10th ECPR General Conference – 7-10 September 2016, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic

As Europe’s biggest gathering of political scientists, the ECPR General Conference is the platform for lively discussion, exchange of ideas and the best thinking in the discipline. The conference covers the full range of political science, and attracts scholars from throughout the world and at all stages of their career.

The tenth anniversary of the ECPR General Conference will be held at Charles University, Prague, in the Czech Republic; the oldest institution of higher learning in Central Europe.


Section on “Religious and Political Affiliation in Comparative European Perspective”
Jeffrey Haynes, London Metropolitan University ( and Peter Kratochvil, Institute of International Relations, Prague (

Section Abstract:

Over the last two 30 years, European political scientists have increasingly been concerned with what appears to be an intertwining of religion and politics, fundamentally calling into question the once hegemonic explanatory power of the secularisation paradigm. Within this debate, the paradoxical assumption is that secularisation – that is, measured in terms of the decline of religiosity at individual level (most visible in Europe) – is today accompanied by a growing presence of religious issues in the public sphere across Europe. It is suggested that this is part of a (global) process of ‘post-secularism’ whereby religion enters the public sphere of political society and of the state not only in European countries but also globally.

The Section is interested in going beyond the secularist discourse of separation and beyond the public sphere of civil society, in order to address key concerns of the increasing intertwining of religion and politics in Europe. The Section starts from the premise that in Europe, ‘religious actors’ of various kinds play a crucial role in these multi-faced processes of entering or re-entering the public spheres of state, political, and civil society. Against this background, the Section addresses this research issue, focusing on the interaction of religion and politics from a perspective that concentrates on ‘religious actors’ and their engagement in European public spheres. Since this is a field where systematic empirical analyses and theory building are still lacking, the Panels would seek to analyse the public engagement of ‘religious actors’ with politics focusing on the following aspects:

• What are ‘religious actors” public and/or political activities and objectives?
• How do ‘religious actors’ operate in various public spheres?
• What are the consequences of ‘religious actors” political involvement, and which factors condition the degree to which they are successful?

The aim of the Section then is to identify key factors in the relationship between religion and politics in Europe in the context of an emerging post-secular environment. The Section wishes to search for European religious actors’ objectives, strategies, and the effects of what they do in order to enable scholars in the relevant research community – in the ECPR context focused in the Religion & Politics Standing Group with its nearly 200 active members – to gain more empirical knowledge in an analytically systematic way. The section will present panels to tell us more the variety of religious actors with political objectives in Europe, how they are organised, their interplay with other social or political actors and their strategies. This perspective is also expected to shed more light on a crucial but seldom satisfactorily answered question: What are the political effects of religious actors in the European public sphere?

Potential Panel titles

Religious identities and religious affiliation in comparative European perspective
Religion, authority and legitimacy in Europe
Religious actors and the European Union
Religion and political parties
Religion and post-secular Europe
Religion and politics in Europe and beyond Europe
Religious actors’ interaction
Inter-faith political and social activities

Panel and paper proposals must be submitted trough the ECPR website after logging in, at the addresses (panels) and (papers). Panel proposals must also be sent by mail to the section convenors, and paper proposals – in case they are meant to be submitted for a specific panel (see list below) – should also be sent to the convenor(s) of that panel.


Panel title: ‘Religious actors and state- and regime-building following political changes’
(send proposals to Prof. Jeffrey Haynes – – by the end of January)

Panel Abstract:
The panel seeks papers interested in the issue of religion’s relationship with the state in the context of regime change, following either democratic or nondemocratic political changes. In traditional ‘Western’ ‘Comparative Politics’ approaches, religious institutions are expected to have certain kinds of relationship with the state, and this can change following important political changes, as we saw, inter alia, in Poland and Russia after the removal from power of communist regimes in the early 1990s.

Now, a quarter century after the collapse of communism in Europe and subsequent changes to many state-church relationships in the region, there is another period of significant political changes affecting both Africa and the Middle East. As in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) two decades ago, current political changes in Africa and the Middle East seem to be leading to significant changes in the relationship between the state and ‘religion’. The west African country of Mali is a case in point. Mali recently underwent a reduction, shrinkage and significant withdrawal of the state – following an Islamist take over of power – and a concomitant rise of certain religious actors who now by default undertake many of the governance and welfare tasks traditionally associated with the state. Now, following the ousting from power of al-Qaeda-style Islamists in Mali and the failure of the state to resume its traditional leading role, the country is failing to establish a new ruling regime. This is because today Mali lacks clearly viable and authoritative centres and foci of power and legitimacy. Mali is 90+% Muslim but because the country follows the French tradition of laïcité – i.e. that is, a state/’church’ relationship of rigid separation – and is a constitutionally secular country there is no clearly defined or workable conception of what role religious actors would/should take in the process of state- and regime-(re)building.

The focus of the panel is to examine the concepts of ‘state’ and ‘regime’ in relation to the activities of religious actors in, inter alia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The purpose is not only empirical – that is, to see what the similarities and differences are – but also to highlight and comment on the apparent paucity of workable ‘Western Comparative Politics’ analytical tools to explain many such such cases. Papers for the panel can be theoretical, comparative or single-country case studies. For example, the situation in Mali could be compared or contrasted with one of the many failing states in the Middle East and North Africa – such as, Iraq, Syria or Yemen – which are similarly Muslim-majority, secular and failing to build viable states and regimes after conflict and, in addition, poorly understood by Western Comparative Politics scholars.


