Skip to main content


Research Focus Areas at CSLR reflect the depth and breadth of the work of our Center and our scholars. Our four major research programs encompass different religious traditions and different points on which law and religion intersect, including human rights, religious freedom, immigration, and marriage and family. Our projects are interdisciplinary, often engaging theologians and jurists from around the globe. The Center is grateful to Emory University and our external funders who make our programs and projects possible. The ideas expressed in our programs and projects reflect those of our scholars and not the Center.

Law & Christianity

CSLR’s Law and Christianity Program, directed by John Witte, Jr and Rafael Domingo, explores the Christian foundations of law, politics, and society; religious freedom and human rights; church-state relations and their overlapping roles in the governance of family, education, charity, and other areas of mixed jurisdiction; and the spirit of the law and spiritualization of the legal profession  Building on a 30-year series of international projects, the Law and Christianity program is now focused on two book series: “Great Christian Jurists in World History” and a 50 volume series that offers fresh studies of the 1000 most influential Christian legal minds of the past two millennia; and “Introductions to Christianity and Law” that studies Christian foundations and dimensions of public, private, penal, and procedural law.  This research focus area is also directing the McDonald Distinguished Fellowship Program.

Law & Judaism

Our Law and Judaism program is directed by Michael J. Broyde, a scholar in Jewish law as well as family law. The Law and Judaism focus area addresses historical and contemporary texts on Jewish law, theology, and ethics as well as modern issues of marriage and family and the role of religious legal systems in modern liberal democracies. For more than 25 years, the Center's research projects have explored Jewish contributions to human rights, the pursuit of happiness, Holocaust denial, and bioethics. These projects and Center faculty and fellows have produced dozens of books on Jewish law issues and the contributions of Jewish thought to contemporary social, political, and bioethical issues. The Center now edits the new Cambridge Series on Law and Judaism, which will create and disseminate innovative new scholarship.

Law & Islam

Our Law and Islam program is headed by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, an internationally known scholar of Islam and human rights. For more than 25 years, the Center has engaged in major research projects in law and Islam under the leadership of Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im. These projects have included such diverse themes as "Islam and Human Rights," "Islamic Family Law," "Women and Land in Africa," and "The Future of Shari'a." They have produced dozens of books and journal symposia, sponsored lectures and conferences around the world, and trained a new generation of scholars and human rights advocates in Muslim communities on all continents. More information about An-Na'im's work may be found here. In addition, the Center has sponsored lectures by luminaries in the study of Islam, including Vincent Cornell, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and Mona Siddiqui. 

Law, Religion, and Human Rights

Human rights is a primary area where law and religion intersect. Our Law, Religion, and Human Rights program has focused on international human rights through the work of Johan van der Vyver, I. T. Cohen Professor of Law and Human Rights and an expert on international criminal law and international human rights, and Michael J. Perry, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law and an internationally known Constitutional Law scholar. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na-im, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law, has worked extensively in this area, as has John Witte, Jr., Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law and CSLR director. This program includes our Restoring Religious Freedom project as well as the Pursuit of Happiness project, which concluded in 2011, and The Child in Law, Religion, and Society, which ran from 2003 to 2008.



Law, Religion, and Jurisprudence

From the start, Center faculty have been deeply involved in questions at the intersection of law, religion, and jurisprudence. Harold Berman developed a cutting-edge theory of integrative jurisprudence that combined legal positivism, natural law theory, and historical jurisprudence. Johan van der Vyver has offered deep theories of sphere sovereignty and the role of religion in state affairs. Michael Perry has explored hard questions at the intersection of law, religion, morality, and constitutionalism. Rafael Domingo has analyzed the place of God and religion in modern law, including global law. Brent Strawn has produced major work on biblical law and its influence on church and state alike. John Witte, Jr. and Frank Alexander have led a series of projects on Christian Jurisprudence.

Law, Religion, and Social Justice

The proper allocation of rights, duties, responsibilities, and opportunities within society is a principal question for both legal and religious thought. Service to those disadvantaged by society is a hallmark of many religious institutions; fair and equitable treatment of all people is the aspiration of many legal systems. While these aspirations may be shared, the vision for what makes a just and fair society is often contested; even when the vision is shared widely, both religious and legal ideas and practices also serve to create injustice and inequality. This new focus area will support research on the systematic conditions that give rise to patterns and practices of oppression and marginalization, with a focus on the role that law and religion play in creating, interrupting, and dismantling social inequities and injustices. This new focus area is inspired by the work of Center Founding Director Frank Alexander on homelessness, affordable housing, and the impact of vacant and abandoned properties on the fabric of community life.

Law, Religion, and Health

Law, Religion, and Medicine are the three classic faculties of the university, with a millenium long history of shared knowledge and inquiry. Today healthcare is one of the largest sectors of the global economy. Almost every person encounters the healthcare system over the course of a lifespan; for some people doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices are a factor of deaily life. The corollary growth of the public health field has yielded important insights into the interconnected social, cultural, and environmental determinants of health outcomes. This new focus area will bring the binocular of law and religion to issues of healthcare delivery and public health, with particular attention to issues of bioethics and the regulation of healthcare; religious opposition to the availability of certain interventions and procedures; religious healthcare refusal; conscience exemptions for healthcare providers; and religious law and doctrine pertaining to healthcare decision-making.