The new president of the University of Utah was honored Oct. 4 by Brigham Young University's International Center for Law and Religion Studies for his career-long effort to promote religious freedom.
Michael K. Young received the Award for Distinguished Service in Promoting Religious Freedom from center director W. Cole Durham, whose relationship with Young dates to their days together on the Harvard Law Review.
"He has been in a position to have a profound impact on freedom of religion or belief throughout the world," Durham said. "We are confident that he will continue to find ways to advance freedom of religion or belief both abroad and close to home."
Participants at the event included religious freedom experts and government officials from 40 countries, including China, Ghana, India and Ukraine, who came to BYU for the Center's Eleventh Annual International Law and Religion Symposium.
Young has served as chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which was created by Congress to monitor what other U.S. government institutions are doing to promote religious freedom internationally. He has also been a member of the Center's Executive Advisory Board since its creation and has attended all eleven of the Center's symposia.
After Harvard Law, Young clerked for Justice William Rehnquist of the United States Supreme Court and then took a position at Columbia Law School, during which time he "rapidly established himself as the leading expert on Japanese law in the United States," Durham said.
Young then took a leave to serve in the U.S. State Department during the administration of George H.W. Bush.
"He had extraordinary opportunities during this period, in part because of the remarkable historical events unfolding at the time due to the collapse of communism, but in even larger part because of his talent," Durham said. "Perhaps the most dramatic of his responsibilities was serving as the lawyer representing the United States government in the negotiations that led to the reunification of Germany."
After returning to Columbia Law briefly, Young was appointed dean of the George Washington University Law School, a position he held until his current role at the state's flagship public university. It is an assignment Durham believes will be enhanced by Young's background with religious freedom issues.
"One of the great challenges of any advocate of religious freedom is to make certain that its principles are applied at home," Durham said. "He has already done much to send messages of tolerance and respect to all the belief (and non-belief) communities that his institution serves."