Religious Studies 3CC3 / Pol Sci 3LA3: Religion and Politics

Religious Studies 3CC3 / Political Science 3LA3 (Winter 2014)

Religion and Politics

This syllabus, which links to all course assignments, is posted at and is also accessible by way of my home page (see below) and the Dept. of Religious Studies website. It will be updated periodically, and students in the class are asked to consult it regularly during the semester.

Class Meetings: Thursdays, 8-10 p.m., Chester New Hall 102

Tutorials: Thursdays, 7-8 p.m., Chester New Hall 102

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

**Staff in the office of the Department of Religious Studies will not date-stamp or receive written assignments.
Office Hours: Mondays, 4-5 p.m., or by appointment.

updated March 28, 2014


Michael Worden, Department of Religious Studies, University Hall B125.

Office Hours:  Thursdays, 6-7 p.m., or by appointment

Course Description / Course Readings / Course Requirements   |   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.

A highlight of the course will be attendance of this year's Sharjah Chair in Global Islam Lecture on Wednesday, March 12, to be held by Mohammad Fadel (University of Toronto Law School) on the topic of sharia law in modern times.


You must have your own paper copy of all the texts to be discussed--in the same edition selected for the class--whether in book or xeroxed form, so that you can mark them as you read and be prepared to refer to specific passages in class and tutorial and when you write the exams.

Course Requirements

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.  For this reason, those assignments may only be submitted by you at the class meetings at which they are due.

*If you choose 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.)
Grades will be based on the following (new grades breakdown as of Mar. 12, due to weather-related cancellation of lecture by Mohammad Fadel):

  • for students who complete only one Text Preparation assignment: Text Summary (10%), Text Preparation (15%), Midterm Exam (35%), Final Exam (40%).
  • for those who complete two Text Preparation assignments: Text Summary (10%), Text Preparations (12.5% each), Midterm Exam (30%), Final Exam (35%).
  • for students who complete only one Text Preparation assignment: Text Summary (10%), Text Preparation (10%), Brief Lecture Report (5%), Midterm Exam (35%), Final Exam (40%).
  • for those who complete two Text Preparation assignments: Text Summary (10%), Text Preparations (10% each), Brief Lecture Report (5%), Midterm Exam (30%), Final Exam (35%).

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, located at

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 9


No tutorial meeting this week.

January 16

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (authored by Thomas Jefferson, 1777; adopted by Virginia House of Delegates, 1786)  [handed out in class on Jan. 9; 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 [selection in coursepack / book on reserve]

Additional resources:

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

United States Constitution - see especially Amendment I (1791)

January 23

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 30

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.


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

February 6

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) [selection in coursepack / book on reserve]

February 13

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. [print personal copy from online edition  / book on reserve]

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 27

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) [selection in coursepack / book on reserve] | French original

Robert N. Bellah, "Civil Religion in America" (1967), from Beyond Belief [article in coursepack / book on reserve]

Text Preparation 2 due in class from some students.

Midterm Exam Preparation Sheet distributed in class today.

Monday, March 3, 5:30-7:30 p.m. - Optional Midterm Exam Review, University Hall 122.

March 6

No tutorial meeting this week.

MIDTERM EXAM, 7 p.m., at Building T28

Wednesday, March 12, 7:30 p.m., Health Science Center, Room 1A1Lecture was cancelled due to weather-related university closure.

Sharjah Chair in Global Islam Annual Lecture:

Mohammad Fadel (University of Toronto Faculty of Law): "The Sunni Model of the Rule of Law: Modern Implications"

Monday, March 17 - Brief Lecture Report due by e-mail to Michael Worden,

March 13, 7 p.m.

No tutorial meeting this week.

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) in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [online] - sec. 2 discusses the book Political Theology.

March 20

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

Text Preparation 3 due in class from some students.

March 27

Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, "Civil and Religious Law in England: A Religious Perspective" (Lecture before the Royal Courts of Justice, February 7, 2008; Note that the text of the lecture begins after a lengthy summary introduction, which you may ignore) [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]

Anver M. Emon, "Islamic Law and the Canadian Mosaic: Politics, Jurisprudence, and Multicultural Accommodation" (2008) (feel free to skim pp. 405-410) [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 3

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 the link to this document appears to be broken; see your e-mail for instructions on how to access this article [print out personal copy]

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

Final Exam Preparation Sheet to be distributed.

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 - date, time, and location TBA

  Copyright © 2009-14 Dana Hollander