September 2, 2008


Dan Carter, 657-2269


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Religion, politics and the presidential campaigns of 2004 and 2008 will be the focus of the next Billings Town and Gown program.


Dr. David Weiss, assistant professor of communications at Montana State University Billings, will discuss “Running Races with God: How (and Why) our Presidential Candidates Talk about Religion on the Campaign Trail” at the Town and Gown event Wednesday, Sept. 3, at the MSU Billings Student Union Building.


It begins at 6 p.m. with a social and reception and continues with dinner at 6:45 p.m. and the program at 7:45 p.m.  The cost is $20, which includes a gratuity.


Since the mid-1970s, the religious affiliations and the private (yet publicly declared) beliefs of United States politicians and officeholders have been matters of public debate — and, as a result, of political strategizing, Weiss says.


Weiss will analyze this new wave of personal politico-religious communication, evaluating its use through the lenses of the U.S. presidency as a quasi-religious institution since the republic’s founding, the First Amendment’s position on both religion and speech, the theory of “civil religion” that has long been argued to explain how religious sentiment is to be properly expressed in American public life, and the notion of the “church-state contract” believed by some scholars to explain how religion and politics can peacefully co-exist in our country.


By placing the 2004 and 2008 candidates “God talk” — and the media’s increasing fascination with and encouragement of such talk —in these broader historical and rhetorical contexts, Weiss explores how the current conflation of religion and politics in the American electoral sphere can be seen in some ways as reflective of certain long-valued traditions while at the same time raising new and often challenging issues for Americans at all points on the political and religious spectrums.


Weiss is an Assistant Professor in MSU-Billings Department of Communication & Theatre and director of both the department’s graduate program and its Mass Communication curriculum. His teaching and research interests include media, culture, and society; political and religious communication; and the participation of the media in contemporary “culture war” issues.


Prior to joining the MSU Billings faculty, Weiss taught in the Communication Department at Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio.  Before a return to academia in 2000, Dr. Weiss spent 17 years in the advertising industry in New York City. 


For more information about the Town and Gown event, contact the Thompson Law Firm at 294-4233 or send an e-mail to