From 11-12 May 2015, the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), in partnership with Brigham Young University (BYU) and Vietnam National University’s University of Social Sciences & Humanities (USSH), conducted a “Religion and the Rule of Law Comparative Studies: Vietnam and the United States” conference in Washington, DC. The conference examined religious freedom, good governance, and policymaking in the U.S. and Vietnam.

Conference participants focused on four cross-cutting themes: 1) Registration and legal status of religious groups; 2) Rights of religious foreign entities and individuals; 3) New religions; and, 4) Religious property. Experts from both countries brought various academic, religious, legislative, and international relations perspectives to the discussion. The conference provided a unique space for the exchange of viewpoints and presentation of scholarship on religion and rule of law in Vietnam. Furthermore, participants were able to contribute research findings to the Vietnamese government as they draft a new law on religion. Mr. Trinh Ngoc Thach, a member of the National Assembly, stated, “When reviewing a draft law, the National Assembly will not only look at how the law will help the government’s administration, we will also look at how the law would serve our own people, especially those who are directly affected by the new law.

Vietnamese participants included representatives from the National Assembly, Ministry of Home Affairs’ Committee on Religious Affairs, Ministry of Public Security, USSH, and a Buddhist leader. After the conference, the Vietnamese delegation had the opportunity to observe firsthand how religious freedom is implemented in the U.S. through meetings and visits to government agencies, NGOs, and faith-based community service organizations.

According to the Vietnamese delegates who are directly involved in the drafting of the new religion law, the experience and knowledge gained from the conference and the Washington visit will be taken into consideration in the law drafting process.

Since 2012, IGE, BYU, and USSH have conducted three 10-day certificate program on religion and rule of law for policy advisors, scholars, government officials working on religion and faith leaders throughout Vietnam. There will be a fourth training in Hanoi in September 2015. The training will be conducted at the provincial and district levels from 2016 onwards.

The conference was also reported by the following Vietnamese media outlets: