Religion in the Public Sphere

There is a vigorous debate in political philosophy whether religious actors must frame their religious convictions in terms of secular reason or whether they should be allowed to introduce religiously grounded beliefs into public political argument without any constraints. Yet, systematic and empirical research on this topic has lagged behind. Our project attempts to close this gap. We focus on the public statements of religious actors in the context of Swiss direct democratic votes on abortion and immigration (1970s-2000s). Our empirical findings reveal an interesting gap: while many political philosophers and religious thinkers have moved to a position where religious actors can (and even should) openly employ religious arguments, the practice of religious actors in Switzerland is different. Especially the large denominations of Catholics and Protestants have a tendency to use a large amount of secular vocabulary. In addition, our findings also shows that the use of religious or secular reason varies considerably according to different issues, different media types (religious vs. secular press), different religious traditions, and different media genres, while there is no clear time trend.


Bächtiger, André, Judith Könemann, Ansgar Jödicke, and Dominik Hangartner (2013; with Roger Husistein, Melanie Zurlinden, Seraina Pedrini, Mirjam Cranmer, and Kathrin Schwaller). “Religious reasons in the public sphere: an empirical study of religious actors’ argumentative patterns in Swiss direct-democratic campaigns.” European Political Science Review 5: 105-131.


"Religion in der Öffentlichkeit: Die Rolle organisierter Religionsgemeinschaften bei politischen Entscheiden im direktdemokratischen Prozess. Zur zivilgesellschaftlichen Funktion von Religion in der Schweiz am Beispiel von Volksabstimmungen" (with Judith Könemann, Ansgar Jödicke, Roger Husistein, Melanie Zurlinden, Mirjam Cranmer, Seraina Pedrini, and Kathrin Schwaller). Project sponsored by the Swiss National Science Foundation (NFP 58 "Religionen in der Schweiz"), January 2008-December 2009.
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Prof. Dr. Andre Baechtiger
Universität Stuttgart
Institut für Sozialwissenschaften

Breitscheidstr. 2
70174 Stuttgart

Phone: +49 711 685-81450
Fax: +49 711 685-83432