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Point/Counter-Point: Should religion play a role in politics?

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Point/Counter-Point: Should religion play a role in politics?

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Church and state are separated for a reason

Ella Haas

Thomas Jefferson first coined the phrase “separation of church and state,” one of the principles upon which our nation was founded. In contemporary political affairs, however, this principle has not been followed. It needs to be if we want to sustain a stable government.

A prime example of the erosion between the divide of church and state was seen in the recent Vice Presidential debate. Both Democratic candidate Tim Kaine, senator from Virginia, and Republican Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, have cited religion as a major part of their lives.

“For me, the hardest struggle in my faith life was that the Catholic Church is against the death penalty and so am I,” Kaine explained at the debate. “But I was governor of a state, and the [Virginia] state law said there was a death penalty for [serious] crimes.”

major part of the founding ideals of America was to ensure religion did not impede on citizens’ rights. If we let it become a major part of politics, it will.”

Pence, however, has allowed his religious beliefs to dictate his political actions. He has frequently spoken out against abortion accessibility and LGBT+ rights, citing discrimination against same-sex marriage as “God’s idea.” He has also opposed the belief transgender people should be allowed to use the bathroom of their preferred gender and claimed, “the federal government has no business getting involved in issues of this nature.”

While Kaine does not let his faith interfere with his political position, Pence has, mixing two things that should be kept separate. But why should they be separated?

First, as seen with Pence, the interference of religion resulted in revoking Indiana citizens’ basic rights, which would go against the very foundation upon which America was laid – the freedom to exist without persecution.

In an informal survey interviewing 30 students, teachers, and staff members at OPRF, 95 percent of students, 81 percent of teachers, and 75 percent of staff members agree that religious beliefs and government should not interfere with one another.

“Our goal [as a country] is to be equitable; we cannot alienate certain children by choosing certain religious practices over others,” says one teacher.

In an informal survey interviewing 30 students, teachers, and staff members at OPRF, 95 percent of students, 81 percent of teachers, and 75 percent of staff members agree that religious beliefs and government should not interfere with one another”

Even history shows the intersection of church and state has negative results. While every person has the right to his or her own beliefs, the marriage of church and state would only lead to a theocracy, a political system centred around religion, which is an unstable form of government. Primary examples of this instability include Pakistan, the Crusades (beginning in 1095), and the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, who, ironically enough, fought and lost one of the most destructive wars in human history against the Qing Dynasty in 1860s China.

Passing religious laws or acts also does not support everybody because there will always be people who do not follow the mainstream religion.

A major part of the founding ideals of America was to ensure religion did not impede on citizens’ rights. If we let it become a major part of politics, it will.

Laws against abortion in the name of God cause women to experience mental trauma and die because of pregnancy complications. Forbidding same-sex marriage denies certain people their right to love. Banning religions, such as Donald Trump’s proposed suspension against people of the Islamic faith, deprives people of the right to express, worship, even value their beliefs without being condemned by the government.

If there is no separation of church and state, who is going to say we cannot adopt laws saying women can be killed if they do not marry who they are told to, as some religions demand?

Have we forgotten the 8 year-old girl killed at the hands of her husband on her wedding night, the 33 percent of girls in the developing world who are married before 18, the girls younger than our freshmen who find themselves stripped of their innocence because they were forced by law to marry, bear children to, and be beaten by men five times their age?

Presidents are not gods and senators are not saints.

The White House is not holy ground. If political leaders all were influenced by one religion, the nation would become stripped of its diversity and all laws would be passed in the name of this one faith, but if they all had different beliefs, controversy between politicians would only further complicate an already complex government. The combination of church and state cannot hold.

To allow faith to intrude on politics would destroy the very independence our country was founded upon.

 




 

Church has to play a role in government

Katie Dickel

While many in our country agree church and state should be separated, I would like to pose a new stance on the issue.

In our country religious extremism has ruined the very name and idea of religion for most people. Statistics gleaned from a recent Pew Research Center poll show about 23 percent of Americans are religiously unaffiliated.

A study by the Barna Group states 45 percent of unaffiliated individuals view Christianity as extremist. Clearly, many of the unaffiliated Americans remain unaffiliated due to fear of religious extremism.

While religious extremists that deny others their rights may turn some off from religion, we also need to recognize that celebrated morals evident in religion, such as giving to the poor, are not just something we support in our country. They’re something we need.

Uniting church and state would lead to greater equality and respect in our country, which would allow our government more ease in creating new legislature”

Those morals should be driving policy that our nation follows. In the United States, Food Research and Action Center, the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate hunger, reports 61 percent of Americans agree that “we should support and improve government-sponsored food assistance programs so that more people who are struggling can get the help they need.”

Rev. William J. Barber, a North Carolina-based Protestant pastor, said in a recent MSNBC broadcast that this is directly in line with Evangelical Christians’ morals and ideology. “Evangelicalism in the Bible starts with a critique of systems of poverty,”he told AM Joy host Joy Reid.

To cite Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.”

Rev. Barber interprets this to mean it is our religious duty to help the poor. Our government has already taken the first step of Barber’s wishes by creating the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps.

By combining church and state our nation would become more capable of creating programs like this, due to the shared ethics of religion.

Immigration is a hot topic as of late in our country . A recent poll conducted by The New York Times notes 60 percent of registered voters believe illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in our country and apply for citizenship.

This fact directly coincides with the Bible quote, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no greater command than this.”

The meaning of this quote is basically to respect those around you. This directly relates to how most registered voters would like to respect the rights of immigrants and allow them to stay and continue to benefit our country.

In conclusion, church and state should not be separated. Equal rights for all is a founding ideal of this nation. Uniting church and state would lead to greater equality and respect in our country, which would allow our government more ease in creating new legislature. If our lawmakers adopted these morals, our country could be less corrupt and a much better community for all its citizens.

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Point/Counter-Point: Should religion play a role in politics?