“As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.”
Republican candidate Rick Perry made this statement in his campaign video “Strong” (now beating Rebecca Black’s “Friday” as the most disliked video on YouTube). If you have working knowledge of the Constitution, you should understand why this is alarming to hear from a candidate with over 10 percent of the Iowa Caucus votes.
For over 200 years, the United States has kept freedom of religion a constitutional guarantee, through the First Amendment’s statement that the government may declare no law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Yet current Republican candidates continue to advocate a government with more laws based on Christianity while simultaneously claiming their own religious freedom is waning.
Let’s make one point clear: Christians are not being actively persecuted for their beliefs. Republican candidate Newt Gingrich rhetorically asked if the Catholic Church should be forced to close its adoption services in Massachussets for not accepting gay couples in order to show an example of the Obama administration’s “secular bigotry.” In actuality, the government would only be cutting its funding to such services, expressing a want for equality of gay and straight couples. This is not necessarily an opposition to religion, but a separation of religion from law, indicating the need for tolerance to take precedence.
Similarly, Perry cited the Obama administration’s lack of support for the Defense of Marriage Act as evidence of the “War on Religion.” The act is a federal prohibition of same-sex marriage. While many Christians may interpret the Bible as restricting marriage to an act between a man and a woman, it’s a book to be followed by its adherents. If others choose to believe otherwise, it should be tolerated under the First Amendment.
Current policies do not constitute bigotry. Secularization is ultimately meant for a level of tolerance in order to allow people of multiple belief systems to live peacefully within one nation. For America to threaten religious liberties, it would need to go further. In April last year, France banned the wearing of face veils, a practice some Muslim women find key to their religion in order to express modesty. An action along those lines does not promote national equality and instead targets a single group of people.
To remain fair to all citizens, the government should approach religion with neutrality, promoting tolerance through its actions. Yet Republican candidate Rick Santorum stated in November, “Our civil laws have to comport with a higher law: God’s law.” By mixing together church and state, Santorum would directly violate the Constitution itself.
I have enough faith in America to remain confident that Santorum (or any of the aforementioned candidates) will never become president. But if he were to, the nation’s conversion to a theocracy would be a travesty. Aside from the fact that the inalienable rights of citizens would be trampled upon, examples illustrate how detrimental religion’s inclusion in politics can be. Sharia law, governing much of the Middle East, is the Islamic law which has led to the backwards thinking with which we associate the region. Islam, like Christianity, is not inherently bad. Under the American law, both are to be regarded as equally valid personal belief systems. However, to allow Christianity to dominate politics would bring us down a similarly unjust path socially. The nation has every reason to keep politics separate from religion and should not be chastised for doing so.