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Soft Separation Democracy

  • Jeremy Menchik (a1)

How do nonsecular democracies govern religion? Despite two decades of research on the many ways that church and state overlap in modern democracies, scholars lack an adequate answer to this question. Many consolidated democracies have a soft separation between church and state rather than a wall. These are not defective versions of democracy, but rather poorly understood institutional arrangements. To remedy this lacuna, this paper investigates institutional arrangements in six consolidated democracies with a soft separation between church and state: Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, India, Indonesia, and Switzerland. After describing the institutional workings of these states, the paper develops hypotheses for the origins of soft separation democracy as well as addressing the challenges of this form of government. The paper concludes by suggesting three other potentially fruitful lines of analysis as well as elucidating the implications of soft separation democracy for U.S. foreign policy.

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Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jeremy Menchik, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University, Boston, United States. E-mail:
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Versions of this essay were presented at the 2015 Conference on Law and Religious (un)freedom in the Global Era, and the 2016 meeting of the American Political Science Association. I am grateful for thoughtful feedback from David Buckley, Peter Danchin, Michael Driessen, Mayanthi Fernando, Diana Kim, Tamir Moustafa, Oscar Salemink, Kaija Schilde, Erica Simmons, Nicholas Rush Smith, Kari Telle, and thankful to the editor and anonymous reviewers of Politics and Religion for their assistance in improving the paper.

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