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In his symposium-opening remarks, the German-born Professor Bielefeldt called freedom of religion “a most fascinating task.” Some in academic circles have dismissed it as “an impossibility.” Not true, said the professor — but it is a “highly provocative” issue for governments, religious communities and societies.

On the surface, there is broad support for freedom of religion. But stretch the surface a bit and there are challenges, he said. Many governments frame religious freedom as a “Yes — but …” proposition.

Yes, there is freedom of religion — but only for “real religions.” Yes, there is freedom of religion — but only for religions that have been granted formal recognition. Yes, there is freedom of religion, but “only within limits of law.”

Some authoritarian governments identify a national religion and then act as custodians of that religion. But even secular states can limit or restrict religious freedom in defense of a national identity, he said.

Professor Bielefeldt said allowing freedom of religion can be complicated for governments. Intrinsically linked to the freedom of religion is freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. “It is a gallery of freedom.”

For some states, freedom of religion then becomes dangerous “because it brings people together who convene and start talking.”

To read the full article on the Deseret News, click here.