In the early 1840s, Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, had been accused of treason and of an assassination attempt against a former Missouri Governor. The State of Missouri sought to extradite Smith from Nauvoo, Illinois to face these charges. After his arrest, Smith sued for a writ of habeas corpus to free himself from unlawful detention. In all three hearings, a court agreed that Smith should be freed.

The issue of personal liberties was important during the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus to quash dissent. In the early 2000s, prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba used the writ in attempt to free themselves.

In 2013, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Community of Christ church partnered in a series of events to explore the issue of personal liberties through the tribulations of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet.

In April, the first event brought together historians, lawyers, and judges in two separate panels to address court protection of individual liberties, particularly religious freedom in the United States.


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