Politicians are influenced by faith, too

In Opinion
America prides itself on separation of church and state. But let’s get real, a person’s religious views often have the power to define the choices they will make.

The question is: Do political figures lose credibility by bringing religion into their argument? The answer: Probably so, depending on who you are asking, but a person’s religion is a sizable reflection of his or her character and standing.

The UsConstitution.net states Thomas Jefferson wrote that the First Amendment of our Constitution erected a “wall of separation” between the church and state. This phrase is commonly thought to mean that the government should not establish, support or otherwise involve itself in any religion.

The Constitution was written over 200 years ago. Lets not forget that back then the country was much smaller and less divergent. The majority of Americans were primarily Christian whom all shared similar Christian beliefs, principles and backgrounds, and religious minorities were few.

In a pluralistic democracy that is consumed by an array of religions, this is obviously no longer the case today. I think it is fair to assume that one’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, is a huge part of their collective selves.

As a politician, many decisions will be based on personal conscience, or sense of right and wrong and the political divide in this country falls sharply along religious lines.

There are a large number of American reformers in history that were not only influenced by faith, but also used religious discourse to reason their foundation. Martin Luther King Jr., arguably the most prominent civil rights movement leader in the 20th century, was one of the many who used his faith and his personal vision in God to convey his speech that ultimately reformed America.

To proclaim that politicians should not impose their ethical morality or conscientious selves on their policy-making techniques is illogical.

In an article by Barack Obama for USA Today titled “Politicians Need Not Abandon Religion,” Obama stated, “My faith shapes my values. Applying values to policy-making must be done with principles. Those who enter the public square are not required to leave their beliefs at the door.”

The article also stated that despite all the division, Americans are united by the fact that we are a deeply religious people. Seventy percent of Americans are affiliated with an organized religion.

“This is why, if political leaders truly hope to communicate our hopes and values to Americans in a way that’s relevant to their own, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse,” said Obama.

While there is a separation between church and state in America and it should be kept that way to a certain extent, there should be a certain amount of transparency and information on a political figure’s religious beliefs and/or background.

We entitled these powerful politicians who are running our country to make decisions on our behalf.

In the world we live in today, people’s religious beliefs shape in many instances how they act and interact with other people and, in the case of politicians, how they are going to serve the public.

And while by no means am I advocating that we should judge a politician by his or her personal beliefs, knowing their religious stance gives us a better idea of who they are and a better understanding of where they stand.

As young adults we should recognize who our politicians are. These public policy and decision-making government officials have been elected to serve at the behest of our nation. And beyond the bias, the intolerance and the narrow-mindedness, there comes a compromise and an understanding.

We are a diverse nation and while that is acknowledged, we shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations that a person’s impressionable sentiments will not influence his policy making.

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4 commentsOn Politicians are influenced by faith, too

  • Hi Amy,
    Your article on politicians and faith is confusing.

    On one hand, you say we shouldn’t judge politicians by their faith and in the very next clause you say “knowing their religious stance gives us a better idea of who they are.” Obviously, you can’t separate a person from his religion.

    What about atheists? Your article suggests that they are unfit for politics. Is that true?

  • Politicians shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations of codifying their personal religious beliefs into law. Let’s be clear: they are elected to represent the people. ALL of them, not just their own faith group. Instituting laws prohibiting anything just because one’s religion doesn’t like it is an abhorrent abuse of political power and an affront to the Constitution. Maybe you can’t separate a person from his religion, but a politician darn well better separate his religion from his legislation.

  • The Fullerton Sentinel

    Great article! You are right that knowing politicians religious stance gives us a better idea of who they are and a better understanding of where they stand.

  • Of course politicians are influenced by their faith, and that is entirely consistent with the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

    Separation of church and state does not prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies. The principle of separation of church and state, in this context, merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion; in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature. A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect.

    Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you. http://tiny.cc/6nnnx

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