The first sixteen words of the United States Bill of Rights read, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Through these words, people of all faith traditions within the United States have a right to practice their religious tradition free from government interference or endorsement. But what is the extend of these rights and what are their limitations? Can religious rights be applied equally across all faith traditions? This class will interrogate the politics of religious liberty with a particular focus on the context of the United States. In the first section of the course, students will study the history of minority and dissenting traditions in colonial America that led the inclusion of religious rights within the Bill of Rights. The class will then turn to examining important court cases throughout American history that have both sought to expand and limit the rights of religious people. Through engaging these court cases, the course will also analyze how diverse religious groups work together to protect their shared religious rights. The final weeks of the course will examine religious liberty from an international perspective, and the challenges and limitations of U.S. approaches to religious liberty. Students will come away from the course with a better knowledge of both the challenges of protecting religious rights within a multi-faith society as well as the ways in which students can constructively work across faith traditions to protect religious liberty.
Course fulfills the following curricular requirements:
MAIRS – Ministerial Studies: Beliefs and Practices