Degree Programs

Courses

The following courses are recommended for law and religion students.  Not all courses will be taught each year, but several of them will be offered.  A few of these courses are cross-listed in the Law School, Theology School, and/or Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and can be taken either for JD, MTS, MDiv, or PhD credit.  Most of them are listed in only one of these three schools.  Please consult the Law School, Theology School, and Graduate School course schedules each semester to determine what courses are offerred.

Thematic Listing

Historical Studies

  • American Legal History I
  • English Legal History 
  • European Legal History 
  • History of Christian Theological Ethics
  • History of Church-State Relations in the West 
  • History of Law, Religion, and Family in the West 
  • The Later Roman Empire: Law, Religion, and Society 
  • Roman Law
  • Roman Family Law

Ethical, Methodological, and Philosophical Themes

  • The Civil Rights and the Black Consciousness Movement
  • Contemporary Theological Ethics
  • Health Care Ethics
  • Jurisprudence
  • Law and Theology 
  • Love and Justice
  • Law and Morality
  • Morality and Constitutionality
  • Morality and Society
  • The Morality of Peace and War
  • Religion, Violence and Peacebuilding
  • Seminar in Thomas Aquinas and Law
  • Sociology of Religion
  • Theological Proposals for Criminal Punishment Reform
  • Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • The Wrathful God: Religious Extremism in Comparative Perspective

Religion, Human Rights, and Religious Freedom

  • Advanced Religious Liberty
  • American Constitutional Law: Religion and State
  • Child, Parent and State
  • International Human Rights
  • International Law and Ethics
  • Law, Morality & International Human Rights
  • Religion and Human Rights

Religious Legal Systems

  • The Book of Deuteronomy
  • Canon Law
  • Islam and Democracy
  • Islam and Politics
  • Islamic Law
  • Islamic Modernism
  • Jewish Law
  • The Ten Commandments

Alphabetical Listing with Descriptions

Advanced Religious Liberty
A sequel to American Constitutional Law: Religion and State, that offers closer analysis of state and lower federal court case law, and the complex statutory and regulatory frameworks governing religious organizations. 

American Constitutional Law: Religion and State
An exploration of the historical formation and current judicial interpretations of the First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty.  

American Legal History I (Colonial and Antebellum Eras)
The main aim of this course is to understand the evolution of American law in intellectual, religious, political, social, and economic context.  We shall analyze the emerging American legal understandings of authority and power, rights and liberties, individuals and associations viewed against the European legal background.  We shall witness the gradual and painful efforts -- only partly successful in this period -- to include slaves and servants, women and children, natives and immigrants, religious dissenters and experimenters within the ambit of legal protection.  And we shall focus on the transformation of constitutional law, criminal law, and private laws of marriage, property, contract, and commerce in the first century after the American Revolution. 

The Book of Deuteronomy
An exegetical study of the book of Deuteronomy focusing on the book’s strategies of repetition, revision, and rhetoric. Deuteronomic theology and its pivotal importance in the Old Testament will also be treated. 

Canon Law
An historical introduction to canon law, its sources, its methodology, its juridical procedures, and its influence, with special emphasis on the development of canon law from Gratian (died ca. 1140) to the promulgation of the comprehensive collection of canon law under Pope Gregory XIII in 1580. Topics include: episcopal jurisdiction and its evolution; church councils as sources of law; the early-medieval canonical collections; the emergence of the scientific study of canon law during the central Middle Ages; the development of the legal profession; records of actual cases from episcopal courts; Gratian and the decretists; decretals, decretal collections, and the jurisprudential use of decretals; the evolution of the ius commune; and the lasting influence of canonical ideas and procedures, many of which have survived in modern law (including concepts of justice and equity, rights, due process, natural law, the common good, and so forth, as well as evidential practices. 

Child, Parent & State
This course covers child abuse and neglect, juvenile justice, adoption and foster care, and discusses education and health entitlements of children and conflicts between parents and children over medical decision-making, religion, schooling and emancipation.  The course includes study of children’s and parents’ religious rights and the state’s obligations to accommodate and respect free exercise and establishment clause rights of parents and children, especially in foster care and adoption.

The Civil Rights and the Black Consciousness Movement
This course examines some of the pivotal events, issues, organizations, and personages that have given shape to the ongoing black movement for freedom. The course adopts an investigative approach that is aesthetic, historical, ethical, sociological, political, and theological, with special attention given to the role of black religion and culture in light of contemporary challenges.

Health Care Ethics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
An interdisciplinary approach to health care ethics, open to student from various Emory schools. The course explores virtues and values internal to the professions of nursing, medicine, and ministry.  Specific topics covered include: contraception and reproduction, abortion, euthanasia, informed consent, and conflict of interest.

