The goal of this class is to understand the distinctive character and place of religion and religious liberty in America and, more generally, to understand the range of different possible approaches to religious liberty and their different implications for human relations. The course will begin by examining the First Amendment and the cases decided under it, and it will then explore other versions of the freedom--in distant past, in American history, and in other cultures today. Approximately eight or nine weeks will be spent on Supreme Court cases and the remainder on other materials. The course will thus expand out from relatively doctrinal concerns into a broader consideration of religion, religious liberty, and their role in human society.
This class is open to all types of students, and there are no prerequisites, although some general knowledge of American constitutional law is recommended. Grades will be based on class participation, 14 one page discussion papers, and an eight hour take home exam. The discussion papers should focus on a segment of the required reading for the following week and will be due 5:00 pm the day before the meeting at which the reading will be discussed. Students wishing to write a research paper in lieu of the exam must do work based on original research in primary sources on a subject to be chosen by the student with the permission of the teacher. Ordinarily, the paper should be about 15 pages long, but with the permission of the teacher, a student may substitute a paper of about 25 pages for an extra academic credit that must be registered separately. Either paper can earn a Writing Credit, and the longer paper can earn a Major Writing Credit.