How Americans Talk about Separation of Church and State: Moral Frameworks of Justice and Care

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Abstract

This paper draws on data from 12 focus group discussions of a faith-based prison ministry program to examine how ordinary Americans talk about the separation of church and state. The focus groups–conducted in Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Boston–revealed that program supporters and opponents draw on different moral frameworks, with supporters focusing on a framework of care and opponents focusing on a framework of justice. The findings affirm the centrality of moral concerns in shaping citizen stances on church-state separation and suggest that meaningful political compromise is possible on the issue of government support of faith-based social services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSociological Quarterly
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge research support from the National Science Foundation (award # SES-1059748), and from the Institute for Advanced Study, the Life Course Center, and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost at the University of Minnesota. We also thank graduate research assistants Isabel Arriagada and Ethan Johnson for their expert assistance.

Keywords

  • Morality; religion; law; church-state separation; culture wars

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