ENG 105 S5- Professor Wheat
December 3, 2010
One Nation Under God:
An Observation of the “separation” of Church and State
On January 20th 2009 President Barack Obama shocked a myriad of Republican Conservatives when he stated in his inauguration address that the United States was not a “Christian nation or a Jewish nation or Muslim nation” but a “nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” This declaration proved to be the first time a newly elected President considered the “non-believer” audience in his inauguration address. It is curious that nearly 230 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence a President would mention “non-believers” in his inauguration speech for the first time in history. Wasn’t it established in the Constitution, nearly 220 years ago, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”? This line which separates Church and State resembles a dashed line more and more each day; there are loopholes and exceptions that circumvent the wall which is supposed to stand tall between the Church and the State. The influence that moral, religious values have on the policies enforced by government is striking, decisions on issues such as gay marriage, abortion, health care reform, and education are infiltrated by religious institutions. In addition to these issues, the base of any country’s government is the elected President, and any factor of that elected person’s life will influence the decisions he or she makes while at office. Religion cannot be put easily aside in this debate, regardless of the angle it is viewed from religion has a tremendous effect on the ruling of the elected leader; evident in George Washington’s words in his 1796 Farewell Address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government (Billitteri).” This “necessary spring of popular government” we have seen once again in the so called “Jesus Moment” or Christian Conservatism. When asked his favorite philosopher during the 2000 GOP presidential primary George W. Bush answered “Christ, because he changed my heart”, an answer which obviously brought about heated confrontations from sea to shining sea (Jost). It was debated whether or not the leader of such a diverse nation should speak so forthright about his Christian beliefs. With such intrusions one begins to question whether there truly exists a separation of Church and State, or whether, perhaps, the United States was truly founded as a Christian nation. Ultimately, it can be said religious institutions have had a tremendous impact on decisions of healthcare, education, and marriage. To name a few of the many instances, one need only look at the pro-life movement to realize that the cornerstone of the opposition to abortion is the Christian church, evangelical Christians and Catholics alike (Jost). The freedom of expression of these evangelical Christians and Catholics is not the true problem, the real discrepancy lies in situations such as the one which arose with the Democratic candidate John Kerry. In the 2000 Presidential Election, the Roman Catholic Democratic candidate John Kerry started promoting his pro-choice ideals; his outspoken support of abortion awakened a debate within the Roman Catholic Church. Consequently, several Roman Catholic bishops stated that they would “not allow Kerry and other public officials who support abortion rights to receive Holy Communion in their dioceses (Jost).” Indeed, abortion is a topic which is incontrovertible in the Roman Catholic Church, but up to what point should the church excommunicate one of its members for publicly voicing their belief? Andrew Sullivan, a Catholic political commentator, writes that “It is one thing for the church to preach what it...
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