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Religion in European multi-level parliamentary politics: the policy preferences of British and Irish MEPs

Research output: Working paper

Published

Publication date14/06/2013
PublisherLancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The United Kingdom (UK) and Republic of Ireland provide two distinctive cases for those investigating the role of religion in the politics and government of the European Union (EU). In particular, we can examine the relevance of faith-based values to the policy preferences of British and Irish Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) via an analysis of the responses to a Europe-wide survey questionnaire – the first of its kind, generating a representative cross-section of elite opinion. Across a range of competences and issues, we can detect a consistent desire on the part of the EU’s elected party politicians to maintain a separation of church and state, and an ability to distinguish between religious beliefs and political actions. MEPs appear to be moderate in their views on religion and close to the centre of wider public opinion. A common sentiment present in the answers to many of the questions is that, while churches or faith-based organisations should be respected equally, they should not exert undue political influence. The paper argues that this stance can be explained by a rational or vote seeking interpretation of political behaviour.