Law's Religion: Rendering Culture

Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 2

45 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2007

See all articles by Benjamin L. Berger

Benjamin L. Berger

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School


Drawn from a larger project that seeks to reassess the relationship between law and religion in cultural terms - as a meeting of cultural systems - this paper argues that an aspect of Constitutional law's incapacity to deal adequately with religion is its failure to understand religion as, in a robust sense, culture. There is something of an existing literature that argues that law mistreats religion. This is not the argument of this paper. Rather, once one begins to understand the constitutional rule of law itself as a cultural form, it emerges apparent that law renders religion in a very particular fashion, a rendering that is a product of law's symbolic categories and interpretive horizons. This paper draws out the elements of Canadian constitutionalism's unique rendering of religion and contrast this view with what a robust understanding of religion as culture might look like. In the end, the paper argues that although Canadian constitutionalism claims to understand religion as a culture, this is true only in the thinnest of senses. More accurate (and more illuminating) is the claim that law's view of religion is, itself, profoundly cultural.

Keywords: Law, Religion, Canada, Culture

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Berger, Benjamin L., Law's Religion: Rendering Culture. Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 2, Available at SSRN:

Benjamin L. Berger (Contact Author)

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

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