US Religion and Public Policy
By most measures, Americans are among the most “religious” people in the world. But what is known about the actual extent and contours of “religion in America” today? How, if at all, do Americans’ respective religious identities influence their political identities, voting behavior, and civic lives? What is the past history and present state of constitutional doctrine and public law concerning church-state issues ranging from individual religious freedoms to government partnerships with religious nonprofit organizations (churches, synagogues, mosques, and others)? What is the latest and best social science “faith factor” research on “religion” in relation to health, crime, economic development, and other outcomes? How have the three most recent presidential administrations (two Democratic, one Republican) approached religion and public policy, and how might the 2012 elections affect national policies on “faith-based initiatives”? This seminar explores these and related questions through a mix of primary and secondary readings, case studies, individual and group research projects, and meetings with a diverse range of leaders who have been important to recent policy developments in this area.