Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Antonio de Velasco

Committee Member

Leroy Dorsey

Committee Member

Sandra Sarkela

Committee Member

William Duffy


Religion's place in American society has been locked in a binary, seen either as an inappropriate societal "mind trap" or indispensable for community-building. I posit that this binary, or what I call the "religious hinge," limits how we view religion in the public sphere and constrains our understanding of democracy. My project seeks to pierce the current confining view of "religion-as-disease-or-cure" and open up our understanding of public conflict. I approach this task by moving past the abstract questions concerning church and state and examining analogical arguments in particular religio-civic controversies. I examine points of resistance between agonists through a method of controversia, an approach that allows me to understand the role of analogies in religio-civic debates. This dissertation focuses on three cases: the Park51 or "Ground Zero Mosque," the Westboro Baptist Church, and the Ordain Women movement in The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints. I contend that the interconnected network of analogy, controversy, and religion expands our consideration for the many voices in communities, ultimately leading to a greater potential for scholarly approaches to religion in the broader public sphere.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.