New book studies friction between religion, family law


Photo courtesy of UI News Bureau

Robin Fretwell Wilson, professor of Law was recently ppointed director of the University Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

By The Daily Illini Staff Report

“The Contested Place of Religion in Family Law,” a new book edited by University Law professor Robin Wilson, along with several contributions by University faculty, examines the modern culture war between family law and religion after the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case.

The Supreme Court decided companies can cite religious beliefs when refusing to insure contraceptives in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby in 2014. 

Wilson, who also provided writing for a chapter, said some people in religious communities believe they have unrestricted religious rights outside of their place of worship.

“We’re at an interesting moment in the U.S. where there’s a push toward religious people having more ability to decide things for themselves even if the law is moving in a different direction,” Wilson said. “In the case, the decision stated that the owners of Hobby Lobby, for their own religious reasons, could be outside of the structure that the law has set up to make sure that women got contraceptives.”

However, Wilson said the book doesn’t only focus on battles over the beginning of life, such as contraception and abortion rights.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    “When Obergefell v Hodges came along and many people got the protection of marriage that had been denied to them, there were religious people that were claiming the institution of marriage for themselves,” she said. “Now, instead of getting religion out of government, there are many people, both in religious groups and government, advocating for getting government out of supposedly religious institutions like marriage. It’s no longer just people on the fringe saying these things.”

    Wilson said the central idea of the book is how people’s’ necessary freedoms are granted to people without their practices harming others. From contraceptives to interfaith and same-sex marriage, there have been continuous clashes in recent years over how to settle conflict between both ideologies, she said.

    “During a recent measles outbreak, there were countless children that were at risk in Philadelphia because religious people didn’t want to vaccinate their children and essentially allowed them to die,” she said. “Many of these decisions can be profoundly destructive.”

    With religious authorities, government figures such as Senator Orrin Hatch and national and international law experts coming together to contribute to the book, Wilson said the book doesn’t seek a single answer to the culture war but provides different viewpoints, allowing people to decide for themselves.

    “There must be better ways to live together than to try to litigate and re-litigate the culture war,” she said.

    [email protected]