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Religion and Crime

"hellfire And Delinquency" And Beyond, Theoretical Perspectives, Assessing Whether Effects Of Religion Are Spurious

Claims and findings pertaining to the relationship between religion and crime in American society are conflicted. In the early 1940s Middleton and Fay concluded that religion may cause crime and delinquency, an outcome that Schur later linked to religious beliefs and moral codes supporting the legal regulation of practices such as alcohol consumption and sexual behavior. Kvaraceus (1944), on the other hand, reported that religion had no effect on criminal behavior. A few years later, Glueck and Glueck argued that religion was a significant deterrent of crime and delinquency. Taking stock in the 1960s, the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice (1967) observed that the relationship between religion and crime in American society had not been established. Influential scholars agreed (Sutherland and Cressey).

Fitzpatrick adduced a reason for the confusion. He noted that early criminological research had paid attention to the relationship between religion and crime, but by the 1960s many social scientists considered it irrelevant. Secular trends in American society had obscured—at least for the moment—the study of the relation between religion and crime and, thereby, precluded closure on questions raised by earlier criminological research. Reflecting the spirit of the times, Schur—not without irony given his conclusion that religion may sometimes play a role in causing crime—consigned the religious factor to the category of questionable crime theories.

JOHN SIMPSON

DAVID BROWNFIELD

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law