Separation of church and state should continue to be respected
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 22:10
One of the popular idioms of this election season has been a return to constitutional politics. “Back to basics” has become a buzzword in this election, but one of the most basic pieces of this country’s structure–the separation of church and state–is being ignored. This is not only unlawful but detrimental to the country as a whole.
The U.S. has a long and complicated history of the separation of church and state. America was founded “under God,” with the freedom of religion being one of its most central tenets. This conflict has continued for almost 250 years, and religion will continue to have a place in this country. Anyone has a right to express their beliefs and voters have a right to choose a politician who they feel comfortable with. The question is: When does religion in politics cross the line into the creation of laws?
It has. Over the past few years, religious dialogue has increased dramatically, to the point where politicians are citing religious texts and doctrines as cause and defense for laws. President George W. Bush’s primary point for the opposition to gay marriage is that it is subversive to a tradition “honored and encouraged by every religious faith.” President Barack Obama used Jesus’s sermon at the Mount as a model for his economic policies in a speech he made at Georgetown University in 2009. Mike Huckabee has credited some of his political success to “the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000.” Michelle Bachmann, an early Republican candidate for this year’s 2012 presidential election, claimed in 2009 that she would run for presidency if God called her to do it.
The fact that some of our leaders are elected on the promise of doing “God’s work” is a terrifying prospect. One of the fundamental pillars of our political system is freedom of religion. In fact, it’s the reason this country was founded. Our government exists for the facilitation of civil concerns alone. In the same way that it is not allowed to prevent the practice of any certain religion, it is not allowed to promote another. It is Bachmann, Huckabee, Bush and Obama’s right to express their faith, but it is not the right of the government to say which faith ought to inform the rules that the country will live by.
On a larger scale, the increase of religious thought in politics promotes violence and intolerance among the public. A certain religious doctrine being given special attention in law can lead to the conclusion that it’s more right or wrong than another. Violence against Muslims spiked dramatically after the U.S. declared its War on Terror, centered unapologetically around radical Islam before any other kind of terror. A bill was proposed in Tennessee to actually outlaw adherence to Sharia, Islamic Law, under the claim that it was serious danger to the state. A similar bill in Oklahoma was actually approved by voters. The measure was struck down by U.S. District Court Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange, who stated that it violated “the very foundation of our country, our Constitution, and particularly, the Bill of Rights.”
Religion and faith are uncompromising ideals that don’t always tend toward logic. It’s hard for there to be respect, understanding and compromise among people who believe that their position is on the side of a supreme being, and that adherence to it should be compulsory.
The majority of examples I have cited are from the right wing. I am not deliberately trying to single out Republicans and Christianity as the main perpetrators of this phenomenon. In a country that’s predominately Christian, Christianity can be expected to have the loudest voice. I’m not intentionally singling out Republicans either they did that themselves. From the 2012 Republican Party Platform: “The provision of the first amendment concerns freedom of religion. That assurance has never been more needed than it is today, as liberal elites try to drive religious beliefs – and religious believers – out of the public square. The Founders of the American Republic universally agree that democracy presupposes a moral people and that, in the words of George Washington’s Farewell Address, ‘Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.’”
It may well be that America could use some morality. However, according to the Constitution that the Founding Fathers wrote, that isn’t the government’s place to say.