History of Christian Theological Ethics
A critical look at a broad range of Christian moral theologies and theologians up through the middle of the nineteenth century.  We begin with St. Augustine and read selectively from Thomas Aquinas, Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther, Hans Denck, and Søren Kierkegaard.  Some of the questions that concern us are: How are we to understand human nature and its virtues and vices? What specifically is the relation between Christ-like love, personal prudence, social justice, and positive law? What is the relation between God's providence and human freedom? What is the nature of sin and the place of Jesus Christ in overcoming it? Is the Kingdom of God, a.k.a. “eternal life,” open in principle to everyone or only to the elect few? 

History of Church-State Relations in the West
An exploration of the interaction between religious and political authorities and laws in the Roman Empire, in High Medieval and Reformation Europe, and in colonial and early republican America, concluding with analysis of the formation of the First Amendment and state constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. 

History of Law, Religion, and Family in the West
An exploration of the law and theology of marriage in classical, biblical, and patristic sources, in High Medieval and Reformation Europe, and during and after the Western Enlightenment movements in Europe and America.  

Islam and Democracy
This course will explore key philosophical, theological, jurisprudential, and cultural debates about democracy in Islam.  The premodern part of the course will focus on: (1) the legal and theological problem of divine versus human origins of justice and (2) the epistemological problem of taking guidance from non-Islamic sources.  The modern part of the course will focus theoretically on two other sets of problematics related to democracy: (3) the theological problem of autonomous human agency, and (4) three Enlightenment notions related to autonomy: freedom (a legal and moral problem), pluralism (a theological and legal problem), and human rights (mainly a legal problem) as expressions of universal values. 

Islam and Politics
An examination of issues of secularism and Islam in the modern context, with emphasis upon themes of human rights and cultural transformation.

Islamic Law
An introduction to the basic concepts and institutions of Islamic Law, the foundation for the legal system of a large number of countries where Islam is the dominant religion, ranging from North America through the Middle East to Indonesia. 

Islamic Modernism
This course will explore and critically assess the modernist movement in contemporary Islam.  However, unlike other approaches to this subject, we will not draw a necessary distinction between modernism and fundamentalism, nor will we limit our study of Muslim modernist thinkers to liberals.  Rather, the premise of the course will be that modernism is a pervasive worldview that comprises multiple dimensions and that its adherents include both liberal and conservative Muslims, including most of those who have been termed “fundamentalists” by outside observers.  

International Human Rights
An overview of the international bill of rights, including its provisions on religious freedom, and with attention to both religious and non-religious perspectives that bear on many issues.

International Law and Ethics
The course examines legal, ethical and political conflicts between group and human rights in the international system with the view of identifying legitimate ways of reducing or eliminating some of these conflicts.  Topics covered include: (1) group rights: state sovereignty, national self-determination and secession, indigenous and minority rights, and the right to wage war (aggression, self-defense); (2) human rights: civil, political, social, and economic rights, the rights to free movement, democratic governance, sustainable development, and the rights of individuals in war (non-combatant immunity, guerrilla war, terrorism and counter-terrorism); and (3) international law enforcement: sieges, blockades, and economic sanctions, belligerent reprisals, humanitarian intervention, preventive war, the International Criminal Court, and universal jurisdiction. 

Jewish Law
A survey of the principles Jewish (or Talmudic) law used to address difficult legal issues and a comparison of these principles to those that guide legal discussion in America.  Focuses on issues raised by advances in medical technology such as surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination and organ transplantation.

Jurisprudence
An examination of two overlapping subjects. The first is the issue common to all courses in legal theory: what is "law?" The second is the philosophical subject: what is "justice" or "social justice?" The goal is to develop a sophisticated understanding of the nature of "legal reasoning." 

The Later Roman Empire: Law, Religion, and Society
This course explores the political, social, religious and legal changes in the Roman world from the end of the 3rd century C.E. to the mid-6th century (roughly from Diocletian through Justinian). Topics include the “Christianization” of the Empire, asceticism and the rise of monasticism, the great codifications of Roman law (particularly the Theodosian Code), the disintegration of the western half of the Empire into regional, "barbarian" states, the question of “ethnicity” and changes in private life and gender roles. A reading knowledge of Latin is recommended but not required; ability to read current scholarship in French or German also helpful.

Law and Theology
An exploration of the moral assumptions concerning human nature and the nature of community as reflected in the purpose and function of law. 

Love and Justice
This course seeks to clarify several philosophical, theological, and literary accounts of love and justice, with emphasis on how they interrelate.  Texts include works by Plato, St. Augustine, John Rawls, Martha Nussbaum, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and the instructor.  Questions addressed include: Is love ideally indiscriminate and/or self-sacrificial and therefore antithetical to justice? Is justice a single virtue equally binding on all human beings, regardless of sex, race, creed, or ethnicity?  Does the practice of charity or the upholding of justice require the denial of hard dilemmas or belief in an afterlife?  How are we to conceive (and act on) such related values as eudaimonia, human equality, and civil liberty?  How, more specifically, do love and justice bear on such issues as women’s liberation and gay and lesbian rights? 

