An Issue of the Separation of Church and State
The separation of church and state is an issue that has become an ethical dilemma. Religion has been playing a central role in shaping politics despite the implementation of various legal measures to ensure that the two social items do not influence each other. A large percentage of American citizens have agreed that inclination to faith is an essential facet of their lives; hence, it affects their decisions on legal matters. Religion is a vibrant and integral part of American society, contrary to the predictions of early observers. The impact of simple religious opinions of individuals taking part in making state policies and the influence of the government to make laws covering all faith-based organizations reveals that religion is entrenched in the fabric of American politics.
Although there are varying views, interpretations, and understanding of how separation can be achieved in real-life situations, it is impossible to detach church from state. Religious convictions, especially Christian faith, are ingrained in many areas of consciousness and action, including political activities. In this view, the essay provides insight into the separation of church and state by examining three areas which include, religion and non-partisan God, the influence of religion on political views, and religious tolerance in politics.
There are many beliefs that one cannot be a Republican and a Christian at the same time, and Democrats are thought to be pursuing Godly values such as civil rights and economic justice. However, God is far greater than any current political stances and rises above any radical affiliations; hence, He is considered no-partisan. Candidates aspiring to be leaders, parties, and ideologies are blemished and, thus, God cannot be correctly ascribed to the label of Democrat, Republican, or even American. Associating His kingdom to any form of a political movement is deemed idolatry and intolerable in the world of religion.
Values and beliefs largely shape a person’s way of life. It is believed that spiritual principles help individuals find the meaning of life and play a critical role in influencing their feelings, behaviors, and mental health; hence, they make a person who they are. Besides, religious values and beliefs are embedded in everything that a spiritual individual does. Many theological studies have indicated that religion and spirituality promote ethical behavior and virtues such as integrity, flexibility, tolerance, responsibility, and moral excellence among workers who uphold religious views (Domenach 254). Humans are seen as communal beings considering that large groups are bound together by spiritual principles to achieve common objectives based on faith. Religion is viewed as a relationship with God rather than a set of rules to be followed.
The U.S. Constitution prohibits the promotion of any particular religion but does not restrict people from choosing religion and exercising spiritual activities. It gives people the freedom to choose faith and make decisions based on self-directed religious views (Domenach 256). Nonetheless, religion rules everyday life since it always has a public dimension, and many elected officials use it to pass information to the people.
In addition, the separation of church and state is an essential area in the progression of human history and political theory. There is no need for candidates running for the presidency or any state position to disclose their religious convictions to persuade their followers to elect them (“Presidential Candidates and Religion” par. 5). However, the fact that people of a particular religion are inclined to choose one of their own is an indication that religion and politics are inseparable.
Religion is also renowned for its influence on political views, even in biblical times. The Bible highlights the politics in the story of Jesus Christ, in which his historical life ended with a political execution. In Rome, people who went against the imperial authority were crucified. The coming of the Kingdom of God has significant political implications for the Rome Kingdom despite the religious stand of Jesus about the likeness of God (Mark 1: 14 -15). A review of the balance between national laws, local community practices, and religious beliefs in American colonies provides an understanding of the role of the church in U.S. politics (Perez et al. 431). Eventually, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution stated that the government neither had the mandate to promote any religion nor the power to inhibit any citizen from practicing his or her spiritual beliefs. This regulation protects the American rights to the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and petition and implies the inability to separate the church and state.
Religion has been a critical tool in the understanding of the modern-day presidency, as seen in the actions of many U.S. presidents. Most of the literature about religion reflects on the religious beliefs and practices of top leaders renowned for their commitment to deep faith (“Presidential Candidates and Religion” par. 4). For example, the role of religion in the works of modern-era presidents, such as Barack H. Obama and George W. Bush, in which they articulated high commitment to Christian faith. For this reason, they attracted inestimable support from co-religionists and commentary from political observers (Gribben 141; Civil Issues Blog par. 3). The two American presidents, notably, continued to assimilate faith-based themes in ways that created notable distinctions among regimes.
Despite the government’s obligation to desist from ruling on the religious choices of individuals, there are still instances where the state influences the decisions of the people on matters about the church. Freedom of religion is a political principle that seeks to prevent the state from exercising control over people’s choice of faith. It gives seamless freedom to worship, print instructional materials, train spiritual teachers, and organize groups based on religious practices (Civil Issues Blog par. 4). The American constitutional framework reflects the sentiments that the founders of the United States had about the connectedness of the church to the state. It also highlights the need to allow people to freely practice the religion of their choice without any government interventions.
In the U.S., officials cannot be elected due to religious affiliation. In a politically motivated decision, the Supreme Court of the U.S. banned all spiritual qualifications for public positions. This move defied a Maryland law that required public officials to declare that they believed in God. Nonetheless, there are still instances where political leaders influence religious beliefs, motivating discrimination against some religious affiliations in schools, churches, and even hospitals (“Religious Freedom Laws” par. 2). For instance, the alienation of Americans from different beliefs is prevented in the U.S. public healthcare system. This inclination to faith bias defies the plea to nurture a system where Americans receive equal treatment at medical facilities without discrimination based on religion.
