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Religious Freedom in the Courts, 1981-1997




Wybraniec, J. (2021, September 2). Religious Freedom in the Courts, 1981-1997.


The Religious Freedom data are derived from a content analysis of the The Religious Freedom Reporter (the Reporter), which is a journal published monthly by the Church-State Resource Center of the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, Campbell University. The journal dates back to January 1981 and, as stated in the introductory preface to each issue, "seeks to provide comprehensive coverage of pending and decided cases, new legislation and regulations, law review articles and other resources related to religious freedom." The Reporter includes information from all levels of the judiciary. The dataset has information on type of case (e.g., free exercise, first amendment and establishment), when the case was decided, level of court and the religion of the group or person who brought the case forward.

Data File

Cases: 2109
Variables: 29
Weight Variable: None

Data Collection


Collection Procedures

The Reporter, from which the data comes, includes all levels of the judiciary and collects cases using two methods. First, the journal relies on keyword searches of professional law databases, such as Westlaw and Lexis, to compile an index of court rulings. Secondly, it accepts cases submitted from outside contributors, which it then cross checks with individual database services to remove duplicates. For each case the Reporter offers a description of the proceedings, a decision rendered by the court, a listing according to the state in which the case appeared, the level of the court, and finally, a categorization by the type of case-constitutional, free exercise, establishment, tax law, family law, education, public institutions, etc.

See the related publications below for more information on these data.

Sampling Procedures

More than 3,000 cases were read for coding, and of these, 2,109 were specifically coded for analysis.

Principal Investigators

John Wybraniec

Related Publications

John Wybraniec, The Battle over Religious Freedom: Court Decisions and the Religious Economy in the United States (Ph.D. diss. Purdue University Graduate School, 1998).

John Wybraniec & Roger Finke. 2001. "Religious Regulation and the Courts: The Judiciary's Changing Role in Protecting Minority Religions from Majoritarian Rule." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 40(3):427-444.

Amy Adamczyk, John Wybraniec, and Roger Finke. 2004. "Religious Regulation and the Courts: Documenting the Effects of Smith and RFRA." Journal of Church and State 46(2):237-262

Note 1: Case Category Codes

Codes identifying each case's broad subject matter, as identified in the variable CASECODE, are provided below:

1300 Constitution: Equal protection
1400 Constitution: Establishment
1410 Constitution: Establishment: Generally
1420 Constitution: Establishment: Accommodation
1430 Constitution: Establishment: Discrimination/preference between religious groups
1440 Constitution: Establishment: Entanglement
1450 Constitution: Establishment: Neutrality
1460 Constitution: Establishment: Politically divisive
1470 Constitution: Establishment: Primary effect
1480 Constitution: Establishment: Secular purpose
1510 Constitution: Free exercise: Generally
1520 Constitution: Free exercise: Burden on religious exercise/coercion
1521 Constitution: Free exercise: Religious Freedom Restoration Act
1530 Constitution: Free exercise: Compelling state interest
1540 Constitution: Free exercise: Sincerity
1600 Constitution: Freedom of expression
1610 Constitution: Freedom of expression: Freedom of association
1620 Constitution: Freedom of expression: Freedom of speech
1700 Constitution: Right of privacy
1800 Constitution: Standing
1900 Constitution: State action
2100 Definitions: Church
2200 Definitions: Religion
3100 Education: Academic freedom
3200 Education: Compulsory education/exemption
3410 Education: Public schools: Generally
3420 Education: Public schools: Curriculum and textbooks
3430 Education: Public schools: Religious activities/expression
3440 Education: Public schools: Government regulation
3510 Education: Private schools: Generally
3520 Education: Private schools: Federal policy/regulation
3530 Education: Private schools: Local regulation/health, safety, welfare
3540 Education: Private schools: Public aid, property and services
3550 Education: Private schools: Religious activities/expression
3560 Education: Private schools: State regulation/accreditation
3570 Education: Private schools: Home education
3600 Education: Student rights
3700 Education: Teacher's rights
3800 Education: School choice
4100 Family law: Adoption
4200 Family law: Child abuse/childcare
4300 Family law: Children's rights
4400 Family law: Custody/visitation
4500 Family law: Marriage/divorce
4600 Family law: Parental rights
5100 Individual rights and responsibilities: Employment discrimination
5200 Individual rights and responsibilities: Military personnel
5300 Individual rights and responsibilities: Prisoner rights
5400 Individual rights and responsibilities: Privileged communications/clergy and counselors
5500 Individual rights and responsibilities: Religious discrimination
5550 Individual rights and responsibilities: Religious discrimination/employment practices
5600 Individual rights and responsibilities: Rights of conscience/civil disobedience
5700 Individual rights and responsibilities: Tax credits, deductions and exemptions
5800 Individual rights and responsibilities: Tort liability/malpractice
5900 Individual rights and responsibilities: Health/medical rights
6100 Media and broadcasting: Freedom of the press
6200 Media and broadcasting: Government regulation
7100 Religion in public institutions: Generally
7200 Religion in public institutions: Chaplaincy programs
7300 Religion in public institutions: Public aid to religion
7400 Religion in public institutions: Use of public property/services
8110 Religious organizations/ministries: Cults: Generally
8120 Religious organizations/ministries: Cults: Deprogramming
8210 Religious organizations/ministries: Government regulation: Business and fiscal regulation
8220 Religious organizations/ministries: Government regulation: Investigation/intervention
8230 Religious organizations/ministries: Government regulation: Labor/employment practices
8240 Religious organizations/ministries: Government regulation: Licensing/certification
8250 Religious organizations/ministries: Government regulation: Lobbying/political activities
8260 Religious organizations/ministries: Government regulation: Police power/health, safety, welfare
8270 Religious organizations/ministries: Government regulation: Solicitation
8280 Religious organizations/ministries: Government regulation: Zoning/land use control
8300 Religious organizations/ministries: Intrachurch disputes
8500 Religious organizations/ministries: Taxing power
8510 Religious organizations/ministries: Taxing power: Federal
8520 Religious organizations/ministries: Taxing power: Government investigation
8530 Religious organizations/ministries: Taxing power: Property/sales tax
8540 Religious organizations/ministries: Taxing power: Social Security tax
8550 Religious organizations/ministries: Taxing power: State
8560 Religious organizations/ministries: Taxing power: Tax credit, deductions and exemptions
8570 Religious organizations/ministries: Taxing power: Unemployment compensation
8600 Religious organizations/ministries: Tort liabilities
8620 Religious organizations/ministries: Tort liabilities: Church discipline
8630 Religious organizations/ministries: Tort liabilities: Counseling/clergy malpractice
8640 Religious organizations/ministries: Tort liabilities: Ascending/descending liability
8650 Religious organizations/ministries: Tort liabilities: Clergy misconduct
8660 Religious organizations/ministries: Tort liabilities: Defamation
9000 Social/ethical issues
9100 Social/ethical issues: Homosexuality
9200 Social/ethical issues: Human life: Medical procedures
9210 Social/ethical issues: Human life: Abortion
9220 Social/ethical issues: Human life: Euthanasia/infanticide
10000 Others: Domestic

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