Catholics and Politics: The Dynamic Tension between Faith and Power

By Kristin E. Heyer; Mark J. Rozell et al. | Go to book overview

7
POLITICS Y LA IGLESIA
Attitudes toward the Role of Religion in
Politics among Latino Catholics

ADRIAN PANTOJA, MATTHEW BARRETO, AND RICHARD ANDERSON

THE U.S. CONSTITUTION prohibits government from establishing or promoting a particular religion or intruding on citizens' religious beliefs or activities. Although the constitutional wall separating church and state was designed to keep religious conflicts and influences at bay, the American political and legal landscape is not free from religious strife and influences. Politicians frequently appeal to voters' religious sentiments through symbolic gestures or by supporting policies particular to religiously oriented persons. Religious leaders are increasingly active in the political arena through voter mobilization efforts and endorsements of particular candidates. Perhaps none has had the longevity or been as influential as the Christian Right. The election of a Republican majority to Congress in the mid-1990s and the presidential victories of George W. Bush, a deeply religious Christian, both with strong backing from conservative Christians and their organizations, have renewed interest among scholars in examining the role of religion in American politics.1

Scholars have largely considered the impact of religious orientations in structuring a wide range of political attitudes among voters and in determining electoral outcomes.2 More specifically, the beliefs held by evangelical Protestants are regarded as a significant force driving many contemporary political cleavages, or the so-called God gap.3 The influence of religious fundamentalist beliefs is most pronounced when it comes to policy issues with religious or moral underpinnings such as abortion, gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research, and school prayer.4 Measures of religious fundamentalism also correlate strongly with support for the Republican Party and

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