Expertise in Religion and Politics

The University of Cincinnati's School of Public and International Affairs boasts the largest number of religion and politics scholars in a United States doctoral program.

Whether your subfield focus is comparative or American, quantitative or qualitative, institutional or behavioral, observational or experimental, the faculty's broad array of research interests and the school's collegial atmosphere make the University of Cincinnati a great place to study religion and politics. Learn more about our doctoral program, or apply today!

APSA Religion and Politics Section Mentoring Program

The School of Public and International Affairs is also home to the APSA Religion and Politics Section Mentoring Program. The program matches graduate students and junior faculty with more senior mentors. If you are interested in participating in this program, you should:

  1. JOIN the Religion and Politics Section of APSA. If you are an APSA member. (Religion and Politics Section memberships are free for students.) If you are not an APSA member yet, please remember to join the section whenever you do join APSA. 
  2. Fill out the form that applies to your need:

Questions? If you have questions about the program, please email Brian Calfano (

Religion and Politics (Section 11)

The purpose of this section is to encourage the study of the interrelations between religion and politics, including the politics of religious pluralism; law, religion and governance; faith, practice and political behavior; and the politics of secularism, in the United States as well as in a comparative, historical, and global perspective.

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Photo of Calfano wearing a suit and purple tie

Brian Calfano's research examines questions regarding religious elites, media, and underrepresented groups. His work addresses the influences determining clergy political behavior as well as the efficacy of coded religious cues used by political leaders. Recently, his research has examined media effects on inter-group perceptions of minorities, and investigated ways that religious messages might help to promote positive inter-group relations in America's urban centers. Professor Calfano currently serves as co- coordinator of the APSA Religion and Politics mentoring program, and has served as Program Chair of the Politics and Religion Section of the Midwest Political Science Association. In 2016, he served as co-coordinator of the Workshop on the Political Behavior of Muslim Americans.

Photo of Conger wearing pink button up shirt with a bookshelf behind her

Kimberly Conger’s research focuses on the way religious activists make an impact on American political parties and interest groups. Her work frequently addresses the unique context faced by these political actors in state and local politics. Her current research examines the influence of the Christian Right and Religious Left in lobbying and political advocacy, investigating the role of religious activism in reducing political inequalities in the U.S. Professor Conger is a past president of the Religion and Politics section of the American Political Science Association, and currently serves on the steering committee for the Civitas Program of the Center for Public Justice in Washington, DC.

Laura wearing tan suit jacket

Laura Dudley Jenkins’ current research is on historical and contemporary mass conversions and the politics of religious freedom in India, with a focus on ways “religious freedom” arguments and laws have undermined the rights of women and religious minorities. Jenkins’ articles, books, and chapters related to religion and politics include her research on affirmative action for Muslim minorities in South Asia, mass conversion to Buddhism as a form of political mobility, gender and religious family law systems, and India’s “anxious secularism,” the latter coauthored with Rina Williams. As President of the South Asian Muslim Studies Association, she works to connect scholars from different disciplines and regions to create conference panels and exchange ideas. She is on the Executive Council of APSA’s Religion and Politics Section. Professor Jenkins is also the co-coordinator of the APSA Religion and Politics mentoring program.

Andrew wearing suit with auburn colored tie against a brick wall

Andrew Lewis’s research examines the intersection between religion, law, and American political behavior. Much of his current work focuses on the politics of law, rights politics, and religious legal advocacy. Professor Lewis is particularly interested in conservative religious behavior and advocacy in the American context, analyzing public opinion and interest group activity. He also has expertise in First Amendment law and politics, and has published pieces on measurement and methodology in religion and politics research. Professor Lewis currently serves as the Book Review Editor for Politics & Religion (Cambridge), the journal of the American Political Science Association’s religion and politics section.

Stephen smiling with a bookshelf in the background

Stephen Mockabee’s research examines the influence of religion on public opinion and political behavior. His work has frequently addressed the measurement of religiosity and religious identity in surveys, offering critiques of standard survey items and developing new measures. Recently his research has examined public opinion about human origins and the teaching of evolution in public schools, and investigated ways in which these attitudes connect to opinions about other science-related policy debates such as climate change. Professor Mockabee currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, has served as Program Chair of the Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association, and has been a member of the section’s Executive Council.

Alex Thurston

Alexander Thurston studies Islam and politics in northwest Africa, with a focus on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He has conducted field research in Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso.

William Umphres’s research and teaching engages intersections between law, politics, and religion, with a special focus on the theoretical challenges of religious discourse and citizenship. This work addresses central normative questions such as the legitimacy of religious reasons in political debate, the norms of religious citizenship, and the intersection between free exercise and non-establishment in Constitutional Law. He has published in journals such as  Religion and Politics, Constellations, and Political Theory. He serves on the leadership team for the University of Cincinnati’s Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation. 

Rina wearing pink turtle neck outside on a sunny day

Rina Williams’ research examines how religion intersects with nationalism, gender and law in the context of plural democracies in general and India in particular. Her published work on these topics examines India’s religious legal system, inter-religious conflict, and colonial and postcolonial policies on religious non-interference; gender and religion in the construction of Indian national identity; international influences on Indian secularism (with Laura Jenkins); the distinction between religion and politicized religion (with Nandini Deo); and the evolving role of women in religious nationalist politics over time.