Deep Purple: Religious Shades of Family Law

54 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2007

See all articles by Naomi Cahn

Naomi Cahn

University of Virginia School of Law

June Carbone

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law


"Deep Purple" examines the impact of religion on the politics and jurisprudence of abstinence education. Abstinence education is one of the many locations (issues) in the contemporary culture wars between red and blue state values. Families who live in red and blue states are experiencing divergent life patterns, and religion affects the development of these patterns. Frequency of church attendance has been tied to likelihood of marriage, and, as this paper shows, has been profoundly influential in approaches to teen sexuality. Religion decreases the opportunity for dialogue and compromise on these issues because people use underlying values - such as religion - as a way of helping them decide about social issues such as gay marriage and teen pregnancy. For those who interpret information through a pre-existing worldview, more information will not affect the approach to deeply contested issues, particularly because part of the entrenched nature of these worldviews and religious attitudes derives from neurobiological structures

The central part of the paper examines conflicting approaches to the deeply divisive issue of abstinence education, demonstrating how religion contributes to the conflict in perspectives. Finally, the paper explores potential means for resolving these cultural tensions or at least for managing them within a federal system that maintains fidelity to the rule of law. Ultimately, the paper argues that changing religiously influenced laws, such as those supporting abstinence education, is as much a political and social process as a legal one.

Keywords: Family law, law and religion, religion, abstinence education, children and the law, separation of church and state, polarization and partisanship, cultural cognition, law and politics

JEL Classification: I20, I21, I28, J12, J13, K10, Z10

Suggested Citation

Cahn, Naomi R. and Carbone, June, Deep Purple: Religious Shades of Family Law. West Virginia Law Review, Forthcoming, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 353, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 353, Available at SSRN:

Naomi R. Cahn (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

June Carbone

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law ( email )

229-19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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