Written by Don Byrd

Last month, the Brigham Young University International Center for Law and Religion Studies in Provo, Utah held its fifth Religious Freedom Annual Review. The topic, “Religious Freedom and the Common Good,” focused on “topics such as why religious freedom matters, how we can find common ground with LGBTQ rights, religious freedom in the media, and how to be a leader in promoting religious freedom in your community.” Panelists, which included the Baptist Joint Committee’s General Counsel Holly Hollman, represented impressively diverse interests and viewpoints, from journalists to religious leaders to legal scholars and advocates.

Maybe the most promising development to emerge from the event was the demonstration that such contentious issues can be discussed with so much civility and respect, at a time when sometimes you have to wonder if our society is losing the capacity to do so. As the National Review observed, that sense of good will did not require the sacrifice of passion or principles:

“This is not a kumbaya attempt to paper over differences, but an effort to understand what’s at stake if we give up on the messy work of pluralism,” said William Pierce, a First Amendment advocate … Participants offered an unusual witness both that strongly held convictions — religious, cultural, political — are not going to disappear anytime soon and that they can be reasonably debated in measured arguments free of name-calling, shout-downs, and unfriending.

It’s a helpful, and hopeful summary of an important discussion. Read the whole thing.