Should Americans Mix Religion and Politics?
A recent study found that nearly half of Americans surveyed felt that religion should influence social and political issues. Although a majority (78.5%)1 of the United States’ population is made up of Christians, there is still a substantial populace of other beliefs. The United States is a culturally diverse country and the government has a responsibility to ensure that no religious demographic is overlooked. In contrast, Saudi Arabia is a Islamic theocratic monarchy. It’s population is 97% Muslim2 with the remaining 3% being foreign expatriates, meaning that 100% of citizens are Muslim (as is required by law). I’m not saying I agree with Saudi Arabia’s political and religious policies but it’s reasonable to understand why religion influences government, to such an extent, when 100% of citizens share a common interest. That being said, obviously the extent of religious influence in the United States would never be that of Saudi Arabia. If the government was influenced by religion would it defend the interests of those minority, non-christian groups? Probably not. The American Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion and prohibits the establishment of an official religion by government3. Mixing religion and government could lead to intolerance of other beliefs, such as the intolerance seen in Saudi Arabia where apostasy carries the death penalty. If government decisions were to be influenced by religion this would be unconstitutional. If views are being influenced by one religion it could exclude the beliefs of other minority groups. This would be contrary to the idea that America was built on respect for all religion or the right to have no religion. I think the best thing the United Sates can do is continue to allow freedom of religion and expression but keep those interests away from political and social issues. TJ #200 1 http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/affiliations-all-traditions.pdf 2 http://www.pewforum.org/files/2009/10/Muslimpopulation.pdf 3 http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/first_amendment