Political Science | Religion, Politics, and Public Policy
Y249 | 28470 | McGinnis

Political Science Y249: Religion, Politics, and Public Policy
Prof. McGinnis

Is there a “wall of separation” between church and state
in the USA? Yes and no.  This course provides a global perspective on
ongoing controversies concerning religion, politics and public policy
in the USA. We will pay particular attention to the many contributions
that faith-based organizations make in the formation and
implementation of public policy, especially in welfare, education,
health care, international humanitarian aid, and the protection of
human rights. We’ll examine how the historical development of world
religions have been influenced or re-directed by temporary alliances
with political leaders, and we’ll use U.S. Department of State reports
on violations of religious freedom in particular countries to become
familiar with the ways in which contemporary governments treat
different religions. We’ll survey the path through which the USA, a
country initially including several states with established churches,
evolved into the current situation of enforced disestablishment at all
levels of government.

All assigned readings will be available in electronic
format, except for a core textbook. Grading will be based on a few
exams and short writing assignments. There is no prerequisite, beyond
being willing to examine the reality of the complex inter-weaving of
religion and politics in the contemporary world. Students should
emerge from this course with the skills needed to disentangle
controversies into their religious and political components, as well
as realizing the limits of such decomposition in certain circumstances.