Commemorating RFRA & IRFA: Why Religious Freedom Remains Vital to U.S. Law and Policy
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the 25th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). These bipartisan pieces of legislation, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, have been integral to preserving religious liberty protections at home and abroad for the past three decades.
This one-day symposium on Capitol Hill will feature some of America’s greatest religious freedom experts and champions discussing the contributions and continued importance of RFRA and IRFA. The morning session will explore RFRA’s history and effects on U.S. law and culture, and the afternoon session will explore IRFA’s background, implementation, and prospects for shaping U.S. international religious freedom policy going forward.
When & Where:
Date: Tuesday, October 3rd
Time: 9am – 4pm
Location: Kennedy Caucus Room, Russell Senate Office Building (SR-325)
Schedule & Speakers:
Morning Session: Religious Freedom Restoration Act
- 9:00 a.m. Introduction
- RFI President Eric Patterson
- RFI President Eric Patterson
- 9:15 a.m. RFRA Overview
- Greg Baylor, Senior Counsel and Director of the Center for Religious Schools, Alliance Defending Freedom
- 9:30 a.m. Panel 1: Evaluating RFRA: Challenges and Successes
- Arielle Del Turco, Director of the Center for Religious Liberty, Family Research Council (Moderator)
- Kassie Dulin, Director of Government Affairs and Counsel, First Liberty Institute
- Jennie Bradley Lichter, Deputy General Counsel, Catholic University of America
- Howard Slugh, Founder and General Counsel, Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty
- 10:30 a.m. Break
- 10:45 a.m. Panel 2: Why RFRA is Vital for America’s Future
- Nathan Berkeley, Communications Director and Research Coordinator, Religious Freedom Institute (Moderator)
- Louis Brown, Executive Director, Christ Medicus Foundation (CMF)
- Sarah Parshall Perry, Senior Legal Fellow in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation
- Mark Rienzi, President of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
- 11:45 a.m. Break
- 12:00 p.m. Lunch
Afternoon Session: International Religious Freedom Act
- 1:00 p.m. IRFA Overview
- Tom Farr, President Emeritus, Religious Freedom Institute
- 1:15 p.m. Panel 3: Evaluating IRFA: Challenges and Successes
- Susan Yoshihara, Founder and President, American Council on Women, Peace, and Security (Moderator)
- Nathaniel Hurd, North America Director and Senior Fellow for Public Policy, Religious Freedom Institute
- Nadine Maenza, President, International Religious Freedom Secretariat, and former Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
- Nina Shea, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
- 2:15 p.m. Break
- 2:30 p.m. Panel 4: Why IRFA is Vital for the U.S. and the World
- David Trimble, Vice President for Public Policy and Education, Religious Freedom Institute
- Sam Brownback, Former U.S. Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, Co-Chair, International Religious Freedom Summit
- Nury Turkel, Commissioner and former Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
- Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom, ADF International
- 3:45 p.m. Closing Remarks
Sam Brownback, former U.S. Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, Co-Chair, International Religious Freedom Summit
Sam Brownback served as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom from February 2018 to January 2021. He served as Governor of Kansas from 2011 to 2018. Prior to that he represented his home state in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. While a member of the Senate, he worked actively on the issue of religious freedom in multiple countries and was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Prior to his public service, Ambassador Brownback practiced law and taught agricultural law at Kansas State University. He earned a B.S. from Kansas State University and a J.D. from the University of Kansas. Ambassador Brownback currently serves as co-chair of the International Religious Freedom Summit and is a Senior Fellow at Global Christian Relief. He is also chairman of the National Committee for Religious Freedom.
Nury Turkel, Commissioner and Former Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
Nury A. Turkel is an attorney, foreign policy expert, and advocate working in the intersection of law, business, government, and human rights. He formerly served as Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom after being appointed as a Commissioner by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in May 2020. He has testified before Congress about Uyghur internment camps, and his policy recommendations have been incorporated into related U.S. law and pending bills. As a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, he works on U.S. foreign policy and national security issues. Turkel was included in TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2020 and received the inaugural Notre Dame Prize for Religious Liberty in 2021. He holds a J.D. and M.A. in International Relations from American University. His memoir, No Escape: The True Story of China’s Genocide of the Uyghurs, was published in 2022.
Mark Rienzi, President of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Mark Rienzi joined the Becket team in 2011 and was elevated to President in 2018. He splits his time as Professor at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. Mark has broad experience litigating First Amendment religious exercise and free speech cases. He has represented the winning parties in Supreme Court cases including Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters, Wheaton College, and Holt. Mark argued before the Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley, a First Amendment challenge to a Massachusetts speech restriction outside abortion clinics. The Justices unanimously ruled in favor of his clients. Mark’s academic writing focuses on the First and Fourteenth Amendments and has appeared in several journals, including the Harvard Law Review. He is a widely sought after speaker on constitutional issues, particularly concerning abortion and the First Amendment. Mark earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School and B.A. from Princeton University.
Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom, ADF International
Kelsey Zorzi serves as Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom with ADF International. She leads efforts to address and counter global persecution against Christians and other religious minorities. Based in Washington, D.C., Zorzi engages with a multinational network of attorneys, government officials, and international bodies to coordinate efforts aimed at challenging legal barriers to religious freedom and reasserting religious freedom as foundational to the international human rights framework. In 2018, she was elected president of the United Nations’ NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Zorzi earned her J.D. at the George Washington University Law School, where she participated in the GW-Oxford International Human Rights Law Program. Her work has appeared in several publications, including the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, and Real Clear Politics. She is admitted to the state bars of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
Tom Farr, President Emeritus, Religious Freedom Institute
Thomas Farr, Ph.D. served as President of the Religious Freedom Institute from its founding until January 2023. Dr. Farr served for 28 years in the U.S. Army and U.S. Foreign Service. In 1999 he became the first director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom and subsequently served on the U.S. Foreign Policy and the Secretary of State’s IRF working group. From 2008–2018 Dr. Farr was Associate Professor of the Practice of Religion and World Affairs at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He also directed the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown’s Berkley Center. A Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina, Farr is a senior fellow at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion. His published works include the influential book World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty is Vital to American National Security (Oxford University Press, 2008).
Eric Patterson, President, Religious Freedom Institute
Eric Patterson serves as the President of the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington, DC. He previously served as dean of Regent University’s Robertson School of Government and at Georgetown University. He was a White House Fellow, worked at the U.S. State Department, and served for over 20 years as a commander in the Air National Guard. In addition to op-eds and academic articles, he is the author or editor of 20 books, including Politics in a Religious World: Toward a Religious Informed U.S. Foreign Policy and a forthcoming volume on Protestant theological views on religious freedom.
Howard Slugh, Founder and General Counsel, Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty
Howard Slugh is a founder and General Counsel of the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty (JCRL). JCRL has engaged in litigation to protect the rights of religious organizations to receive disaster aid, to prevent discrimination against religious schools during COVID, and to protect the rights of religious groups to speak in the public square. Howard regularly submits amicus briefs and writes articles promoting religious liberty.
Nadine Maenza, President, International Religious Freedom Secretariat, and former Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
Nadine Maenza is President of the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Secretariat, focused on building religious freedom globally, convening the IRF Roundtable in Washington, DC and in almost 40 countries globally. She also serves as a Global Fellow with The Wilson Center. In May 2022, Maenza finished her second term on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) serving her last year as Chair. In June 2022, she was awarded the IRF Impact Award at the IRF Summit for current or former government officials. Maenza has been honored to win awards from both Christian and Muslim communities with the “Cedar of God Award” from In Defense of Christians and by Justice for All for “Advocacy for all, especially Muslims.” She serves as Chair of the Board for The Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) and on the boards of The Sinjar Academy and Freedom Research Foundation.
Arielle del Turco, Director of the Center for Religious Liberty, Family Research Council
Arielle Del Turco serves as Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, where she is responsible for religious freedom policy and advocacy efforts. Through research and analysis, she helps craft effective policy solutions and coordinates FRC’s advocacy on religious freedom. Arielle is the author of numerous reports and has testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government. Her work has appeared in USA Today, The Hill, RealClearPolitics, Fox News, National Review, The Federalist, the Jerusalem Post, and the Washington Examiner. She is the co-author of Heroic Faith: Hope Amid Global Persecution (Fidelis Publishing, 2022), along with Lela Gilbert and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William G. Boykin. Del Turco holds a master’s degree in Government with an emphasis in International Relations from Regent University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Politics and History.
Greg Baylor, Senior Counsel and Director of the Center for Religious Schools, Alliance Defending Freedom
Gregory S. Baylor serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he directs the Center for Religious Schools and Senior Counsel for Government Affairs. Since joining ADF in 2009, Baylor has defended the religious freedom of faith-based educational institutions through advice, education, legislative and public advocacy, and representation in disputes. He has also testified about religious liberty issues before congressional committees. Previously, Baylor served for 15 years at the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom. Greg regularly comments on religious liberty and higher education issues in media outlets including The New York Times, Christianity Today, and NPR. He serves on the board of directors for the Museum of the Bible and the International Alliance for Christian Education. Greg earned his J.D. from Duke University School of Law, where he graduated Order of the Coif, and received his bachelor’s degree in Honors English from Dartmouth College.
Sarah Parshall Perry, Senior Legal Fellow in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation
Sarah Parshall Perry is a Senior Legal Fellow in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation where she focuses on civil rights, constitutional governance, regulatory policy, and the proper role of the courts. She is former Senior Counsel to the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education where she focused on policy reform, technical guidance, and the Department’s annual report to Congress, among others. Prior to that, Sarah was the Director of Partnerships for the Family Research Council, where her work included the building and oversight of multiple policy coalitions geared toward the fight against antisemitism in academia and protecting religious liberty within the services branches. She has also served as In-House Counsel and Development Director at a multi-million-dollar advertising agency and began her legal career as an associate in the field of complex civil litigation, focusing on maritime/admiralty, False Claims Act (“Qui Tam”), and Title VII employment discrimination law.
