In some religious countries, churches have drafted constitutions, restricted abortion, and controlled education. In others, church influence on public policy is far weaker. Why? Nations under God argues that where religious and national identities have historically fused, churches gain enormous moral authority—and covert institutional access. These powerful churches then shape policy in backrooms and secret meetings instead of through open democratic channels such as political parties or the ballot box.
Through an in-depth historical analysis of six Christian democracies that share similar religious profiles yet differ in their policy outcomes—Ireland and Italy, Poland and Croatia, and the United States and Canada—Anna Grzymała-Busse examines how churches influenced education, abortion, divorce, stem cell research, and same-sex marriage. She argues that churches gain the greatest political advantage when they appear to be above politics. Because institutional access is covert, they retain their moral authority and their reputation as defenders of the national interest and the common good.
Nations under God shows how powerful church officials in Ireland, Canada, and Poland have directly written legislation, vetoed policies, and vetted high-ranking officials. It demonstrates that religiosity itself is not enough for churches to influence politics—churches in Italy and Croatia, for example, are not as influential as we might think—and that churches allied to political parties, such as in the United States, have less influence than their notoriety suggests.
Anna Grzymała-Busse is the Ronald and Eileen Weiser Professor of European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Michigan. Her books include Rebuilding Leviathan: Party Competition and State Exploitation in Post-Communist Democracies.
"[An] excellent volume."--Choice
"A landmark contribution. . . . It blends statistical analysis, qualitative paired comparisons, and formal theory into an argument that is both theoretically nuanced and empirically rich. . . . Nations under God should be kept on a shelf within arm’s reach as scholars grapple with these questions."--David T. Buckley, Journal of Church and State
"In this excellent book, Anna Grzymala-Busse demonstrates that the policy influence of organized religion in democracies depends not on the population's religiosity but on the church's moral authority within the political community, constructed over the course of national history. The originality of the argument, the methodological sophistication of the research, and the extensive historical and comparative evidentiary basis for the book's conclusions all make Nations under God an example of comparative politics at its best. The book is likely to serve as an essential point of reference for future work on the multifaceted and often uneasy relationship between religion and politics in modern democracies."--Giovanni Capoccia, University of Oxford
"In a penetrating analysis of why, when, and where religions have influence on politics, Grzymala-Busse demonstrates the importance of hard-won institutional access by church and other religious actors in those democracies where organized religion holds inordinate sway. Combining wide-ranging history, statistical evidence, and a compelling narrative account, Nations under God transforms forever our understanding of the links between religion and politics."--Margaret Levi, director and professor of political science, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University
Table of Contents:
List of Figures ix
List of Tables xi
Chapter 1 Introduction 1
Chapter 2 Weapons of the Meek: How Churches Influence Policy 22
Chapter 3 Catholic Monopolies: Ireland and Italy 62
Chapter 4 Post-Communist Divergence: Poland and Croatia 145
Chapter 5 Religious Pluralism and Church Influence: United States and Canada 227
Conclusion Where Churches Matter 329
Appendix Further Tests of the Argument 345