POL-207: Religion and American Politics

      This course examines the intersection of the religious and political spheres. We begin by exploring a wide variety of contemporary issues under the broad rubric of "values" politics.  Secondly, we study the connections between moral values and political beliefs in American history as well as in contemporary politics.  We conclude by studying the First Amendment's religious freedom clauses through a succession of judicial interpretations, ultimately acting out our own mock Supreme Court cases.  I hope all will approach the course inquisitively and with open minds... and usually we do! Thus we gain in understanding, even from those with whom we cannot agree.

      Two papers will be assigned, an analysis of the presidential election campaign and a response to the mock court case. In each case, I encourage students to turn in one or more rough drafts of the papers prior to the due date.

      Religion and American Politics is offered in even-numbered fall semesters. It counts as an American Politics course for the Political Science major or for Teacher Education endorsement in American Government. It is a Writing Emphasis course.

Religion and Politics Links

recent Supreme Court rulings (Cornell University)

recent Supreme Court rulings  (Chicago-Kent College of Law)

Summaries of constitutional issues, including 1st amendment, from National Paralegal College

American Religion Data Archive including county-by-county maps

Great set of links from the Paul B. Henry Institute at Calvin College

Comprehensive site devoted to Martin Luther King Jr:  papers and photographs, and a searchable bibliography


      Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, Trinity College, Hartford CT
      Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, Wheaton College, Wheaton IL
      Family Research Council: conservative culture featuring President Tony Perkins's daily "Washington Update"
      American Values: another conservative group, headed by former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who also offers a daily "End of Day Report" as well as a blog
       Americans United for Separation of Church and State: ardent separationists

Find Biblical passages and references at Bible Gateway, sponsored by Gospel Communications International (must be rather evangelical... I notice they offer neither the Revised Standard Version nor the New Revised Standard Version as translation options)

citation guide for MLA method

Course Outline: Fall 2012


    Robert Booth Fowler, Allen D. Hertzke, Laura R. Olson, and Kevin R. Den Dulk, Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture, and Strategic Choices (Westview, 4th ed, 2010)
    John Kenneth White, Barack Obama's America: How New Conceptions of Race, Family, and Religion Ended the Reagan Era (Michigan, 2009)
    John Witte Jr. and Joel A. Nichols, Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment: Essential Rights and Liberties (Westview, 3rd ed, 2011)


Course introduction

    Ideas of the Constitutional Era: Witte 2
    Freedom of Religion: Witte 3
    The First Amendment: Witte 4
    Early Church-State Issues in the States: Witte 5
    The Free Exercise Clause: Witte 6
    The Establishment Clause, Introduction: Witte 7
    The Establishment Clause and Public Education: Witte 8
    The Establishment Clause and Religious Education: Witte 9
    The Establishment Clause and Public Life: Witte 10

    Religion in American History: FHOD 1
    Religion in America Today--Christianity: FHOD 2
    Religion in America Today--Judaism, Islam &c.: FHOD 3
    Religion and Voting: FHOD 4
    Religious Interest Groups: FHOD 5
    Latinos and African Americans: FHOD 10
    Women, Religion and Politics: FHOD 11
    Religion and Political Culture: FHOD 7

    The Values Divide in American Politics: White, intro
    Case Studies: White 1
    Life in the Salad Bowl: White 2
    What is a Family?: White 3
    Homosexuality and Gay Marriage: White 4
    Varieties of Religious Experience: White 5
    Changing Political Coalitions: White 6
    The Future, Maybe: White 7

Next Course: Political Parties and Elections

Last Course: American National Government

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Last update 10/12/12