Most enlightenment philosophers argued that the separation between Church and State would prevent capture of resources by one state religion. We formalize and test a theory that addresses a different danger. We demonstrate that a reduction in the separation between Church and State can be corrosive to political institutions, especially the Judiciary. We show that religious leaders use their high legitimacy to gain political office, and become particularly abusive politicians, misusing their political authority to undermine the independence of the Judiciary. We provide a theoretical framework and estimate the structural equations of our theory using data from Pakistan. Our empirical strategy exploits the plausibly exogenous timing of a military coup to provide causal evidence for the key predictions of our theory.
Sultan Mehmood and Avner Seror, Aix-Marseille School of Economics