The Catholic Church has long been a guiding force in Filipino state politics. With over 80 percent of the population adhering to the Church, it doesn’t come as a surprise that elected officials must reflect the values and beliefs of their Church-going electorate if they’d like to stay in power. But with a rapidly growing population, the Filipino government under President Aquino has been pressured to implement a family planning policy that would reverse decades of state policy directly modeled after Catholic Church values. The new policy is yet to be pushed through the two houses of Congress but is expected to pass as polls are showing a surprising 70 percent public approval rating.
Family planning is a sensitive subject particularly for President Aquino whose late mother, Corazon Aquino, was instrumental in eliminating existing family planning policies following the revolution that ousted Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. Corazon Aquino grew in power through support by the Catholic Church and was thus deeply pressured to eliminate policies conflicting with Catholic beliefs. Her son, now President Benigno Aquino, is equally pressured instead by an increasingly growing population and overwhelming poverty to abandon the Catholic abolition of birth control and allow the population free access to family planning mechanisms.
A group of 30 economists from the University of the Philippines, have argued that “the Church’s persistent opposition has been the most important factor influencing population policy” in the country since the revolution of 1986. Catholicism has long infiltrated Filipino state politics and in turn developed into a politicized religion greatly influencing state policy. President Aquino is a surprising contender to lead the shift away from the Church, especially considering his mother’s close adherence.
Evangelicalism was introduced into American politics when Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976. Since then, the majority of American presidents shared similar religious beliefs. Presidents who were Catholic needed to convince the American population that they were “not too Catholic to be president” (Gibson 2012). The historic tensions between Catholics and Evangelicals now seem to be disappearing. What has encouraged this change and compromise between political leaders and voters with conflicting religious beliefs?
The cohesion of religion and politics in the United States has continued to make the US an “exceptional” nation; however this campaign is different. Through the formation of a coalition between Catholics and Evangelicals, the political and religious opinions regarding issues of abortion, conceptions of life and death, and equality of marriage have changed. It seems that Santorum, Ryan, and Romney (all Republicans) would be united with each other and voters regardless of religious backgrounds. This coalition allows for the unification of conservative Catholics and Evangelical Protestants despite differences in opinion regarding certain issues. The right-wing views of Santorum were overlooked because of his religious association with conservative Catholic theology appealing to not only Catholics but important Evangelical voters. It seems as though there is a merging of beliefs between Catholics and Evangelicals that allows for traditional Catholic leaders to appeal to the masses. Historically this would be hard to believe due to tensions and conflicting attitudes regarding several important political issues, such as divorce, between these two religious groups.
This article suggests a more secular American nation in comparison with other nation-states around the world. However, the beliefs of many of the republican leaders still involve religious aspects in terms of issues about marriage equality and abortion. Perhaps this open-mindedness in terms of Catholicism and Evangelism is a new start for America; one that is not as committed to a “protestant only” theology but influenced by a variety of religious beliefs.
The American directed anti-Islamic film “Innocence of Muslims” seems to have caused quite a disturbance. The short film has incited international riots and violence, and even caused the US to temporarily close their embassies and evacuate Muslim countries. In the president’s passively indifferent “not my problem” approach to a half-witted apology, he graciously explained that he condemned the film but could not stop its distribution by law. To interfere infringes on individual freedom of speech in the American constitution. Since there were no major riots or acts of violence in the US upon the release of this film, one must ask what’s this really all about. Surely one film created by an individual doesn’t prove America has a hatred for Islam. In fact, there are many Muslims in America that didn’t riot in the wake of this film. Taking into account that the Internet allows for a seamless transportation of information and ideas across international borders, shouldn’t a nations government be responsible for the actions of their citizens? If one single film can incite international riots and violence, shouldn’t we ought to pay more attention? While most Americans recognize this as extremist propaganda, apparently several non-Americans see a different picture. This begs the question, whose job is it to promote and protect religious tolerance when there are no clear agencies that transcend international borders? Who is really at fault?
A recent study shows that for the first time Protestants now make up less than 50% of the population in the United States. This changes is in part due to non-denominational Christians no longer claiming to be protestant as well as an increase “in the number of American adults who say they have no religion.” Until now Protestants have always made up a majority of the population in America. Pew Forum, the researchers behind the survey, stated that most of the people unaffiliated with religion “were not actively seeking another religious home”. This is interesting in regard to Civil Religion in America where for hundreds of years people were able to have a common attribute in that there was some general belief in a god amongst the majority of the population. While this survey shows that the majority of the population still has some religious belief, a continued pursuit of Civil Religion in America amongst the politicians and other public figures could in fact alienate large percentages of the population. If people no longer want to be committed or tied into a religion, they will likely not appreciate the overtone of religion in their country. In turn if the percentage of people who are not affiliated with religion keeps growing, America will likely have to reinvent itself in regards to the concept of Civil Religion.
There is a war is being fought within the U.S. revolving around the First Amendment rights of freedom of religion. This is exemplified by the growing number of calls by non-Christian and atheists, for government organizations to suspend traditions deemed to be Christian. Like in the article, the removal and equalization of the association between religion and government has brought considerable public backlash. Generally the United States has been considered to be a Christian nation, founded on Christian ideals but with no specified state religion that must be adhered to. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights outlined this idea by allowing freedom of religion. The concept of civil religion helps to support the freedom, creating an “understanding” between people of different faiths, but also supports the Christian heritage that is engrained in American history. In theory, the idea of a shared belief in God, yet different interpretations and religious background to this belief should yield a positive and less anti-Christian movement in the U.S. If people are to recognize that shared belief, they should recognize that Christian faith is part of the history of government in America and has become tradition. That history in turn is the one that offers them the freedom to personally oppose Christianity or promote and adhere to their own faith or religious movement. Instead of attacking the Christian traditions, those opposed should be thanking the government for allowing their freedom of belief. There are many nations out there that don’t offer that.