Winnifred Fallers Sullivan

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan

Provost Professor, Religious Studies

Affiliate Professor, Law, Maurer School of Law

Co-Director, Center for Religion and the Human


  • Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1993
  • J.D., University of Chicago, 1976
  • B.A., Cornell University, 1971

About Winnifred Sullivan

I am interested in religion as a broad and complex social and cultural phenomenon that both generates law and is regulated by law. My particular research focus is in understanding the phenomenology of religion under the modern rule of law. I have training in law and in religious studies and have taught both in law school and in religious studies departments. I practiced law after graduating from law school before returning to graduate school to study religion. My training in the academic study of religion is in two fields, American religious history and the comparative study of religion. I focus on the intersection of religion and law in the U.S. within a broader comparative field, both theoretically and cross-culturally. Within legal studies, my work falls broadly within socio-legal and critical legal studies.

I am the author of three books analyzing legal discourses about religion in the context of actions brought to enforce the religion clauses of the First Amendment and related legislation: Paying the Words Extra: Religious Discourse in the Supreme Court of the United States (Harvard 1994), The Impossibility of Religious Freedom (Princeton 2005), and Prison Religion: Faith-based Reform and the Constitution (Princeton 2009). Each of these books offers a close reading of the texts of a US religion case using the resources of legal anthropology, socio-legal studies and the academic study of religion, with a view to displaying the multiple and contending models of and discourses about religion there represented. My goal in each case was to situate and critique American law about religion, setting that law in the context of American religious and legal history, and the scholarship about them. My fourth book, A Ministry of Presence: Chaplaincy, Spiritual Care, and the Law (Chicago 2014), portrays the chaplain and her ministry as a product of the legal regulation of religion and as a form of spiritual governance. A co-authored work, Ekklesia: Three Inquiries in Church and State (with Paul Johnson and Pamela Klassen) (Chicago 2018), examines the peculiarities of the intersection of church and state across the Americas. I am also co-editor of three volumes, After Secular Law (Stanford 2011), Varieties of Religious Establishment (Ashgate 2013), and Politics of Religious Freedom (Chicago 2015).

At Indiana I teach courses on religion and law, the politics of religious freedom, the history and phenomenology of Christmas as a church/state event, the trial of Joan of Arc, and contemporary theories of religion.


Theologies of American Exceptionalism
Theologies of American Exceptionalism

Edited by: Winnifred Fallers Sullivan and Elizabeth Shakman Hurd

Church State Corporation
Church State Corporation

Construing Religion in U.S. Law

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan


Three Inquiries in Church and State

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Paul C. Johnson, Pamela Klassen

Politics of Religious Freedom
Politics of Religious Freedom

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Saba Mahmood, Peter G. Danchin

After Secular Law
After Secular Law

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Robert A. Yelle, Mateo Taussig-Rubbo

Prison Religion
Prison Religion

Faith-Based Reform and the Constitution

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan

Paying the Words Extra
Paying the Words Extra

Religious Discourse in the Supreme Court of the United States

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan

Journal articles & other publications

"'Going to Law': Reflections on Law, Religion, and Mitra Sharafi’s Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia" Law & Social Inquiry Volume 42, Issue 4, 1231–1239 (Fall 2017)

"Being Human: Negotiating Religion, Law, and Science in the Classroom and the Courtroom" in Elizabeth Mertz, William K. Ford, and Gregory Matoesian, eds., Translating the Social World for Law: Linguistic Tools for a New Legal Realism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016)

“Imagining Law at the Newark Earthworks” for Lindsay Jones, et al, eds., The Newark Earthworks and World Heritage: One Site, Many Contexts (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2015)

Recent blog posts

"Sex and the Catholic Church: What does law have to do with it? Introduction

Is Masterpiece Cakeshop a Church?The Immanent Frame

Marty, Teacher” at Sightings

Jesus in the bardo” at The Immanent Frame (posted December 20, 2017)

No. Religion is not the common denominator . . .” at The Immanent Frame (posted November 6, 2017)

Only a human encounter . . .” at The Immanent Frame.

“Notes on the Johnson Amendment” at HistPhil (posted February 6, 2017)

“Teaching Religion: Refusing the Schempp Myth of Origins" The Immanent Frame (posted 15 August 2016)

Recent courses

  • Christmas: The Church-State History of the World’s Most Popular Holiday
  • Politics of Religious Freedom
  • The Trial of Joan of Arc
  • Interpreting Religion

Awards & Honors

  • 2017 Winner, The Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion (awarded by the American Academy of Religion)
  • 2015 Winner, AAR Book Award for Excellence in the analytical-descriptive studies category
  • 2019-24 OVPR. Indiana University. Center for Religion and the Human. $500,000
  • 2019-24 The Luce Foundation. Co-PI (with Constance Furey and Lisa Sideris). “Being Human” ($1,000,000)
  • 2016-2019 The Luce Foundation. Co-PI (with Elizabeth Shakman Hurd) on “The Politics of Religion at Home and Abroad.” ($390,000)
  • 2010-2014 The Luce Foundation. Project team member (with Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Saba Mahmood, and Peter Danchin), “Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Norms and Local Practices” ($500,000)