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2022 Religious Freedom Annual Review

Living Peaceably: Religious Freedom as a Foundation for Civic Harmony


Thursday, June 16, 2022

You can watch recordings here:

Presenters and participants from across the country gathered for the Religious Freedom Annual Review at BYU. This event was hosted by the International Center for Law and Religious Studies and co-sponsored by the Wheatley Institute. It focused on the importance of religious freedom and building relationships between faith groups. More than 50 presenters shared their unique stories and expertise throughout the conference’s 13 panels. Sessions throughout the day were focused on building bridges with LGBTQ groups, preventing modern genocide, recent legislation on religious freedom, and the positive role of religion in criminal justice.

Examples of life-changing interfaith partnerships were shared from panelists, including the partnership between the Christian Church Community Megachurch and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Due to the pandemic’s heavy blows on New York, food insecurity dramatically increased. With monetary aid and missionary volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ, the Christian Church Community went from feeding 25,000 people to 100,000 people. This herculean effort was only possible due to multiple religious groups joining together just in time for the 2021 holiday season.

There were several main takeaways from these panels:

  • Listening, friendship, and trust are required to connect groups and build bridges. 
  • Communities and lives will only be transformed through active effort.
  • Modern genocide will only be ended if we choose to use our collective voices to raise awareness and action.
  • Religious freedom is more than allowing others to practice, or not practice, a religion.  “It’s about opening doors for one another so someone else can enter.” -Rabbi Potasnik

In the closing keynote panel, Elder Cook, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, moderated a discussion between four members of the New York City Commission of Religious Leaders. The panelists centered commentary on how religious plurality and respect can build strong communities. Religious groups assist people spiritually, but also provide immense support to secular society. Reverend Que English and Reverend A.R. Bernard explained that the united voice of the Commission of Religious Leaders has prevented the legalization of prostitution, helped lower maternal mortality rates, and dissolved violent riots. Religious institutions and interfaith relationships have helped New York City to stay strong during hardships and divisive events for many years.