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Sarah Barringer Gordon

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

Sarah Gordon

Sally Gordon is a widely recognized scholar and commentator on religion in American public life and the law of church and state. 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. Continue reading… Sally Gordon is a widely recognized scholar and commentator on religion in American public life and the law of church and state. 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 new book, The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America (Harvard, 2010), explores the world of church and state in the 20th century. She is currently working on a third book, tentatively titled The Place of Faith, about religion and property across American national history. Gordon serves as co-editor of Studies in Legal History the book series of the American Society for Legal History, and is on the boards of the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, and the McDowell-Hartman Foundation. In 2011 she received the University’s Lindback Award for distinguished teaching, and in 2004 and 2009 the Law School’s Robert A. Gorman Award for Teaching Excellence. In 2012, she was appointed a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

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Expertise

  • Religion and the Law
  • American Legal History
  • Legal History
  • Property Law

Books

CONVICTIONS: MORMON POLYGAMY AND CRIMINAL LAW ENFORCEMENT IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY UTAH (with Kathryn Daynes, co-author, Univ. Illinois Press) (forthcoming)

THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW: RELIGIOUS VOICES AND THE CONSTITUTION IN MODERN AMERICA (Harvard Univ. Press, 2010).
[Available Here]

THE MORMON QUESTION: POLYGAMY AND CONSTITUTIONAL CONFLICT IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICA (Univ. of North Carolina Press 2002).
[Available Here]

Articles and Book Chapters

The Myth of American Religious Freedom, 98 J. AM. HIST. 1139 (2012) (book review).

What We Owe Jehovah's Witnesses, AM. HIST., Apr. 2011, at 36.

The New Age and the New Law: Malnak v Yogi and the Definition of Religion in Constitutional Law, in RELIGION AND LAW STORIES (Leslie Griffin, ed., Aspen Press 2010).

Religion, and Property, in ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LEGAL HISTORY (Oxford University Press, 2009).

Religion and Law, 1790-1920, in CAMBRIDGE HISTORY OF AMERICAN LAW (Michael Grossberg & Christopher L. Tomlins, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2008).

“Free” Religion and “Captive” Schools: Catholics, Protestants, and School Funding at Mid-Century, 56 DEPAUL L. REV. 1177 (2007).

Friendship and Scholarship: A Report from the Archives (Utah State Univ. Press 2007).

Religion and Law, 1790-1920, in CAMBRIDGE HISTORY OF AMERICAN LAW (Michael Grossberg & Christopher L. Tomlins, eds., Cambridge Univ. Press, 2008).

Where the Action Is: Religion and Law, 18 Religion and American Culture 249 (2008).

Law and Everyday Death: Infanticide and the Hester Vaughn Case, in LIVES IN THE LAW (Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas & Martha Merrill Umphrey eds., Univ. of Michigan Press 2006).

Law and the Contact of Cultures, in BLACKWELL COMPANION TO THE AMERICAN WEST, William Deverell, ed. (Blackwell Publishers 2004).

Mormon Polygamy and American History (Conference on Law, Culture and the Humanities, Apr. 2002; Historical Society of Pennsylvania, June 2002).

The Mormon Question and Race in Nineteenth Century America (presented at Mormon History Association, Tucson, May 2002).

Blasphemy and Religious Liberty in Antebellum America, AM. Q. 52 (Dec. 2000).

The Lives of Women at the Mercy of Law: Hester Vaughn and the Woman's Rights Campaign after the Civil War (Amherst College, Nov. 1999).

Our National Hearthstone: Anti-Polygamy Fiction and the Sentimental Campaign Against Moral Diversity in Antebellum America, YALE J.L. & HUMAN. 8 (1996).

The Second American Disestablishment: Blasphemy, Polygamy, and Church-State Relations in the Nineteenth Century (presented at Cornell Program in Ethics & Public Life, Young Scholars Weekend, Apr. 1997; Fordham Law School, Feb. 1998; NYU School of Law, Apr. 1998).

The Liberty of Self-Degradation: Antipolygamy, Woman Suffrage and the Law of Marriage and Divorce, J. AM. HIST. 83 (December 1996), reprinted in LAW IN THE WEST (Gordon Bakken & Brenda Farrington eds., Garland Publishing, 2001).

More publications can be found here.

Working Papers

The Sins of the Fathers: The Mountain Meadows Massacre in Religious History (with Jan Shipps). (forthcoming)

THE PLACE OF FAITH: RELIGION AND PROPERTY IN AMERICAN HISTORY (book?length project on property ownership by religious organizations, including conflicts over disestablishment, schism, political entities, enterprise, bankruptcy, and more) (forthcoming)

The Landscape of Belief: Disestablishment and Property in the Early Republic, in MAKING LEGAL HISTORY: ESSAYS IN HONOR OF WILLIAM E. NELSON (Daniel J. Hulsebosch & Richard B. Bernstein eds., 2013). (forthcoming 2013)

Research Areas

  • American History
  • Constitutional Law
  • Religion
  • Religious History
  • Legal History
  • Property
  • Constitutional History

Positions

Penn Law - Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History (2006- ); Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (2000-02); Professor (1998-2006); Assistant Professor (1994-98); Joint Appointment History Department (1998- )

Law Clerk to the Hon. Arlin M. Adams, U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals (1986-87)

Fellow, Center for Law and Public Affairs, Princeton University (2002-03)

Rockefeller Fellow, Center for Human Values, Princeton University (1997-98)

Pew Fellow in Religion and American History, Yale University (1997-98)

Fine, Kaplan & Black – Associate (1987-89); Trustee, Vassar College (1998-2010)

Professional Activities

Co-editor, Studies in Legal History, UNC press, 2010-present

Scholarly Editions Grant Committee, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2006

Mellon and Barra Fellowships Committee, McNeil Center for Early American History, 2006

Editorial Board, Law and History Review (2006 - present)

Chair, Investments Committee, American Society for Legal History, 2006 -

Courses

  • Church and State
  • Property
  • American Religious History
  • Legal History

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