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Canadian Academic Presents at BYU Symposium on Religious Freedom

Canadian academic Dr. Janet Epp Buckingham recently presented at the International Law and Religion Symposium at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Held 6–8 October 2013 at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Dr. Buckingham joined more than 80 distinguished delegates from 42 countries to engage in discussions related to religious freedom and human rights. 

Dr. Buckingham is director of the Ottawa-based Laurentian Leadership Centre and also an associate professor of political studies and history at Trinity Western University, Canada’s largest private Christian liberal arts institution. As a featured presenter, Dr. Buckingham addressed “The State of Religious Freedom in Canada.”

“We have an astonishing array of religions in Canada,” she began. “This means that we have both individuals and organizations with deep religious convictions, manifestations, practices and needs … [who are able to] make enormous contributions to Canadian society.”

With an interest in faith, public policy and the legal system, Dr. Buckingham has worked with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada as general legal counsel and as director of law and public policy. 

Dr. Buckingham noted that Canada is a country of immigrants and that the federal government has welcomed immigrants from around the world throughout Canada’s history. She said, “It would not minimize conflict to force religious adherents to hide their identity.”

“While we have mechanisms for dealing with religious freedom in Canada, we cannot take for granted that it will be protected in a broad and holistic fashion,” said Dr. Buckingham. “There is constant pressure for religious adherents to fit into ‘Canadian values,’ which include secularism.”

Dr. Buckingham cited specific examples in Canada where fundamental religious rights are being currently challenged. “Religious freedom is a core value in Canadian society, yet recent court cases and government initiatives suggest that it is being restricted.”

Because of their teachings and history, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a special commitment to religious freedom. Now in its 20th year, the International Law and Religion Symposium at BYU has hosted more than 1,000 delegates from more than 120 countries. 

For nearly 200 years Mormon leaders have taught the importance of religious freedom for everyone, as stated in the Church’s Articles of Faith: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” 

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