Harman Patil (Editor)

Law and religion

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Law and religion is the interdisciplinary study of relationships between law, especially public law, and religion. Vogel reports that in the 1980s 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 first published that year and the Ecclesiastical Law Journal opened in 1999. The The Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion was founded in 1999. The Oxford Journal of Law and Religion was founded in England in 2012.


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.

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..

Research topics

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.).

Exponents look at canon law, natural law, and state law, often in comparative perspective. Specialists have explored themes in western history regarding Christianity and justice and mercy, rule and equity, discipline and love. Common topics on interest include marriage and the family, and human rights. Moving beyond Christianity, scholars have looked at law and religion links in the Muslim Middle East, and pagan Rome.

Important studies have appeared regarding secularization. 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.


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.


Law and religion Wikipedia