What's So Special About Religious Freedom?

November 17, 2011
10:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. EST
Location: Copley Hall Copley Formal Lounge Map

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. 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.


Panel 1: The Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Secular Sources of Religious Freedom in the West | Brad Gregory, David Little, David Novak, Dorinda Outram

Keynote Debate: Is Religious Freedom an Independent or Derivative Human Right? | Noah Feldman, Michael McConnell

Panel 2: The Universality of Religious Freedom and its Compatibility with Non-Western Cultures | Peter Danchin, John Finnis, Mona Siddiqui

Discover similar content through these related topics and regions.

Other Participants

Related Publication

Report September 1, 2012

What's So Special About Religious Freedom?

On November 17, 2011, the Religious Freedom Project conducted its first public symposium. In keeping with its objective of exploring the meaning and value of religious freedom, the RFP’s first symposium began at the beginning with the theme “What’s…