Monday, September 7, 2015

Pope Francis' visit brings up Religion in US politics.

Pope Francis will make his first ever visit to the United States on September 22, 2015. In his visit, the Pope will first meet with President Obama at the white house. After doing so, he will give an address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress. This specific address is special, as it is something that has not been done by any other Pope in history. Pope Francis will then go on to New York city, and later give another address in front of the United Nations. Click here for more information.

The Pope's visit brings up the topic of religion in United States politics. The visit and the address that he will give to congress offers us a look at the great evolution of the acceptance of different religious views in US politics. Looking at Catholic religion we can see this distinct evolution by looking at how, "President John F. Kennedy had to defend his Catholic faith more than half a century ago," (CRUX) But nowadays this is not the case for politicians such as John Boehner (speaker of the House of Representatives) and Vice President Joe Biden, both of which are catholic and are so openly. These two politicians  in addition to many other catholics in US politics, do not have to "prove" themselves worthy for serving America just because they are Catholic, like President Kennedy needed to. This exemplifies the evolution of religious acceptance in politics that the United States has experienced throughout the decades. Even though Article 6 of the Constitution and the first amendment gave people freedom of religion when running for federal office, in the 19th and early 20th Century it was very difficult for a catholic to be elected to hold a high office in the US. This has now changed as nearly 30% of congress are Catholics(National Catholic Register). The Pope's visit, and especially the address he will give to congress has had people talking about the evolution involving religion in US politics and holding political office which I believe has been a great step forward because politicians should make their decisions on what the people they represent want and whats good for the country, and their personal religion should not affect the decisions they make in office.

In contrary to the federal government we see something different when looking at individual states. Article 6 of the constitution states that the government cannot issue religion tests to people running for office, but it didn't say that states could not do so. In fact there were states that had implemented some sort of a religion test in their constitution that tested weather candidates running for state office believe in God or a higher power. These tests were deemed unconstitutional and have been taken out for the past few decades but there are still a few states that have "language in their constitutions either requiring state officeholders to have particular religious beliefs or specifically protected"(Wiki) Wille I myself do believe in God, I still believe is is unconstitutional to have religious tests and even have language in the constitution like the states above do requiring religious beliefs in candidates, because it is discouraging people from trying to run for state office. The religious tests were deemed unconstitutional and I believe that was on the right grounds, but I also believe states should not have any sort of language concerning religion in their constitutions because there should be no correlation between political decisions and one's religion

Religion and politics is a very intricate thing to talk about, but is it even something we should even be concerned about? Because shouldn't politicians make political decisions based on what the people want, not their own religious beliefs? 

Secondly, should the federal government further interfere with the states mentioning of religion in their constitution when it comes to who can hold federal office? Was it enough to make all religious tests unconstitutional or should there be completely no mentioning of religion in a state's constitution when it comes to who can hold state office?

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tonynater said...

I did a bit of research into state requirements for office and as it turns out, although some state constitutions do have religious requirements for office, these clauses have since been voided through judicial interpretation. This reform began in the 60s, with the Supreme court ruling in Torasco v. Watkins that the State of Maryland did not have the right to deny someone office based on religious beliefs, as this would be a encroachment upon the constitutional right to freedom of religion. After Torasco v. Watkins set this precedent however, it was only till 1997 that the last state with such a clause (South Carolina) was forced to remove its religious requirement for office. The last question in your post is a quite misleading, as these clauses have been legally for almost 2 decades now.

Meghan Hilbert said...

To answer the first question, I believe that it should be crucial to lay down the fact that the mindset of Americans constantly change. We have obviously seen that throughout many examples in history classes: views on slavery, views on immigration, views on technology. Eras and decades highlight what Americans deem important and what they don't. In a majority sense, it appears that the current mindset of many Americans does not reflect extreme importance on religion. This does NOT speak for all Americans; churches, temples, etc., still thrive in many communities and regions all over our nation. However, it is clear that politics and religion like to be presented with no sort of mixture. It is obvious that it creates too many upsets to side decisions with religion. For example, the clerk in the current news that denied same-sex licenses. It is important to respect majority views, and if a politician wants to mix politics with religion, they should prepare. Putting oneself in a career that focuses on other's opinions should not blend into personal beliefs. In current day, if a politician wants to mix their personal, religious beliefs with current issues, they should not be a politician. Simple as that. Going into a career where one is too headstrong to let their own beliefs somewhat down for the time being does not reflect leadership, and as a politician, that is what you need.
As for the second question, I do not think federal powers should become involved in the idea whether or not states can hold religious tests. Clearly, those stats highlight a strong community of religion, regardless of what it is. Geographic's come very hand in hand with religious issues, so if one state truly believes they should present the tests because this one state might highly value religion, so be it.

Adjon Tahiraj said...

I am sorry everyone Tony brought this to my attention and I have since fixed and edited the post. The original source I read about the religious test made it seem as these test were still going on and thought I myself found it completely strange to have those tests now a days, I did not think to look further into it. With further research, I found out it is true that these tests have been deemed unconstitutional for a few decades now, but some states still require candidates to have have particular religious beliefs even thought the tests no longer exist. As I said I did fix the post sorry for misleading whoever read the original post.

Emma Mester said...

I agree that politicians should not make decisions based on their religious beliefs, but it is a very thin line. Where does morality stop and religion begin? If you look, most of our modern day moral values (one should not commit adultery, one shall not murder, etc.) come directly from the Old Testament. I think that it is an interesting debate to have. For example, Social Conservatism has also been called the Christian Right. I don't think that there really is a way to totally take religion out of politics.