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American Constitutional Faith and the Politics of Hermeneutics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 July 2019

Andrew R. Lewis
Affiliation:
University of Cincinnati
William D. Blake
Affiliation:
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Stephen T. Mockabee
Affiliation:
University of Cincinnati
Amanda Friesen
Affiliation:
IUPUI
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

As more debates in American politics become constitutional questions, effective citizens must engage in constitutional interpretation. While most Americans venerate the Constitution as a part of a national, civil religion, levels of constitutional knowledge are also very low. In this paper, we analyze how ordinary Americans approach the task of constitutional interpretation. An analysis of two cross-sectional surveys indicates constitutional hermeneutics are a product of political factors, religious affiliation, and biblical interpretive preferences. We also present the results of a survey experiment where the manipulation of a clergy's interpretation of a biblical passage affects how respondents interpret both scripture and the Constitution, providing a potential causal mechanism for learning how to engage in hermeneutics.

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Article
Copyright
Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2019

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