The Last Bastion of Secularism? Government Religion Policy in Western Democracies, 1990 to 2008

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Despite the decline in popularity of secularization theory-which predicts that religion's influence will decline in modern times-many argue that this prediction still applies to western democracies. This study tests this proposition with respect to government religion policy using eighty-one variables from the Religion and State Round 2 dataset covering the 1990 to 2008 period for twenty-seven western democracies. The results show that religious discrimination-limitations on the religious institutions and practices of minority religions-has increased significantly across a wide range of countries and types of religious discrimination. Religious legislation is present in all twenty-seven countries and levels of religious legislation remain stable. These findings are inconsistent with the predictions of secularization theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-180
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Contemporary European Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 896/00), the Sara and Simha Lainer Chair in Democracy and Civility, and the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this study are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation. For full details on the Religion and State dataset see the project website at


  • discrimination
  • legislation
  • religion
  • secularization
  • western democracies


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