America was founded on the idea of separation of church and state. So, why is it that in present day America, it’s not uncommon to see things done in the name of certain religions? Americans have slowly but surely migrated away from the concept of separating religious affairs and government policies and no one seems concerned about the contradictions between the laws and actions of the nation.
Different opinions and beliefs can naturally foster conflict, regardless of laws and regulations. However, when the government steps in to regulate citizens’ actions in the name of religion, there is a problem, particularly when a governing document specifically says that people have the right to freedom of religion. Some of the hot button topics being debated now have one common thread: the belief that one religion holds precedence over not only all other religions, but over the nation too.
One such issue is abortion. This divisive issue has split the country into two opposing sides: pro-choice and pro-life. Both choices sound appealing, as you may think supporting freedom of choice and freedom to live go hand in hand, but not in this case. Those who are pro-choice believe that women should have the right to choose to do whatever they want with their bodies, while those who are pro-life believe that a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion infringes on the right of life belonging to her unborn child.
Stripping away a woman’s right to choose is often justified by Christian beliefs forced upon some who may not even accept that religion. Before there was a safe way to have an abortion, women would still have abortions, just in unsafe ways. If abortions were made illegal, what’s to say that women won’t find alternative and more dangerous means of getting rid of unwanted pregnancies?
Along with the rights of women in America, gays and lesbians have been negatively impacted by the views of America’s religious majority. Currently, gays and lesbians in America don’t have the right to get married except in a few states. This means that all the rights and benefits that go along with marriage are denied to people in relationships with people of the same sex. Regardless of any feelings people may have towards gays one way or the other, all citizens should have the same rights.
The justification behind denying gays the right to get married is that it goes against nature and is an abomination, according to the Bible, but since when was the Bible the supreme law of the land? Laws that prevent anyone from having the same rights as their counterparts based on religious beliefs are unequal in nature and have no right being in a nondenominational country to begin with.
The conflict of religion goes deeper than just laws, however, with the current trend of Islamophobia in America. Recently, there have been uninformed comparisons between terrorism in America and the religion of Islam, resulting in violent outbursts by Christians who hold the belief that Muslims are the enemy.
Rev. Terry Jones in Florida is one current example of religion and government becoming intertwined. He planned to burn copies of the Quran on Sept.11, although these plans have now apparently been placed on hold. What makes this man different from any other mentally unstable person is the fact that he has enough influence to intensify the conflict between Christians and Muslims in the U.S. Even President Obama commented on Jones on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” claiming that the Quran burning planned by Jones “is completely contrary to our values as Americans.”
As President Obama said, Jones’ actions do go directly against our values as Americans, but going against our values as Americans seems common in today’s America. President Obama himself could attest to that because of speculation about his religion during the 2008 presidential election. Although President Obama refuted allegations that he was Muslim and said that he was Christian, the issue of his religious affiliation could have affected the outcome of the election. Religious beliefs have no effect on one’s ability to run and maintain a nation. But, the term Muslim was tossed around negatively in order to tarnish President Obama’s image.
Some Americans are becoming more intolerant to other religions and beliefs, straying away from the Constitutional system that makes this nation such a great place to live. If this bigotry against other religions continues, then what will be the next aspect of life attacked by fellow citizens? One religion may be the majority in America, but what makes America great is that minorities of all kind can still have access to those same rights without prosecution.
Published Sept. 14, 2010 in “The Signal” http://www.gsusignal.com/opinions/americans-continue-to-blend-church-and-state-1.2329093?pagereq=2