W. Cole Durham, Jr.

W. Cole Durham, Jr.

  • Director, International Center for Law and Religious Studies
  • J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University

A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was a note editor of the Harvard Law Review and managing editor of the Harvard International Law Journal, Durham has been heavily involved in comparative law scholarship, with a special emphasis on comparative constitutional law. He is the Susa Young Gates University Professor of Law and director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at  Bringham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. He has been heavily involved in comparative law scholarship, with a special emphasis on comparative constitutional law. He is the president of the International Consortium for Law and Religious Studies based in Milan, Italy, and a co-editor-in-chief of the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion.

From 1989 to 1994, he served as the secretary of the American Society of Comparative Law, and he is also an associate member of the International Academy of Comparative Law in Paris. He served as a general repporteur for the topic “Religion and the Secular State” at an International Congress of Comparative Law held in 2010. He also served as chair both of the Comparative Law Section and the Law and Religion Section of the American Association of Law Schools in earlier years. He has taught at BYU since 1976, and was awarded the honorary designation of University Professor in 1999. In 2000, he was appointed to be director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU.  Since 1994, he also has been a recurring visiting professor of law at Central European University in Budapest, where he teaches comparative constitutional law to students from throughout Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. He also has been a guest professor at Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany, and at the University of Vienna. In 2009, he was awarded the International First Freedom Award by the First Freedom Center, Richmond, Virginia. Earlier this year, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Ovidius University, Constanta, Romania.

Durham has been involved in constitutional drafting projects in Nepal (2009 and 2011), Thailand (2007), and Iraq (2205-06). He has worked on constitutional and statutory drafting projects  throughout Eastern Europe and in most former Soviet bloc countries.  He has been particularly active in matters involving relations between religion and the state, though he also has extensive experience with  comparative criminal law and nonprofit law. He served from 1997 until this past February as a member of the  International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies based in Milan. He serves as a board member of the International Religious Liberty Association and of the International Advisory Board of the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief. He has been active in work on laws on governing the civil society sector, having served as chairman of the Board of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law in Washington, D.C.

Over the past few years, his involvement in these organizations has enabled him to play an active role in advising governments throughout much of the former socialist bloc on constitutional provisions and legislation dealing with criminal law and procedure, court structure, general constitutional issues, and the law of associations, including particularly religious associations. He has helped organize technical assistance to law reform projects and comparative Law conferences around the world, including Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Georgia, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan,  Kyrgyzstsan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Nepal, Peru, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam.  Prof. Durham has organized a series of conferences on comparative law issues at BYU and at other institutions, which have brought about 800 scholars and experts dealing with comparative constitutional law themes from more than 100 countries to the United States.

He is co-author with Brett Scharffs of Religion and the Law: National, International and Comparative Perspectives (Aspen 2010), and with William Bassett and Robert Smith of Religious Organizations of the Law, an annually updated treatise published by Thompson Reuters/West. He is the editor (with Noel Reynolds) of Religious Liberty in Western Thought, and (with Silvio Ferrari) of Law and Religion in Post-Communist Europe. He is also co-editor of Facilitating Freedom of Religion or Belief: A Deskbook, which was published in 2004 by Brill under the Martinus Nijhoff imprint, and also Religious Organization in the United States, published in 2006 by Carolina Academic Press. He has authored numerous law review articles dealing with religious liberty and other comparative law themes. Over the past several years, he has testified before the U.S. Congress in hearings on religious intolerance in Europe and on the Religious Liberty Protection Act.