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Religion Under Bureaucracy: The u.s. Case

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This article outlines a shift in u.s. law about religion from constitutionally enforced separation to bureaucratic management of a naturalized religion. Administration of the chaplaincy of the Veterans Administration is used to illustrate this shift. Chaplains hired for government jobs such as those at the va are generally required to have three credentials: the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from an accredited institution, a prescribed number of cpe (Clinical Pastoral Education) credits, and an ecclesiastical endorsement. Each of these credentials originated within mostly Protestant institutions but all have adapted over the last half century or so to function in a bureaucratic “multi-faith context.” The new “spiritual governance” exercised through the web of public-private partnerships that administer pastoral care is built on a human anthropology that assumes that humans are naturally spiritual, a governance that might be understood as a new form of religious “establishment.”

Affiliations: 1: Indiana University BloomingtonDepartment of Religious Studies and Maurer School of LawSycamore Hall 230, Bloomington, in


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