Making the presentation were (left) Elder Lance B. Wickman, emeritus member of the Seventy and general counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and (middle) W. Cole Durham, Jr., Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School and director of the International center for Law and Religious Studies. For Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director, Dr. Ganoune Diop, the award represented an acknowledgement of the Adventist Church’s long history of advocacy on behalf of all people, regardless of their faith tradition.

Religious Freedom Advocate Honored by International Law Society

A leading Seventh-day Adventist religious freedom advocate was honored last month for his commitment to promoting religious liberty as a fundamental human right. Dr. Ganoune Diop, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Adventist world church, received the 2017 Thomas L. Kane Religious Freedom Award on February 17 at the annual three-day conference of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In accepting the award, Diop told conference attendees that religious freedom is not a narrow legal right, but is a foundational human freedom that supports a whole range of other fundamental rights. He pledged to continue working “on the side of life, promoting a culture of freedom, the dignity of difference, and the sacredness of all human beings created in the image of God.”

Diop received the award for his years of promoting religious freedom at the United Nations and other international and national organizations, his extensive published writings, his work in training other religious liberty advocates, and for his role as Secretary General of the International Religious Liberty Association.

Speaking later, Diop said the award was also an implicit acknowledgement of the Adventist Church’s continuing commitment to work for religious freedom for everyone—just not people of the Adventist faith.

“This broad approach to religious freedom stems from our understanding of freedom as something that’s inscribed in our DNA at creation; it’s an essential part of all genuine covenants between humanity and God,” he explained. “And so for this reason, religious freedom doesn’t belong only to some people—it’s for everyone, even those with whom we disagree. It’s part of the essence of being human.”

J. Reuben Clark Law Society is a global professional organization for lawyers and law students of faith, with some 190 chapters on six continents. The Thomas L. Kane award is named for a renowned nineteenth century attorney and abolitionist from Philadelphia who risked his reputation to give legal and political assistance to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—then a widely reviled and persecuted religious minority.