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Perspectives on the Protection of Religious Freedom

  • Jones Hall, University of St. Thomas 3910 Yoakum Boulevard Houston, TX, 77006 United States (map)
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Despite mounting evidence demonstrating both the social benefits of religious freedom and the disastrous consequences of religious persecution, religious freedom is in global crisis. In China, the world’s most populous country, religious persecution is reaching levels not seen since the Cultural Revolution. In the United States, the status of religious freedom as our nation’s “first freedom” is at risk. How do we respond to these challenges? What are the resources to regain an appreciation of the meaning and value of religious freedom both in the church and in culture?

Join the Religious Freedom Institute and the University of St. Thomas Donald S. Nesti, CSSp Center for Faith and Culture for a conversation, Perspectives on the Protection of Religious Freedom, in Houston. Free lecture and panel discussion, open to the public.

~ Agenda Below ~

Parking and Directions

Parking will be available for $5 in Moran Parking Center (number 26 on the map) on Graustark and West Alabama streets. From there please turn to your left towards the campus quad. Jones Hall will be to your right on the east side of the quad. Building number 14 on the map (on the side of Yoakum Boulevard). The exact address of Jones Hall is 3910 Yoakum Blvd.


7:00 pm: Welcome & Introductory Remarks

7:10 pm: Religion Under Fire: Dignitatis Humanae and the Catholic Response to China’s War on on Religion - Thomas Farr, President, Religious Freedom Institute  

7:25 pm: Response Conversation  Thomas Farr and Fr. Binh

7:35 pm: Audience Q/A - Thomas Farr and Fr. Binh

8:00 pm: Character, Culture, and Curriculum: Regaining the Lost Value of Religious Freedom 

Panel Discussion and Q/A featuring: David Trimble, Director, Center for Religious Freedom Education, Religious Freedom Institute; Donald S. Nesti, Founding Director, Center for Faith and Culture, St. Thomas University; moderator Carlo Romero, Advisory Board for the Center for Faith and Culture, University of St. Thomas 

8:40 pm: Audience Q/A 

8:55 pm: Closing


Thomas Farr is President of the Religious Freedom Institute, a non-profit organization that works to advance religious freedom worldwide. A leading authority on international religious freedom, Tom is a senior fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He serves as a consultant to the U.S. Catholic Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace; on the boards of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Christian Solidarity Worldwide-USA, and Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School; and on the boards of advisors of the Alexander Hamilton Society, and the National Museum of American Religion. Tom served for 28 years in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Foreign Service. In 1999 he became the first director of the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom. He subsequently directed the Witherspoon Institute’s International Religious Freedom (IRF) Task Force, was a member of the Chicago World Affairs Council’s Task Force on Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy, taught at the National Defense University, and served on the Secretary of State’s IRF working group. From 2008 – 2018 Tom was Associate Professor of the Practice of Religion and World Affairs at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. He also directed the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown’s Berkley Center. Tom’s major works include World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty is Vital to American National Security (Oxford University Press, 2008) and U.S. Foreign Policy and International Religious Freedom: Recommendations for the Trump Administration, with Dennis Hoover (Religious Freedom Institute, 2017). He received a B.A. from Mercer University, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina.

Fr. Binh Quach, CSSp is the director of the Donald S. Nesti, CSSP Center for Faith & Culture in Houston, Texas. He earned his PhD in Philosophy of World Religions from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. From 2002 to 2005 he was an adjunct professor of theology and Sacred Scriptures at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. From September 2005 to May 2015, Fr. Binh was commissioned to Taiwan to join the missionaries in serving the Church in Asia. While in Taiwan he served for two years as Dean of the Hsinchu Diocese and was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese from 2011 to 2015. As Vicar General he collaboratively developed the pastoral plans for the diocese and strengthened the working relationship among the diocesan clergy with various religious priests. He also established the College of Catholic Education for the Diocese to provide ongoing pastoral and spiritual formation for laity and Religious. He was also appointed by the Bishop to be the Director of the Marriage Encounter Movement. Its goal was to strengthen the diocesan Family Life Group to empower them to serve the local Church in the family life context. Fr. Binh began his missionary work in China in May 2015. There he was able to assist the local diocese in Shan Dong province drawing up a strategic pastoral plan and began to help the Administrator of the Diocese to initiate the plans of renewal and development. The last two years in China he served as director of the Pastoral Center for the Diocese and developed the curriculum for the three-year formation of the catechists of the diocese. He returned to the U.S. and to the University of St. Thomas in December of 2018.

Carlo Romero, J.D., M.S.F.S., is a member of the Advisory Board for the Center for Faith and Culture. He is a graduate of Cornell University, and Georgetown University’s joint degree program in law and foreign service. He is Chair of the Jesuit Values Forum, a dialogue initiative of the Georgetown Club of Houston.

David Trimble is Director of the Center for Religious Freedom Education at the Religious Freedom Institute. He is also a Senior Fellow of the RFI Middle East and International Religious Freedom Policy Action Teams. He was formerly a principal at the leading D.C. firm of Van Scoyoc Associates. For many years, David has provided counsel to federal agencies, independent clients, and governments on such varied topics as international affairs, foreign policy, education, and religious liberty.  Throughout his career, Mr. Trimble has provided leadership in the field of education - launching seminal programs and driving new policies and innovation. David holds a J.D. from Texas A&M University School of Law and a Th.M from Southwestern Seminary.


The sponsors are The University of St. Thomas Donald S. Nesti, CSSp Center for Faith and Culture and Religious Freedom Institute.

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The Donald S. Nesti, CSSp Center for Faith & Culture brings the Catholic voice to the ongoing conversation about the meaning of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” held in common as Americans. The Center seeks to understand and impact the relationship among the many facets of the American way of life in relation to God’s ongoing, loving encounter with humanity. The Center educates faith-full citizens to be artisans of dialogue and proclamation of a God-centered vision of the world and how that vision strengthens the institutions that govern the American people. Through its programmatic offerings the Center serves local and regional civic society in Texas and beyond, including Catholic, ecumenical and interreligious communities, academic university communities and various professional societies. Learn more about the center here.

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The Religious Freedom Institute is dedicated to the protection of religious freedom for all people as a fundamental human right and a vital strategic good. RFI’s experts frequently advise government leaders, in the U.S. and abroad, the United States Catholic Conference of the Bishops, and civil society representatives.