Eric M. Stephen is a doctoral candidate in the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University, under the Religions of the Americas concentration. He received a BA and MA from Wesleyan University, and an MTS from Harvard Divinity School.
Eric's work draws from American legal, social, and religious history to study the dynamic relationship between legal and popular understandings of religious liberty in the United States. In particular, he is interested in the ways that Americans’ faith commitments have influenced religious liberty jurisprudence, how those legal precedents have in turn informed religious belief, and how this relationship has shifted throughout US history in response to significant social changes and political events. In his dissertation, Eric examines the ways language around "secularism" and the "secular" was invoked in American legal and political discourse in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the role that shifting understandings of these categories played in influencing both what Americans popularly understood the term "religion" to mean, and the different visions of religious liberty that emerged as a result.
Though his primary research interests surround American legal and religious history, Eric also has a strong background in longitudinal data analysis, including publications on education policy and psychopathology. As a graduate student at Wesleyan, Eric also worked alongside an anthropologist of religion analyzing survey data collected at shamanic ceremonies in Buryatia, Russia in order to study indigenous religious revival movements during the post-Soviet period.