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LAWS104 Foundations of Law and Legal Research

Unit rationale, description and aim

Every nation has their own national laws which affect religion, and these are increasingly the subject of political and academic debate. This intensive course aims to introduce students to these laws, using a comparative law method, explaining principles of the law of the states of Europe law towards Christian religion. Though popular culture presents an idea that State and Religion are in conflict, the literature suggests that the dominant juridical model, in the European tradition at least, is built on cooperation between State and Religion.

This unit starts with significant references to Canon Law and ends with an examination of this European legal tradition within the context of international law, presenting European norms as an alternative framework for the treatment and protection of Christian religion. Then this unit of study goes beyond law for a reflection on religion’s confluence with sociology and its role as the wellspring of a flourishing society.


Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Understand the historical roots of the right to freedom of religion or belief (including its theological back-ground from a Canon Law perspective). (GA1, GA4, GA9)

LO2 - Broaden their knowledge of this right’s origin and scope through a comparative analysis of different cultural and legal systems. (GA4, GA6, GA5)

LO3 - Develop an interdisciplinary approach to examine the historical, cultural and sociological factors that have progressively developed the idea of freedom of religion or belief within contemporary societies. (GA4, GA6, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA4 - think critically and reflectively

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media


Topics will include:

• Sources of religion in law

• Protection of doctrine/beliefs and worship

• The legal position, autonomy, and membership of religious organizations 

• Religion, education, and Public Institutions (particularly State Schools) 

• The realm of religion and family: marriage and children

• Canon law, according to the main juridical traditions, and its interplay with the civil law system

• The scope and importance of religious freedom and national postures towards it.

• International and European developments with freedom of religion and belief. 

• A comparative law approach regarding gender issues. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Attendance mode

Based in ACU’s Rome Campus the course is enriched by life-changing visits to significant sites of religious freedom in Rome. This course is intended as a primer for students embarking on a life into a society where the religious settlement between State, Religion and Society is uncertain and to inspire them as courageous protagonists working for our common good. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. Such procedures may include, but are not limited to: essays, reports, examinations, student presentations or case-study analysis.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Online Quiz 


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA4, GA6, GA5, GA9

Oral Presentation: Students are required to give a presentation on a chosen topic included in the content of the unit. 


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA4, GA6, GA5, GA9

Representative texts and references

Rex Adhar and Ian Leigh, Religious Freedom in The Liberal State (Oxford University Press, 2013): Chapters 10 - 11

Norman Doe, Law and Religion in Europe (Oxford University Press, 2011) Chapters 1 – 4, 8 – 10. 

Silvio Ferrari, Mark Hill QC, Arif A Jamal, Rossella Bottoni, Routledge Handbook of Freedom of Religion or Belief (Routledge, 2021): Chapters 4 - 14 - 15.

Manuel Jesus Arrobe Conde and Michele Riondino, Introduction to Canon Law (Milano: Mondadori, 2019)

Michele Riondino, “The Right to Education: A Fundamental and Universal right,” Jus 3 (2016): 287-300  

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