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Race, Religion, and the Law Seminar

Course Catalog Number:
Course Credits:
Course Type:
Course Priority:
General Enrollment Course
Graduation Requirements:
Upper-Level Writing
"W" Writing
Full Year Course:

Course Description

This seminar discusses the complex and contested relationships between race and religion, race and law, and religion and law. The course begins by discussion of the role religion has played in advancing or hindering civil rights protections for racial minorities. We concentrate on Christianity and to lesser degrees Islam and Judaism. Why, for example, have so many racists also called themselves Christian? Where do they find biblical support for these beliefs? On the other hand, how has religion assisted those engaged in the long battle for civil rights? How has their faith been of assistance in support and in formation of their legal claims? A subordinate question in this section asks what relationship or tension is there between a religion’s founding spirit and its institutionalization either in religious or secular law. This allows a transition to our second major theme: the relation between race and law. Was it critical for the civil rights movement to translate its goals into legal form? What is gained or lost by legal institutionalization of the civil rights spirit? How should the history of civil rights inform efforts at social and legal change today? Our third theme assesses what is and should be the relationship between religion and law (or politics). What role should religious ideals or religious groups have in the formulation of legal and social policy? Again our primary example will be Christianity, but we will also look at the interrelation of Islam and law and to a lesser degree Judaism and law.