How should courts decide what counts as religious and what does not count as religious? Would it be a good idea if religious studies scholars testified as expert witnesses in court to assist juries and judges? As an example, if a law gives a person an exemption from the law if that person has religious objections to the law, how does a court decide whether the objection is actually religious? Or as another, if a law prohibits government funding of religious activities, how does a court know which activities are religious and which are not?
This question was posed by Professor Winnifred Sullivan of the Indiana University Bloomington Religious Studies Department. Professor Sullivan’s work focuses on the intersection of religion and law in the modern period, the phenomenology of modern religion as it is shaped in its encounter with law, and the anthropology of law. She is currently the chair of the religious studies department in Bloomington and teaches courses on the politics of religious freedom, the trial of Joan of Arc, and contemporary theories of religion.