The Legal Training Institute
The central mission of the Legal Training Institute is to teach the current and future advocates, legal practitioners, and civic and religious leaders to advocate more effectively for religious freedom in their respective countries and regions, and to equip individuals persecuted for their faiths to advocate for themselves.
The vision for the Legal Training Institute first came when one of the Becket Fund’s former directors of litigation, Derek Gaubatz, taught a class on American constitutional law and religious liberty in China in 2006. The class was the first of its kind to be taught in a Chinese law school, and was offered at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, considered to be the top law school in the country. It quickly became obvious that Derek’s class was the first chance his bright, curious, eager students had ever had to be challenged to think critically, learn the process of legal reasoning, and consider the role of religion vis-à-vis rule of law. Not only did Derek’s students learn principles and ways of thinking that will serve them well as they become participants in Chinese civic life, but we also learned what the needs of students and other advocates are in China and other countries with serious religious freedom needs.
Furthermore, whenever we asked partners in foreign countries with developing legal systems about their greatest need, they most frequently responded with, “training.” There is not a shortage of concerned actors worldwide actively advocating for religious freedom. The Becket Fund realized there was a real opportunity to partner with and train these actors to advocate more effectively, while teaching us about the interplay of religion and domestic law in their respective countries.
In 2007, International Law Director Angela Wu Howard began outlining and drafting a comprehensive curriculum aimed at teaching core principles of religious freedom and its relationship to the rule of law to advocates, attorneys, law students, clergy, and laypersons in countries with developing judicial systems.
In 2008 she travelled to India and Bangladesh to pilot early portions of the curriculum. As of 2011, the Legal Training Institute staff have also gone to Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, and Indonesia to research key regional religious freedom issues and to train lawyers, journalists, diplomats, law students, and advocates.
In April of 2010, we submitted an amici brief and prepped the expert witness in a key case challenging Indonesia’s blasphemy law in Indonesia’s highest court.