Religious Studies 3CC3 / Political Science 3LA3 (Winter 2020)

Religion and Politics

This course website and online syllabus is located at It can also be accessed by way of my home page (see below) or by way of the Department of Religious Studies website ( Information about assignments and any scheduling changes will be posted to this online syllabus, announced in class, and/or e-mailed to participants. (Please make sure to keep us up to date about your e-mail addresses!)

Please see your email for how the course is being adapted following McMaster's March 13 directive to cease in-person meetings for all classes due to COVID-19.

Class Meetings: Thursdays, 7-9 p.m., BSB 120

Tutorials: Thursdays, 6-7 p.m., BSB 120

INSTRUCTOR:  Professor Dana Hollander, Department of Religious Studies, University Hall 114.**   (905) 525-9140, ext. 24759**

*in your phone and e-mail messages, please let me know how I can reach you by phone. ☛ Tips for good emailing practices

**Staff in the office of the Department of Religious Studies will not date-stamp or receive written assignments.

Toleration Statue (located in Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia). Photograph by James J. Kelly. Used with permission.

updated March 20, 2020

Office Hours: Tuesdays, 4:45-5:45 p.m., or by appointment.

TEACHING ASSISTANT:  Patrick Edwards, Department of Religious Studies**,

Office Hours: Thursdays, 4:45-5:45 p.m., or by appointment, University Hall B127 (in the basement)

Course Description / Course Materials / Course Requirements   |  ☛ JUMP TO SCHEDULE:  January / February / March / April


This course is an introduction to some key approaches to thinking about the relationship between politics and religion in the West.  We will study two classic works on this topic:  John Locke, Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), the highly influential treatise on why and how religion and politics should be regarded as separate spheres, and Carl Schmitt, Political Theology (1922), a relatively recent influential attempt to argue that political sovereignty has essentially theological roots.  We will also read contemporary discussions of the challenges posed by the role of religion in public life--including debates about specific contemporary dilemmas.


  • All the required readings, as well as some optional supplementary readings, are on reserve at Mills Library - e.g. for personal photocopying. To find items on reserve for a course, select "Course Reserve" from the drop-down menu here.
  • Further readings will be added as necessary.
Throughout the course and at the exams, you must use your own paper copy of all the primary works we are studying--in the same edition selected for the class (whether in book or xeroxed form). This will allow you to mark your text as you read and to be prepared to refer to specific passages in class and tutorial and when you write the exams.

  • Attendance of all class and tutorial sessions.

  • One Text Summary (1-1.5 pages) - see detailed assignment to be handed out in class and to be posted below.* This assignment is to be completed in conjunction with attendance of the full class session at which it is due, and to be handed in at the end of the class session on those days. Please complete either Text Summary 1 for January 23 or Text Summary 2 for January 30, which will be on the readings you are preparing for those days.
    *Please allow sufficient time to acquaint yourself with the specific instructions for this assignment (and to contact us for clarification if necessary) before beginning your work on it!

  • One Text Preparation (2-3 pages) - on the assigned readings for Feb. 13, Feb. 27, March 19, March 26, or April 2 in conjunction with attendance of the full class session, and to be handed in at the end of the class session on those days. Specific assignments for each week will be posted to this syllabus the week before (see under the due dates below).

Note: Text Summary/Text Preparation assignments are designed to help you prepare the reading assignment for a particular class meeting, in conjunction with your participation in that class meeting.  Therefore, these assignments consist of the written assignment to be handed in at the class meeting at which it is due plus attendance of the full class session.

No submissions outside of those class times will be accepted.

  • Midterm Exam and Final Exam will consist of essay questions involving textual analysis.  The essay questions will be made known in advance, and the exam will be open-book. Writing Time: 90 minutes.

Grades will be based on the following: Text Summary (10%), Text Preparation (15%), Attendance of Class Meetings and Tutorial Sessions (5%), Midterm Exam (30%), Final Exam (40%).

ACCESSIBILITY: The instructor is committed to creating a learning environment that is equitable and as accessible as possible. To arrange an academic accommodation for a disability, please contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS), Tel. 905-525-9140 ext. 28652;  While every effort will be made to support students, it is the student's responsibility to arrange these accommodations, by contacting SAS at the beginning of each term, and contacting the instructor to discuss how the accommodations will be implemented.

In your writing for this course, you are encouraged to make use of the resources of the Undergraduate Writing Centre:

You are advised to retain copies of any written work you submit for this class, and all your research notes, until you have received an official grade.


Please do not eat during class.


At certain points in the course it may make good sense to modify the schedule outlined below. The instructor reserves the right to modify elements of the course and will notify students accordingly (in class, by e-mail to participants, and by updating this online syllabus).

January 9


No tutorial meeting this week.

