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The Decline of Natural LawHow American Lawyers Once Used Natural Law and Why They Stopped$
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Stuart Banner

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197556498

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197556498.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 04 December 2021

The Separation of Law and Religion

The Separation of Law and Religion

(p.96) 4 The Separation of Law and Religion
The Decline of Natural Law

Stuart Banner

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses an important change in lawyers’ understanding of the relationship between the spheres of law and religion during the 19th century. In the early Republic these spheres substantially overlapped. Natural law was understood to have been created by God. Christianity was considered to be part of the common law. Americans may not have become any less religious in the 19th century, but they increasingly came to think of religion as part of one’s private, personal life, separate from the public sphere of law. As law and religion separated, the notion that natural law should play a role in the legal system came to seem more and more anomalous.

Keywords:   Christianity, common law, natural law, blasphemy, Sunday law, customary law

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