Society, Culture & Religion 3CC3 / Political Science 3LA3 (Fall 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 google "Dana Hollander" to find it) or by way of the Department of Religious Studies website ( Information about assignments and any scheduling changes will be posted to this online syllabus and emailed to participants. (Please make sure to keep me up to date about your email addresses!) Some course components will involve logging onto the Avenue to Learn site for this course.

Please see my email dated November 30 for some small changes for the last weeks of the term!

Scheduled Class Meeting Time (some course activities will take place during this time each week): Mondays, 6-9 p.m.

INSTRUCTOR:  Professor Dana Hollander, Department of Religious Studies,*,

*in your email messages, please let me know how I can reach you by phone. ☛ Tips for good emailing practices
Office Hours: Wednesdays, 5-6 p.m. (Zoom/Skype/phone - details to be communicated)


Office Hours: By appointment (Zoom/phone)

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

updated November 30, 2020

Course Description / Required Materials / Course Format / Course Evaluation / Course Policies  |  ☛ JUMP TO WEEKLY SCHEDULE:  September / October / November / December


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.


  • Further readings to be added as necessary.
  • While the Hacker and Harvey writing guides, as well as the background reading by Schotten/Stevens may be consulted in electronic form, 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 form or as a photocopy or printout). This will allow you to mark your text as you read and to be prepared to refer to specific passages during course discussions. The midterm and final exams will also require you to consult those personal (marked up by you) printed copies. Primary works, to which this requirement applies, are identified with this icon:


    McMaster classes will be online for the entire Fall 2020 term; therefore this course will not meet in person. Class Meetings (during the scheduled Monday 6-9 p.m. timeslot) will consist of some offline guided learning based on materials I will distribute, and some online discussion using Zoom. Assignments and exams will be completed offline, at a time during the week that is convenient for you.

    The Discussion Board on Avenue is a space in which to share questions and comments about course material whenever they arise. In addition to the structured Discussion Board Assignment described below, I encourage you to use the "Open" Forum to pose questions that are coming up in your reading and record your insights and to respond to others' comments and questions.


    Grades will be based on: Text Summary (10%), Text Preparation (15%), Discussion Board Postings (10%), Midterm Exam (30%), Final Exam (35%).


    • One Text Summary: Please complete either Text Summary 1 for September 28 or Text Summary 2 for October 5, which will be on the readings you are preparing for those days. See the detailed assignments posted under those dates in the schedule below.
      *Please allow ample time to acquaint yourself with the specific instructions for this assignment (and to contact the instructor or TA for clarification if necessary) before beginning your work on it!

    • One Text Preparation: Once the marked Text Summary assignment has been returned to you, please complete either Text Preparation 1 (for Oct. 26), 2 (for Nov. 2), 3 (for Nov. 23), 4 (for Nov. 30), or 5 (for Dec. 7), which will be on the readings you are preparing for those days. Detailed 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 week. Therefore, they must be handed in by 6 p.m. on the Monday of the class meeting at which we will work through that reading selection, and no late submissions will be accepted.
    • Your Discussion Board grade will be based on (a) how frequently you have participated, regularly, on a weekly basis, on the Discussion Board, and (b) the overall quality of your postings and responses. A good grade (in the range of A to B+) can be earned by making at least one substantive** posting, plus at least one substantive** response to another posting, per week. new wording as of October 2: A good grade (in the range of A to B+) can be earned by making at least five substantive** postings to five separate Topics in the course of the semester, plus at least five substantive** responses to others' postings--which should also be in at least five separate Topics.
    • **What makes a posting or a response "substantive"?

      • It includes references to relevant course material, including parenthetical page references that allow readers to see what in the text your observation is based on.

      • It gives well-thought-out reasons for a position or argument, or well-thought-out rationales for new questions being raised.

      • It doesn't stop at agreeing or disagreeing with something said by an author or course participant, but extends the discussion with a new insight or question.

      • It uses conversational yet professional language, and has been proofread for errors.

      For best results - and to avoid losing your work in progress - compose your post offline and proofread it before pasting it into the text box.

