Font Size
Full Series  
God and Government
October 01, 2013
Every government on earth has its own approach to religion. Some see it as a partner, others see it as a threat. Some choose official faiths, others scorn that idea. We'll go to 14 nations around the world, meeting people whose lives have been shaped by the ways their countries balance religion and state.

Our series producers are Jocelyn Frank and Jonathan Miller, and our content consultant is Elizabeth Shakman
. We're supported by the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs.
Being Queer and Christian in Russia
Two experts outline the history of Russian religion-state relations, from the tsars to the Soviet Union to the present day. Plus, reporter Lauren Ober takes us to a small, underground church in St. Petersburg where LGBT Christians worship, amid anti-gay rhetoric from religious and political leaders. Ober explains why many of Russia's LGBT Christians find it difficult to be out about their sexuality, and their faith.
God and Government: Russia

Photos by Lauren Ober

Geraldine Fagan, journalist and author of Believing in Russia: Religious Policy after Communism
Irina Papkova, research fellow at Georgetown University and author of The Orthodox Church in Russian Politics

Deerstop - Wikipedia
Russia: In Studio with Balalaika Master Andrei Saveliev
Andrei Saveliev was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the Soviet era, but moved to the United States about 20 years ago. During Soviet rule, religion was considered antithetical to communism. But faith didn't exactly disappear; Saveliev found spirituality in Russian folk music. 

Andrei Saveliev, Balalaika master and member of The Washington Balalaika Society

Take a listen to the songs Saveliev performed for us in studio:
Flickr | Takver
Germany: Pagans and Muslims Test Religious Freedom
A largely Christian country, with a history of genocide against Jews and other minorities, Germany is now taking in thousands of Muslim migrants. Two experts explain Germany's approach to balancing "church and state" and how this relationship plays into the country's changing demographic. But first, reporter Jacob Resneck introduces us to Germany's pagans, as they seek to reclaim some of their symbols from their country's Nazi past.

Rolf Schieder, chair of Practical Theology and Religious Education at  Humboldt University in Berlin.
Esra Özyürek, chair for Contemporary Turkish Studies at the London School of Economics.

Music used in the program includes excerpts of A Mighty Fortress is Our God and other pieces written by Martin Luther and performed by Paula Bär-Giese (soprano and percussion) and Hans Meijer (lute). These artists are part of the Luther Project of the Foundation Musick's Monument in the Netherlands.

The photos below are from our story on Pagans in Germany,
taken by reporter Jacob Resneck.

SuperJew | Wikimedia
Israel: Just How Jewish Is 'The Jewish State'?
In late 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu introduced a controversial bill that would officially declare Israel a Jewish state. Many Israelis saw Netanyahu’s proposal as an attack on non-Jews, who make up around 20 percent of the population. But Israel has been calling itself "the Jewish state" since the very beginning--so what did Israel’s founders mean by that, and why it so controversial? To experts debate.

We begin with a look at  Israel's government-run system for organ donation, which brings in donors at just a quarter of the rate in the United States. Many doctors worry that the heavy influence of Orthodox Jewish thinking in the country's legal code is hurting the survival rates of those in need. Produced by Dalia Mortada.

Michael Karayanni, Palestinian Israeli and professor of law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem
Michael Brenner, German Jew and director of the Center for Israel Studies at American University

The photos below are from our story on organ donation in Israel, all taken by Dalia Mortada.

Israel: In the Studio with David Broza
David Broza launched his career in 1977 and is now one of Israel's best-known musicians and activists. While he doesn't go to synagogue every week, he finds solace in the quiet stillness of prayer, a practice he first discovered as a rebellious teenager. Now nearly 60, he tells us that "the art of contemplation...has stuck with me til today."

Take a listen to all of the songs he performed just for us, live in studio: