John Witte Jr.

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John Witte Jr.
John Witte, Jr in 2017 by Ann Borden.jpg
Alma mater Calvin College
Harvard Law School
Institutions Emory University School of Law
Main interests
marriage and family law; religion, human rights and religious freedom; law and religion; law and christianity; legal history; legal and political theory

John Witte Jr. is an American academic. He is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of law[1] and a McDonald Distinguished Professor at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia, and is director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion there.[2]

Witte has published over 250 articles, 16 journal symposia and 31 books. His writings have appeared in 12 languages, and he has lectured and convened conferences throughout North America, Western and Eastern Europe, Japan, Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, and South Africa. With major funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts, Ford Foundation, Lilly Endowment Inc, Henry Luce Foundation, and McDonald Agape Foundation, he has directed 12 major international projects on democracy, human rights, and religious liberty, and on marriage, family, and children. These projects have collectively yielded more than 160 new volumes and 250 public forums around the world. He edits two major book series: "Emory University Studies in Law and Religion” and "Cambridge University Law and Christianity". He has been selected 12 times by the Emory law students as the Most Outstanding Professor and has won dozens of other awards and prizes for his teaching and research.


Witte received a BA from Calvin College in 1982 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1985. While at Harvard he studied under Harold J. Berman.


Witte publishes frequently[3] and has authored over 250 articles, 16 journal symposia and 31 books. He is currently at work on his 32nd book.


The following is a list of the books written, co-written, edited or co-edited by Witte. The complete list, including details and publishing information can be found on his website.

  • Coeditor, Christianity and Family Law: An Introduction (with Gary S. Hauk) (Cambridge University Press, 2017)
  • Coeditor, Texts and Contexts in Legal History: Essays in Honour of Charles Donahue (with Sara McDougall and Anna di Robilant) (Robbins Collection, 2016)
  • Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment, 4th ed. (with Joel A. Nichols) (Oxford University Press, 2016)
  • The Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
  • Editor, Harold J. Berman, Law and Language: Effective Symbols of Community (Cambridge University Press, 2013)
  • No Establishment of Religion: America’s Original Contribution to Religious Liberty (with T. Jeremy Gunn) Oxford University Press, 2012)
  • Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction (with M. Christian Green) (Oxford University Press, 2012)
  • From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion and Law in the Western Tradition, 2nd ed. (Westminster John Knox Press, 2012)
  • Christianity and Human Rights: An Introduction (with Frank Alexander) (Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  • The Sins of the Fathers: The Law and Theology of Illegitimacy Reconsidered (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • Coeditor, Christianity and Law: An Introduction (with Frank S. Alexander) (Cambridge University Press, 2008)
  • The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism (Cambridge University Press, 2007)
  • Coeditor, The Equal Regard Family and its Friendly Critics (with M. Christian Green and Amy Wheeler) (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007)
  • Coeditor, To Have and to Hold: Marrying and its Documentation in Western Christendom, 400-1600 (with Philip L. Reynolds) (Cambridge University Press, 2007)
  • Coeditor, The Teachings of Modern Roman Catholicism on Law, Politics and Human Nature (with Frank S. Alexander) (Columbia University Press, 2007)
  • Coeditor, The Teachings of Modern Protestantism on Law, Politics and Human Nature (with Frank S. Alexander) (Columbia University Press, 2007)
  • Coeditor, The Teachings of Modern Orthodox Christianity on Law, Politics and Human Nature (with Frank S. Alexander) (Columbia University Press, 2007)
  • God's Joust, God's Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006)
  • Coeditor, Sex, Marriage, and Family in the World Religions (with Don S. Browning and M. Christian Green) (Columbia University Press, 2006)
  • Coeditor, Family Transformed: Religion, Values, and Family Life in Interdisciplinary Perspective (with Steven M. Tipton) (Georgetown University Press, 2005)
  • Coeditor, Covenant Marriage in Comparative Perspective (with Eliza Ellison) (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005)
  • Sex, Marriage and Family in John Calvin’s Geneva I: Courtship, Engagement and Marriage (with Robert M. Kingdon) (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005)
  • Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation (Cambridge University Press, 2002)
  • Coeditor, Sharing the Book: Religious Perspectives on the Rights and Wrongs of Proselytism (with Richard C. Martin) (Orbis Books, 1999)
  • Coeditor, Proselytism and Orthodoxy in Russia: The New War for Souls (with Michael Bourdeaux) (Orbis Books, 1999; repr. ed. Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2009)
  • Coeditor, Human Rights in Judaism: Cultural, Religious and Political Perspectives (with Michael J. Broyde) (Jason Aronson Publishers, 1998)
  • Coeditor, Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective: Religious Perspectives (with Johan D. van der Vyver) (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996)
  • Coeditor, Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective: Legal Perspectives (with Johan D. van der Vyver) (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996)
  • Editor, Christianity and Democracy in Global Context (Westview Press, 1993)
  • Coeditor, The Weightier Matters of the Law: Essays on Law and Religion (with Frank S. Alexander) (American Academy of Religion Studies in Religion Series, 1988)
  • Editor, Herman Dooyeweerd, A Christian Theory of Social Institutions (Magnus Verbrugge, trans.) (Paideia Press, 1986)

Articles and Essays[edit]

Many of the articles, essays, book chapters and book reviews written by Witte can be found on SSRN. A complete list is maintained on his website. A sample of articles is listed below.

  • The legal challenges of religious polygamy in the USA
  • Lift high the Cross? Religion in public spaces
  • Sex May be Free but Children Come with a Cost
  • Keeping the Commandments
  • Can America Still Bar Polygamy?


An expert in religious freedom, marriage law, and legal history, Witte lectures widely throughout the world. He opened Calvin College's celebration of John Calvin's 500th birthday, which can be watched online.[4] Many of his lectures are posted online, some of which are listed below.

  • Don S. Browning Lecture, Shari'a in the West, Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University.[5]
  • The Covenant of Marriage: Its Biblical Roots, Historical Influences, and Modern Uses, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.[6]
  • McDonald Lecture, Separation of Church and State: There is No Wall, Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University.[7]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Honorary Doctorate in Theology, University of Heidelberg, 2017
  • Harry Krause Lifetime Achievement Award in Family Law, University of Illinois, 2016
  • James W.C. Pennington Award, University of Heidelberg, 2016
  • National Religious Freedom Award, Council for America’s First Freedom, 2008
  • Crystal Apple Award for Excellence in Professional School Teaching, 2007 and 2008
  • Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award, Emory University, 2002
  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title Awards, 2002, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2016
  • Distinguished Faculty Award and Lecture, Emory University, 2001
  • Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Theology and Public Life, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1999
  • Professor of the Year Award for 1997-1998, Black Law Students Association, Emory Law School
  • Max Rheinstein Fellowship and Research Prize, Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, Bonn, 1995
  • Most Outstanding Educator Award for All Methodist Affiliated Schools, United Methodist Foundation for Christian Higher Education, Nashville, 1994
  • Emory University Scholar/Teacher Award, 1994
  • Most Outstanding Professor, 1992–93, 1993–94, 1997–98, 1998–99, 1999-2000, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2006-2007, 2011–12, Student Bar Association, Emory Law School


External links[edit]