Press Release

Leonard Leo receives religious liberty’s highest honor Becket’s 2017 Canterbury Medal awarded to Leonard Leo for his work promoting religious freedom at home and abroad

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

NEW YORK, NY – Over 500 leaders and religious liberty advocates honored Leonard Leo, Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society, last night at the 22nd annual Canterbury Medal Gala. Leo received the 2017 Canterbury medal—Becket’s highest honor—for his lifelong advocacy for religious freedom in our courts and abroad. Law firm McDermott, Will & Emery received Becket’s Legal Award and attendees enjoyed a one-night only, exclusive photography exhibit capturing America’s distinct and divergent religious expressions (watch tribute video).

“Leonard has gone about what he’s done with saint-like qualities, modesty, serving in his own life as a quiet example of faith and courage. All of us here should feel gratitude for what Leonard has done,” said Eugene Scalia, son of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, partner of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and presenter of the Canterbury Medal.

“Freedom of religion protects the right of conscience, not just in houses of worship but in workplaces, schools, hospitals, government offices, and anywhere else we go in this world,” said Leonard Leo, 2017 Canterbury Medalist. “Happily, we in the United States are still a world away from those other places where freedoms are rarely honored because of a fierce independence that refuses to be ordered about, pushed around, or told when your faith is welcome and when it’s not. This is the most American of qualities.” (Full transcript and video of his speech).

Leonard Leo is a champion of global religious liberty, having served as chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as well as delegate to the UN Council and UN Commission on Human Rights. In the U.S., he promotes civil liberties as executive vice president of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. Leo is also an active leader in Catholic organizations, serving on the boards of the Catholic Information Center, Catholic University of America, and the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He is a founding board member of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast and a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Law firm McDermott Will & Emery was also recognized at the Gala, receiving Becket’s Legal Service Award for their outstanding and crucial contributions on behalf of the Sikh community. For decades, observant Sikhs have been almost entirely excluded from U.S. military service because of regulations that prohibited them from maintaining their religiously mandated dress and grooming. McDermott Will & Emery’s partnership with Becket, along with the Sikh Coalition, culminated in new regulations that now allow observant Sikhs to serve their country without forfeiting their faith.

The 2017 Canterbury Medal Gala included an exclusive, one-night-only photography exhibit entitled Religion in America. The stunning exhibit allowed viewers to experience the diverse religious landscape of America through intimate photographs depicting how different faiths worship in modern American society. The rituals of various faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Native Americans, were depicted in the 30+ photos of the event.

Becket’s annual gala is a black-tie event held at the Pierre Hotel in New York and is attended by the most distinguished religious leaders and religious liberty advocates throughout the world. This year’s Canterbury Medal Gala chair was Sean Fieler, Chairman of both the American Principles Project and Chiaroscuro Foundation and President of Equinox Partners, LP. Notable guests included: Mother Loraine, Mother Provincial of Little Sisters of the Poor, Captain Simratpal Singh, Sikh U.S. Army Captain, Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Dr. Ossama Bahloul, Imam and recognized scholar in the Foundations of Islam, and Robert Soto, Lipan Apache leader.

The Canterbury Medal recognizes courage in the defense of religious liberty and is given to a leading figure who champions a robust role for religion in society. Past medalists include the late Nobel Peace Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Cuban poet and former political prisoner Armando Valladares, Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., New York Times bestselling author and radio host Eric Metaxas, Learned Hand Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard, and Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Additional Information:


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more).