Senator Orrin G. Hatch: legendary lawmaker, revered statesman, and champion of religious liberty
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is delighted to bestow its highest honor, the Canterbury Medal, on United States Senator Orrin G. Hatch for his advancements in religious liberty. Senator Hatch’s legacy, in and outside of government, is one of civil discourse, principled leadership, and unfailing dedication to the defense of religious freedom for all at home and abroad.
His service as a U.S. Senator is a legacy in itself. Having represented Utah for over 40 years, he is the longest-serving officeholder in Utah history and the ninth longest-serving Senator in American history. Over the course of his Senate tenure, Senator Hatch earned his reputation as the most effective and bipartisan lawmaker of all time, shepherding more than 750 bills into law—more than any legislator alive today.
One of his most notable legislative accomplishments is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993, which Senator Hatch helped write alongside the late Senator Ted Kennedy. It was passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. In 2000, he was the principal author for the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which also passed unanimously in both houses of Congress. Senator Hatch also supported the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, which created an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom within the Department of State and established the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan body that investigates religious freedom around the world and holds hearings to educate Congress and the public about instances of religious persecution.
Now retired from the Senate, Senator Hatch continues to advance issues relating to freedom of conscience, religion, and belief through the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation. Last year, the Foundation held a symposium on protecting religious liberty—convening leaders of many faiths, including rabbis, elders, pastors, and apostles.
Senator Hatch has received numerous awards and honors, including 14 honorary degrees from institutions such as the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Maryland, Pepperdine University, the University of Utah, and Utah State University. In addition, he has received the National Intelligence Distinguished Public Service Medal from the Director of National Intelligence, and Gold and Platinum Records from the Recording Industry Association of America. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.
An accomplished author, Senator Hatch has written on numerous topics, including faith, politics, and law. A trained pianist and a poetry aficionado, Senator Hatch has composed hundreds of songs that express his love of country, family, and friendship. He has even recorded a holiday album and was the lyricist behind the nationally famous “Eight Days of Hanukkah” song.
Senator Hatch credits his family as instrumental to his success. He and his wife, Elaine, have been married for more than 60 years.