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Political Research Exchange - PRX

From Values to Power: The Church's Engagement in Implementing Morality Policy in German States

Public Policy
Policy Implementation
Olivia Mettang
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Olivia Mettang
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Eva-Maria Euchner
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU

Although the trend of secularization reduces the impact of religion on politics, the church still plays an important role in providing public social services in many Western European states. This is even the case for highly ideological morality-based social services, such as for example, counseling activity with regard to abortion or prostitution. To explain cross-national variation in this engagement, many scholars refer back to political and societal opportunity structures such as the church-state-relationship, providing the Church with access points to policy implementation. However, empirical observation at the subnational level in Germany raise doubts concerning the applicability of this approach: Although Berlin and Bavaria provide entirely different opportunity structures, the engagement of both the Catholic and the Protestant Church in the implementation phase of morality policies in the two states is very similar. Our paper addresses this empirical puzzle by asking (1) Why does the church engage to a similar extent in the provision of value-loaded social services in Berlin and Bavaria?, and (2) how does this engagement vary between morality policies? Drawing on the literature on private governance, we argue that the engagement in policy implementation depends on the Church’s agreement with the policy of the issue at stake (Knill and Lehmkuhl 2002; Euchner and Preidel 2016), and is moderated by the level of policy vagueness on governance engagement (Mooney 2001). The analysis of five different morality policies (i.e., abortion, assisted suicide, prostitution, same-sex marriage, and religious education) and the selection of two states following a most-different-system-design allows us to isolate and examine the explanatory capacity of these factors. In doing so, the paper advances the literature on religion and politics by illustrating through a new analytical angle how religious communities may maintain a powerful position in policy-making in secular times.
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