Law and religion

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Law and religion is the interdisciplinary study of relationships between law, especially public law, and religion. Voge Magazine reports that during the late 1900, a new law and religion approach emerged that progressively built its own contribution to religious studies. Over a dozen scholarly organizations and committees were formed by 1983, and a scholarly quarterly, the Journal of Law and Religion, was first published that year. The Ecclesiastical Law Journal began publication in 1987.[1] The Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion was founded in 1999.[2] The Oxford Journal of Law and Religion was founded in England in 2012.[3]

Many departments and centers have been created around the world during the last decades. For example, the Brigham Young University law school in 2000 created "The International Center for Law and Religion Studies." It has an international mission and its annual symposium (which began in 1993) has brought to campus over 1000 scholars, human rights activists, judges from supreme courts, and government ministers dealing with religious affairs from more than 120 countries.[4]

As of 2012, major law and religion organizations in the U.S. included 500 law professors, 450 political scientists, and specialists in numerous other fields such as history and religious studies. Between 1985 and 2010, the field saw the publication of some 750 books and 5000 scholarly articles, according to Emory Law Professor John Witte, Jr..[5]

Research topics[edit]

Scholars in the field are not only focused on strictly legal issues about religious freedom or non establishment but also on the study of religions as they are qualified through judicial discourses or legal understanding on religious phenomena. For example, The Oxford Journal of Law and Religion seeks to cover:

social, legal and political issues involving the relationship between law and religion in society; comparative law perspectives on the relationship between religion and state institutions; developments regarding human and constitutional rights to freedom of religion or belief; considerations of the relationship between religious and secular legal systems; empirical work on the place of religion in society; and other salient areas where law and religion interact (e.g., theology, legal and political theory, legal history, philosophy, etc.).[6]

Exponents look at canon law, natural law, and state law, often in comparative perspective.[7][8] Specialists have explored themes in western history regarding Christianity and justice and mercy, rule and equity, discipline and love.[9] Common topics of interest include marriage and the family,[10] and human rights.[11] Moving beyond Christianity, scholars have looked at law and religion links in the Muslim Middle East,[12] Asian ancestral religions, occult altercations, pagan Rome and any realm in which religious beliefs form the basis of or contradict governmental law.[13]

Within Christianity, studies range from textual analysis of early Christians' relationship with Jewish Law, the effect of law on the Protestant Reformation, and modern day issues like homosexual unions, the ordination of women to the diaconate and priesthood, and consciences objectors to war.

Important studies have appeared regarding secularization.[14][15] In particular the issue of wearing religion symbols in public, such as headscarves that are banned in French schools, have received scholarly attention in the context of human rights and feminism.[16]

National studies[edit]


In Thailand, the constitutional monarchy that was established in the 1930s integrated traditional Buddhist concepts of cosmic law and religion with modern methods of public administration and legal authority. The result was the formation of a unique civic religion based on the three-way formula of nation, religion, and kingship. This new tradition has evolved and provides a framework for both the symbolic discourse as well as practical actions in modern Thai legal culture.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cambridge University Press [1]
  2. ^ See its website accessed 2/22/14
  3. ^ It also sponsors OJLR Summer Academy in Law and Religion 2014, at St Hugh's College, Oxford. see its website, accessed 2/22/14
  4. ^ See its website accessed 2/22/14
  5. ^ John Witte, "The Study of Law and Religion in the United States: An Interim Report," Ecclesiastical Law Journal (2012) 14#3 pp: 327-354.
  6. ^ See its website, accessed 2/22/14
  7. ^ Norman Doe, Law and Religion in Europe: A Comparative Introduction (2011)
  8. ^ W. Cole Durham, and Brett G. Scharffs, eds. Law and religion: national, international, and comparative perspectives (Aspen Pub, 2010).
  9. ^ John Witte Jr. and Frank S. Alexander, eds., Christianity and Law: An Introduction (Cambridge U.P. 2008)
  10. ^ John Witte Jr, From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition (1997)
  11. ^ John Witte, Jr., The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism (2008)
  12. ^ Ann Elizabeth Mayer, "Law and Religion in the Muslim Middle East," American Journal of Comparative Law (1987) 35#1 pp. 127-184 in JSTOR
  13. ^ Alan Watson, The state, law, and religion: pagan Rome (University of Georgia Press, 1992)
  14. ^ Silvio Ferrari, "Law and Religion in a Secular World: A European Perspective," Ecclesiastical Law Journal (2012) 14#3 pp 355-370.
  15. ^ Rafael Palomino, "Legal dimensions of secularism: challenges and problems," Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice (2012) vol 2 pp 208-225.
  16. ^ Karima Bennoune, "Secularism and human rights: A contextual analysis of headscarves, religious expression, and women's equality under international law," Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, 45 (2006): 367.
  17. ^ Frank E. Reynolds, "Dhamma in Dispute: The Interactions of Religion and Law in Thailand," Law & Society Review (1994) 28#3 pp 433-451

Further reading[edit]

  • Cane, Peter, Carolyn Evans, and Zoë Robinson, eds. Law and Religion in Theoretical and Historical Context (Cambridge UP, 2008) 336 pp.
  • Darian-Smith, Eve. Religion, Race, Rights: Landmarks in the History of Modern Anglo-American Law (2010) excerpt and text search
  • Hirschl, Ran. "Comparative constitutional law and religion" ch 23 in Tom Ginsburg and Rosalind Dixon, eds. The Research Handbook In Comparative Constitutional Law (Edward Elgar, 2011) online
  • Jacobsohn, Gary J. The Wheel of Law: India’s Secularism in Comparative Constitutional Context (Princeton UP, 2003)
  • Kuru, Ahmet T. Secularism and State Policies toward Religion: The United States, France, and Turkey (Cambridge UP, 2009)
  • Vogel, Howard J. "A Survey and Commentary on the New Literature in Law and Religion," Journal of Law and Religion (1983) 1#1 pp. 79-169 in JSTOR
  • Witte, John. "The Study of Law and Religion in the United States: An Interim Report," Ecclesiastical Law Journal (2012) 14#3 pp 327-354. online
  • Zucca, Lorenzo and Camil Ungureanu, eds. Law, State and Religion in the New Europe: Debates and Dilemmas (2012) 342pp.
  • David, Joseph E., Jurisprudence and Theology in Late Ancient and Medieval Jewish Thought (Studies in the History of Law and Justice Vol. 2; Springer, 2014)[2].
  • Ulanov, MS, Badmaev, VN, Matsakova NP. "Buddhism and Legal Tradition in Mongolia" in journal "Bylye gody" (2016). №4. URL:
  • Ulanov, MS, Badmaev, VN, Holland, E.C. "Buddhism and Kalmyk Secular Law in the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries" in journal "Inner Asia". (2017). №19. [3]
  • Tamir Moustafa, Constituting Religion: Islam, Liberal Rights, and the Malaysian State (Cambridge UP, 2018)

External links[edit]


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