Religion and differential justice.


Access rights

Worldwide access
Access changed 8/24/22

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Historical processes of domination and discrimination have contributed to the emergence of racial stratification in the United States. Differential enforcement of criminal justice on racial minorities have demonstrably contributed to the perpetuation of a racial hierarchy. Religious culture, too, has been differentially shaped by a history of racial dominance and oppression. Framed by Weber’s distinctions between religion of the privileged and religion of the disprivileged, three studies on the roles of religion and differential justice are included herein. First, using data collected among a random sample of U.S. adults at a time when incidents of police-minority violence were prominent in public discourse, I assess the relationship of politics, religion, and media consumption on attitudes about the police. Confidence in police was found to be positively related to religious attendance and viewing FOX News Channel and negatively related to political liberalism, religious salience, and viewing other TV news (e.g., PBS, BBC). Fear of police brutality, though, was positively associated with viewing MSNBC and other TV news. In the second study, I assess the role of black Protestant churches in civil society by estimating the effects of county-level affiliation rates on crime rates in the South. Applying spatial analyses to data from the 2010 Religious Census and Uniform Crime Reports, Black Protestant affiliation rates were found to be negatively associated with county-level property crime arrest rates, but unrelated to violent crime arrest rates. Affiliation rates were also found to be protective in counties with low median income and high resource disadvantage. While they also buffered the effects of prior property crime arrest rates, they exacerbated prior violent crime arrest rates. In the third study, I investigated whether religious participation buffers the negative effect of past incarceration using panel data collected from 1979 to 2002. While religious participation decreased the expected count of self-reported and medically diagnosed health outcomes among black and Hispanic former inmates, it was a substantial risk factor for white ex-cons. Implications for critiques of religion offered by Karl Marx and Richard Dawkins are discussed.



Religion. Politics. Mass media. Differential justice. Police. Incarceration. Health. Evangelicalism. Black Protestantism.