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Religion and Law


Admission requirements

200-level courses in Human Interaction, Global Justice, and Law, Society, and Development give access to this course.


In ‘Religion & Law’ we will study the relations between these two normative sources. We will discuss concepts like positivistic (‘man-made’) and divine law, and apply their characteristics to several so-called ‘religious laws’, such as Christian, Islamic, Hindu and Jewish law. We will see that many Western laws have strong religious foundations, while many religious laws are mostly man-made. We will then try to answer the question: what makes law religious, and what makes religion legal?

Another aspect of law and religion is the political-legal situation in which the two entities are separated, and whereby law serves as an instrument of protection of religion. We will discuss this in a contemporary context, and look into questions as freedom of religion, blasphemy, and the (im)possibilities of applying religious family law in modern legal systems. We will also examine the relation between state and religion, in particular concepts like secularism and religious tolerance, on the basis of several country studies.

The following subjects will be discussed in this course: – Concepts: What is religion; what is law? Positivistic and divine law; Religious law and legal religion; Secularism and theocracy; Tolerance and blasphemy. – Religious law: Christian law; Islamic law; Hindu law; Jewish law. – Religion protected by law: Freedom of religion; Religious family law in western states; Blasphemy vs the freedom to insult religions. – Religion and the state: Religious tolerance; Religious minorities; Theocracies and secular states. – Topical issues: Islam and the Arab spring; Wilders court case; religious fundamentalism in US, Pakistan, Israel

Course objectives

  • The course is designed to make students reflect on questions that are as complex as they are self-evident. By the end of the course, the students will:

  • have a clear understanding of several important concepts related to religion and law;

  • know how these concepts interact in a variety of settings and countries;

  • be able to critically analyse contemporary issues related to religion and law.


Please see the LUC website:

Mode of instruction

  • Literature: course literature is provided through blackboard;

  • Lectures: The lectures are meant to structure and discuss the weekly topics in an analytical way that will help the students to understand the course material and motivate them to discuss them in class;

  • Essays for each class the students will write a short essay (1-2 pages) in which they will discuss a question on the basis of the literature prescribed for that class.

Assessment method

  1. Interactive engagement with course material: assessed through In-class participation (20% of final grade): Ongoing Weeks 1-7
  2. Individual engagement with course readings: assessed through Twice weekly short essays (400 words: together 40% of final grade): Weeks 1-7
  3. Understanding of the course: assessed through Final research essay
    (3,000-5,000 words; 40% of final grade): Week 8


This course is supported by a BlackBoard site

Reading list

Provided via BlackBoard


This course is only open for LUC The Hague students.

Contact information

Prof Dr Maurits S. Berger, LLM []

Weekly Overview

Week 1: Introduction to law and religion
Week 2: Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jewish law
Week 3: Freedom of religion
Week 4: Religious minorities
Week 5: Tolerance and blasphemy
Week 6: Issues of secularism (France, Turkey, United States)
Week 7: Issues of theocracy (Iran, Saudi-Arabia)

Preparation for first session

Please read The Great Inquisitor, by Fjodor Dostojevski. This short story is part of Dostojevski’s The Brothers Karamazov, but also available as a separate publication that can be purchased or found for free on the web (for an 1881 version see