The Study of Law and Religion in the United States: An Interim Report

Ecclesiastical Law Journal 14 (2012): 327-354

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-382

27 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2015 Last revised: 11 Aug 2019

Date Written: 2012


The study of law and religion has exploded around the world. This article, prepared in celebration of the silver anniversary of the Ecclesiastical Law Society, traces the development of law and religion study in the United States. Despite its long tradition of strict separation of church and state and despite its long allegiance to legal positivism and intellectual secularization, the United States has emerged as a world leader of the new interdisciplinary field of law and religion. Hundreds of American scholars, from different confessions and professions, are now at work in this field, and two dozen major research centers and journals have been established at American law schools. After canvassing some of the main themes and trends in American law and religion scholarship today, this article concludes with a brief reflection on some of the main challenges before Christian scholars who work in the field of ecclesiastical law.

Keywords: Law and Religion; Interdisciplinary Legal Study; Legal Positivism; Separation of Church and State; Natural Law Theory; Religious Freedom; Religion-State Relations; Freedom of Public Religion; Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.; United States Supreme Court; Protestantism; Catholicism; Orthodox Christianity

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, The Study of Law and Religion in the United States: An Interim Report (2012). Ecclesiastical Law Journal 14 (2012): 327-354, Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-382, Available at SSRN:

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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