Religion, Politics, and the Presidency (FA19)

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Course Description

This course examines the intricate relationship between church and state, religion and politics, throughout American history, beginning with the founders and how they have been interpreted - perhaps misinterpreted - throughout history. We'll look at the contentious election of 1800, examine the faith of several presidents, and then explore the rise and the influence of the Religious Right in recent years, concluding with a retrospective on religion and presidential politics over the past half century.

Open to all. Dist: SOC; WCult: W.



Balmer, Randall. God in the White House: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush. San Francisco: HarperOne, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-06-087258-8.

Meacham, Jon. American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. New York: Random House, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-8129-7666-3.

Szasz, Ferenc Morton, and Margaret Connell Szasz. Lincoln and Religion. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-8093-3321-9.


Assignments & Grading

No mid-term or final examinations.

1. You will be asked early in the term to choose a presidential candidate you want to track throughout the term. After making that selection, you will write and submit 1-2 pages that provide a summary of her or his religious views (40 points; due September 26 at 10:00 am).

2. On October 19, you will be given a prompt and asked to write a response based on the readings and lectures (60 points; due October 24, 10:00 am).

3. You have the option either to attend a political rally for one of the presidential candidates or write on a particular political campaign and the role that religion played in that campaign. Either assignment will be 4-6 pages, double-spaced (40 points; due November 5, 10:00 am).

4. Write a religious profile of an American president (except Abraham Lincoln), 5-8 pages, double-spaced (70 points; due November 12, 10:00 am).

5. Course participation grade (30 points) will be assigned at the conclusion of the term.


Office Hours

Thursdays, 9:00, and by appointment: 311 Thornton Hall.


Course Policies


Candidate Religious Rhetoric Project

Course Summary:

Date Details Due