Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik has recently been named the 2018 Canterbury Medalist for his commitment to religious freedom, and particularly his beliefs and the actions that he has taken to ensure religious liberty for people of all faiths and backgrounds. Soloveichik currently serves as the director of Yeshiva University’s Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought. He is also the rabbi at Congregation Shearith Israel on the Upper West Side.
The Canterbury Medal is awarded each year by Becket, a non-profit institution whose mission is to defend the free expression of all faiths. They work to advance their mission primarily through litigation, but they also focus on public opinion and school settings. Every year they honor a person who they feel personally lives out their mission and who has an unfailing commitment to religious freedom with the Canterbury Medal.
Becket feels that Soloveichik has lived up to their ideals of religious liberty. He works to strengthen interfaith relations in America, and alongside with leaders of other American religious communities, he has advocated to protect religious education and to strengthen individual religious identities. He is a strong believer in strengthening personal faith while being an active participant in the world at large. Soloveichik explained that “sacrificing the exclusive nature of religious truth in the name of dialogue would help neither Jews nor Christians,” and that “in seeking the moral betterment of man, specific religious beliefs … serve to unite rather than divide us.”
Soloveichik is proud to be the recipient of the 2018 Canterbury Medal. “Religious liberty lies at the very heart of the American idea, and the Becket Fund advances the cause of religious liberty more effectively than any other organization in America,” he stated. “It is an extraordinary honor to receive the Canterbury Medal, and so humbling to follow the distinguished medalists that the Becket Fund has honored.”
The Canterbury Award takes its name from a historical fight for religious liberty. Thomas Becket–for whom the non-profit is named–was named the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, but soon found himself in a series of fights with King Henry II. The king attempted many times to limit the church’s liberties, which Becket repeatedly fought against them. The king in frustration asked, “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?” Two of the king’s nights then immediately rode to Becket’s church, the Canterbury Cathedral, and demanded that he listen to the king’s demands. Becket refused and was killed by the nights in front of his own church altar in 1170. He was soon after declared a martyr and a saint by the Church.
The medal is engraved with the words “For the Courage and Defense of Religious Liberty.” Past recipients of this honor include Nobel Peace Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Cuban poet and former political prisoner Armando Valladares, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus Carl Anderson, New York Times best-selling author and radio host Eric Metaxas, Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon, President Dallin H. Oaks of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Rabbi Dr. Jonathon Sacks.
Yeshiva University feel that award is a well-deserved one for Soloveichik. “Yeshiva University is proud of Rabbi Soloveichik’s work in defense of religious liberty, reminding us that tolerance and differences can be a source of deeper, mutual understanding between people of good will throughout the world,” said Dr. Selma Botman, provost and vice president of academic affairs at YU.