    • The 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.
    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.


    Weekly Course Schedule

    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 (by email to participants, and by updating this online syllabus).

    Week of September 14


    Please log onto Avenue between September 8 and 14 to find out what to do for this week!

    Week of September 21

    Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (authored by Thomas Jefferson, 1777; adopted by Virginia House of Delegates, 1786)  [please print out your personal copy 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)

    Week of September 28
    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 by Monday, 6 p.m. (Toronto time) 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"

    Week of October 5

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

    Text Summary 2 due by Monday, 6 p.m. (Toronto time) from students who did not complete Text Summary 1.

    Optional Reading:

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

    Week of October 19

    conclude our work on Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration

    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]

    Week of October 26

    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 by Monday, 6 p.m. (Toronto time) 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)

    Week of November 2

    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 by Monday, 6 p.m. (Toronto time) from some students.

    Midterm Exam information/instructions will be posted today, for discussion at our class meeting.

    Week of November 9

    MIDTERM EXAM (length of exam: 90 minutes)

    Week of November 16

    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.

    Week of November 23

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

    Text Preparation 3 due by Monday, 6 p.m. (Toronto time) from some students.

    Week of November 30
    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 by Monday, 6 p.m. (Toronto time) from some students.

    Week of December 7

    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 by Monday, 6 p.m. (Toronto time) 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"

    Final Exam information and instructions will be posted today, for discussion at our class meeting.

    FINAL EXAM, December 14-15

    The final exam will be 90 minutes long and can be taken anytime between December 14, 8:00 a.m., and December 15, 11:59 p.m.


    Submission of Assignments and Exams will be in PDF format to the designated folder on Avenue to Learn. Please take the same care in producing the PDF document as you would in producing a paper document. Please follow the specific instructions included on each assignment and exam sheet.

    Grading System. This course uses McMaster's 12-point grading system as follows: A+ = 12, A = 11, A−  = 10, B+ = 9, B = 8, B− = 7, C+ = 6, C = 5, C− = 4, D+ = 3, D = 2, D− = 1, F = 0.

    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 to contact the instructor to discuss how the accommodations will be implemented in this particular course. For further information, consult McMaster's Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities policy


    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. It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty.

    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.

    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 credit has been obtained. 2. Improper collaboration in group work. 3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy.

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

    All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search). This course will not be using or any other plagiarism detection software.

    Conduct Expectations. As a McMaster student, you have the right to experience, and the responsibility to demonstrate, respectful and dignified interactions within all of our living, learning and working communities. These expectations are described in the Code of Student Rights & Responsibilities (the "Code"). All students share the responsibility of maintaining a positive environment for the academic and personal growth of all McMaster community members, whether in person or online.

    It is essential that students be mindful of their interactions online, as the Code remains in effect in virtual learning environments. The Code applies to any interactions that adversely affect, disrupt, or interfere with reasonable participation in University activities. Student disruptions or behaviours that interfere with university functions on online platforms (e.g., use of Avenue to Learn, WebEx or Zoom for delivery) will be taken very seriously and will be investigated. Outcomes may include restriction or removal of the involved students' access to these platforms.

    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."

    Courses with an Online Element. This course will use online elements, e.g., Avenue to Learn and Zoom; and communications among the instructor, TA and students in this course will be over email. Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course (depending on which technology is used), private information such as first and last names, program affiliation, user names for the McMaster email accounts and/or other email addresses used by course participants may become apparent to 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.

    Online Proctoring. This course will not use online proctoring for any tests or exams.

    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 the 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.

    Copyright and Recording. Students are advised that lectures, demonstrations, performances, and any other course material provided by an instructor include copyright protected works. The Copyright Act and copyright law protect every original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including lectures by University instructors.

    The recording of lectures, tutorials, or other methods of instruction may occur during a course. Recording may be done by either the instructor for the purpose of authorized distribution, or by a student for the purpose of personal study. Students should be aware that their voice and/or image may be recorded by others during the class. Please speak with the instructor if this is a concern for you.

    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 email.

    Copyright © Dana Hollander