Religion has increasingly become a topic of multiple public contestations because it is perceived to inspire sexism, prejudice, and political violence in many parts of the world. Today, many scholars want leaders to shun away religious tolerance in politics. President Abraham Lincoln often articulated his disapproval of slavery by evoking religious convictions. This inclination resonates with the fact that he grew up in a highly religious Baptist family. Lincoln’s allegiance to religion was characterized by ambiguities that did not account for his true faith. However, his ultimate belief in a personal, sovereign God and pervasive use of religious language in public speech proved the influence of the church in his political career. President Obama also upheld that religious devotion was a critical motivation for many social reformers who strived for equality in the U.S. He stated that secularists were off beam when they wanted believers to keep their religion out of the public square. Most political reformists are not only motivated by faith but repetitively use religious dialect to argue for their cause.
Nonetheless, people should refrain from injecting personal morality into public debates since it is regarded as irrational. The American law is a collation of moral values that are deep-seated in the Judeo-Christian tradition. These beliefs mold the personality and behaviors of people, proof that it is impossible to divide religion and politics.
Furthermore, it should be noted that extreme liberalism on religious matters has dramatically slowed down collective political projects. Separating religion from state is challenging since the relationship between church and state exhibits an interplay of roles in shaping politics.
The interplay of church and politics is evident in the Bible. For instance, the story of Jesus Christ was reflected in a political context in Palestine in a period when it was under Roman control. The Roman campaigns, together with internal rebellions and the intrusion of the Parthians, resulted in a wabbly and disordered political situation that paved the way for Herod the Great to become King. Jesus’ passion for the Kingdom of God gave rise to furious conflicts with Roman authorities, and his commitment to public activities agitated the Rome-appointed ruler of Galilee to the arrest of his mentor, John the Baptist (Mark 1:14). The politics of “Lord have mercy” often arise at times when leaders want favors from God. It is seen as a radical form of politics in which people ask the Lord for grace to weep over indifference, the cruelty of the world, and the need to open doors to better social and economic avenues.
The impossibility of separating religion from politics, among Christians in particular, is evident in the above literature. The execution of Jesus of Nazareth, which is considered an essential event in the history of Christians, was based on political grounds. The proclamation of his Gospel violated the laws of the land, and threatened the prevailing kingdom; hence, severe political consequences were inevitable (Perez et al. 431). Reciting “Lord, have mercy” in the liturgy was considered a powerful political statement because loyal Romans often said this declaration when they came before Caesar, the Emperor. In worship, the statement implied that God, a non-political and non-partisan Being, was more powerful than the ruling King and in charge (Gribben 142). This position was overly politicized as Caesar regarded himself as divine.
It is biblical that Christians should care about society. The Bible states, “Let everyone be subject to governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1). 1st Peter 2: 13 – 14 says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to the governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong to commend those who do right.” These verses show how the church and state are inseparable since it brings out the idea of the authority of God, which extends to the governance of the state.
Religion is an integral tool that has been shaping politics in the U.S. for many years. It is seen as a cordial relationship with the Lord Almighty as opposed to a set of rules governing human society. Spiritual beliefs form a critical factor in people’s lives since they shape their morals and character (“Religion in Politics” par. 4). No one should place higher regard for their religious convictions than those of others since all belief systems drive to the same ideas of a supreme being who has autonomous control and authority over the universe. The separation of religion from state is impossible due to the morals and values that religious beliefs instill in humans.
Upholding the Constitution is essential to inhibit any government interventions aimed at promoting religion. The state should desist from influencing individuals based on religious matters. Leaders should stop religious persecution at all costs since its end does not justify the means. Freedom is one of the basic provisions of the Constitution and should be respected by everyone.
It is impossible to make political decisions void of religious beliefs because spiritual values, attitudes, and morals are deeply ingrained in human beings. Breaking out from the restrictive, mind-controlling principles of religion is seemingly difficult for many individuals, especially those who have been brought up in overly religious environments. Decisions for such individuals revolve around spiritual beliefs, which in turn influence political choices. Diverse religious traditions give people the space to organize society in divine ways. Religion indeed makes us who we are because in whichever form people choose to believe, the perception of God’s involvement in the world. Believing in deity essentially ingrains essential values and social adaptations that enable humans to fit in the social environment. For this reason, political leaders often apply religious philosophies to persuade their followers.
Kingkiner Works Cited
Civil Issues Blog. Should church pastors and other religious leaders be allowed to endorse political candidates? PSU, 2019, Web.
Domenach, Jean Marie. “Religion and Politics.” Cross Currents vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 254-261.
Gribben, Crawford. “Bible Reading, Puritan Devotion, and the Transformation of Politics in the English Revolution.” The English Bible in the Early Modern World. Brill, 2018. 141-160.
Holy Bible. American Standard Version, Bible Domain Publishing, 2013.
Infobase Learning. Presidential Candidates and Religion: Should the Religious Beliefs of a Presidential Candidate Matter? Issues & Controversies, 2012, Web.
Infobase Learning. Religion in Politics: Should Religion Play a Prominent Role in Politics? Issues & Controversies. 2004, Web.
Infobase Learning. Religious Freedom Laws: Should States Adopt Strong Religious Freedom Laws? Issues & Controversies. 2020, Web.
Perez, Nahshon, et al. “Unequal State Support of Religion: On Resentment, Equality, and the Separation of Religion and State.” Politics, Religion & Ideology vol. 18, no. 4, 2017, pp. 431-448.