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A New Politics of Religion? How Political Parties Shape Religious Policy in 30 European Democracies

Political Parties
Public Policy
Religion
Sven W. Speer
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Sven W. Speer
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Richard Traunmüller
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
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Abstract

European regimes of religious regulation are currently under considerable strain. As a result, there is currently much debate about whether European democracies hold on to their divergent institutional arrangements of religious regulation or converge to a common European model of governing religious diversity. Both perspectives not only differ in their descriptive predictions regarding the recent trends in religious policy but also stress different causal mechanisms for the explanation of policy change. This paper seeks to shed empirical light on the dynamics and changes in European religious regulation from a strictly quantitative-comparative perspective. The analysis draws on a newly coded data set for 30 European countries (27 EU member states plus Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland) that extends the data collected by the second round of the Religion and State Project (RAS2), resulting in a total observation period of two decades (1990-2011). Results suggest that there are no signs of convergence in the modes of religious regulation across Europe. Quite to the contrary, the empirical evidence shows not only a persistence of specific national patterns but even an increasing divergence of European religious policies. This holds for the treatment of religious minority groups and the restrictive or supportive regulation of religion in general. Change in religious policy is mainly driven by national political processes and in particular by a strong presence of Christian democratic parties in parliament.