Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

First Advisor

Grant, Tobin


This dissertation examines the experiences of clergy who have run for elected office. Previous research has examined the political behavior of clergy and why those in other professions have run for office. This dissertation is the first study of clergy who have run for office. I find that most of the interviewees view service in elective office as a civic duty rather than as an opportunity to create a polity that reflects their personal religious convictions. I collected data on 217 clergy who ran for office from 1980 to 2016 and interviewed 17 individuals sampled from that population. Interviews were semi-structured to allow a form of grounded theory approach. Interviews were transcribed, coded and analyzed utilizing qualitative, interpretive methods of researcher memos, continual reflection, and notations on the transcriptions that identified salient themes associated with this group of candidates. First, many subjects described their religious careers as a choice and not a “calling” from God and even more viewed their run for office as a choice. Second, while some clergy were raised in households that involved political discussions, most respondents personal interest in politics was the main motivation to run for office. Third, subjects displayed diverse opinions regarding the ongoing debate in the Untied States regarding the appropriate relationship between church and state. I conclude the dissertation with a discussion of its contribution to the academic literature on religion and politics and candidate emergence.




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