You can take the church out of politics, but you can’t take the church out of the politician

Mal Hartigan

Forget the Constitution. Some political figures seem to ignore one crucial rule: separation of church and state. And with upcoming elections hot in the tabloids, the Republican Party appears to be a repeat offender.

Thomas Jefferson crafted the idea with hopes of creating fair public policy for all citizens: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

It isn’t a new concept. While laying the foundation for a democratic country, the Founding Fathers were careful to prohibit religious influence in political decisions.

More than 220 years later, many politicians have not only blurred the line between the two, but actively defied the mandate against religion in politics.

However, for the minority practicing other religions or no religion at all, is it fair that certain political figures have been placed on a pedestal for incorporating Christian beliefs when the Constitution forbids prohibits laws that prefer or discourage one religion over the other?

Earlier this year, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum gained national attention by incorporating his religious values into his vision for America.

Santorum is quoted in “The Huffington Post” saying the separation between church and state makes him “want to throw up.” Santorum also said, “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”

While Santorum is entitled to Constitutionally-protected free speech, he fails to acknowledge every citizen is also entitled to Constitutionally-protected freedom of religion. Abolishing separation of church and state would affect those of non-Christian faiths, forcing them

to abide by a candidate’s Christian ideals.

Religion has also become a crutch for political campaigns, mostly to secure conservative votes and donations.

Former presidential candidate Rick Perry’s campaign had an appealing foundation for conservatives, such as opposing abortion despite rape and incest, structured around his religious beliefs. Perry’s campaign ultimately crumbled from poor performance during televised debates, not because of conservative opposition to his values.

Perry isn’t the only guilty candidate. Santorum’s campaign instilled fear in religious Americans by claiming the Obama Administration has been an “assault on all religion in America.” He even publicly criticized Obama for making political decisions that were not “based on the Bible.”

While he defied birth control or women’s choice for abortion (regardless of circumstance), it’s no surprise Santorum received 3,693 more campaign contributions from men than from women. His campaign received $8,391,266 total, according to opensecrets.org.

In the first 6 weeks of Perry’s campaign, he raised $17 million, according to washingtonpost.com. That’s more than $25 million Americans spent toward political campaigns that support defying the Constitution. Citizens seem to have also forgotten the Constitution’s basic admonishment.

Americans donate millions to these candidates who pledge to fix the economy and other urgent issues, but the money also promotes the candidate’s ability to spread Christian-based opinions.

This Constitutional disregard is seen with more than presidential candidates. It hits closer to home with Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who is vocal about his Catholic faith.

While Brownback has many admirable goals that he attributes to the bible, such as decreasing child poverty, he vocally opposes abortion and gay marriage on religious grounds.

In a YouTube clip, Brownback says he wants faith and public life to “meet in the middle” when it comes to government. He says “Faith is critical” and it “needs to be engaged and encouraged.”

While the Constitution protects the rights of Americans to openly practice and encourage their faith, it still prohibits religious interference in government decisions.

Why? Because not everyone sees eye to eye. Even within Christianity, there is disagreement about how to interpret the bible and how one should practice his or her faith.

One candidate’s religious beliefs may fail to represent not only the entire Christian community, but America as a whole.

For example, if a candidate opposes gay marriage because of belief in the Old Testament’s literal word, this could then affect the entire nation, even if many Christians or non-Christians do not share the same values.

Drafting laws that represent only one religious group in our diverse nation is unfair and unjust. Social issues are not in the Constitution, and with the separation between church and state, religion should not influence the political arena. If politicians want to renovate America, it would be wise to reference the very document that founded our nation.

 

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