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Stuart A. Wright

State Repression and the New Religious Pluralism

Professor Wright’s research over the last 30 years has focused on state repression and social control of minority religions. In recent years, he and colleague Susan Palmer have examined a specifically harsh instrument of social control, government raids on new or nontraditional religious communities; together they have documented 113 government raids in 17 different countries. They argue that this state repression is aimed at a kind of “new religious pluralism.” While the old religious pluralism (Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism) has settled into a peaceful coexistence, the appearance of a “new religious syncretism” in Western societies has ignited new tensions. It may be argued that government raids on minority religions are a reactionary impulse marshaled by entrenched power elites and defenders of the status quo to fend off forces of globalization—immigration and changing demographics, increased cultural diffusion and diversity, and growing pluralism giving rise to a new religious marketplace.

Stuart A. Wright is professor of sociology and chair of the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Criminal Justice at Lamar University. He is a former NIMH Research Fellow (Yale) and Rockefeller Foundation Scholar (Bellagio, Italy). He has authored over forty publications in scholarly books and journals and is known internationally for his research on religious and political movements, conflict, and violence. He has published five books, including Armageddon in Waco (University of Chicago Press, 1995); Patriots, Politics, and the Oklahoma City Bombing (Cambridge University Press, 2007); and Saints under Siege: The Texas State Raid on the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints(with James T. Richardson, New York University Press, 2011). He has just completed a book (coauthored with Susan J. Palmer) focusing on government raids on new or minority religious communities in 17 countries, which will be published by Oxford University Press in 2015.