If you’ve been listening to leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently, chances are high you’ve heard them talk about religious freedom. This issue is a growing concern to a church trying to find their way in an increasingly secular world. As the primary school owned and operated by the LDS Church, BYU is also heavily involved in the fight for religious freedom, not only for its own sake, but for the sake of practitioners of other religions as well. At 4:00 p.m. on January 17th, Dr. Daniel Mark will deliver an address on BYU’s campus regarding on this issue, one that has been recognized as universal but which has also proven to be, over the course of human history, one of the most difficult to define and uphold.
This forum, hosted by BYU’s Wheatley Institution, will be particularly useful to individuals interested in issues of religious freedom, contemporary politics, philosophy, family and marriage, and family law. As a political scientist, Dr. Mark researches heavily the role of religious freedom in America, and his forum address will contextualize and deepen our understanding of the realities of current religious freedoms and trends. Attendees will be able to educate themselves on what religious freedom means and does not mean for them.
Dr. Mark, an assistant professor of political science and a faculty associate of the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, holds the rank of Battalion Professor and serves as the university representative to the performance review board for Villanova’s Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit and is a mentor in the university’s Faith and Learning Scholars Program. Dr. Mark holds a BA, MA, and Ph.D. from the Department of Politics at Princeton University.
BYU’s Wheatley Institution’s mission is to “enhance the academic climate and scholarly reputation of BYU, and to enrich faculty and student experiences, by contributing recognized scholarship that lifts society by preserving and strengthening its core institutions.
Note: featured image provided by Flickr Creative Commons.
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.
Hot-button social issues such as marriage and family, religious issues such as faith and science, and political issues such as education and international affairs have all long been examined by Brigham Young University. As a religious institution operating in an increasingly secular world, BYU provides education and academic research on those topics. The aims behind all of these endeavors is that they be spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging, character building, and leading to lifelong learning and service. The Wheatley Institution, an on-campus think tank, seeks to forward those aims by contributing recognized scholarship that preserves and strengthens the core institutions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and BYU. Doing so, it claims, will both enhance the academic climate and scholarly reputation of BYU and enrich the experiences of students and faculty alike.
Many faculty members from BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences are fellows of the Wheatley Institution or have otherwise been involved in some way. Perhaps most prominent among them is Jason S. Carroll, a popular professor in the School of Family Life. Professor Carroll is an internationally-recognized researcher and educator on various aspects of marriage, and has spoken at the Wheatley Institution, most recently on key lessons for young adults can prepare for marriage.
Ed Gantt, a faculty researcher in the Psychology Department, has also contributed scholarship to the Wheatley Institution in the form of theologically-centered essays on “faith, reason, and critical thinking,” “happiness or joy?,” and “scientism and the temptations of orthodoxy,” and ”
The Wheatley Institution holds numerous events throughout the course of the year in an effort to promote scholarship in line with BYU’s core values. The next one will be a presentation by United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein on November 17th.