Panel title: “European Secularization: Views from Turkey and Israel”.
Guy Ben-Porat, Ben Gurion University of the Negev (

Panel Abstract:
Turkey and Israel can be described as diametrically opposed, a secular state “imposed” on a religious population (Turkey) and a religious state imposed on a secular population (Israel). But, in fact both countries engage with questions regarding the role of religion in public and private lives and are in search for accommodation. In this proposed panel the questions of secularism and post-secularism will be discussed from a perspective of two countries on the fringes of Europe, where religion performs an important yet contested role.

If interested, send a short title to


Panel title: ‘The rise and rise of religiously oriented parties?’
Francesco Cavatorta, Department of Political Science, Université Laval, Québec (QC),
Luca Ozzano, University of Turin,

Panel abstract:
The relationship between politics and religion has been back on the scholarly agenda for quite some time, as scholars had to adjust to the reality that modernization was not necessarily going hand in hand with the disappearance of religion as an instrument for political mobilisation. The thesis of progressive secularisation has been questioned by the apparent rise of religion as a crucial variable to understand many current political phenomena, creating the need for new analyses on the subject. There is specifically one aspect of the relationship between religion and politics that is under-explored, namely the status, role and changing nature of religiously-oriented political parties.
This panel builds on recent preliminary work on the link between democracy and religiously-oriented parties (Ozzano and Cavatorta, eds., Religiously Oriented Parties and Democratization, Routledge 2013). Particularly, we are interested in answers to the following questions: how and in what ways can a party be considered ‘religiously-oriented’? Does the distinction between different types of religious influences on parties make sense? And, most importantly, how can we empirically measure the religious orientation of a party?
Contributions can be comparative in nature (across the same religion or different religions) or in-depth individual case-studies.

To propose a paper, please send an abstract of up to 200 words to the panel convenors by February 5.


Panel title: “The Catholic Church and the European Union: Rivals or Allies?”
Petr Kratochvil, Institute of International Relations, Prague (

Panel abstract:
The panel will explore the multifaceted relationship of the Catholic Church towards the integration process, both on the level of the church leadership and on the level of individual national churches, from the perspective of the church hierarchy as well as the lay faithful. Building on the notion of the nascent post-secular European order, the panel will explore the emerging contours of the Church-state and the Church-EU nexus. Given the broadscope of the panel, papers from various disciplines, including international relations, European studies, political science, sociology of religion, as well as various types of political theology can be accepted.

Those interested in proposing a paper can contact the panel convenor Petr Kratochvil by mail.


Panel title: “The religious factor in morality policies”
Caroline Preidel, LMU Munich ( and Eva-Maria Euchner, LMU Munich

Panel abstract:
In the research on morality politics, scholars examine intensively how religion determines policy outputs and dynamics of policy change. This focus is primarily motivated by the relevance of religious doctrines. They shape individual and collective belief systems, including certain practices, norms, and values. In consequence, it is assumed that they determine the political processes and outputs in morally charged policies. A bunch of studies attests that the religiosity of a nation, the presence of religious or church-associated parties, and the constitution of the church-state-relationship influence the politicization of morality issues and the strictness of regulation (Engeli et al. 2012, 2013; Fink 2008b; Minkenberg 2002). However, recent research questions the explanatory power of the religious factor in morality policy-making and the causal mechanisms, underlying the effect (Grzymala-Busse 2016; Knill et al. 2014). In accordance to Knill et al. (2014), religion seems to affect solely the dynamics of policy change but not the content of regulation. Hence, so the argument, it cannot prevent the general trend towards permissiveness which we observe across classical morality policies, such as abortion, euthanasia, artificial reproduction, and same-sex marriage (Fink 2008a; Knill et al. 2014).
This new empirical finding raises the question of whether increasing secularization implies a diminishing power of religious communities and their agents in morality policy debates. Following the post-secularization argument, we would rather expect the reverse pattern.
Existing research does not provide a comprehensive answer to this puzzle, as it is confronted with several shortcomings. This includes not only the lack of comparative studies across times and different morality policies, but also analytical limitations. Among others, scholars only recently detected the relevance of informal access structures which vary across countries and over time and moderate churches’ influence (Grzymala-Busse 2016; Hennig 2012; Knill et al. 2014). Secondly, research falls short in analyzing the role of religious communities besides Catholicism and the Catholic Church as important religious actor in the European public sphere.
For example, the Protestant churches and Islam, are under-researched yet. Thirdly, previous studies concentrate on investigating the influence of religion during the first stages of the policy-making process (agenda-setting and policy formulation), but not during the implementation phase. However following Mooney (2001), it is rather likely that religious communities try to influence the rule-enforcement, especially when they did not succeed in pushing their interests through during the legislative process. Depending on their institutional access points and their stake in the welfare, health, and education system, they might modify adopted rules and constrain the liberalization of moral order.
We invite scholars to contribute with papers that shed more light on the impact of religious factors and tackle the limits of the state of the art in morality policy research. Qualitative, in-depth studies, but also comparative large n-studies, as well as theoretical work are welcome.

Please send paper proposals to the panel convenors by February 8, 2016