Threats to the principles of religious freedom come from a variety of sources; whether unintentional or occasionally deliberate, they infringe upon our religious liberty. We cannot take our rights for granted and must always be watchful. When tackled in their infancy, threats can nearly always be defused. When ignored, they can rapidly affect the broader aspects of our lives. It is imperative we work together to protect and maintain the principles of religious freedom.

We are excited to continue our Community Conversation from 2017, where over 300 people from the Edmonton area joined together in a dialogue with representatives from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, and other faiths.

Join us for Religious Freedoms 2023: A Community Conversation.


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Steven T. Collis

Steven T. Collis

Religous Freedom Specialist

Steven T. Collis is the author of the nonfiction books The Immortals and Deep Conviction and the novels Praying with the Enemy and At Any Cost. He is a law professor at the University of Texas-Austin School of Law and founding faculty director of UT's Bech-Loughlin First Amendment Center and related Law & Religion Clinic. Prior to his appointment at UT, he was the Olin-Darling Research Fellow in the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School and an equity partner at Holland & Hart LLP, where he was the chair of the firm’s nationwide religious institutions and First Amendment practice group.

He is a sought-after speaker on both writing and religion law to audiences across the United States, including foreign diplomats from countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and South America on behalf of the United States State Department. He has been interviewed by and quoted in various news outlets, including The Deseret News, Bloomberg, The Washington Times, Law360, Public Square Magazine, The Salt Lake Tribune, PBS, The Denver Business Journal, Law Week Colorado, CBN News, and many others.​

Before embarking on his legal and writing career, Steven graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, where he was elected to the Order of the Coif and served as an editor on the Michigan Law Review and the Michigan Journal of Race and Law. Steven also holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he served as the associate editor of the literary journal Blackbird. He completed his undergraduate studies, with university honors, at Brigham Young University.

Originally from New Mexico, Steven lives in Austin with his wife and children. 

Richard W. Smith

Most Rev. Richard W. Smith

Archbishop of Edmonton

A native of Halifax, Archbishop Smith holds a bachelor of commerce degree as well as a master’s in divinity and doctorate in theology. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1987 and served in the Archdiocese of Halifax before being appointed Bishop of Pembroke in 2002. He was installed as seventh Archbishop of Edmonton on May 1, 2007, Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Conversant in French, Italian and American Sign Language, Archbishop Smith is a keen reader and traveller. He is known for reaching out in friendship to other faith leaders in the Edmonton area and speaking out on threats to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The Archbishop was a founding member of the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative, and in 2019 he had the rare honour of addressing Muslims before Friday prayers, on the subject of the Quebec law that limits the wearing of religious symbols by public servants.

Archbishop Smith currently serves on the boards of Covenant Health, Newman Theological College, St. Joseph’s College, St. Joseph Seminary, Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, and Catholic Organization for Life and Family, where he is active on the Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Palliative Care. He is also a past president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

Stacey Leavitt-Wright

Stacey Leavitt-Wright

CEO of The Edmonton Jewish Federation

Stacey Leavitt-Wright is the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton. As the central Jewish community organization their mission is to mobilize and develop resources and strengthen relationships in order to provide leadership at home, in Israel, and around the world.

Stacey graduated from Concordia University in Montreal with a Master of Arts in Applied Social Science and from McGill with a Bachelor of Commerce. She has volunteered in numerous roles in the Jewish Community, including as Co-chair of the United Jewish Appeal Campaign, President of the Aviv Israeli Folk Dance Association, Chair of the Festival Hatzafon, Board member of Talmud Torah School where she was chair of the Parent Council, as well as having served on the board of Congregation Beth Shalom.

Having moved from London, Ontario, Stacey has made Edmonton her home since 2007 along with her husband Erin, three daughters, Jordyn, Abby and Zoe and two dogs Poppy and Daisy. When she is not connecting with her community she can be seen walking along Edmonton’s many trails and ravines, or visiting the mountains to hike and cross country ski.


NOTE: Following the presentations and a short break, a panel comprised of our guest speakers, will convene.
Use the "QR Code" printed on your program to submit questions through your smartphone, either to a specific panelist or open to any of our guests.


Statement on
Religious Freedom

Religious Freedom Bestowed by God

For Christians, human rights are grounded in the dignity accorded each human being by virtue of having been made in the image and likeness of their Creator. The intrinsic dignity of every human being includes the divinely given gifts of reason and free will. In exercising this reason and free will, individuals are at liberty to choose or change their religion or belief, and to express it either alone or in community with others, publicly or privately, in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Pastoral letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion

Radical Secularism
Excludes Religion

(CCCB – Ottawa)… The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) today released a pastoral letter on freedom of conscience and religion. Issued by the CCCB Permanent Council, the letter expresses concern about an “aggressive relativism” in Canada that seeks to relegate religion to the private sphere

Religious Freedom

A Fundimental Human Right

Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right that protects the conscience of all people. It allows us to think, express and act upon what we deeply believe. But around the world, and in Canada, this freedom is eroding. Churches, religious organizations and individuals face increasing restrictions as they participate in the public square, express their beliefs or serve in society. But there is much good that Church members and people of goodwill can do to preserve and strengthen religious freedom.

A Bridge Between the Strong and the Weak

Who is religious freedom for?

Societies are made of majorities and minorities. Whether by choice or by birth, people belong to groups. We live our lives and express our purpose through religious, racial, political and cultural communities. All of them are different. All have their place. But not all have equal power. Some are bigger, older, richer and better connected than others. This imbalance pits belief systems against each other, but a peaceful society puts the strong and the weak on a level playing field.

Religious Freedom Essential for Free and Prosperous Society, Says Elder Oaks

Global Need to Protect Religious Freedom

There is growing global recognition of the need for engagement with and understanding of religion—and protecting religious freedom.

That was the message delivered by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles [leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] in his February 9 address to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Edmonton Faith Leaders Defend Religious Freedoms

None of Us Are Free Until All of Us Are Free

Faith leaders in Edmonton say religious freedoms are under threat and it’s time to defend them.

“None of us are free until all of us are free, and there are no exceptions to this,” said Netta Phillet, one of 250 delegates to the inaugural Religious Freedoms: A Community Conversation.

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