Using the historic Minnesota state government shutdown of 2011 as a backdrop, Interfaith Advocacy describes the work of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, an interfaith advocacy group that brings together leaders from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim traditions to advocate on behalf of a range of policies. As the nation’s first statewide interfaith lobbying group, the story of the JRLC facilitates an examination of the role of political advocacy groups in state level American politics: what they are, how and why they form, how they mobilize citizens to participate in the political process, how they work to influence government, and what their impact is on American democracy.
With research based on two years of in-depth interviews, participant observation, and analysis of archival records, this volume offers proof that it is possible to build successful long term political coalitions among improbable allies. The book investigates both the strengths and weaknesses of this model of advocacy and concludes that the presence of religious advocacy groups in the political process offers substantial benefits of representation, concern for underrepresented issues and groups, and the development of networks of social capital.
Interfaith Advocacy is grounded in the theoretical literature of political science but also accessible to all readers who have an interest in political advocacy, state politics, or religion and politics.
Table of Contents
1. Unlikely Ties: The Joint Religious Legislative Coalition. 2. Seeds of Faith: Founding an Interfaith Coalition. 3. Joining the Club: Membership and the JRLC. 4. Joining Forces: Coalitions, Policymaking, and Political Conflict. 5. Behind Closed Doors: Using Inside Lobbying. 6. Rallying the Troops: Using Outside Lobbying. 7. Getting Out the Vote: Group Involvement in Campaigns and Elections. 8. The Challenges and Opportunities of Interfaith Coalitions.
Katherine E. Knutson is Associate Professor of Political Science at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Her research and teaching interests are in the field of American politics, and she specializes in religion and politics and public policy. Knutson’s research appears in several edited books and academic journals including, Politics and Religion, PS: Political Science and Politics, and the Journal of Communication and Religion.
"Religion and politics have always mixed in the United States. Today, religion-based advocacy groups are more active than ever before. In Interfaith Advocacy, Katherine Knutson tells the in-depth story of one religious advocacy group—the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC)—that is active in Minnesota state politics. Using a variety of qualitative research methods, Dr. Knutson reaches a number of important conclusions about the mobilization and survival of religion-based interest groups, the role of interest groups in the policy process, the nature of coalitional politics, and the important role of religion-based groups in representing the views of underrepresented citizens. More than a mere case study, this book is an important contribution to the study of interest group representation in the United States."
—Anthony J. Nownes, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
"Drawing extensively on interviews and primary source material over several decades, Knutson tells a rich, contextual story of interfaith activism in state politics. While keeping the story engaging and accessible, she draws smartly on both political science theory and the literature on interest group activity. This makes Interfaith Advocacy a very worthwhile read for students and scholars alike."
—J. Matthew Wilson, Southern Methodist University