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We've recently had some questions about the Catholic Church which were primarily about its internal politics:

Should questions about the internal politics of a specific religion be on topic if there is no connection to politics outside the corresponding political organisation?


A similar question was asked about NGOs. There, the answer started with:

For the purpose of the site, questions about NGOs are on topic if the NGO has a political purpose.

This actually provides an interesting perspective. Religion plays an integral part in some governmental structures, for example in Iran:

If a law is deemed incompatible with the constitution or Sharia (Islamic law), it is referred back to the Parliament for revision.

Other states are run secularly, according to Wikipedia:

Secularity can be established at a state's creation (e.g., the Soviet Union, the United States, India) or by it later secularizing (e.g., France or Nepal). Movements for laïcité in France and separation of church and state in the United States have defined modern concepts of secularism, the United States of America being the first explicitly secular nation both in Western and world history.

Should that play any consideration in whether a question about a certain religion in a certain place is on-topic on our site?

How should we decide when a question about a religious organisation is on topic on Politics SE?

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    @EkadhSingh I don't think that addresses the question of religious organisations directly. Based on that question, would you say the internal politics of the Catholic Church are on-topic? Based on the accepted answer here I would say: 'No, unless there's a link to governmental politics'.
    – JJJ Mod
    Jul 10 at 16:50
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Whether it's a religious organization, a company, a neighborhood, a store, a family, or any other group that could have internal politics, I think the answer would be the same: if there's an explicit connection to a government process or a public policy then it's probably on-topic. Otherwise, the question is either off-topic or there's a more suitable SE site to try migrating it to.

Just to reiterate the very first line of the 'What topics can I ask about here?' page of the help center:

Politics Stack Exchange is for objective questions about governments, policies and political processes.

The 'governments' part is pretty clear, but 'policies' and 'political processes' and their own are unfortunately fuzzy. Would a company's hiring policies fit? Would the internal politics of your local HOA fit?

Though that one line isn't completely clear, the rest of that page seems to suggest that the focus of the site is on the politics of governments and the politics that influence governments:

Central to the idea of this site are the nuts and bolts of policies introduced by governments...

Processes are central to how legislation is made. Questions seeking to understand the rules and processes by which policy is made in various legislatures or ruling bodies ... are wholly on topic

Just to clarify, Macroeconomics is specifically on-topic. Most public policy questions involve economic matters

In just about any policy of substance, there are particular personalities that are central to its understanding, as well as demographic data about supporters and opponents of legislation...

...answerable using polls, punditry, and other verifiable and reproducible sources.

So, to use the Can the US Roman Catholic Bishops establish rules against the will of the Pope? question as an example, there are a number of different ways to ask about that situation that I think could be on-topic here:

  • What authority does Vatican City have over bishops in the US?
    • This is similar to the original question, however it's framed to focus on Vatican City's authority as a sovereign government over citizens of another sovereign nation, rather than the ecclesiological aspects of the Pope's authority as a religious figure
  • What ways do bishops have to lobby the the US government?
    • Can focus on how the internal politics will translate to attempts to convince the government to enact similar policies
  • Do bishops have any official positions in the national/state governments in the US?
    • Asks if the people doing the internal politics have any direct influence within the government already
  • Are there polls showing how much influence bishops in the US have over voters' or politicians' behavior?
    • Asks how the internal politics will indirectly affect the government by connecting it to how people who control the government behave

Each of those versions takes the original topic and explicitly tries to connect it to government processes or public policy. Framing a question in terms of things like the extent of government authority, how much influence a group has in a government, how a group affects voters' behavior, etc., will help push a borderline question over to being on-topic.

In short, a question about the internal politics of a religious organization could be on-topic here if it was framed in the right way. If the religious organization and the local/national government are tightly linked in some way (Vatican City, Iran, the Church of England, etc.), then questions about their internal politics often are questions about government processes. In places that are more secular and religious organizations have no official place in (most of) the government, then questions would only be on-topic if they focus on how the internal politics are affecting the larger political systems those organizations are in.

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    I think this is a good way to draw the distinction, but I'm not sure your first reframing is much different from the original question.
    – Bobson
    Jun 21 at 15:06
  • @Bobson: Thanks, and that first reframing was meant to be similar, to show how a small change could probably bring it on-topic,. I've just edited it to hopefully say what I was trying to say more clearly.
    – Giter
    Jun 21 at 17:39

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