Religious Studies 3CC3 / Political Science 3LA3 (Winter 2015)

Religion and Politics

This course website and online syllabus is located at and is also accessible by way of my home page (see below) and the Dept. of Religious Studies website ( Information about assignments and any scheduling changes will be posted to this online syllabus, announced in class, and/or e-mailed to participants. (Please make sure to keep us up to date on your e-mail addresses!)

Attention! This course is not on Avenue To Learn. This course website is the only online information source for this course.

Class Meetings: Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m., Kenneth Taylor Hall 109

Tutorials: Tuesdays, 6-7 p.m., Kenneth Taylor Hall 109

INSTRUCTOR:  Dana Hollander, Department of Religious Studies, University Hall 109.**   (905) 525-9140, ext. 24759**

*in your phone and e-mail messages, please let me know how I can reach you by phone

Office Hours: Thursdays, 5-6 p.m.*, or by appointment.
Toleration Statue (located in Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia). Photograph by James J. Kelly. Used with permission.

updated April 1, 2016

TEACHING ASSISTANT:  Zacharie Klassen, Department of Religious Studies**,

Office Hours: Tuesdays, 2-3 p.m., University Hall B123 (in the basement)

**Staff in the office of the Department of Religious Studies will not date-stamp or receive written assignments.

Course Description / Course Readings / Course Requirements   |  ☛ JUMP TO SCHEDULE:  January / February / March / April


This course is an introduction to some key approaches to thinking about the relationship between politics and religion in the West.  We will study two classic works on this topic:  John Locke, Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), the highly influential treatise on why and how religion and politics should be regarded as separate spheres, and Carl Schmitt, Political Theology (1922), a relatively recent influential attempt to argue that political sovereignty has essentially theological roots.  We will also read contemporary discussions of the challenges posed by the role of religion in public life--including debates about specific contemporary dilemmas, such as the 2004-5 "sharia debate" in Ontario.


  • John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, trans. William Popple (1689), ed. James H. Tully (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983) ISBN 978-0915145607 [required]
  • Carl Schmitt, Political Theology. Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (1922), trans. George Schwab (University of Chicago Press, 1985) ISBN 978-0226738895 [required]
  • Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers, A Pocket Style Manual, 7th ed. (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2015), ISBN 978-1457642326 [strongly recommended]
  • Gordon Harvey, Writing with Sources. A Guide for Students, 2nd ed. (Hackett, 2008) ISBN 978-0-87220-944-2 [optional]
  • Coursepack [required]
Throughout the course and at the exams, you must use your own paper copy of all the primary works we are studying--in the same edition selected for the class (whether in book or xeroxed form). This will allow you to mark your text as you read and to be prepared to refer to specific passages in class and tutorial and when you write the exams.

  • Either one or two* Text Preparations (2-3 pages) - on the assigned readings for Feb. 9, Feb. 23, March 22, March 29, or April 5 in conjunction with attendance of the full class session, and to be handed in at the end of the class session on those days. Specific assignments for each week to be posted to this syllabus the week before (see under the due dates).

Note: Text Summary/Text Preparation assignments are designed to help you prepare the reading assignment for a particular class meeting, in conjunction with your participation in that class meeting.  Therefore, these assignments consist of the written assignment to be handed in at the class meeting at which it is due plus attendance of the full class session.

No submissions outside of those class times will be accepted.

It is important in this class to receive feedback on the prior assignment before beginning the next assignment. For this reason:

*If you plan to hand in two Text Preparations, please be sure to complete Text Preparation 1 or 2 so as to allow time to receive feedback on the first assignment before preparing the second one, from among Text Preparation 3, 4, or 5.  (Please contact the instructor if scheduling difficulties arise.)

  • Midterm Exam and Final Exam will consist of essay questions involving textual analysis.  The essay questions will be made known in advance, and the exam will be open-book.

Grades will be based on the following:

  1. if you complete only one Text Preparation assignment: Text Summary (7%), Text Preparation (15%), Attendance of Class Meetings and Tutorial Sessions (5%), Midterm Exam (33%), Final Exam (40%).

  2. if you complete two Text Preparation assignments: Text Summary (7%), Text Preparations (12.5% each), Attendance of Class Meetings and Tutorial Sessions (5%), Midterm Exam (28%), Final Exam (35%). (However, if by the end of the course it turns out that the first grade calculation method works out to your advantage, that method will be used, using the higher of your two Text Preparation grades.)
To arrange an academic accommodation for a disability, please contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS), Tel. 905-525-9140 ext. 28652;  Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study.


McMaster University has a strict policy concerning Academic Integrity: "You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process.  Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity. Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty.  For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, specifically Appendix 3.

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty: 1. Plagiarism, e.g., the submission of work that is not one's own or for which other credit has been obtained. 2. Improper collaboration in group work. 3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations."

Please let me know if you have any questions on how this policy applies to your work for this course.

Privacy of Information. Some of the communications among the instructor and the students in this course will be over e-mail. Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names and e-mail addresses may become apparent to all other students in the same course. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.

You are advised to retain copies of any written work you submit for this class, and all your research notes, until you have received an official grade.


At certain points in the course it may make good sense to modify the schedule outlined below. The instructor reserves the right to modify elements of the course and will notify students accordingly (in class, by e-mail to participants, and by updating this online syllabus).

