News Release

Prominent Academics to Lecture on Religious Freedom in Australia and New Zealand

Two prominent Academics will lecture in Australia and New Zealand regarding religious freedom and tolerance.  The lecture tour is part of the on-going South Pacific ‘Speakers of Excellence’ series and will feature American Professor Fred Woods and Australian barrister and senior counsel, Professor Neville Rochow.

The lecture series will take place in major cities throughout Australia and New Zealand from 1 May through 17 May. The two will meet with many Australian political, legal and academic leaders on the complex issue: ‘Religious tolerance in an age of extremes’.

The tour is supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which espouses the importance of defending and preserving religious freedom throughout the world. 

Dr Woods, a religion professor at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah, has lectured in many countries on the subject of interfaith relations and the importance of religious tolerance in an age of religious extremism. He has lectured at many universities internationally and is the author of numerous books and articles. 

Neville Rochow holds an adjunct professorship at the Sydney law school of the University of Notre Dame Australia and is an adjunct associate professor at the University of Adelaide law school. He is a frequent speaker at international conferences and seminars in the Pacific, Asia, Europe and USA and is the author of many publications.

Mr. Woods said, “I will examine the current situation facing religious minorities in the context of a unique experience 150 years ago that affected people in many countries.”  

“Then, a religious minority, the Mormons, suffered severe persecution. Unable to practise their beliefs in the Eastern U.S., converts from all parts of the world, including Australia, were forced to move to the western territory, often suffering severe depredations and death on the way.

“Today,” he continues, “the Mormons are an American success story, filling the senior ranks of politics and business, even including a presidential candidate, after decades of being religious and social pariahs.  We will talk about why religious tolerance is a breeding ground for multicultural success while discrimination and ostracism leads to societal failure.

“We live today in what some claim to be one of the most religiously intolerant periods of history, he continued, “not only are some religious minorities believed to be fomenters of disharmony in other countries but, in our society, they are seen to mix only with their peers, wear distinctly un-Australian clothing and live together in ethnic ghettoes into which no one else is allowed to enter. 

"Islam, in particular, comes in for criticism by popular commentators who don't understand the value that different ethnic and religious groups bring to our society.” 

Professor Neville Rochow is an Australian barrister and legal theorist.  He will address the subject of freedom of religion and the implications of marginalisation of religious thought and practice resulting from growing secularism.  

“Some secularists have contended that religions are a financial albatross around the neck of state. They often cite tax concessions as a problem,” says Professor Rochow.

“The evidence, considered as a whole, points the other way. Where there is religious freedom and tolerance, a country’s economic performance is at its greatest. 

“Religious organisations provide monetary benefit to communities where congregations are located. They make their capital assets and other resources available in ways that would be economically hard to replicate except at great additional cost to the government and possibly reduced efficiency.

“On our tour, I will give evidence that religious freedom should be enhanced rather than restricted.”

They will be lecturing in the following cities in Australia and New Zealand:
Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland and Wellington.

For more information on events, please contact the Church’s Public Affairs director in each city shown at this link.        

See a short video about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.