Teaching about organized religion in social work: Lessons and challenges

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

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-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
Title of host publicationSocial Work and Divinity
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781315044200
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2005 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (all)
  • Health Professions (all)


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