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Abortion Politics and the Decline of the Separation of Church and State: The Southern Baptist Case

  • Andrew R. Lewis (a1)
Abstract

Between the late 1970s and early 1990s, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) altered its First Amendment advocacy, shifting from being an ardent supporter of the strict separation of church and state to being a champion of the government accommodation of religion. At the same time, the denomination also became unswervingly pro-life. In this article, I use the SBC case to identify a previously under-analyzed link between abortion politics and church-state politics. I suggest that pro-life politics played an important role in the SBC's shift away from the separation of church and state. I focus on three areas where abortion politics aided this shift: (1) opposing separationists’ assertions that anti-abortion policies violated the Establishment Clause; (2) becoming allies rather than foes with Catholics; and (3) promoting a greater emphasis on the free exercise of religion. I conclude by discussing the implications for the relationship between religion, law, and politics.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Andrew R. Lewis, University of Cincinnati 2600 Clifton Avenue, 1102 Crosley Tower, Cincinnati, OH 45221. E-mail: andrew.lewis@uc.edu
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Politics and Religion
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