Project period: September 2015 – January 2016

This community later received Accelerator Funding for the project: Understanding Religion and Law: Muslims, Fatwas and Muftis in the UK

GW4 community leads

University of Bath: Scott Thomas 
University of Bristol: Julian Rivers 
Cardiff University: Norman Doe 
University of Exeter: Robert Gleave (PI) 

Project overview 

URL will examine the past interaction of religion and law, exploring how they have inspired modern legal systems, and how debates around their relationship might be better informed. 


In both a British and international context, an inclusive, innovative and reflective society must recognise religious diversity. Increasingly, it is recognised that a nuanced and informed assessment of how cultural practices generally, and law in particular, has been inspired by religious beliefs, is crucial. Society and governments (through the law) have regularly sought to control and promote religious practices in the “public interest”. Increased British religious diversity has given rise to fundamental questions about law and its role in society. Furthermore, an increased awareness of religion and its role in the creation of international values and laws challenges the “secular” societies which aim to separate religion from the law.  

This context has created a set of pressing research questions, around which the URL network will focus its activities. How should modern legal systems deal with the competing demands of religious traditions in the modern world? When can the law intervene and restrict the activities of religious groups? Is the law influenced by religious values? The prospect of “British values” being defined in law makes these questions all the more prescient. Understanding the law-­‐religion relationship, then, is a grand challenge for modern societies, and forms a major research priority. 

Project summary 

The community brought together GW4 researchers working on the relationship between law and religion. Four network meetings explored a variety of issues relating to religion and law, and were accompanied by three public lectures attended by over 150 peopleThe community made 4 videos in conjunction with Lonewolf films about the workshops, the public lectures and the project overall: 

The community continued to collaborate on a project that went on to inform a successful GW4 Accelerator Application.