Religious Politics

ISHA 2005-06

In the last decade and more, the rise of religious politics has been remarkable. Catholic bishops have barred political candidates who support abortion rights from taking communion.  Pope John Paul II condemned the United States’ invasion of Iraq.  Monuments to the Ten Commandments were installed by Judge Roy Moore in his courthouse in Alabama, and then removed by the order of another federal judge.  The Supreme Court recently heard oral argument on whether the phrase “under God” should be struck from the Pledge of Allegiance.  The Georgia and Kansas state governments have recently debated whether and how evolution should be portrayed in textbooks and taught in public school science classes. President Bush granted federal funds to faith-based charities.  And, of course, planes were flown into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001 for reasons that at least in part involved religion.  These are just a few of the more recent instances where religion and politics have confronted one another; their number could easily be increased and the scope of the list expanded enormously by including all the confrontations between religion and politics that don’t directly involve the United States. These are all examples where politics and religion are somehow at odds with one another; one can equally easily recall examples where religion and politics are instead in harmony. The issues raised by both the cases of confrontation and the cases of cooperation between religion and politics are equally diverse, and perhaps no other kind of interaction between human activities prompts such strong reactions from both participants and observers. For these reasons, and because of the topic’s patent timeliness, ISHA selected ‘Religious Politics’ for its theme in 2005-06.


Jay Demerath
Department of Sociology
Religion, Politics, and the State: the USA and India. 

Thomas Hilbink
Department of Legal Studies
Gods and Governments, Religion and Law. 

Janice Irvine
Department of Sociology
Religion and Sexual Politics in the USA. 

Laura Lovett 
Department of History
Religion, Motherhood, and Gender in the Scopes Trial. 

David Mednicoff
Department of Legal Studies
Islam and the Rule of Law in Contemporary Arab Politics. 

Oriol Pi-Sunyer 
Department of Anthropology
Immigration, Islam and Spaces of Belonging in Multiethnic Spain.

Susan Shapiro
Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Department
Representations of Minority Religions and Cultures in Modern Western Nation-States. 

Ervin Staub
Department of Psychology
Dutch-Muslim Relations in Amsterdam.

Banumathi Subramaniam
Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Science and Religion in South Asia: Debates on Race and Caste in India.

Emily West
Department of Communication
Religion and the First Amendment.