chapter  3
26 Pages

Debating the Public Role of Religion

The Protagonists
WithTed G. Jelen

This chapter describes the conduct of contemporary policymaking in the area of religion and politics, several features of the US system stand out in clear relief. The differential types of representation created by a locally recruited and elected US House of Representatives, and by the biases inherent in the Electoral College, provide a fascinating study in contrasts among various political actors’ approaches to the political role of religion. Public opinion on questions of church–state relations is generally coherent but not consistent. Symbols of religious freedom and church–state separation receive high levels of support among mass publics, but many Americans are accommodationist on questions of establishment, and communalist on questions involving religious free exercise. Different organizations may take distinctive positions on issues relating to religious establishment and free exercise. State and local governments have many opportunities to make policies that indirectly invoke the constitutional provisions on religion.