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RELS335 Religion, Law and Politics (Advanced)

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 (Advanced)
Paper code RELS335
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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One 200-level RELS or RELX paper
RELS 235, 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% (3 hours)

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
  • A sophisticated awareness of a key problem within the academic study of religion: the issue of defining the nature and limits of 'the religious' as opposed to the 'secular' or 'political'
  • A developed understanding of the challenges and opportunities afforded by interdisciplinary approaches to the study of religion
  • 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
  • The ability to situate academic arguments, both one's own and those of established scholars, within and against broader arguments within the field of religious studies
  • The ability to formulate and hone in on a research question, to conduct independent research in pursuit of an answer and to produce a realistic assessment of the level of finality with which that answer is offered

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Not offered in 2020

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