Mormonism and American Politics

The Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University is bringing historians, political scientists, philosophers, legal scholars, award-winning journalists, documentary filmmakers, and noted public intellectuals from a variety of faith traditions to discuss the contested intersection between religion and American politics as this issue is playing out currently on the national stage with regards to Mormonism.

The two-day conference will be held on November 9-10 in 222 Bowen Hall on the Princeton University campus (a map designating Bowen Hall is here: The conference is free and open to the public. No advance registration is necessary.

Hosted by the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, this conference is also sponsored by Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton’s Center for Human Values, the Charles Redd Center, and the Religious Studies Program at Utah Valley State College.

The event begins at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, and continues until 5 p.m., Saturday, Nov.10. A complete conference schedule is given below.

Free parking is available on the Princeton University campus in the parking garaged and parking lot (Lot 3) adjacent to Bowen Hall. For directions and travel information click here. Members of the news media interested in attending should RSVP no later than noon Wednesday, Nov. 7 by e-mailing

About the Conference:

Mitt Romney’s run for the White House raises perennial questions about the place of religion in the public square and offers scholars an interesting occasion to reconsider the relationship between religion and American politics. The media has made much of Romney’s religion and so have some sectors of the American public. What can we learn from public attitudes about Mormonism? Are the religious beliefs of a political candidate relevant to serving in office, and if so, how? Are there political implications to Mormonism? Do the careers of other Mormon politicians shed any light on this question? In what ways is Mormonism politically comparable to other religious groups?

Four separate panels will explore 1) the earliest encounters of Mormonism and American politics, 2) Mormonism as a case study for church/state issues 3) Mitt, Mormonism, and the media 4) the role religious identity plays in the public square.

Participants include Richard Bushman, Richard Land, Kathleen Flake, Philip Barlow, Marci Hamilton, Alan Wolfe, Helen Whitney, Mark Silk, Noah Feldman, Sarah Barringer Gordon, Stephen Macedo, Thomas Griffith, Melissa Proctor, Robert George, Russell Arben Fox, Chris Karpowitz, David Campbell, John Green, and Francis Beckwith.

Please see brief bios of participants below.

About Center for the Study of Religion:

Founded in 1999, Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University encourages greater intellectual exchange and interdisciplinary scholarly studies about religion among faculty and students in the humanities and social sciences. The Center aims to facilitate understanding of religion through an integrated program of support for Princeton faculty to pursue research and teaching on thematic projects, awards for Princeton graduate students to complete dissertation research, interdisciplinary seminars, undergraduate courses, public lectures, and opportunities for visiting scholars to affiliate with the Center.

Other upcoming events at the Center for the Study of Religion include:
11/12/07 “The Impact of Faith in Public Service,” a lecture by Congressman Frank Wolf, Virginia.

11/19/07 “The Protocols of the Elders of Greenwich: The Secret American Plot to Rule the World,” a lecture by Walter Mead, Council on Foreign Relations.

For more information, contact:
Center for the Study of Religion
5 Ivy Lane
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08540 USA

Phone: 609-258-5545
Fax: 609-258-6940

About the Participants

Philip Barlow has recently departed Indiana and Hanover College to become the Leonard J. Arrington Professor of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University , which is launching a new initiative in the study of religion.  He is the author of Mormons and the Bible: the Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion (1991) and the New Historical Atlas of Religion in America (with Edwin Scott Gaustad, 2000).  With Mark Silk, he is the editor of Religion and Public Life in the Midwest : America ‘s Common Denominator? (2004).  He is currently contemplating secularity, religion, and the concept and experience of “time.”

Francis J. Beckwith is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University , where he teaches in the departments of philosophy and political science as well as the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies. A 2002-2003 Visiting Research Fellow in Princeton’s James Madison Program, his books include Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007), To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview (InterVarsity Press, 2004), and The New Mormon Challenge (Zondervan, 2002), a finalist for the Gold Medallion Award in theology and doctrine. He earned his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and a Master of Juridical Studies degree from the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis .


Richard Bushman is Gouverneur Morris Professor of History emeritus at Columbia University and author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (2005). He has been appointed Visiting Professor of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University for 2007-2008. Among his books in early American history is a study of material culture, The Refinement of America : Persons, Houses, Cities (1992).


David E. Campbell is the John Cardinal O’Hara, C.S.C. Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, as well as a research fellow with Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives. His recent book Why We Vote: How Schools and Communities Shape Our Civic Life (2006) demonstrates how schools can foster a sense of civic responsibility in adolescents that, in turn, leads to a lifetime of civic engagement. He is also the editor of the recently-published volume A Matter of Faith: Religion in the 2004 Presidential Election (2007) and a co-author of two other books: The Education Gap : Vouchers and Urban Schools (2002) , and Democracy at Risk: How Political Choices Have Undermined Citizenship and What We Can Do About It (2005). Along with Paul Peterson, he has edited the book Charters, Vouchers, and a Public Education (2001) .  In addition to these books, he has published articles in a number of scholarly journals on such subjects as schools, young people, religion, and civic engagement.


Currently, David is collaborating on a book with Harvard University ‘s Robert Putnam, provisionally titled American Grace: The Changing Role of Religion in American Civic Life . David has a B.A. from Brigham Young University , and both a M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University .


Noah Feldman specializes in constitutional studies, with particular emphasis on the relationship between law and religion, constitutional design, and the history of legal theory. Professor of law at Harvard Law School , he is also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Before joining the Harvard faculty, Feldman was Cecelia Goetz Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. He was named a Carnegie Scholar in 2005. In 2004 he was a visiting professor at Yale Law School and a fellow of the Whitney Humanities Center . In 2003 he served as senior constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq , and subsequently advised members of the Iraqi Governing Council on the drafting of the Transitional Administrative Law or interim constitution. From 1999 to 2002, he was a Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University . Before that he served as a law clerk to Justice David H. Souter of the U.S. Supreme Court (1998 to 1999) and to Chief Judge Harry T. Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (1997 to 1998). He received his A.B. summa cum laude in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University in 1992. Selected as a Rhodes Scholar, he earned a D.Phil. in Islamic Thought from Oxford University in 1994. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1997, serving as Book Reviews Editor of the Yale Law Journal. He is the author of three books: Divided By God: America’s Church-State Problem and What We Should Do About It (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2005); What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building (Princeton University Press 2004); and After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2003).


Kathleen Flake is Associate Professor of American Religious History, Vanderbilt University Graduate Department of Religion and Divinity School.   Her subject area expertise is in the area of adaptive strategies of American religions and constitutional questions of church and state.   She recently published The Politics of Religious Identity: the Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle with University of North Carolina Press .  Flake practiced law for fifteen years in Washington, D.C., litigating civil rights and tort actions on behalf of the federal government.  Frequently invited to comment on Mormonism in the news, she is also a panelist for the Washington Post/Newsweek’ s “On Faith” blog.


Russell Arben Fox is assistant professor of political science and director of the Political Science program at Friends University in Wichita , KS . He received his Ph.D. in Political Theory from Catholic University of America. He has published articles on religion, education, American political thought, East Asian political thought, communitarianism, and nationalism in Polity , The Review of Politics, Philosophy East and West , American Behavioral Scientist , Theory and Research in Education , and The Responsive Community . He has been an active participant in Mormon internet symposiums and blogging since 2003.”

John Green is a senior fellow in religion and American politics at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. He also serves as director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics and Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Akron.