Religion of Politicians and Governments Violates Equality

Since the time of ancient civilizations, religion has existed in ruing powers, and unfortunately it still exists very prominently in global governments today. The United States was the first country to try to separate the church from its political decisions. This was promoted largely by Thomas Jefferson when the Constitution was being drafted. In my opinion, the Separation of Church and State was one of the best things that the United States has ever done.

According to the article “A Church-State Solution” historically, “the king fought the church for control of religious institutions; other times, the church claimed power over the state by asserting religious authority over the sovereign himself.” This caused many holy wars in Europe, and by the time immigrants got to the United States, they wanted to have religious freedom, and they did not want to have a government have power over them and their religion. Over the past few centuries since America was founded, this constitutional right has been tested in many ways by denominational citizens and politicians. But what is most baffling to me, is after all the issues that religion in politics in the past have raised, why are politicians still allowed to bring their religion into the policies that they promote? When religion is brought into government, I feel that is a declaration of politicians and governments taking sides for personal reasons. When politicians and governments take sides I believe that citizens loose a sense of equality, and that is what irritates me the most. I have nothing against religion, but as an atheist I do not feel properly represented when I hear about politicians and governments promoting religion. Whether politicians are Christian, Agnostic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist, etc., why can’t they just keep their opinions to themselves?

The first line of the first amendment of the Constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This means that people are certainly allowed to have religious freedom, however when it comes to establishing laws, any sort of religion whatsoever will not be present. This is because the United States accepts people of all religions, so it is better to not have any religion in government, because if there was religion in government it would only represent one religion, which would not represent people of all the other religions-thus violating citizen equality. Beginning after World War II, people saw how terrible it was that people discriminated against for their religion. In particular, Americans saw the prosecution of the Jewish minority in the Holocaust, and it was decided that is was alright for people to express themselves more freely, including those in office. The result today, is many openly religious public officials. This is a problem because, they are leading the public away from politics/lawmaking and toward very personal spirituality, much like the politics of the middle east.

In this day in age we have seen the harm of religion existing within politics around the world. The most extreme example is the holy warfare that has escalated recently in the Middle East. In the Middle East, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all hate each other because they feel that their religion is the most accurate. To make matters worse, in each religion there are divisions -such as the Muslim Sunni and Shia- who hate each other as well. Because no Middle Eastern countries have a separation of church and state, religious public officials become elected or come into power through dictatorship. These political heads, then express their religious views which only a certain group of people agree with, resulting in civil wars against the government, and national wars against neighboring countries because they do not consider the needs of the countries citizens as a whole.  Now, like I said this is the extreme example. However there are many other instances that American politicians are expressing their religious views in a negative sense. Take the issue of Gay Rights. It is mind boggling to me how homosexual people do not have the same civil rights as heterosexual people in this modern age. The answer is because in the Bible in Leviticus 18:22 it says, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Those who interpret the Bible literally believe that these words were spoken to Moses by God in a supernatural form, and therefore religious politicians will do everything in their power not to defy God. If that is not a primary example of incorporating the church into the state, I don’t know what is. According to the article “Religion has taken center stage in America’s political debates,” Oklahoma State Legislator Scott Esk openly said that  ““we would be totally in the right” to stone gays to death because that’s what God desires.”” On the topic of civil rights, the issue of gay rights is very similar to Civil Rights for African Americans in the 1960s. During this time, white racist politicians would claim that God was a segregationist by separating the Jews and Christians out as the chosen people, and those people were originally white. During the time, former Mississippi Senator Bilbo stated “purity of race is a gift of God . . . . And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed.” Senator Bilbo’s statement became interpreted in many ways, and thus promoted segregation. 

This topic of religion in American politics, resurfaced as a major issue in the news recently, due to a Supreme Court ruling to allow prayer before town meetings. This ruling was shocking to many people because it clearly defies the First Amendment of Separation of Church and State. This however is not a big surprise if you understand the ideological situation of many of the justices. It has just so happened over the last few decades, that every time a justice seat becomes available, the dominating party is Republican, which has skewed the dominating party in the Supreme Court to the right.  Thus, currently we have six Catholic justices, and three Jewish justices. It is easy to see how in the case of the town meeting prayer, the ideologies of the justices was put before the letter of the law.

I have nothing against practicing religion. As a whole, I believe that there are very beautiful morals that can be learned from any religion. However it is not the job of politicians to interpret the Bible, it is their job to interpret the law, and represent the people as a whole. When governments and politicians create policies and laws that represent religious ideologies, those millions of citizens that do not practice that religion/any religion are unrepresented. Furthermore, the belief that “all men are created equal” is fundamental in the United States.  Thus, I believe that it should be required that the religions of politicians be kept unmentioned, the ideologies of politicians should not be allowed to be used when becoming elected, or during office, and local, state, and federal governments should not allow prayer of any religion, or the mention of religious sides that it may take. The only way to represent the people as a whole, is to not take sides.

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