First Freedom Awards

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Current Award Recipients



2013 INTERNATIONAL RECIPIENT
Rebiya Kadeer

Rebiya Kadeer is a Uyghur human rights activist from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (also known as East Turkestan) of the People's Republic of China. Twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, she currently lives in exile in the United States. She is President of the World Uyghur Congress, which advocates greater autonomy for Uyghurs in the PRC, and is considered the symbolic leader of the Uyghur self-determination movement.

Kadeer began her career as a laundress. Through skill and intelligence, she soon created an import/export empire in Xinjiang's capital city, Urumchi, becoming the seventh-wealthiest person in China. Moved to share that success with other Uyghurs, she established several charitable initiatives. One of them educated children of poor families within her department store. Another helped women start their own businesses.

Initially expressing enthusiasm for her work, the Chinese government invited Kadeer to join both the National People's Congress and the Political Consultative Congress. In 1995, she was a member of China's delegation to the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women. Because of her efforts to end economic and cultural discrimination against Chinese Uyghurs, however, she was stripped of membership in both congresses. For trying to meet with a visiting U.S. delegation, she was imprisoned in 1999 for six years-two of them in solitary confinement. International pressure led to her release in 2005.

Kadeer continues to raise awareness from exile of the Uyghur struggle. She is the author of Dragon Fighter: One Woman's Epic Struggle for Peace with China, and many op-ed pieces. She is frequently consulted by human-rights organizations and governments, and regularly speaks out for the fundamental rights of other ethnic, religious, and dissident groups in China, including: Tibetans; Falun Gong; Christians; Inner Mongolians; and human-rights activists. Twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, she was awarded the Rafto Prize in 2004. In 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by House Resolution 497, demanding that the PRC release the two imprisoned sons of Rebiya Kadeer(currently serving 7-year and 9-year sentences) and improve its policies toward the Uyghur people.


2013 NATIONAL RECIPIENT
Tad Stahnke

Tad Stahnke is the Director of Policy and Programs at Human Rights First, an organization founded in 1978 to promote laws and policies advancing universal rights and freedoms. He was a founding staff member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), where he served as Deputy Executive Director for Policy from 2000 to 2007 and as Acting Executive Director in 2002 and 2007.

At USCIRF, Stahnke guided the newly-established commission's efforts to advance freedom of religion and belief as a U.S. foreign policy priority in religiously restrictive countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Russia. He joined fact-finding missions to Asia, the Middle-East, and Europe, and was a member of U.S. delegations to human rights conferences hosted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations. As a recognized expert on international human rights law, he has trained officials from the U.S. Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security on issues of religious freedom and religious persecution.

Mr. Stahnke joined Human Rights First in January 2008 as Director of the Fighting Discrimination program, which combats anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic, anti-Muslim, homophobic, and other forms of bias-motivated violence worldwide. He led the organization's successful campaign to reverse efforts by countries at the United Nations to enact a global blasphemy code, which culminated in a groundbreaking resolution to oppose hatred without restricting freedom of expression. He also instituted "Faith Shared" with the Interfaith Alliance, whereby dozens of churches across the country invited Imams and Rabbis to share from their sacred texts in order to demonstrate the commitment of Americans to respect religious differences.

Tad Stahnke is the author, co-author, or editor of numerous scholarly works on religious freedom, including (with J. Paul Martin, ed.) Religion and Human Rights: Basic Documents, and "The Right to Engage in Religious Persuasion" in Freedom of Religion or Belief: A Deskbook.


2013 VIRGINIA RECIPIENT
Eric Treene

Eric Treene is the Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination in the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). He is also the former Director of Litigation for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, an interfaith and nonpartisan public interest law firm in Washington, D.C.

