The Volokh Conspiracy

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Biden Administration

The Biden Inauguration and Civil Religion

The Rise of the Religious Left?


Last month's presidential inauguration was quite unprecedented in some ways, but in others it was quite traditional. Consider, for example, the religious imagery that pervaded the day–in the Mass the President and other administration officials attended before the ceremony, in President Biden's address itself, in the remarks of other speakers. Civil religion, the body of religious symbols that unite a nation and add solemnity to public occasions, seems alive and well in our country, if last month's ceremony is any evidence.

In America, we tend to associate civil religion with conservatives and the Republican Party. But President Biden is a Democrat and, broadly speaking, a man of the progressive left–and the progressive left usually feels quite uncomfortable with the sort of religious displays that characterized the Biden inauguration. How to explain those displays, then? In our new Legal Spirits podcast, my colleague Marc DeGirolami and I explore the religious imagery at the Biden inauguration and reflect on what it suggests about contemporary American politics, particularly about the rise of what some commentators call the "Religious Left." Have a listen!