Law's Religion: Religious Difference and the Claims of Constitutionalism

Law's Religion: Religious Difference and the Claims of Constitutionalism

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By Benjamin L. Berger
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2015
World Rights
240 Pages
ISBN 9781442612068
Published Nov 2015
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ISBN 9781442696396
Published Jan 2016
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Prevailing stories about law and religion place great faith in the capacity of legal multiculturalism, rights-based toleration, and conceptions of the secular to manage issues raised by religious difference.  Yet the relationship between law and religion consistently proves more fraught than such accounts suggest. In Law’s Religion, Benjamin L. Berger knocks law from its perch above culture, arguing that liberal constitutionalism is an aspect of, not an answer to, the challenges of cultural pluralism.  Berger urges an approach to the study of law and religion that focuses on the experience of law as a potent cultural force.

Based on a close reading of Canadian jurisprudence, but relevant to all liberal legal orders, this book explores the nature and limits of legal tolerance and shows how constitutional law’s understanding of religion shapes religious freedom.  Rather than calling for legal reform, Law’s Religion invites us to rethink the ethics, virtues, and practices of adjudication in matters of religious difference.

Benjamin L. Berger is an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.


Chapter 1 – Studying Law and Religion: Where to Begin?

Chapter 2 – Law’s Religion: Rendering Culture

Chapter 3 – The Cultural Limits of Legal Tolerance

Chapter 4 – The Stories We Live By: Religious Diversity and the Ethics of Adjudication

Conclusion – Religion and Constitutionalism Beyond the Mystification of Law

"Law’s Religion has come along at a time of wide interest among scholars in the false promises of liberalism, secularism, and rule of law. Berger’s book, however, stands out from the crowd. Quite simply, it is one of the best books on law and religion that I’ve read.  Berger shows a rare ability to be simultaneously empathetic and critical in his engagement with the topic. Rather than dismiss constitutional law as faulty or ineffectual, he illuminates the benefits (and creative insights) that come from reading it closely, and against the grain."

Benjamin Schonthal, University of Otago, from The Immanent Frame

Law’s Religion takes us beyond the familiar liberal legal subject of rights and duties and into a different experience of the law from the edges and the margins. Berger is at his best in conveying the force and significance of what it means to be subjected to and shaped by the culture of law’s rule. An extraordinary achievement.”

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University

Law’s Religion makes an original and important argument as it helps us see the ways in which law shapes the meaning of religion. Situating both law and religion as part of culture, Berger shows us the significance of disputes in which the legal framework defines the religious issues at stake. Both the case analysis and the broader theoretical discussion of the relationship of law and religion are rich, insightful, and carefully argued.”

Jennifer Nedelsky, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

‘This book will be a useful starting point for further studies on the nature and limits of multiculturalism and for comparisons of the Canadian story about law and religion with those of other countries.’

John R. Williams, Studies in religion vol 45:03:2016