The Sacred Paradox of English Law


  • Sharon Hanson Christ Church University, Kent



English Law, New Religious Movements, implicit religion


Extending the application of the work of Bailey (1997, 1998) and Smart (1998) to law, this article explores in more detail the construction of English law as an implicit religion, arguing that English law carries within it a ‘sacred paradox’ created by the tension between two aspects of law’s religious patterning. The first aspect is the secularising tendency within law, which is patterned by Christianity and constructs law as an implicit religion. The second aspect is a powerful motivational Christian discourse embedded in the texts of law. Again patterned by Christianity, it constructs within the law as an implicit religion a strong voice of the explicit religion of the implicit religious form. The article sets out in detail the proposed basic theoretical model of the sacred paradox of English law. It argues that the contours of this sacred paradox can be located in the language of certain types of legal judgement; particularly at the micro level of figurative language, and the macro level of narrative structure and discourse. Concrete examples of law, as an implicit religion in conflict with the structuring influence of its explicit templating religion, Christianity, are given through the analysis of the language of two law cases dealing with New Religious Movements: a conflict that reveals the sacred paradox at the very heart of English law.

Author Biography

  • Sharon Hanson, Christ Church University, Kent
    Senior Lecturer in Law, Christ Church University, Kent






How to Cite

Hanson, S. (2008). The Sacred Paradox of English Law. Implicit Religion, 10(1).