For the faith community in the United States, religious freedom has become a growing concern. In an increasingly secular world, many fear that social trends and new policies will either infringe on their right to worship or force them to accommodate things that contradict their beliefs. These worries are not solely confined to America, though; they are worldwide. “About 74% of the world’s population are living in countries with serious restrictions on religious freedom, according to David Saperstein, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom. He will speak on this issue, and on the United States’ efforts to promote international religious freedom, at a lecture hosted by BYU’s Wheatley Institution, on November 17th.
The lecture will be delivered on November 17th from 7:30-9:00 PM in the HBLL auditorium. at BYU. Ambassador Saperstein will speak on the importance of promoting religious freedom around the world, as well as combating religious persecution and discrimination in all of its forms–including genocide and other atrocities committed by groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Religious freedom has recently been a central focus of Brigham Young University and the church which owns it, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many devotionals, conference talks, and online articles have covered the issue in-depth and argued for an increase in the freedom of religious people to practice and live their beliefs.
These conversations have taken place outside of Mormonism as well. Many Christians have refused to serve homosexuals at their places of work, citing their religious beliefs as justification. This has resulted in several high-profile lawsuits, perhaps most notably the 2015 arrest of government employee Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling and a federal court order addressed to her.
In January 2015, President Barack Obama appointed David Saperstein to the post of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Before that, Ambassador Saperstein served on the boards of numerous national organizations and was the first Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is a prolific writer and speaker, and holds degrees from Cornell, Hebrew Union College, and American University.