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Reconceptualizing Church and State: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Separation of Religion and State on Democracy

  • Robert Brathwaite (a1) and Andrew Bramsen (a1)

This article argues that the relationship between democracy and the separation of religion and state needs to be reexamined. We argue that previous studies have misconceptualized the impact that a lack of church-state separation can have on democracy, or have taken a narrow focus by concentrating on specific cases. We use principal component analysis and a large-n data set covering 125 countries to show that the separation of religion and state should be conceptualized multi-dimensionally and that it should be considered a component of democracy. Our findings show that as separation of religion and state increases, the level of democracy also increases.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Robert Brathwaite or Andrew Bramsen, University of Notre Dame, 217 O'Shaughnessy Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556. E-mail:;
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Jonathan Fox . 2006. “World Separation of Religion and State Into the 21st century.” Comparative Political Studies 39:537569.

Brian J. Grim , and Richard Wike . (2010). “Cross-Validating Measures of Global Religious Intolerance: Comparing Coded State Department Reports with Survey Data and Expert Opinion.” Politics and Religion 3:102129.

Monty G. Marshall , and Keith Jaggers . 2007. Polity IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800–2006. (Accessed on February 24, 2010).

Adam Przeworski , Michael E. Alvarez , and Jose Antonio Cheibub , and Fernando Limongi . 2000. Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950–1990. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Alfred Stepan , and Graeme B. Robertson 2003. “An ‘Arab’ More than ‘Muslim’ Electoral Gap.” Journal of Democracy 14:3044.

Alfred Stepan , and Graeme B. Robertson 2004. “Arab, Not Muslim, Exceptionalism.” Journal of Democracy 15:140146.

Keith Ward . 1992. “Is a Christian State a Contradiction?” In Religion in Public Life, ed. Dan Cohn-Sherbok and David McLellan . New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.

James E. Wood Jr. 2005. Church and State in Historical Perspective: A Critical Assessment and Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

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Politics and Religion
  • ISSN: 1755-0483
  • EISSN: 1755-0491
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-religion
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