On November 19, 2019, Straus Center Director Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik and Senior Advisor to the Provost and Senior Program Officer of the Straus Center Dr. Stu Halpern addressed a warm and welcoming packed house at Brigham Young University, in a celebration of the Center’s best-selling book Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land: The Hebrew Bible in the United States.
The visit, organized by Prof. Elizabeth Clark, Associate Director for the International Center for Law and Religion Studies of BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, and Emily Reynolds of BYU’s Wheatley Institution, included a luncheon with faculty from BYU’s law school and undergraduate divisions. In his keynote lecture, Dr. Soloveichik described Benjamin Franklin’s and Thomas Jefferson’s proposed American seals, both of which drew on different aspects of the Passover story. Dr. Soloveichik argued that political authority needs to be subject to universal moral norms to avoid tyranny (negative liberty) and that strong moral codes can serve to educate our freedom, increasing our capacity to act wisely and well (positive liberty). These foundational ideas in American political thought were inspired by the Bible, as Proclaim Liberty, a source reader of foundational American documents side by side with the Biblical verses that they cite, demonstrates.
The Straus Center visit to BYU was the latest in a series of collaborations, including a joint conference on Religious Liberty last May. “Such a pleasure to host Rabbis Meir Soloveichik and Stu Halpern from Yeshiva University here at BYU,” Prof. Clark said. “Rabbi Soloveichik gave a masterful lecture that interwove themes and text from their valuable new book. It was a real privilege for us and our students to have him here.”