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Gordon receives visiting appointment to Library of Congress

May 19, 2017

The Law School’s Sarah Barringer Gordon has been appointed the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress for the fall semester of 2017. While at the center, she will continue her research on her book project “Freedom’s Holy Light: Disestablishment in America, 1776–1876.”

The Kluge Center brings together scholars from around the world to make use of the Library of Congress’s resources and interact with policymakers and the public. During her residency at the Kluge Center, Gordon will give a public presentation about her research.

“We are incredibly pleased that Professor Gordon’s innovative research continues to be recognized,” said Ted Ruger, Dean of Penn Law and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law. “Her work at the intersection of early American history and law is helping us understand the complex role of religion at our nation’s birth — and today.”

“I’m honored by the support of the Kluge Center and the opportunity to work in the vast archives of the Library of Congress,” said Gordon. “This appointment also offers the opportunity to bring scholarship beyond the walls of the academy.”

Gordon is the Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History and is a noted scholar and commentator on religion in American public life and the law of church and state.

She previously won a Guggenheim Fellowship in support of “Freedom’s Holy Light,” which explores how separation of church and state was put into practice in state law and religious life. The process was revolutionary, and the experiment in disestablishment was distinctly part of the new American republic. Separation of church and state became a key feature of American politics and law, often in ways that have not been previously understood, and affected everything from territorial expansion to slavery and the Civil War.

Gordon’s work has been dedicated to the relationship between law and religion across American history. Her first book was The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America (University of North Carolina Press, 2002). Her second, The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America (Harvard University Press, 2010), explored the world of church and state in the twentieth century.