Religion, Law and Politics

Public Lecture Series on the Influence of Religion on the European Law

News Ringvorlesung Religion Recht Politik


Tuesdays, from 6.15 to 7.45 p.m., Lecture theatre F2 at the Fürstenberghaus, Domplatz 20-22

The new public lecture series of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” will deal with the tensions between religion, law and politics in the history of law. In the summer semester, the lectures will address historical cases across several centuries, as the organisers and legal historians said in Münster on Wednesday. Participants will learn, for example, how the church defended itself against looters in the 9th century and how church and secular potentates sought to employ early modern inheritance laws for their own purposes. On Tuesday, April 3, legal historian Prof. Dr. Thomas Rüfner from Trier will open the series with a lecture on “Medieval Canon Law in Byzantium and Bologna”.

The twelve lectures will take place on Tuesdays from 6.15 to 7.45 p.m. in lecture theatre F2 at the Fürstenberghaus, Domplatz 20-22. They will focus on European history, adopting a long-term perspective – from Late Antiquity to the Vormärz period. The lecture “Lower Saxon Peasant’s Rights between State and Church”, for instance, will use court documents to show what the parties were fighting about at the periphery of the two jurisdictions. Another lecture will highlight “Legal and Christian Issues in the Civil Law of the Vormärz Period”. The lecture series of the Cluster of Excellence is a cooperation with the Law Department.

Law as the medium in which conflicts between religion and politics are negotiated


Prof. Dr. Peter Oestmann and Prof. Dr. Nils Jansen

© Julia Holtkötter

“Hardly any legal system is based on politically set, secular norms alone”, said legal historian Prof. Dr. Peter Oestmann, and added that modern legal orders, too, were significantly influenced by religious beliefs. “This applies both to religious legal traditions such as Talmudic and Islamic law, and to Europe as well”, according to Prof. Oestmann. “Today, European law might generally be regarded as secular, that is, as basically independent of religion. Law, however, has always been the medium in which conflicts between religion and politics are negotiated, and with which the boundaries between religion and politics can be drawn.”

Conversely, scholars argue that it can be observed time and again that religious beliefs and political movements become juridified in institutionalised form. “Thus, law has a particular way of standing between the conflicting interests of politics and religion”, explained legal historian Prof. Dr. Nils Jansen, adding that it claimed its independence and its own rationality at different times, to different degrees.

“Dogmatic legal practitioners are expected to have a secular self-conception”, according to Prof. Jansen. For a long time, however, legal historians were also turning a blind eye on the influence of religion on law, ignoring the juridification of the religious and institutionalisation processes outside the realm of the state. “Not until the younger generation of legal historians emerged has interdisciplinary cooperation with philologists, historians, theologians and sociologists become a matter of course”, Prof. Oestmann added. “This is why the lecture series has chosen the tensions between religion, law and politics in the history of law as its topic.” (bhe/vvm)


03.04.2012 Thomas Rüfner, Trier Medieval Canon Law in Byzantium and Bologna
10.04.2012 Ulrike Babusiaux, Zürich Praising the Tyrant  – Lawyers’ Tactics in the Roman Military Monarchy of the 3rd Century
17.04.2012 Wolfgang Kaiser, Freiburg On the Benefit of Roman Law – How in 878 Pope John VIII Knew How to Defend Himself against Looters
24.04.2012 Michele Luminati, Luzern Anabaptists between Religion, Politics and Law: Combating Anabaptists in the Old Swiss Confederacy
08.05.2012 Mark Godfrey, Glasgow Royal Councils, Law Courts and Governance: the Role of Litigation in Early Modern Scotland
15.05.2012 Massimo Meccarelli, Macerata The Problem of Modernising the Law in the Theology of Late Scholasticism
22.05.2012 Heikki Pihlajamäki, Helsinki Criminal Law without Religion? Looking at Protestant Countries in the Early Modern Age
05.06.2012 Tilman Repgen, Hamburg A Sword in Safekeeping. On the History of the Discussions about Changed Circumstances in Contract Law
12.06.2012 Peter Oestmann, Münster Lower Saxon Peasant’s Rights between State and Church
19.06.2012 Andreas Thier, Zürich Safeguarding of Legality, Rights of Participation, and Procedures: Models of Regulating the Medieval Appointment of Bishops
26.06.2012 Hans-Peter Haferkamp, Köln Legal and Christian Issues in the Civil Law of the Vormärz Period
03.07.2012 Nils Jansen, Münster Only Controversy? Early Modern Inheritance Laws between the Church’s Pastoral Care and the Rulers’ Regulatory Policy

Summer semester 2012
Tuesdays, 18.15 bis 19.45 Uhr
Lecture hall F2, Fürstenberghaus
Domplatz 20-22
48143 Münster