W. Cole Durham, Jr.
W. Cole Durham Jr. is an American educator and internationally recognized specialist in religious freedom law.
Durham was born on February 26, 1948. He received his BA in philosophy from Harvard University and his JD from Harvard Law School, where he was managing editor of the Harvard International Law Journal and note editor of the Harvard Law Review.
In addition to teaching at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, he has been heavily involved in comparative constitutional law and church-state relations throughout his career. At BYU he is the Susa Young Gates University Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Law and Religion Studies. Since 1994, he has taught a course on comparative and international law and religion at Central European University in Budapest. He also teaches an annual program in Beijing on religion and the rule of law with a class comprised not only of graduate students, but also law professors, religious leaders, judges, and government officials from throughout Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. He has been a guest professor at Gutenberg University and at the University of Vienna. He also has extensive experience in nonprofit law and comparative criminal law.
As a leader of the International Academy for Freedom of Religion and Belief, he is widely consulted by countries on constitutional revisions to protect religious liberty. He has helped organize technical assistance to law reform projects and comparative law conferences in countries throughout the world. He has consulted on constitutional issues and laws in Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Georgia, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam. He serves as a board member of the International Religious Liberty Association and on the International Advisory Board of the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Durham is prominent in religious freedom efforts in the United States. He consults with church and government leaders and has testified before Congress several times. He defends the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He organizes an annual conference of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU to foster dialogue about religious freedom. Officials, scholars, and experts from all over the world come to discuss and hear about the complex issues of constitutional law and religious liberty. He serves as a board member of church-state centers at DePaul and Baylor Universities.
He co-edits the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, and he co-authored (with BYU colleague Brett Scharffs) a widely used textbook on law and religion, translated into Chinese, Vietnamese and, soon Turkish. All three of these languages reflect hot spots for law and religion issues.
Durham is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and his wife, the former Louise Gardiner, have four children.