An unclear divide

U.S. government risks blurring lines between religion and politics


Julia Bozzo/Special to Bear Witness

Aaron Deans, Staff Writer

In August, Pastor Robert Jeffress, a supporter of President Donald Trump, spoke about North Korea from a distinctly religious viewpoint. He stated that the Trump had the Bible’s support in dealing with threats from Kim Jong Un in North Korea.

If Jeffress had looked into the founding of this country and the First Amendment, he should know that religion and politics are two entities that are best kept separate.

The United States, as written in the First Amendment, is not politically based on any specific religion. While people are allowed to speak freely and subjectively about religion, the politics of the U.S. may not be based on religion.

This regulation helps to promote equality; if a religiously biased law were to be passed, people following the given religion could be given an unfair advantage.

Religious equality is critical in the United States because this country supports wide religious diversity; not everyone follows the same faith.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, more than 70 percent of Americans follow one of the many denominations of Christianity.  Six percent follow other faiths, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and numerous others; another 22 percent aren’t affiliated with any religion.

If a politician, or a supporter or representative of a politician, gives a speech that mixes their religion into politics, they risk excluding Americans who don’t follow that particular religion.

Jeffress, in speaking about politics from a clearly religious viewpoint, effectively excluded all Americans who didn’t share his religious beliefs. With so many different faiths, engaging only one of those groups in a political climate creates an inherent bias against all the others.

Bringing religious bias into politics can not only create greater divisions, but can also make Americans feel uncomfortable.

Sophomore Xiaomian Yang agrees that involving religion in politics is risky. It can cause misunderstanding and thus fuel divisions between people, particularly because both religion and politics tend to be sensitive topics.

“Politics bring up strong emotions, and religion, too,” Yang said. “And especially, there’s so many different views on religion and politics.  I think mostly people would get the wrong idea of different views…and, instead of uniting together, they will kind of break apart because of their own different views.”

People of the same religion may also feel uncomfortable if they feel the speaker’s words don’t correctly align with their faith. Because modern religions often have divisions and denominations, there is a greater possibility of feeling falsely represented.