The Transition of Religion to Culture in Law and Public Discourse: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Transition of Religion to Culture in Law and Public Discourse

1st Edition

By Lori G. Beaman


182 pages

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Hardback: 9780367440534
pub: 2020-04-17
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This book explores the recent trend toward the transformation of religious symbols and practices into culture in Western democracies. Analyses of three legal cases involving religion in the public sphere are used to illuminate this trend: a municipal council chamber; a town hall; and town board meetings. Each case involves a different national context—Canada, France and the United States—and each illustrates something interesting about the shape-shifting nature of religion, specifically its flexibility and dexterity in the face of the secular, the religious and the plural. Despite the differences in national contexts, in each instance religion is transformed into culture or heritage by the courts to justify or excuse its presence and to distance the state from the possibility that it is violating legal norms of distance from religion. The cultural practice or symbol is represented as a shared national value or activity. Transforming the ‘Other’ into ‘Us’ through reconstitution is also possible. Finally, anxiety about the ‘Other’ becomes part of the story of rendering religion as culture, resulting in the impugning of anyone who dares to question the putative shared culture.

The book will be essential reading for students, academics and policy-makers working in the areas of sociology of religion, religious studies, socio-legal studies, law and public policy, constitutional law, religion and politics, and cultural studies.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction;

Chapter 2: Praying for Good Governance;

Chapter 3: Away in a Manger…;

Chapter 4: A Christian Nation and the Land of the Free;

Chapter 5: Conclusion: Balancing Heritage, Culture, Religion, and Inclusion;

About the Author

Lori G. Beaman, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is the Canada Research Chair in Religious Diversity and Social Change, Professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa and Principal Investigator of Understanding Nonreligion in a Complex Future. She is the author of numerous books and articles, a regular participant in public discussions about religion and the public sphere and is the principal investigator of the multi-site study Nonreligion in a Complex Future.

About the Series

ICLARS Series on Law and Religion

ICLARS Series on Law and Religion

The ICLARS Series on Law and Religion is designed to provide a forum for the rapidly expanding field of research in law and religion. The series is published in association with the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies, an international network of scholars and experts of law and religion founded in 2007 with the aim of providing a place where information, data and opinions can easily be exchanged among members and made available to the broader scientific community ( The series aims to become a primary source for students and scholars while presenting authors with a valuable means to reach a wide and growing readership.

The series editors are currently welcoming proposals for this new series on any matter falling under ‘law and religion’ widely defined. Collections arising from important conferences and events are welcome as well as monographs by both established names and new voices (including monographs based on doctoral dissertations). Also of interest are interdisciplinary works and studies of particular jurisdictions.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Civil Rights
LAW / Comparative
LAW / Constitutional
LAW / Jurisprudence
LAW / Public
LAW / Discrimination
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Civil Rights
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Human Rights
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Cultural Policy
RELIGION / Islam / Law
RELIGION / Religion, Politics & State
RELIGION / Religious Intolerance, Persecution & Conflict
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Minority Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology of Religion
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Islamic Studies