The Tenth Annual Religious Liberty Dinner
Minister John Baird underscored the integral role the defense of religious liberty plays in shaping the fabric of a democratic society during his keynote address at the May 24, 2012, Religious Liberty Dinner in Washington, D.C. Baird is the minister of foreign affairs for the federal government of Canada.
“There is special purpose in defending the freedom of religious belief and practice. History shows us that religious freedom and democratic freedom are inseparable. . . . Simply put, societies that protect religious freedom are more likely to protect other fundamental freedoms,” said Baird.
The foreign minister was invited to provide the evening’s keynote address after the federal government of Canada established the Office of International Religious Freedom under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this year.
Referred to as a “marquee event on the calendar for those who care about human rights, and especially, freedom of religion” by Minister Baird, the annual dinner is cosponsored by Liberty magazine, the North American Religious Liberty Association, the International Religious Liberty Association, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The purpose is to celebrate and bring attention to the principle of religious freedom, both in the United States and around the world.
“In establishing this dinner event,” commented Liberty editor Lincoln Steed, “we have not only reprised a time in the 1880s when Seventh-day Adventist pioneer editor A. T. Jones was a powerful Washington presence, but picked up on the model of the apostle Paul holding forth to kings and emperors.”
Held at the picturesque Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C., and graciously hosted by Ambassador Gary Doer, the evening’s approximately 150 guests represented members of the diplomatic community, U.S. federal government, religious liberty advocacy organizations, and a diversity of faith groups.
Two other advocates for religious freedom were also honored at the dinner:
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who recently concluded an 11-year term as a commissioner for the U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom, was honored for representing the ideals of religious freedom to Congress, before U.S. presidents, and to the media at large.
Attorney Gerald Chipeur frequently represents clients on significant matters of public policy in Canada, including charter rights and freedoms, human rights and labor relations, and defamation and hate speech rules. He was recognized for his unabashed advancement of civil and religious rights in contexts spanning all the way from policy planning to legal representation in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Although 2012 marked the tenth anniversary of the Religious Liberty Dinner, Minister Baird reminded attendees that there is still much work to be done.
“Reformers and reformists around the world are literally under daily attack. . . . In too many countries the right to believe in and practice one’s faith in peace and security is still measured in blood spilled and lives lost,” he said.