January 5


No tutorial meeting this week.

January 12

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (authored by Thomas Jefferson, 1777; adopted by Virginia House of Delegates, 1786)  [handed out in class on Jan. 5; or print out from the linked file]

Peter Schotten and Dennis Stevens, Religion, Politics, and the Law (1996), chap. 1: “European Roots,” 3–13; chap. 2: 24-32 [coursepack]

Additional resources:

James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785)

United States Constitution - see especially Amendment I (1791)

January 19

John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, trans. William Popple (1689), ed. James H. Tully (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983), 21-38 (" their own Consciences") [purchase book]

Schotten/Stevens, Religion, Politics, and the Law, chap. 1: 17-23 ("The Political Aftermath")

Text Summary 1 due in class from students with last names beginning in A-L.

Optional Background Reading:

William Uzgalis, "John Locke" (2001/2007), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition) - see especially section 4: "Locke and Religious Toleration"

January 26

John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, 38 ("Having thus at length freed...") -58

Text Summary 2 due in class from students who did not complete Text Summary 1.

Guest Lecture - Michael Worden

Optional Reading:

Schotten/Stevens, Religion, Politics, and the Law, chap. 1: 13-17

February 2

conclude discussion of Locke

Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini, Love the Sin. Sexual Regulations and the Limits of Religious Tolerance (2004): pp. 45–73 (notes on pp. 157–58) [coursepack]

February 9

Beverley McLachlin, "Freedom of Religion and the Rule of Law. A Canadian Perspective," and Jean Bethke Elshtain, "Response", chapter 2 in Douglas Farrow, Recognizing Religion in a Secular Society: Essays in Pluralism, Religion, and Public Policy (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2004), 14–40. [download and print personal copy from online edition]

Instructions for download:
  1. From the Table of Contents, click on chapter 2: "Freedom of Religion and the Rule of Law."
  2. Click on "Export to PDF" (at the very bottom of the screen) and fill in page numbers: 33 to 61.
  3. Verify that you have downloaded book pages 14-40 of the book.

Text Preparation 1 due in class from some students

Additional resources:

Canadian Bill of Rights (1960)

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982)

M. H. Ogilvie, Religious Institutions and the Law in Canada, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2003) [book on reserve]

February 23

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "On Civil Religion," book IV, chapter VIII of On the Social Contract (1762), trans. Donald A. Cress, in Basic Political Writings (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987) [coursepack] | French original

Robert N. Bellah, "Civil Religion in America" (1967), from Beyond Belief [coursepack]

Text Preparation 2 due in class from some students.

Midterm Exam Preparation Sheet distributed in class today.

March 1 cancelled due to university closure

March 8

No tutorial meeting this week.


March 15

Robert N. Bellah, "Civil Religion in America" (1967), from Beyond Belief [coursepack]

Carl Schmitt, Political Theology. Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (1922), trans. George Schwab (University of Chicago Press, 1985) [purchase book]: chap. 1

Optional Background Reading:

Lars Vinx, "Carl Schmitt" (2010/2014) in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [online] - sec. 2 discusses the book Political Theology.

March 22

Carl Schmitt, Political Theology, chap. 1 (cont'd) and chap. 3.

Text Preparation 3 due in class from some students.

March 29

Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, "Civil and Religious Law in England: A Religious Perspective" (Lecture before the Royal Courts of Justice, February 7, 2008 [please print out personal copy and number the paragraphs on your printout for reference in class and in your writing]

Janice Gross Stein, "Religion, Culture, and Rights: A Conversation about Women" (2008) [print out personal copy]

Anna C. Korteweg, "The Sharia Debate in Ontario" in ISIM Review* 18 (Autumn 2006), pp. 50-51. (*Note: ISIM Review was a publication of the now-defunct International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World) [print out personal copy]

Text Preparation 4 due in class from some students.

Additional Resources on the 2004 Ontario "Sharia Debate":

Marion Boyd, "Dispute Resolution in Family Law: Protecting Choice, Promoting Inclusion" (Report to the Government of Ontario) (2004) 

Family Statute Law Amendment Act (2006) - see esp. 1.(1)(b)

Arbitration Act, 1991

April 5 7:00-9:00 p.m.; no tutorial today

CBC Radio "The Current," March 31, 2008 – including documentary by Kathleen Goldhar, “Faith in the Law” [details on how to listen to be communicated by e-mail]

Suzanne Last Stone, "The Intervention of American Law in Jewish Divorce" (2000), pp. 174-85 [information on how to access this material to be communicated by e-mail; please print out personal copy]

Ayelet Shachar, "Privatizing Diversity: A Cautionary Tale from Religious Arbitration in Family Law" (2008): 573-79; 592-97; 604-7 [press the "download" button on the linked page to download, and then print out personal copy] removed from schedule

Text Preparation 5 due in class from anyone who has not completed a Text Preparation assignment.

Final Exam Preparation Sheet distributed in class today.

Additional Resources:

Bruker v. Marcovitz, 2007 SCC 54

Divorce Act - see in particular 21.1 (1) "Affidavit re removal of barriers to religious remarriage"

A short video interview with Suzanne Last Stone about Jewish law and secular law.

FINAL EXAM - Wednesday, April 20, 7:30 p.m., Building T13, Room 125

   Copyright © 2009-16 Dana Hollander