Law and Morality
A study of several topics at the intersection of law, morality, and religion, including these:  What is the morality of human rights—and what is its relationship to the law of human rights?  Is religion a legitimate basis of lawmaking in a liberal democratic society?  Should capital punishment be abolished?  Should abortion be banned?  Should same-sex marriage be recognized? 

Law, Morality & International Human Rights
An introduction to the law and morality of international human rights.  Among the topics to be addressed:  the major UN-sponsored human rights treaties; the moral claims articulated in those treaties; the International Criminal Court; humanitarian intervention and “the responsibility to protect”; United States foreign policy and international human rights; the globalization challenge to international human rights; non-governmental organizations; and, not least, skepticism about international human rights.

Morality & Constitutionality
An analysis of questions about the proper, and properly limited, role of religious faith in the politics and law of liberal democracy. 

Morality and Society
The sociology of morality as a field relates the institutional structures of society to its moral ideals, practices, and experience, with attention to law in the shaping of moral community, conflict, and authority in social settings that range from the polis of Plato’s Laws through the early modern market of Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments to modern nation-states and the world polity in works by Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, John Meyer, Jürgen Habermas, Michael Walzer, Charles Taylor, and others. 

The Morality of Peace and War
This course investigates some of the moral, political, and theological issues surrounding conflict and conflict-resolution in an age of terrorist attacks and nuclear and biological weapons.  Part I examines the nature of war and peace, their theory and practice: what are these two realities and how/why do we make them?  Part II looks at the just war tradition and is followed by a consideration of pacifism and conscientious objection in Part III.  Part IV focuses on specific questions raised by the relation of women to peace and war, while Part V turns to recent concerns over terrorism, the War in Iraq, and torture.  Readings are both religious and secular but (apart from the Bible) entirely from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  

Religion and Human Rights
An exploration of the problematic, yet unavoidable, relationship between religion and human rights in global comparative perspective, with a special focus on Islam and Islamic African societies. 

Roman Family Law
Aspects of Roman law related to family and household, including: marriage and divorce, concubinage, paternal power, guardianship (of children and of women), adultery, and slaves and former slaves in the household. We will also look at the interplay between Roman law and local law in the provinces, and at changes in Roman family law under the later Empire (including the question of Christian influence).  The focus will be on Justinian’s Corpus Iuris Civilis, especially The Digest, and two major pre-Justinianic sources, The Institutes of Gaius and The Theodosian Code

Roman Law
The legal system of the ancient Roman Republic and Empires (500 BC - 600 AD) is the foundation for all legal systems and traditions in Continental Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and even parts of North America (Louisiana and Quebec).  The Romans developed a jurisprudence that was every bit as nuanced and sophisticated as ours is today in such areas as torts (delicts), contracts, and property.  After a historical survey of the development of Roman law and its sources, the course will be devoted to an in-depth analysis of Roman law doctrines that are relevant to today’s practice. 

Sociology of Religion
What do religious phenomena mean to their participants, seen as members of society?  The course explores answers to this question in the work of classical social thinkers and modern theorists--from Marx and Freud to Geertz, Douglas, and Bourdieu—who conceive society defined by moral visions, virtues, moods and motives rooted in religious rites, narratives, creeds, and codes that underlie the law.

The Ten Commandments
This course analyzes the Decalogue and the notion of “commandment” in biblical literature via study of interpretations in churches and in contemporary culture.

Theological Proposals for Criminal Punishment Reform                                                     This course aims to help students understand the theological rationale for “mild” forms of punishment, which Christian theologians have developed through the ages. For this purpose, we engage a range of texts stemming from the intersection of theology, philosophy, and legal theory regarding the question of criminal punishment reform.

Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr.
This course seeks to examine the life, thought, and actions of Martin Luther King Jr. The class will engage in  theological exposition and analysis of his primary ideas, sermons, and conceptual frames of reference. A conversation with Malcolm X, Walter Rauschenbusch, Reinhold Niebuhr, and the black church will ensue.

Thomas Aquinas
An examination of a range of topics in the writings of Saint Thomas, including his theory of laws. 

The Wrathful God: Religious Extremism in Comparative Perspective                               The aim of this seminar is to map the culture of religious extremism through the comparative study of discourses of violence, intolerance, and triumphalism in world religions. Particular attention will be devoted to the monotheistic or “Abrahamic” traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as posing the greatest potential for violence toward the religious other and as challenging liberal and secular ideologies of pluralism and self-determination. At times, varieties of non-Abrahamic religious extremism, such as Hindu and Buddhist extremism will also be examined for comparative purposes. 

"I'm fascinated by how the law almost unconsciously inherits and adopts its norms from religious thinking and how it can then turn around and influence religion by pushing back on boundaries."

–Mark Aaron Goldfeder
LLM 2012 and SJD 2013

–Brian Green
JD/MTS 2011

"I chose to pursue a joint degree because I wanted to understand what justice could and should mean from both the practical side (law) but also the theoretical side (religion and ethics). This taught me to ask the questions necessary to help someone but also to listen to what the person really wants and needs--vital skills for my work in public interest law."

–Jennifer Williams
JD/MTS 2012