Sarah Barringer Gordon

American religious history, law and religion, and legal history
Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History
Law School G106
Office Hours: 
Wednesday, 2:00PM-4:00PM in Gittis 106, and by appointment
215 898.3069


Sally Gordon is well known for her work on religion in American public life and the law of church and state, especially for the ways that religious liberty developed over the course of American national history. She is a frequent commentator in news media on the constitutional law of religion and debates about religious freedom.  Her current book project is Freedom’s Holy Light: Disestablishment in America, 1776-1876, about the historical relationship between religion, politics, and law. In 2015-16, Gordon was a Guggenheim Fellow, and in fall 2017 will hold the Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at the Library of Congress. Gordon is the President-elect of the American Society for Legal History, and serves as co-editor of Studies in Legal History, the book series of the Society.  She serves on the boards of the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation and the McDowell-Hartman Foundation, as well as the University of Pennsylvania Press. 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.  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 second 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.

Courses Taught: 
  • HIST 325 Religion in American History, 1877 - 2008