This course examines religion and American society by focusing on marriage law in American history, and the roles that Christianity played therein. American marriage law involves Christian beliefs about sexual morality and gender, as well as about natural and divine law. Some people thus view the right to marry as a religious right, while others perceive it as a secular (non-religious)right. Structuring this course around the topic of marriage allows us to consider specific questions in constitutional law, and how Christian beliefs shape larger societal views on morality, gender and sexuality. We will reflect on whether or not the influence of Christian beliefs on American marriage laws in effect establishes religion-based laws in contravention of the First Amendment promise to make no law establishing a particular religion.
This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.
University of IowaInstitution
Public College or University Institution Type
Syllabus Resource Type
Undergraduate Course Class Type
2011 Date Published
Religious Studies Discipline
Catholic, Other Christianities, Protestant Religous Tradition
Family/Children/Reproduction, Politics/Law/Government, Race/Ethnicity Topics