Law & Religion

B730 is taught by D. Conkle

This course will examine the relationship between law and religion in the United States. It will focus primarily on the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, i.e., the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, but it also will address related questions concerning religious liberty and the interaction of government, law, and religion. For example, the course will consider important religious liberty statutes, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). The class will examine and evaluate the Supreme Courts constitutional and legal doctrine in this highly controversial field, in part by considering the historical and contemporary constitutional values that can be seen to inform the Courts decisionmaking. It also will examine and evaluate important lower court decisions, especially with respect to issues that have not reached the Supreme Court.

Constitutional Law I is a prerequisite for this course. Constitutional Law II is not a prerequisite. Nor does the prior completion of Constitutional Law II preclude enrollment. In other words, students may enroll in this course regardless of whether they have taken Constitutional Law II.

The coverage of this course overlaps to some extent with that of Constitutional Law II. Constitutional Law II, however, is a survey course that addresses the First Amendment generally. It typically emphasizes freedom of speech and related issues, permitting only limited time for the Religion Clauses. This course, by contrast, will focus exclusively on the Religion Clauses and related issues. In so doing, it will address various issues of religious liberty that are not covered in Constitutional Law II and delve more deeply into those that are. As a result, this course will be of value to students who have taken Constitutional Law II but who would like to learn more about law and religion. Conversely, the course will not assume prior study of the Religion Clauses, so students can freely enroll without having first completed Constitutional Law II.

Law and Religion is a three-credit course. We will meet twice a week in 85-minute class sessions. There will be two required books: Michael W. McConnell, Thomas C. Berg, & Christopher C. Lund, Religion and the Constitution (Wolters Kluwer, 4th Edition, 2016), and Daniel O. Conkle, Religion, Law, and the Constitution (Foundation Press, 2016). There also will be one or more handouts and/or packets of supplementary course materials. Student grades will be based primarily on a final examination, which probably will be all essay. In addition, class participation will play a role in student evaluation and grading.