Teaching about organized religion in social work: Lessons and challenges

Ram A. Cnaan, Stephanie C. Boddie, Rivka A. Danzig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is commonly taught in schools of social work that the origin of the profession is in the humanistic principles of the many world faith traditions. However, social work education, research, and practice had disassociated themselves from religion and its contribution to the profession from as early as the days of the Charity Organization Societies (COS) in the late nineteenth century to the Social Security Act of 1935. Society, however, especially in the last two decades is marching toward greater integration between social services and organized religion. Furthermore, a large number of social workers, regardless of their personal religious affiliations, were trained to think that their religion has no relevance for their everyday professional practice. This rift, extenuated in the past fifty years, has been challenged by devolutionary trends of government funding and social service delivery that encourage faith-based social service provision. It also challenged the dogmatic exclusion of religious contents in social work education. In this article, we review the place of organized religion in social work education and present our innovative course to re-link organized religion into social work curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-110
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Religion and Spirituality in Social Work
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 4 Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Charity organization society
  • Faith
  • Religion
  • Social service delivery
  • Social work education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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