American Religion and the Politics of Gender and Sexuality


Following philosopher Michel Foucault's vital insight that "sexuality is a major transfer point in the relations of power," this course will explore the complex ways in which theological ideas and religious movements have shaped legal doctrines relating to sex, gender, and sexuality in the United States from roughly the turn of the twentieth century to the present. It will examine how and why religious groups have mobilized within the legal arena at various points in US history, the devotional commitments that influence their activism, the constitutional claims and counterclaims that have emerged over time as a result of legal contestation, and the lived impact of various judicial decisions. To do so, the course will be structured thematically around three overlapping constitutional domains: (1) equal protection rights for women and sexual minorities, (2) substantive due process commitments to privacy and bodily autonomy, and (3) free speech principles related to sexual self-expression. The impact of religious advocacy on contemporary controversies such as drag show bans, restrictions on reproductive healthcare, religious exemptions to LGBT non-discrimination laws, pornography regulation, gender-affirming care access, and more will all be covered. By applying the theories and methods of critical religious studies, this course also takes questions of American religion and sexual politics as a starting point for introducing undergraduate students to legal studies more generally. Through classroom conversations and course texts, students will become familiar with the structure of the American legal system, different methods of constitutional interpretation, theoretical concerns that shape legal thinking, and critical reading skills that may be used to approach legal texts such as judicial opinions. Students from all academic backgrounds interested in gaining increased literacy in American law are encouraged to enroll-no prior exposure is required.
Course Attributes: EN H; BU Eth; AS HUM; AS SD I; FA HUM; AR HUM; AS SC

Section 01

American Religion and the Politics of Gender and Sexuality
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