Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
The intersection of religion and politics results in “wicked” policy problems for which evidence-based solutions are hard to find. An example is the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage requirement (CCR). Evidence suggests that women and society benefit from increased access to contraceptives, but religious freedom objections have been effective in litigation to limit the CCR's reach. The purpose of this study was to explore the narrative elements and strategies used by Catholic and Evangelical stakeholders regarding the CCR, contraceptives, and religious freedom. Social constructionism and the narrative policy framework (NPF) provided the foundation for the study. Data collection included legal briefs and press releases authored by Catholic and Evangelical stakeholders. Content analysis included a variety of coding methods (e.g., values, axial) triangulated to highlight the themes in the narrative elements. The themes were analyzed using the NPF. Results showed that narratives relied on socially constructed religious beliefs about religious exercise and freedom and employed narrative strategies designed to focus on the harms the CCR policy caused. Social change implications are found in the additional knowledge and discourse concerning wicked policy problems created at the intersection of religion and politics. Policymakers may use the findings to develop policies that prioritize evidence over belief-based narratives.