Initiatives & Outreach

Religion & Politics

In 2010, Washington University in St. Louis established a scholarly and educational center — the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics — to focus on the role of religion in politics in the United States.

The John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis seeks to deepen academic and public understanding of religion and politics in the United States. Our commitment is to listen to diverse and sometimes conflicting perspectives, to contribute rigorous academic standards and unbiased scholarship to discussions, and to encourage a civil discourse in which a pluralistic society can respectfully address complex and difficult issues.


The center is named for former U.S. senator from Missouri John C. Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest who served three terms in the U.S. Senate and also was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Danforth is the author of the book “Faith and Politics: How the ‘Moral Values’ Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together.”


The center is made possible by a $30 million endowment gift from the St. Louis-based Danforth Foundation. It is believed to be the largest gift of its kind made to a university to found such an academic center.


The center will offer programs that also contribute to public understanding of the role of religion in politics. It will convene public conferences and lectures to address local, state and national issues related to religion and politics and also will offer an educational program in religion and politics, including an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in religion and public life. The center also will attract visiting scholars to St. Louis and create opportunities for interaction with Washington University faculty, students and members of the St. Louis community. It also plans to publish and disseminate proceedings of conferences and results of studies by faculty, visiting scholars and students of the center.


The center will pursue the recruitment of at least five new faculty with endowed professorships to Washington University. The appointments will be in the area of American religion and politics and will complement the work of scholars already on the Washington University faculty. The new faculty members will hold joint appointments between the new center and existing academic departments.