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Sally Gordon

Sarah Barringer Gordon

Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History, Emerita

Sally Gordon is best known for her work on religion in American public life and the law of church and state, especially for the ways that religious liberty developed over the course of American national history.

She is a frequent commentator in news media on the constitutional law of religion and debates about religious freedom. Her op-eds have appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and other news outlets. She has appeared on NPR, the Daily Show, as well as podcasts and lecture podiums around the country.

Gordon has been a Guggenheim Fellow, the Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at the Library of Congress, and a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, among other awards. Gordon was President of the American Society for Legal History, 2017-19, and served as co-editor of Studies in Legal History, the book series of the Society from 2011-2022. She serves on the boards of the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation and the Omohundro Institute, as well as the California Supreme Court Historical Society. She has received the University’s Lindback Award for distinguished teaching and the Law School’s Robert A. Gorman Award for Teaching Excellence. She is also a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

Her first book, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth- Century America (Univ. of North Carolina, 2002), won the Mormon History Association’s and the Utah Historical Society’s best book awards in 2003. Her second book, The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America (Harvard, 2010), explored the world of church and state in the 20th century.

She is currently at work on Freedom’s Holy Light: Disestablishment in America, 1771-1876, under contract with the University of North Carolina Press. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, the American Quarterly, the Journal of Southern History, the William and Mary Quarterly, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and other scholarly publications. She is also the co-editor of a forthcoming symposium issue of the Journal of the Early Republic, which will feature an article by Gordon and Kevin Waite on Biddy Mason’s freedom suit and its place in California and American history.

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