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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Religion and the 2012 Presidential Primaries

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life


Jill Lepore, Harvard University, The New Yorker
Rebecca Traister, Salon, The New York Times
Alan Wolfe, Boston College

Date: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Time: 4:00PM
Location: Devlin 101, Boston College

Abstract: Religion continues to play a key role in presidential politics this election cycle, as new complexities mix with ongoing tensions between American religions and American political culture. Though a new poll shows increasing discomfort with the level of religious language in the current campaigns, the majority of Americans embrace some connection between faith and politics. Join us as the Boisi Center convenes three of the nation's most prominent and insightful political and cultural analysts for a robust discussion about the role of religions in the presidential campaigns thus far.


Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker. She is author of many books, including The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History (2010); New York Burning:  Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (2005); and The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death (forthcoming). A co-founder of the magazine Common-place, Lepore’s essays and reviews have also appeared in the New York Times, the Times Literary SupplementAmerican Scholar, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington PostThe Daily Beast, the Journal of American History and American Quarterly. Lepore received her B.A. in English from Tufts, an M.A. in history at University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University.


Rebecca Traister is an author and writer for, where she has covered women in politics, media and entertainment since October 2003. Prior to that, she was a reporter at the New York Observer, where she wrote about the film business. She is author of Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women (2010), which has been selected for the 2012 Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize. She is the recipient of Women's Media Center Award and is a two-time recipient of the Newswomen's Club of New York Front Page Award. Traister has also written for Elle, The Nation, Vogue, Glamour, New York Magazine, the New York Times, and Nerve. She received a B.A. in American Studies from  Northwestern University.


Alan Wolfe is the founding director of the Boisi Center and Professor of Political Science at Boston College. He is author of more than a dozen books, including, most recently, Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It (2011), The Future of Liberalism (2009), Does American Democracy Still Work? (2006), Return to Greatness (2005), The Transformation of American Religion: How We actually Practice our Faith (2003), Moral Freedom (2001) and One Nation After All (1999). Widely considered one of the nation's most prominent public intellectuals, he is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, The New Republic and The Atlantic, and has delivered lectures across the United States and Europe. 


In the News

How are Catholic and Mormon presdiential candidates perceived in America today? According to the New York Times, Santorum’s Catholicism was a draw to Evangelicals (March 23, 2012). Now that Santorum has pulled out of the race, will Evangelicals support Romney? On Thursday, April 12, Historian Jill Lepore (Harvard University), writer Rebecca Traister ( and Alan Wolfe (Boston College) discussed the role of religion in the presidential primaries and upcoming campaigns.