Church Impacts Political Activism among Blacks, Expert Says

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MANHATTAN, KANSAS

Religion remains a salient social and cultural institution in the United States. The church's ability to frame social movements has been well documented and the question of church affiliation even cropped up during the 2004 presidential election.

Dr. Ryan Spohn, assistant professor of sociology at Kansas State University, says the importance of organized religion has been particularly pronounced for Black Americans, who tend to display deeper religious convictions and stronger church participation than other Americans.

"The Black church has traditionally played a crucial role in their lives by providing periodic sanctuary to its members forced to live in an oppressive and hostile society," Spohn says.

Past research has indicated that the Black church facilitated political activism in the Black community in at least two important ways.

"First, as evidenced by the speeches of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., religious themes and biblical references were central to the framing of the civil rights movement," Spohn says. "Second, the churches played a key role in the mobilization of Black people by providing the organization and institutional resources necessary for boycotts, sit-ins and other protest activities. …