What's So Special About Religious Freedom?

Religious freedom has been called America’s “first freedom.” But does it warrant such a special status? What, if anything, distinguishes religious freedom from other protected rights like the freedom of speech or assembly? Is religious freedom a right that stands on its own, or is it a subset of a broader freedom of conscience?

How such questions are answered carries profound consequences for the treatment of religion in American public life and in American foreign policy. On Thursday, November 17, 2011, the Religious Freedom Project hosted a keynote debate at Georgetown University on the question of the uniqueness of religious freedom. Debating this critical issue were Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman and Stanford Law Professor Michael McConnell.

Coinciding with the debate, the event featured two related panels to examine the meaning and reach of religious freedom. The morning panel explored the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and secular influences on religious freedom in the West. The afternoon panel addressed the universality of religious freedom and its compatibility with non-Western cultures.
An RFP publication on the symposium, including a full transcript of the panel discussions, can be found here.

10:30am - 12:00pm Panel 1: The Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Secular Sources of Religious Freedom in the West
Panel Discussion with Brad Gregory, David Little, David Novak, and Dorinda Outram

12:15pm - 1:45pm Keynote Debate: Is Religious Freedom an Independent or Derivative Human Right?
Noah Feldman and Michael McConnell

2:00pm - 3:30pm Panel 2: The Universality of Religious Freedom and its Compatibility with Non-Western Cultures
Panel Discussion with Peter Danchin, John Finnis, and Mona Siddiqui

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