Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Religion, Politics, and the 2000 Presidential Election: A Selective Survey and Tentative Appraisal

20 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2006  

Daniel O. Conkle

Indiana University Maurer School of Law


In this article, I discuss and evaluate the unusually prominent role of religion in the 2000 presidential campaign and in the early presidency of George W. Bush. I contend that religion was invoked in five distinctive contexts, each requiring independent evaluation. First, I argue that the much-discussed "Charitable Choice" initiative, which was supported by both sides in the 2000 campaign, poses significant, albeit subtle, risks for religious liberty. I then address and evaluate the invocation of religion by George W. Bush, Al Gore, and Joe Lieberman in three additional contexts: in support of particular governmental policies; as a positive moral and social force in American society; and as evidence of their own personal character and morality. I contend that in each of these three contexts, religion is potentially relevant to worldly political concerns, and that its invocation therefore is neither surprising nor (categorically) inappropriate. Finally, focusing especially on the early Bush presidency, I discuss the invocation of religion in a fifth context, as a source of spiritual meaning. I suggest that in a broadly religious society such as ours, it sometimes is fitting for political leaders to make nonsectarian spiritual claims, but that they generally should avoid sectarian spiritual claims, especially claims that are explicitly or narrowly sectarian.

Keywords: Constitutional Law, Establishment Clause, Funding, Religion and Politics, Religious Liberty

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K19, K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Conkle, Daniel O., Religion, Politics, and the 2000 Presidential Election: A Selective Survey and Tentative Appraisal. Indiana Law Journal, Symposium on Law, Morality, and Popular Culture in the Public Sphere, Vol. 77, p. 247, 2002; Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN:

Daniel O. Conkle (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States
(812) 855-4331 (Phone)
(812) 855-0555 (Fax)

Paper statistics

Abstract Views