Nina Shea, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
Nina Shea is a Senior Fellow of the Hudson Institute, where she directs the Center for Religious Freedom, an entity she founded in 1986. She was appointed by the US House of Representatives to serve for 13 years as a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. A lawyer by training, she undertakes analysis and strategic advocacy regarding foreign policy on religious persecution. She helped lead the coalition for the International Religious Freedom Act. She was appointed as a U.S. delegate to the UN’s main human rights body by both Republican and Democratic administrations. She has authored or co-authored three books on religious persecution, genocide and the threat from blasphemy and hate speech bans. She produced widely publicized reports on extremism in Saudi textbooks. In 2011, she discussed her findings in Riyadh, which led to reforms. She writes in the Wall Street Journal, National Review, and elsewhere.
Jennie Bradley Lichter, Deputy General Counsel, Catholic University of America
Jennie Bradley Lichter serves as Deputy General Counsel at The Catholic University of America. She has wide-ranging legal and policy experience in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. She served as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) where she supervised rulemaking and policy efforts implicating several federal executive departments and led DPC’s work on regulatory and administrative state reform. Lichter led efforts across the federal government to protect religious liberty, encourage faith-based partnerships, and defend the dignity of life. Prior to her White House service, Lichter worked on policy issues and federal judicial confirmation efforts in the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice. Lichter graduated from the University of Notre Dame and Harvard Law School, and she earned an M.Phil in Theology & Religious Studies from the University of Cambridge.
Louis Brown, Executive Director, Christ Medicus Foundation (CMF)
Louis Brown is the Executive Director of Christ Medicus Foundation (CMF), a Catholic health care nonprofit whose mission is to share the healing love of Jesus Christ through defending religious freedom and making Catholic health care accessible to the poor and most vulnerable. He is also the Associate Director of the Center for Law and the Human Person at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. Brown previously served at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights, where he enforced federal civil rights laws to protect the civil rights of patients and human service recipients. Prior to his work at HHS, Brown worked as a congressional legislative counsel, primary health care staffer, and liaison to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary. He received his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law.
Kassie Dulin, Director of Government Affairs and Counsel, First Liberty Institute
Kassie Dulin serves as Director of Government Affairs and Counsel at First Liberty Institute, focusing on appellate litigation and legislative affairs. Before law school, Dulin served as Chief Communications Officer for First Liberty Institute. She previously worked on local, state, and national political campaigns and consulted with non-profit organizations. Dulin is a graduate of Georgetown Law, where she was a Merit Scholar and research assistant for Professor Randy Barnett at the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. Dulin clerked for the Department of Justice and the Senate Judiciary Committee during law school. She is a Blackstone Legal Fellow and Mentor and on the Federalist Society’s DC Young Lawyers Chapter board. Dulin received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Trinity Graduate School and Seminary and her M.A. in Government from Regent University. A native of Dallas-Fort Worth, Dulin is a member of the Texas State Bar and the DC Bar.
David Trimble, Vice President for Public Policy and Education, Religious Freedom Institute
As Vice President for Public Policy and Education, David Trimble leads the Religious Freedom Institute’s nationwide and international initiatives in secondary and higher education through its Center for Religious Freedom Education. Trimble previously served as a principal and Of Counsel at the D.C. firm of Van Scoyoc Associates. Trimble’s career has focused on the intersection between religion and policy. He has been recognized in the U.S. and abroad for his international religious freedom advocacy on behalf of ethnic and religious minorities. Trimble’s leadership at RFI’s Center for Religious Freedom Education is based on classroom expertise and experience shaping domestic and international public policy. He holds a J.D. from Texas A&M University School of Law, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a B.A. from Campbellsville University. Trimble has also completed post-graduate studies at both Southwestern and Baylor University.
Nathaniel Hurd, North America Director and Senior Fellow for Public Policy, Religious Freedom Institute
Nathaniel Hurd serves as the Director of the North America Action Team and Senior Fellow for Public Policy for the Religious Freedom Institute. Prior to working at RFI, he worked as Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission. His work for the commission as a nonpartisan staffer focused on religious freedom, humanitarian crises, the Holy See, and atrocity crimes. Hurd was lead staffer for bipartisan religious freedom legislation, most significantly the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act. Hurd also served as Senior Policy Advisor for Conflicts and Disasters at World Vision where he concentrated on humanitarian emergencies, counter-terrorism policy, civil-military relations, and U.S. foreign assistance. Hurd holds a B.A. in international relations from Hamilton College and Master’s of International Affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
Nathan Berkeley, Communications Director and Research Coordinator, Religious Freedom Institute
Nathan A. Berkeley serves as Communications Director and Research Coordinator of the Religious Freedom Institute. He leads RFI’s efforts to convey its work to a wide range of external audiences and supports RFI’s scholars in major research initiatives. Berkeley has served in government in numerous communications, legislative affairs, program management, and law enforcement capacities and has held positions in two congressional offices. He has also done research and writing that explores the intersection of religious freedom, equality, and nondiscrimination law. Berkeley holds B.A. degrees in political science and history from Olivet Nazarene University and an M.A. in politics from The Catholic University of America.