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The focus of this volume on the role of clergy as political leaders is both appropriate and timely. This topic integrates two emerging and somewhat disparate literatures. First, the past two decades have witnessed an increased appreciation for the effects that religious beliefs have on political behavior. In the United States, the apparent rise, fall, and rejuvenation of the Christian Right and the associated realignment of religious conservatives to the Republican Party have been among the most important political trends of the past several decades. Similarly, the political activism of the American Catholic bishops during the Reagan and Bush administrations raised important questions about the Catholic Church’s appropriate role in secular affairs. Internationally, religion has been a fertile source of regional conflict in setting such as South Asia, the Middle East, and the Balkans. Samuel Huntington (1996) has proposed a general framework for the study of international relations in which “civilizations” (which are largely religiously defined) are the central units of analysis. Thus religion, and by extension religious leadership, are being recognized as central variables in the study of politics.
This article focuses on the attitudes toward sexual morality and educational policy, as well as their linkages to religion. Sexual morality, otherwise known as “pelvic politics”, is first discussed. It looks at gay rights and abortion before moving on to a discussion of the partisan connection between these two issues. The second half of the article focuses on the politics of education, specifically school prayer and teaching evolution and creationism. This article shows that empirical research on the attitudes toward social issues has been productive. It has provided a lot of information about how attitudes on personal morality or attitudes toward the role of religion in public education are affected by religious affiliation, beliefs, and practices.
This work is a collection of essays that describe and analyze religion and regime relations in various nations in the contemporary world. The contributors examine patterns of interaction between religious actors and national governments that include separation, support, and opposition. In general, the contributors find that most countries have a majority or plurality religious tradition, which will seek a privileged position in public life. The nature of the relationship between such traditions and national policy is largely determined by the nature of opposition. A pattern of quasi-establishment is most common in settings in which opposition to a dominant religious tradition is explicitly religious. However, in some instances, the dominant tradition is associated with a discredited prior regime, in which a pattern of legal separation is most common. Conversely, in some nations, a dominant religion is, for historical reasons, strong associated with national identity. Such regimes are often characterized by a “lazy monopoly,” in which the public influence of religion is reduced.