Brent Rushforth​, principal, McKool Smith



Church and State

Moderator: Ben Spackman, Claremont Graduate University


“The Irrelevance of Church‐State Separation in the Twenty‐First Century”

Steven Green​, Fred H. Paulus Professor of Law; Director, Center for Religion, Law, and Democracy, Willamette University School of Law

“Freedom from Religion and Religious Group Rights: A Tentative Pairing for Religious Liberty”

Frederick M. Gedicks​, Guy Anderson Chair and Professor of Law, Brigham Young University Law School


“The Religious Accommodation Experiment”

Andrew Koppelman​, John Paul Stevens Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law

“Religious Liberty as a Fundamental Right Essential to Pluralism”

Alexander Dushku​, Kirton McConkie


Global Outlooks

Moderator:  Hillary Laga, Claremont Graduate University


“Protecting Claims of Conscience in an International and Corporate Age”

W. Cole Durham Jr.​, Susa Young Gates University Professor of Law; Director, Center for Law and Religion Studies, Brigham Young University
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“Religious Freedom, Defined Freely”

Hans Noot​, President, Gerard Noodt Foundation for Freedom of Religion or Belief


“Religious Freedom in the Classroom: The Politics of Safety in Higher Education”

Najeeba Syeed​, Assistant Professor of Interreligious Education, Claremont School of Theology
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Keynote Address

“The First Freedom in the 21st Century: Navigating the Shifting Terrain”

Katrina Lantos Swett​, Chair, US Commission on International Religious Freedom