LAW4656 - Varieties of the secular: Law, religion, and social change - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.




Professor Benjamin L Berger

Quota applies

The number of places available for a unit taught in Prato is strictly limited to 45. This is the maximum room capacity at the Prato Centre.

Not offered in 2017


This seminar will provide both an historical and contemporary comparative look at the ways that legal systems have dealt with religious difference, freedom of religion, and "the secular". An important note in contemporary scholarship on the contemporary interaction of law and religion has been that there is not a single "secular" but, rather, varieties of secularisms. A close study of the various ways that political power, law, and religion have been configured provides a unique and valuable line of sight into comparative legal traditions, constitutional structure, and legal and political theory. Some of the most interesting contemporary legal and political debates have arisen out of questions about freedom of religion, its limits, and the just relationship between religion and the state.


On completion of this subject, students will be able to:

  1. Apply knowledge and understanding to the varieties of ways in which law and religion configure in contemporary models of secularism and the social and political importance of these models with creativity and initiative to new situations for further learning;
  2. Investigate, analyse and synthesise complex information, problems, concepts and theories in relation to the interaction of law and religion in contemporary constitutional orders;
  3. Conduct research into the application and meaning of legal and political systems, based on knowledge of appropriate research principles and methods;
  4. Use cognitive, technical and creative skills to generate and evaluate at an abstract level complex ideas and concepts to the issues arising within a broad spectrum of legal areas, including constitutional law, education law, criminal law, family law, health law, administrative law, and the law of deliberative democracy.


Seminar participation (10%) and presentation (10%)

Three critical essays based on the course materials, total word count for the three assignments to amount to no more than 4000 words (80%)

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. The unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)


For students who commenced their LLB (Hons) course in 2015 or later:

LAW1111; LAW1114; LAW1112; LAW1113; LAW2101; LAW2102; LAW2112 and LAW2111

LAW1101 Introduction to Legal Reasoning; LAW1104 Research and Writing or equivalent introductory units.


For students who commenced their LLB (Hons) course in 2015 or later: LAW3111 and LAW3112