Treene advocates for the rights of all people to express and practice their faiths freely and without discrimination. At the Becket Fund, he represented Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Native Americans in a wide range of religious freedom cases. These included: Rigdon v. Perry, which invalidated a military directive barring chaplains from preaching about the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act; Fraternal Order of Police v. Newark, where he successfully argued for the right of two Muslim police officers to wear beards on the same basis as other officers; and Bear Lodge Multiple Use Association v. Babbitt, where he maintained that regulations designed to protect Native American religious practices at Devil's Tower National Monument by encouraging other visitors to be respectful did not violate the Establishment Clause.

Treene began work at the Justice Department in 2002. A newly-created position at the time of his appointment, the Special Counsel coordinates the Civil Rights Division's religious discrimination cases in all of its jurisdictional areas. These include religious discrimination in education, employment, housing, public accommodations, and facilities, as well as attacks on individuals and places of worship. He also promotes enforcement of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), a federal law that provides protections for the exercise of religion by prisoners, and for religious communities to develop and use property.

His cases for DOJ include: United States v. Henrico County, Virginia, an RLUIPA case alleging discrimination against a mosque that was resolved by consent decree in 2011; and United States v. Rutherford County, Tennessee, in which the United States won a temporary restraining order that allowed a Muslim congregation to move into a new mosque it had built outside Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He also argued on behalf of the United States in a number of federal appeals that have expanded religious liberty rights, including: the right of a student Bible Club in Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania to meet during a school activities period; and the right of a Sikh congregation to build a temple in Sutter County, California. In addition to court cases, Treene is active in cultivating relationships with diverse faith communities and in overseeing of DOJ's efforts to protect Muslims, Sikhs, Arab-Americans, and Asian Americans from discrimination and bias crimes post-9/11.

He is the author of numerous articles and book contributions about religious liberty and First Amendment issues, including "Freedom of Conscience, Belief, and Religion" in Fundamental Rights in Europe and North America. In 2007, he received the Attorney General's Award for Outstanding Contributions to Community Public Safety for developing a bimonthly interagency meeting with Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South-Asian communities. In 2008, he was honored with the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee's "Friend in Government" Award.


2013 DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD
W. Taylor Reveley III

Taylor Reveley is the 27th President of The College of William & Mary and the John Stewart Bryan Professor of Jurisprudence. From 1998 to 2008, he was the dean of William & Mary Law School.

Under President Reveley's leadership, The College of William & Mary continues to distinguish itself as a leader in constitutional and civil rights-including freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. The university's Institute of Bill of Rights Law, a dynamic component of the Law School, plays a vital role in exploring important issues relevant to basic rights. It publishes the highly respected Bill of Rights Journal, presents lectures and symposia on current controversies, and hosts a conference each fall to preview the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court term. In 2011, the university created the H. Stewart Dunn Jr. Civil Liberties Project to inspire students to work toward the protection of civil liberties within the United States. The Project provides community outreach, collaborative civil rights teaching by Law School faculty, an esteemed speaker' series, and funding for student internships, research projects, and post-graduate positions.

At William & Mary, students learn in an environment of respect and understanding for perspectives of all sorts. The student club I-Faith evinces this ideal by convening meetings and public events to examine diverse religious and non-religious worldviews. As part of William & Mary's participation in President Obama's Interfaith Challenge, I-Faith partnered with the Center for Student Diversity, Campus Ministries United, and Office of Community Engagement to initiate and coordinate a number of charitable projects emanating from the intersection of faith and service.

In 2009, William & Mary speech policies were overhauled to more adequately promote and protect free expression for students and faculty. These changes earned the university a prestigious green light rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Taylor Reveley is an expert on the constitutional division of war powers between the Executive and Legislative branches, and as such co-directed in 2007-2008 the National War Powers Commission, chaired by former Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and James Baker. Before coming to William & Mary, he practiced law at Hunton & Williams in Richmond, where he worked for nine years as the firm's managing partner. He has served on the boards on many educational, cultural, and religious organizations, including Princeton University, Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, St. Christopher's School, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia Historical Society, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and the Richmond Symphony

 


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