January 16

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (authored by Thomas Jefferson, 1777; adopted by Virginia House of Delegates, 1786)  [handed out in class on Jan. 9; or print out from the linked file]

Peter Schotten and Dennis Stevens, Religion, Politics, and the Law (1996), chap. 1: "European Roots," 3–13; chap. 2: 24-32 [coursepack]

Additional resources:

James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785)

United States Constitution - see especially Amendment I (1791)

January 23

John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, trans. William Popple (1689), ed. James H. Tully (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983), 21-38 (" their own Consciences") [purchase book]

Schotten/Stevens, Religion, Politics, and the Law, chap. 1: 17-23 ("The Political Aftermath")

Text Summary 1 due in class from students with last names beginning in A-L.

Optional Background Reading:

William Uzgalis, "John Locke" (2001/2007), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition) - see especially section 4: "Locke and Religious Toleration"

January 30

John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, 38 ("Having thus at length freed...") -58

Text Summary 2 due in class from students who did not complete Text Summary 1.

Optional Reading:

Schotten/Stevens, Religion, Politics, and the Law, chap. 1: 13-17

February 6

Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini, Love the Sin. Sexual Regulations and the Limits of Religious Tolerance (2004): pp. 45–73 (notes on pp. 157–58) [coursepack]

February 13

Beverley McLachlin, "Freedom of Religion and the Rule of Law. A Canadian Perspective," and Jean Bethke Elshtain, "Response," chapter 2 in Douglas Farrow, Recognizing Religion in a Secular Society: Essays in Pluralism, Religion, and Public Policy (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2004), 14-40 [coursepack]

You may also print your personal copy from this online edition: (1) From the Table of Contents, click on chapter 2: "Freedom of Religion and the Rule of Law." (2) Click on "Export to PDF" (at the very bottom of the screen) and fill in page numbers: 33 to 61. (3) Verify that you have downloaded pages 14-40 of the book.

Text Preparation 1 due in class from some students

Additional resources:

Canadian Bill of Rights (1960)

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) | further materials related to the Charter on the Department of Justice website

M. H. Ogilvie, Religious Institutions and the Law in Canada, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2003) [book on reserve]

February 27

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "On Civil Religion," book IV, chapter VIII of On the Social Contract (1762), trans. Donald A. Cress, in Basic Political Writings (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987) [coursepack]  |  French original

Robert N. Bellah, "Civil Religion in America" (1967), from Beyond Belief [coursepack]

Text Preparation 2 due in class from some students.

Midterm Exam Preparation Sheet distributed in class today.

March 5

No tutorial meeting this week.

MIDTERM EXAM, 6 p.m. (length of exam: 90 minutes)

March 12

No tutorial meeting this week.

Carl Schmitt, Political Theology. Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (1922), trans. George Schwab (University of Chicago Press, 1985) [purchase book]: chap. 1

Optional Background Reading:

Lars Vinx, "Carl Schmitt" (2010/2019) in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [online] - sec. 2 discusses the book Political Theology.

March 19

Carl Schmitt, Political Theology, chap. 1 (cont'd) and chap. 3.

Text Preparation 3 due in class from some students.

March 26

conclude discussion of Schmitt, Political Theology, chap. 3.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, "Civil and Religious Law in England: A Religious Perspective" (Lecture before the Royal Courts of Justice, February 7, 2008) [coursepack]

Text Preparation 4 due in class from some students.

April 2

postponed from previous week: Joan W. Scott, "Sexularism" (2009) [please print out personal copy]

CBC Radio "The Current," March 31, 2008 – including documentary by Kathleen Goldhar, "Faith in the Law" [details on how to listen to be communicated by e-mail]

Suzanne Last Stone, "The Intervention of American Law in Jewish Divorce: A Pluralist Analysis," Israel Law Review, vol. 34, no. 2 (Summer 2000), pp. 174-85 [please print out a personal copy of those pages]

Text Preparation 5 due in class from anyone who has not completed a Text Preparation assignment.

Additional Resources:

Bruker v. Marcovitz, 2007 SCC 54

Divorce Act - see in particular 21.1 (1) "Affidavit re removal of barriers to religious remarriage"


The final exam will be 90 minutes long. For the start time and location, see the Registrar's exam timetable. Further details to be communicated in class.


McMaster University has a strict policy concerning Academic Integrity: "You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process.  Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity. Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty.  For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, specifically Appendix 3.

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty: 1. Plagiarism, e.g., the submission of work that is not one's own or for which other credit has been obtained. 2. Improper collaboration in group work. 3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations."

Please let me know if you have any questions on how this policy applies to your work for this course.

Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work (McMaster Student Absence Form [MSAF]). In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar "Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work."

Privacy of Information. Some of the communications among the instructor and the students in this course will be over e-mail. Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names and e-mail addresses may become apparent to all other students in the same course. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous or Spiritual Observances (RISO). Students requiring academic accommodation based on religious, indigenous or spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the RISO policy. Students requiring a RISO accommodation should submit their request to their Faculty Office normally within 10 working days of the beginning of term in which they anticipate a need for accommodation or to the Registrar's Office prior to their examinations. Students should also contact their instructors as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements for classes, assignments, and tests.

Extreme Circumstances. The University reserves the right to change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances (e.g., severe weather, labour disruptions, etc.). Changes will be communicated through regular McMaster communication channels, such as McMaster Daily News, A2L and/or McMaster e-mail.

Copyright © Dana Hollander