Faculty of Law

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2013 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

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FacultyFaculty of Law
OfferedPrato Term 2 2013 (Day)
Coordinator(s)Professor Benjamin L Berger


This seminar will provide both an historical and contemporary comparative look at the ways that legal systems have dealt with religious difference, freedom of religion, and "the secular". An important note in contemporary scholarship on the contemporary interaction of law and religion has been that there is not a single "secular" but, rather, varieties of secularisms. A close study of the various ways that political power, law, and religion have been configured provides a unique and valuable line of sight into comparative legal traditions, constitutional structure, and legal and political theory. Some of the most interesting contemporary legal and political debates have arisen out of questions about freedom of religion, its limits, and the just relationship between religion and the state. Issues range from the permissible content of public reason and the appearance of religious symbols in public space, to the legal status of religious education and the rights of parents to make decisions for their children on religious grounds. Drawing on cases and legal issues from a range of national traditions, as well as from comparative legal and theoretical scholarship, this seminar will explore the contemporary interaction of law and religion in a variety of jurisdictions. The seminar will involve a close study of issues arising within a broad spectrum of legal areas, including constitutional law, education law, criminal law, family law, health law, administrative law, and the law of deliberative democracy.

In addition to specific case studies, topics addressed may include some of the following, but will be selected and emphasized based on student and instructor interest in a given year:

Topic 1:Theoretical models for the study of religion and society
Topic 2:Historical patterns in the interaction of law and religion
Topic 3:Theoretical Approaches to "Secularism"
Topic 4:Comparative Approaches to Freedom of Religion
Topic 5:Religion in Public Decision-Making
Topic 6:Religion, Secularism, and State Symbols
Topic 7:Religion, Secularism, and Education
Topic 8:Religion and Conflicts of Rights
Topic 9:Gender Equality, Sexual Diversity, and Religion
Topic 10: Religious Difference and Legal Pluralism


Students who successfully complete this unit will develop:

  1. A clear appreciation for the varieties of ways in which law and religion configure in contemporary models of secularism and the social and political importance of these models;
  2. Knowledge about the interaction of law and religion in contemporary constitutional orders;
  3. An improved capacity for comparative analysis of legal and political systems;
  4. An improved ability to understand and evaluate competing theoretical frameworks and to formulate, express, and support the student's opinions and arguments


Seminar participation (10%) and presentation (10%)
Three critical essays based on the course materials, total word count for the three assignments to amount to no more than 4000 words (80%)

Chief examiner(s)

Contact hours

Students are required to attend 36 hours of seminars over the duration of this intensive course.


LAW1101 Introduction to Legal Reasoning; LAW1104 Research and Writing or equivalent introductory units.