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RELS235 Religion, Law and Politics

2021 information for papers will be published in early September. 

The interplay of religion, law and politics in contemporary India, Sri Lanka, America, New Zealand, Canada and elsewhere. Case study and theory. Themes include secularism, religious freedom, pluralism and others.

These days, it is almost impossible to open a newspaper or watch TV without learning about a conflict at the intersection of religion, law and politics. This paper invites students from all disciplines to look more closely at these conflicts and to reconsider the dominant ways we understand them. Through examining a variety of case studies from Asia, Europe, the US and NZ, this paper aims to give students the terms, ideas and confidence to intervene in these public debates about religion intelligently and cogently.

Paper title Religion, Law and Politics
Paper code RELS235
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2020
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $904.05
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,954.75

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36 points
RELS 335, RELX 235, RELX 335
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology

Dr John Shaver:

Teaching staff

Lecturer: Thomas White

Paper Structure


Coursework - 60%

  • 10% Participation
  • 10% Essay Paper Outline
  • 40% Long Essay

Exam - 40% (2 hours)

Teaching Arrangements
Classes for distance students are conducted using Otago Connect.
All readings are provided electronically.
Course outline

View sample course outline

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
  • An understanding of the variety of legal and bureaucratic strategies used by contemporary governments to regulate and manage the religious lives and identities of citizens
  • A grounding in key concepts and theories that are critical to the academic study of religion, law and politics. These include concepts such as secularism, religious freedom, legal pluralism, substantive and formal neutrality, religious accommodation, and others
  • An extended awareness of important contemporary controversies that emerge at the intersections of religious, legal and political practice. These include debates over the separation of church and state, the recognition of religious groups, the interpretation of religious freedom, the use of religious discourse in politics, and others
  • the ability to distinguish and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different managerial paradigms for regulating religion in contemporary states
  • The ability to draw upon and assess legal sources (eg court decisions, statutes, constitutional clauses, etc) for the study of religion
  • the ability to assimilate, analyse and critique academic arguments about the interactions of religion, law and politics and to present those analyses and critiques in written form

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Not offered in 2020

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system