Intensive Course by Overseas Lecturer – The Relationship between Religion, Politics and Government in the United States

Course Title: ‘The Relationship between Religion, Politics and Government in the United States’
Instructor: Dr. Mark J. Rozell, School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs, George Mason University (USA)
Date: June 15 - 26, 2015

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‘To truly understand the U.S. political and governmental systems, we need to acknowledge and study the role of religion’, Prof. Rozell says. In Japan, it is difficult to imagine the extent to which religion has an influence on politics, public services and people’s everyday lives in the United States. Throughout U.S. history, however, religion has been a strong motivator of political engagement for the American people, a fact that makes it often difficult to separate between politics and religion. The topic is therefore highly interesting but, at the same time, sensitive and controversial. There is also rarely a chance to learn about such topic in a systematic manner, particularly outside the United States.

AIU Global Studies Program offered a 2-week intensive course on the topic, ‘The Relationship between Religion, Politics and Government in the United States’, from June 15 to 26, 2015, as part of the Invited Overseas Lectures Series. This unique course was taught by Dr. Mark J. Rozell, Acting Dean and Professor of Public Policy, from the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs, George Mason University, USA. Prof. Rozell authored nine books and edited twenty volumes on various topics in U.S. government and politics including the presidency, religion and politics, media and politics, and interest groups in elections. He has engaged with the U.S. Government a number of times, advising on policy and executive branch power issues, and also lectured in the U.S. and abroad, including in Asia, the Middle-East, and Europe.

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The course aimed at introducing to students the influence of religion on various aspects of U.S. politics and behaviors, which include elections, policy and public lobbying. To do so, the course covered topics such as: the religion-politics landscape and its evolution in the U.S, the religious composition; political behaviors and engagement of religious groups; religious rights; and congress, the courts and protecting religious liberty. This course helped students understand the implications by examining examples of actual civil and political activities such as the anti-slavery activism, civil-rights movements, contemporary anti-abortion activism, as well as the policy direction of the Obama Administration.

Due to the rich content, the participants seemed a little overwhelmed with the workload, but they also gained significantly from the course. There were comments such as: ‘The best intensive course of all’; ‘the teaching was very clear’; ‘the right balance between solid facts and ideas’; and ‘Dr. Rozell cared about students a lot, whether or not we were with him.’ Prof. Rozell’s attention to presenting the subject matter also seemed to be well-received by students, as one said, ‘the lecture provided neutral views without stereotypes or prejudices, which made me comfortable to study in his class.’

Having an exposure to unbiased perspectives is an important part of critical thinking. This intensive course provided an opportunity for students to think about such aspects of liberal arts education.

Please see also the article posted on the George Mason University website.

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