News Story

Canadian Delegates Attend BYU International Law and Religion Symposium

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hosted its 23rd Annual International Law and Religion Symposium October 2–4, 2016. The symposium included 95 delegates from 45 countries and was translated into 14 languages.

Representing Canada were distinguished delegates professor John Borrows, Canada Research Chair in indigenous law, University of Victoria Law School, and Dr. Gerald Filson, national director of public affairs, Bahá’i Community of Canada, and member of the National Spiritual Assembly, the national governing council of the Bahá’is of Canada.

Dr. Borrows spoke concerning Canada’s residential schools, reconciliation, churches and indigenous peoples. He spoke of the need for reconciliation and concluded, “There are many answers in the political, legal, economic and social sphere, which I teach and write about. Without ignoring the importance of these avenues, I also believe we need to apply the spiritual teachings from every faith community to help us address the tragedies which unfold on our reserves and in our streets every day, when it comes to indigenous peoples across the land.”

“The teachings, sacrifice and grace of Jesus Christ are important for Christian churches in their quest for reconciliation,” Dr. Borrows continued. “For indigenous Christians, there can be much that can be learned through the revitalization of indigenous and Christian frameworks. This requires heeding the best voices of our ancestors and seeking God’s hand in the environment to heal and reconcile us to one another and God’s creations.”

Dr. Filson participated on a panel titled “Interreligious Cooperation, Religious Rights and Pluralism.” He espoused that ethical values and norms go beyond the minimal threshold of human rights that are understood as legal and moral universals. And ethical norms draw their inspiration and normative force from God — or the divine that lies beyond individual autonomy and freedom and also beyond the inter-subjective autonomy by which popular sovereignty in democracies determines the laws of state.

According to Dr. Filson, such comprehensive ethical norms that derive from religion draw attention to responsibilities and virtues — such as generosity, fellowship, love and sacrifice — that cannot be codified or translated into justifiable human rights norms; however, those virtues are needed to help reinforce the human rights norms. Interreligious cooperation can take advantage of the right language and enduring experience of religion to advance an understanding of the fundamental human right of religious freedom by advancing the role of the place in religion and religious language and values in their public sphere.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a special commitment to religious freedom. Six members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are among senior Mormon leaders who have addressed the issue in more than 30 talks around the world in the recent past. The Church has also launched a new webpage,, packed with resources for defending the principle of religious liberty.

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