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


Schools of social work commonly teach that the origin of the profession lies in the humanistic principles of the many world faith traditions. However, beginning as early as the days of the Charity Organization Societies (COS) in the late nineteenth century and the Social Security Act of 1935, social work education, research, and practice have increasingly disassociated themselves from religion and its contribution to the profession. 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. Meanwhile, society, especially in the last two decades, is marching toward greater integration between social services and organized religion. The rift between religion and professional social work practice, extenuated in the past fifty years, is being challenged by devolutionary trends of government funding and social service delivery that encourage faith-based social service provision. These trends also challenge 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 with social work curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-84
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Religion and Spirituality in Social Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - 5 Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Charity organization society
  • Faith-based services
  • Religion
  • Social work education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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