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Feed the Church, starve the party? Church-state relations and religious political mobilisation in 21 Catholic-majority countries

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This contribution examines the effects of state religion policy on religious political mobilisation, focusing on the case of the Catholic Church in the post-Cold War era. Catholicism remains politically salient in most Catholic-majority societies, but the presence and success of parties that explicitly mobilise Catholicism in the electoral arena varies enormously. In addition, Catholic-majority countries display a wide variety of institutional arrangements governing the relationship between religion and state. This contribution presents a theoretical framework for analysing the effect of these institutions on the performance of political parties that seek to mobilise religion. Relying on a dataset that covers 137 elections in 21 Catholic-majority countries as well as key measures from the Religion and State (RAS) dataset, this contribution shows that countries with higher levels of state regulation of religion and friendlier religion-state relations are more likely to host parties that mobilise religion; it also suggests that funding for the Catholic Church may constrain such parties.
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Keywords: Catholic Church; Religious parties; religion and state dataset; state religion policy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: History and Politics, University of South Florida St Petersburg, St Petersburg, FL,., USA

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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