Concepts of ‘Law’ as Both Tools and Objects in the Study of Religions: A Case from 1950s Ghana – or When may a Christian Slaughter a Sheep?

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Anne Beutter Senior Assistant and Lecturer, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department for the Study of Religions, University of Lucerne Lucerne Switzerland

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This paper discusses ‘law’ and ‘religion’ as a co-dependent dyad, and argues that the academic study of religion should see the concept of law as both an analytical category and an object of study. To this end, it argues for a broader understanding of law. It demonstrates that the understanding of law as secular state law, commonly used in analysis, is part of both religious and legal history. Anti-, intra-, and interreligious polemics and agendas were, after all, vital in the genesis and global proliferation of this understanding of law. In a second step, the paper performs an empirical analysis of legal practices within a religious organisation: the Presbyterian Church of the Gold Coast/Ghana. Two cases from one of this church’s courts in the 1950s are analysed to showcase how religious actors contributed to the fashioning of the dyad of religion and law as a global phenomenon.

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