First Freedom Center Honors AJC’s Marc Stern for Religious Freedom Advocacy
NEW YORK, Jan. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Marc Stern, AJC Associate General Counsel, will receive the First Freedom Center’s prestigious National First Freedom Award for his exceptional contribution to promoting religious liberty and the responsibilities it brings. The award will be presented at a ceremony tonight in Richmond, Virginia.
“This First Freedom Center award is cherished recognition of Marc Stern’s contributions to AJC’s mission of building a society in which all people are treated with dignity and respect,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “It also speaks to the extraordinary quality of our professional staff.” Stern is the second AJC staff member to receive the award in recent years.
Stern, whose legal career has focused on church-state issues, said that in recent years he was worried to see that public debates over the role and place of religion have grown sharply hostile.
“The way forward is not in eviscerating or suppressing beliefs, though, of course, one should always examine one’s beliefs when they are challenged,” said Stern. “It is in learning to live with our deepest differences, not just as a concession to individual idiosyncrasy, but to maximize freedom to put beliefs into practice.”
Stern, one of the country’s foremost experts on the law of church and state, has devoted his distinguished career to advancing the nation’s democratic values. He played a leading role in developing guidelines that the Clinton administration used to clarify the issues of religion in public schools and in the federal workplace. He also was instrumental in drafting the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.
“In honoring these champions of religious freedom, we shine light on one of the most pressing issues facing humankind today,” First Freedom Center President Randolph Bell. “The ongoing quest to ensure that all societies of the world respect religious freedom as a fundamental human right is at the core of our shared aspirations for stability, peace, and the protection of human dignity.”
The First Freedom Center, a non-governmental organization based in Richmond, Virginia, seeks to increase understanding and respect for religious freedom in diverse communities worldwide through education about this core value: the freedom of thought, conscience and belief.
Past recipients of the National First Freedom Award include Felice Gaer, director of AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, who was honored in 2010 for her lifelong work as an internationally recognized advocate of religious freedom.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee