Faith leaders and scholars gather for inaugural ND Religious Liberty Summit

Author: Notre Dame Law School

Rli Summit Gala 2021

Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative brought together the world’s foremost thought leaders on religious freedom June 28-29 for the inaugural Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit.

Established in 2020, the Religious Liberty Initiative promotes and defends religious freedom for people of all faiths through scholarship, events, and the Law School’s Religious Liberty Clinic.

Panel discussions at this year’s Religious Liberty Summit covered topics such as interfaith cooperation, religious liberty and the media, overcoming the polarization of religious liberty, and international threats to religious liberty.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York delivered the summit’s keynote address. Nury Turkel of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was presented with the first Notre Dame Prize for Religious Liberty for his inspired advocacy on behalf of Muslim Uyghurs in China. Asma Uddin, author of The Politics of Vulnerability: How to Heal Muslim-Christian Relations in a Post-Christian America, received the Religious Liberty Initiative’s inaugural award honoring a recent work of scholarship on religious liberty.

Watch the full recordings of the Religious Liberty Summit panel discussions below.

Overcoming Polarization of Religious Liberty


  • Professor John Inazu, Washington University in St. Louis: “There are a lot of people against any kind of compromise ... and breaking out of the echo chamber is not enough.”
  • Asma Uddin, religious liberty attorney and scholar: “We can talk about the very real struggles of the marginalized without being hateful towards those we blame for the marginalization. This is how we can bridge the Muslim-Christian divide.”
  • Justin Giboney, AND Campaign: “Everyone has a role to play, but the frame and tenor of the discourse can no longer be framed by white conservatives and white progressives. I’m not talking about diversity for diversity’s sake, but diversity for democracy’s sake.”
  • Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen, Parity: “International religious freedom is a beautiful path towards human dignity for all. It’s a framework in order to promote initiatives like human rights, for both the religious and the secular.”

Religious Liberty and the Press

The video for the “Religious Liberty and the Press” panel is combined with the “Overcoming Polarization of Religious Liberty” video above. The press panel starts at the 1:18 mark.


  • Gretchen Crowe, Our Sunday Visitor: “Religious groups have an opportunity to present their case when talking to the media. Religious groups can get out in front of a story and help shape the story, clearing up misunderstandings and providing the nuance that is often left out.”
  • Elizabeth Dias, New York Times: “I try to make it so that the voices presented represent the voices of our country. I can’t always quote people in power, and I try to give every voice an opportunity. Giving diversity to my stories provides a fuller picture, and is something that is often lacking, especially in religious stories.”
  • Emma Green, The Atlantic: “Fairness is different to different people. The ethos that animates all of my writing is giving each person in a story a fair shot, and will people recognize themselves when they read my writing. It’s a difficult pursuit, with facts often being a sobering force.”
  • Eric Marrapodi, National Public Radio: “When I looked at the media and how they covered religion, I felt there was extraordinary bias. But it wasn’t bias, but simple ignorance. They didn’t know how these processes work, and there was a good chance that these misunderstandings carried through to their writings.”

Keynote and Interfaith Dialogue Panel


  • Dr. Jacqueline Rivers, The Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies: “What made Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so successful were the thousands of people who showed up ... of all faiths; every faith — even those with no faith.”
  • Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York: “What used to be a non-controversial right, is now an oppressive, partisan, right-wing caricature. You and I advocate for religious freedom not because we are believers, but because we are Americans.”
  • Elder Quentin L. Cook, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, Muslims, Latter-day Saints, and other faiths must be part of a coalition of faiths that succor, act as a sanctuary, and promulgate religious freedom across the world.”
    • For a summary Elder Cook provided of humanitarian partnerships between the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, click HERE.
  • Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, Congregation Shearith Israel: “We have always tried to be both neighbors and strangers. We have always tried to be a part of society, while also being set apart by our beliefs and our faith.”

International Threats to Religious Liberty (Panel 1)


  • Ms. Marcela Szymanski, Aid to the Church in Need: “The violations of human rights are not always the domain of a regime, but they are always part of a power grabbing strategy where there is no room for diversity of thought. The people who think, who search for transcendence and truth are not easy to dominate; and conversely, people who have stopped searching are extremely easy to dominate.”
  • Most Rev. Elias Zaidan, Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon: “Through persecutions, direct or indirect, Christians have left the Middle East. The only one who stays is Lebanon. Because in Lebanon there is what we call consensual democracy. Where Christians have a role in the government and a role to play in the country.”
  • Professor Ana María Celis Brunet, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: “Secularism is increasing very fast in Latin America. Religion still has a place in the public sphere, but it’s decreasing the amount of believers. The main problem has been in judicial decisions and administrative norms, and those are the ones who are changing everything.”
  • Ambassador Morse Tan, Northern Illinois University: “What is the connection between mass atrocity crimes and religious liberty? Actually, the connection is very close. And if you look at the places where there is the least religious liberty, it often corresponds with where mass atrocity crimes take place.”

International Threats to Religious Liberty (Panel 2)


  • Fr. Dcn. Andrew Bennett, Cardus: “We are always free in our inner lives to practice our faith, but religious freedom is about the public living out a faith. Speaking out about your faith, incorporating your faith into institutions, those are all parts of religious freedom.”
  • Nathaniel Hurd, Religious Freedom Institute: “Religious freedom is an inalienable right, both here and abroad.”
  • Kelsey Zorzi, Alliance Defending Freedom International: “Here in the United States, no one really disagrees with the basic aspects of freedom of religion ... at the UN, this really is not the case. The issue of religious freedom is at an impasse.”
  • Stephen Rasche, Catholic University in Erbil, Iraq: “There is not religious liberty in the Middle East. There are varying forms of tolerance depending on political pressures in each country.”

Book Discussion: The Politics of Vulnerability

The Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit will be held in Rome in the summer of 2022, and in Jerusalem in 2023.