News Release

The Office of General Counsel Celebrates Premier in Europe

Against the backdrop of the beautiful Taunus mountains in Germany, 50 lawyers from more than 25 countries participated in the first ever legal conference hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Europe Central Office of General Counsel. Lawyers who provide legal services to the Church in Europe, came from countries stretching from the Netherlands to the Balkans in southeastern Europe and Türkiye and Kyrgyzstan in Asia.

The Conference entitled “Protection of Religion – Why Does a Church Need a Lawyer?” was held in Bad Homburg vor der Höhe on Friday, 14 June 2024, and focused on freedom of religion or belief and the legal issues faced by the Church in Europe.

The conference provided a unique opportunity for the delegates to become acquainted with the First Vision and the beliefs of the Church, as Elder Jack N. Gerard, Second Counselor in the Europe Central Area Presidency, taught about Joseph Smith and showed how Joseph became a vigorous advocate for religious freedom for all. He explained how Joseph took a stand for the rights of all, especially those whose religious beliefs differed from his. This helped to give the lawyers a greater insight into the origins of the Church and its beliefs and why freedom of religion or belief is so important to the Church.

Jay Pimentel, Area Legal Counsel, outlined the many activities the Church undertakes and emphasized the importance of the Church being able to carry out these activities to fulfil its purposes. He demonstrated how government restrictions often affect the ability of the Church to carry out its operations in Europe and showed how laws on freedom of religion can assist our outside counsel to solve many of the legal issues the Church faces in Europe.

Professor Dr. Gerhard Robbers, emeritus Professor for public law at the University of Trier and former Minister of Justice of Rhineland-Palatinate, was the keynote speaker. His thought-provoking presentation focused on human dignity, overcoming prejudice through lack of understanding and fear and building trust.

“Human dignity is at the heart of freedom of religion or belief. It cannot be earned. It is an inviolable right,” he said.

In his address, he explained how law was crucial to the functioning of both the secular and the sacred.

“Even the heavenly hosts need regulations, and guess who is going to write them!” he said.

Other presenters focused on freedom of religion or belief, its impact on religious activities, and how to help to combat the erosion of these freedoms through building relationships of trust and mutual understanding.

The delegates were moved when the Church’s Europe Central Area Welfare Manger outlined some of the many humanitarian projects undertaken in Europe. They were impressed with the Church’s efforts in helping to relieve poverty and provide care for refugees and those suffering from the effects of natural disasters.

One lawyer from Malta who had recently been appointed to the board of a humanitarian organisation said,

“I recently got to know that the Church is one of the contributors to the causes and work of the Foundation for Global Human Dignity where I have recently been invited to sit as legal director.

On behalf of the Foundation, I would like to thank the Church for its contributions and support.”

Jay Pimentel, Europe Central Area Legal Counsel, said,

“This conference was everything we hoped for and more. Our lawyers have left with a greater understanding of who we are, what we represent and what we are trying to accomplish in Europe. I believe as we work together, we will be able to create something truly remarkable in this part of the world”.

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