Using Legal Materials in Teaching Religion

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Abstract

This note argues for the importance of using primary legal sources, trial transcripts, opinions, law codes, and so forth, in teaching religion. The advantages of using legal documents in the religious studies classroom include: highlighting the importance of church/state issues, the existential givenness of law for religion; serving as mini-ethnographies, a slice-of-life view of religion; and, displaying a range of voices about a particular event, tradition, or idea. The note also describes two possible courses, an introductory course in American religion and a seminar in religion and law, listing recommended sample materials and showing how legal documents could be used in the classroom.

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