The Religious Beliefs, Practices, and Experiences of Law Professors

17 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2020 Last revised: 29 Feb 2020

Date Written: June 1, 2019

Abstract

In the 1990s I surveyed law faculties at the top one hundred law schools, collecting data on professors’ religious affiliations. [Measuring Diversity: Law Faculties in 1997 and 2013, 39 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 89 (2016), https://ssrn.com/abstract=2581675]

I found that Christians were represented at only about half their percentages in the larger population, while Jewish and nonreligious law professors were substantially overrepresented. Yet knowing whether a professor is, for example, Christian or Jewish only scratches the surface. For the general public, the General Social Survey and the American National Election Studies have long asked about belief in God and church attendance, but these questions had never before been asked of law professors.

This article reports the results of a 2017 survey of about 500 law professors. The study first updates the 1997 study on religious preference and then moves on to explore the issues of belief in God, church attendance, and religiously motivated discrimination. Law faculties are substantially less devout than mere reports of religious preferences would indicate. Though religious belief in the general population tends to fall with increased education, that phenomenon does not explain or account for the observed magnitude of the differences. For example, while 24 percent of law professors say that they “don’t believe in God” and another 18 percent “don’t know whether God exists,” among those in the general population who have graduate and professional degrees, only 5.4 percent do not believe in God and 10.4 percent do not know whether God exists.

While in this study higher percentages of Christians report religious discrimination than the non-religious, so do higher percentages of Jews and those who embrace “other religions.” As for their schools preferring non-Christians over Christians, Christians are much more likely to report this behavior than Jews or the non-religious, but the percentages reporting having witnessed this discriminatory preference are still relatively small.

Keywords: Religion, Law Schools, Faculty, Diversity

Suggested Citation

Lindgren, James T., The Religious Beliefs, Practices, and Experiences of Law Professors (June 1, 2019). 15 University of St. Thomas Law Journal 342 (2019); Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 19-27. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3527017 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3527017

James T. Lindgren (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
773-294-9043 (Phone)

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