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

The center seeks to deepen academic and public understanding of religion and politics in the United States. Our commitment is to facilitate dialogue across diverse and sometimes conflicting perspectives, to contribute rigorous academic standards and unbiased scholarship to discussions, and to encourage civil discourse in which a pluralistic society can respectfully address complex and difficult issues.


The center offers programs that contribute to public understanding of the role of religion and public life. It has created an educational program in religion and politics, including an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor, and convenes public conferences and lectures to address local, state and national issues related to religion and politics. The center attracts visiting scholars to St. Louis and offers 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 has recruited five senior faculty members with endowed professorships to Washington University. These appointments represent the highest caliber of scholarship in the fields of American religion, American cultural history, and religion and politics. Several faculty members hold joint appointments between the center and other academic departments.

The center has also developed nationally-competitive postdoctoral and dissertation completion fellowships to support the study of religion and politics among new generations of scholars.

In addition to dedicated research, faculty and fellows are both committed to undergraduate instruction through coursework and the minor in Religion and Politics.

John C. Danforth

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.