Orrin Hatch Receives Religious Liberty’s Highest Honor

Tonight, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty awarded Orrin G. Hatch—the Chairman Emeritus of the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation—the 2021 Canterbury Medal for his instrumental role in passing legislation in defense of religious freedom for people of all faiths. The Canterbury Medal, religious liberty’s highest honor, recognizes an individual who has demonstrated courage and commitment to defending religious freedom in America and around the world.
“I’ve always believed that an attack on one religion is an attack on all,” said Hatch. “That’s why, over more than four decades of Senate service, I worked to build coalitions of common interest to preserve religious liberty for people of all faiths. Protecting these rights is essential to the future of our republic. Receiving the Canterbury Medal is an incredible honor, and I am committed to always live worthy of it by remaining steadfast in my devotion to religious liberty.”
“It’s no exaggeration to say that Senator Hatch has done more than any legislator alive today to advance the cause of religious liberty,” said Scott Anderson, Board Chairman of the Hatch Foundation. “Over 42 years of public service, Senator Hatch passed more than 750 bills into law. But his seminal achievement was the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits substantial government burdens on the free exercise of religion, allowing all Americans to live, work, and worship in accordance with their deeply held personal beliefs. RFRA is arguably the most important piece of religious liberty legislation of the last century—and we have Senator Hatch to thank for it.”
“Senator Hatch championed religious liberty through legislation, but often overlooked are his efforts on the Senate Judiciary Committee—principally, his role in confirming judges that would put the First Amendment front and center,” said Matt Sandgren, Hatch Foundation Executive Director. “At the time of his retirement, Senator Hatch had participated in the confirmation of more than half of all federal judges who had ever served. His primary consideration when evaluating the fitness of any judicial nominee was his or her commitment to upholding religious freedom. The Senator’s legacy lives and breathes through the judicial branch. And for that reason, people of all faiths are beneficiaries of Senator Hatch’s service.”
Senator Hatch was the longest-serving Republican and Utahn in Senate history and earned the reputation as one of the most effective and bipartisan lawmakers of all time. In addition to sponsoring or cosponsoring over 750 bills that have become law, one of his most prized legislative successes is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993, which was passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
In 2000, Hatch authored the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which was passed unanimously in both houses of Congress. Outside of public service, Hatch is a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A trained pianist and poetry aficionado, Senator Hatch has composed hundreds of songs for many different artists, including dozens of songs touching on religious themes.     
Past Canterbury medalists include the late Nobel Peace Laureate and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel; Cuban poet and former political prisoner, Armando Valladares; Orthodox rabbi of the oldest Jewish congregation in the US, Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik; First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Dallin H. Oaks; and 62nd Chaplain of the US Senate, Chaplain Barry C. Black.
The Canterbury Medal draws its name from one of history’s most dramatic religious liberty stand-offs, which occurred between Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket, the law firm’s namesake, and King Henry II of England. Each year, the annual Canterbury Gala honors the award recipient in a black-tie event that is attended by the world’s most distinguished religious leaders and religious liberty advocates.