Church-State Separation: a wall that’s not holding up

Recently, after new Supreme Justice Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in, many people were outraged and there were multiple reasons for this. Some thought that it was not morally correct to swear in a Supreme Justice 8 days before the election; however, the more pressing issue was whether she could make her decisions in court without religion interfering.

Religion, especially Christianity, is heavily embedded into American culture. For example, “In God We Trust,” is on U.S. currency and “One nation, under God” is in the American pledge. The impact of religion on America can certainly never be erased. However, in American politics, there have been many politicians that use religion to promote laws and orders even though America has adopted the idea of separation of church and state. There are many benefits to a religiously diverse nation, however, religion should not interplay with the American government.

When people are arguing for religion to interplay with the government, many initiate by explaining the impact of religion on America, mentioning events such as the Manifest Destiny or the abolitionist movement where religion was a driving force. Others argue that America was built on religion, hence the heavy use of religion in American culture. Also, people touch on the fact that the majority of Americans are Christian. Some even argue that historically, religion has already intervened within American politics. Even though all of these points are valid, the concept of separation of church and state is in the Constitution. The establishment clause of the First Amendment prohibits Congress from making any law that respects an establishment of religion or prohibits the free exercise of it.

Firstly, America is a diverse nation with many people that believe in different religions. Even though 65% of America is Christian, there are still 35% of others from different religions. Making laws to favor one religion is harming the principle of freedom and equality that America pushes for. Moreover, America is a democracy, not a theocracy, meaning that America is not governed by religion.

To explain the lack of separation of church and state in America, the Trump Administration gave a portion of the money to the Payment Protection Program which raised $669 billion to religious institutions. This money was originally designed to be given to small businesses at the time of the pandemic. The Small Business Administration changed the rules for religious institutions to be able to receive the money. This money was not given to other non-profit institutions that are not religious such as Goodwill, YMCA, and the Boys and Girls Club.

To add, the Small Business Administration discriminated against an organization called Planned Parenthood in regards to the Payment Protection Program loans. When these loans were available, 38 Planned Parenthood centers requested a total of $80 million. After receiving these loans, the Small Business Administration is now demanding the money they received back. The administration claims that these centers are not eligible for the loans because they are controlled by an umbrella organization, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Even though these are the claimed reasons, there are many other factors we need to include.

Firstly, Planned Parenthood performs 1 out of 3 abortions in the United States. In addition, many people believe that Planned Parenthood emphasizes abortions instead of preventative care. It is also a well-known fact that Planned Parenthood is hated by religious organizations and other religious figures such as politicians, showing the religious reasons for this discrimination.

Furthermore, when Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the abortion bill, which tried to ban nearly all abortion in Alabama, she stated that “every life is a sacred gift from God.” Ivey is known as a very religious figure, giving the implication that she signed this bill due to her religious beliefs.

Additionally, a Montana tax incentive program that indirectly helps religious private schools was found constitutional by the Supreme Court. This bill was introduced by allies and advocates of public funding of religious institutions. This is a direct violation of the separation of church and state because the tax bill favors religion.

Lastly, newly sworn Supreme justice Amy Coney Barrett has stated that she can not separate religion from her rulings in court. Even with this statement from Barrett, her supporters argue that many people are discriminating against her because of anti-Catholic beliefs which is not the case. Barrett is a devout Catholic and can even be considered an extremist because she is tied with a far-right religious group, People of Praise, that calls for the depletion of women’s rights.

There is a heavy debate of if religion should interplay with politics, however, I think that the answer is simple. In our Constitution, the First Amendment prohibits religion to mix with politics. Even though religion has shaped America, our country can not be run on the basis of religion because America is a democracy. American politicians need to move away from the excuse of religion to making a law or a bill. The use of religion in politics disregards freedom of religion in America. People of America should be free to believe any religion they choose to without government interference.

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