Wilde, Melissa J
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PublicationAmerican Bishops and Religious Freedom: Legacy and Limits(2016-11-01) Wilde, Melissa JThis paper explores continuity and change in the American Catholic hierarchy’s promotion of and later reliance on religious freedom. With an analysis spanning more than 50 years, it first traces the pressures for reform that created the Declaration more than 50 years ago, demonstrating that American bishops were crucial actors in the Declaration’s existence and passage, and that this was the case because of the strong legitimacy pressures they were under as Roman Catholic leaders in a predominantly Protestant country. The paper then turns to a summary of how the Birth Control Mandate of the Affordable Care Act once again created pressures for legitimacy for the American Catholic hierarchy, pressures which were again articulated in terms of critiques of hypocrisy. It demonstrates that although the specific critique changed, accusations of hypocrisy remain central in discussions of the Catholic Church’s stance on the Birth Control Mandate in the Affordable Care Act. PublicationEditorial: "Complex Religion: Intersections of Religion and Inequality"(2018-01-01) Wilde, Melissa JWhat is complex religion and how does it relate to social inclusion? Complex religion is a theory which posits that religion intersects with inequality, especially class, race, ethnicity and gender. The nine articles in this volume examine a wide array of ways that religion intersects with inequality, and how, as a result, it can create barriers to social inclusion. The issue begins with three articles that examine the role of religion and its intersection with race and racialization processes. It then moves to three articles that examine religion’s intersection with socioeconomic inequality. The issue closes with three studies of how religion’s relationship with the state creates and maintains various status hierarchies, even as some religious movements seek to combat inequality. Together, these articles enrichen our understanding of the complex task before anyone seeking to think about the role of religion in social inclusion. PublicationFrom Eugenicists to Family Planners: America's Religious Promoters of Contraception(2018-01-01) Wilde, Melissa J; Hopkins, KaJaiyaiuEarly proponents of contraception among American religious groups were staunch eugenicists who promoted birth control in the hopes of curtailing the "runaway fertility" of poor Catholic and Jewish immigrants. By the early 1930s, their campaign to legalize contraception was largely successful, but eugenicists would soon go from being a sign of progressive politics and enlightened scientific understanding to a dirty word associated with Hitler. By examining the statements of all of the early liberalizers on contraception from 1920 to 1965, this paper demonstrates that although these groups purged their statements on contraception of the word eugenics by the end of WWII, the fertility of "poor others" remained their focus for the next few decades. Talk of "race suicide" changed to talk of "responsible parenthood" as their focus moved away from the whitening Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants to the poor in the Third World and Americans in the inner cities. PublicationFewer and Better Children: Race, Class, Religion, and Birth Control Reform in America(2014-05-01) Wilde, Melissa J; Danielsen, SabrinaIn the early 20th century, contraceptives were illegal and, for many, especially religious groups, taboo. But, in the span of just two years, between 1929 and 1931, many of the United States’ most prominent religious groups pronounced contraceptives to be moral and began advocating for the laws restricting them to be repealed. Met with everything from support, to silence, to outright condemnation by other religious groups, these pronouncements and the debates they caused divided the American religious field by an issue of sex and gender for the first time. This article explains why America’s religious groups took the positions they did at this crucial moment in history. In doing so, it demonstrates that the politics of sex and gender that divide American religion today is deeply rooted in century-old inequalities of race and class. PublicationThe Demographic Imperative in Religious Change in the United States(2001-09-01) Hout, Michael; Greeley, Andrew; Wilde, Melissa JU.S. Protestants are less likely to belong to “mainline” denominations and more likely to belong to “conservative” ones than used to be the case. Evidence from the General Social Survey indicates that higher fertility and earlier childbearing among women from conservative denominations explains 76% of the observed trend for cohorts born between 1903 and 1973: conservative denominations have grown their own. Mainline decline would have slowed in recent cohorts, but a drop‐off in conversions from conservative to mainline denominations prolonged the decline. A recent rise in apostasy added a few percentage points to mainline decline. Conversions from mainline to conservative denominations have not changed, so they played no role in the restructuring.