The Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy hosted its final Conversation in Public Policy of the academic year on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 featuring President of Texas A&M Michael K. Young speaking on the topic of “Freedom of Religion and the Global Growth of Democracy.” The evening began with welcoming remarks from Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Dean of the Bush School, who noted that the talk would be President Young’s first lecture as a tenured professor of the Bush School. Dr. Lori Taylor, Director of the Mosbacher Institute, introduced both President Young and conversation partner, Professor Mark Sidel, professor of law and public affairs at the University of Wisconsin. Both speakers have expertise in international law and human rights issues.
In his prepared remarks, President Young outlined the positive relationship between religious freedom and human rights. He postulated that American foreign policy should include the spread of religious freedom for both moral and practical reasons. Because most of the world identifies in some capacity with a religion, religion drives the way individuals think about and live their lives. Religion’s ability to impact individuals’ lives has led many governments to suppress religious freedom. Governments without secure power are threatened by the counter-organizing power of religion and the idea that the allegiance of their people is to a being above government. The resulting restrictions, according to President Young, have led to violence. President Young also briefly discussed the positive economic outcomes associated with religious freedom, pointing to a strong correlation between minimal economic restrictions and religious freedom. President Young concluded his remarks by emphasizing that if the United States is to incorporate the spread of religious freedom into its foreign policy, it will need to lead by mindful example, and that other countries are unlikely to incorporate religious freedom in the same way as the United States.
After concluding his remarks, President Young was joined on stage by Professor Sidel, and the two engaged in a lively discussion regarding their common interests and the challenges associated with fully integrating a concern for religious freedom into United States foreign policy.