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Christianity Role in American Policymaking Essay

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Updated: Jul 15th, 2020

In the landmark book “Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies,” the author has identified the primary actors influencing policy-making and the setting of agenda, such as the President Administration, Congress, civil servants, interest groups, scholars and foundations, media, and public opinion. However, the author has not considered an essential non-governmental player who has a serious impact on policy-making and often defines the political agenda or influence the agenda-setting indirectly. The impact of Christianity on US politics is hard to overestimate. I would like to drive the author’s attention to two key observations as to how Christians influence the political agenda in the US.

First, Christians influence the agenda directly trough lobby groups in Congress. It is known that Christianity is the dominant religion in the United States, and many US politicians call themselves Christians. The policy-makers of the United States have been supporting the church-state collaboration for a long time. Christian lobbyists use the traditional understanding of US history that presents the United States as a country founded by Christian white males to implement their ideas and beliefs as a strong ideological basis for their lobbyist activity.

In this instance, they usually mention the Pilgrims as the Christian people who founded the first colony to create a Christian society free from the vices of the Old World and the Founding Fathers, the majority of whom were Christians. In such a way, Christians speculate on the traditional values of the United States to influence the modern life of the country. Currently, a significant number of Christian lobbyist groups, such as the American Christian Lobbyists Association, operate in the country and have an impact on Congress.

These groups influence the opinion of the legislators regarding such issues as abortion rights and family planning, healthcare legislation, same-sex marriage, and LGBT rights, women’s rights, the promotion of religion in the sphere of education (for instance, they stand for praying and studying Ten Commandments at school), the promotion of traditional moral norms, genetic research (stem-cell research, using an embryo for research, cloning, cryonics, etc.), and religious displays on public property.

The fact that makes Christian lobbying even more powerful is that such lobbying does not have to be disclosed. According to the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, the church does not have to disclose its lobbying operations which are considered its religious duty and for which no taxes are paid unless it has spent a “large” amount of money on these operations. Which sum of money to regard as large is up to the church. Such a requirement gives Christians an unlimited opportunity to influence the political agenda. Christian lobbyists are also strong in the states’ governments (Davis, 2010).

Second, Christians put much effort into shaping public opinion in the United States. As it was already mentioned, Christianity is the most widespread religion among the American people. It has a well-developed network of churches, prayer houses, interest groups, advocacy groups, religious schools and higher educational institutions, youth clubs and camps, and many other types of institutions that have a strong and long-lasting impact on the views of Americans.

The fact that the minds of many young people are shaped under the impact of Christian belief is especially worth noting. In addition to the mentioned network, Christians also use media campaigns, posting through social media accounts, mass emails, open letters to public officials, and radio broadcasts to execute an impact on public opinion. Aside from establishing a set of rules regulating the personal life of an individual, Christianity often persuades its followers to support particular policy goals.

These goals include but are not limited to the prohibition of abortion and planned parenting or exclusion of these options from public healthcare, promotion of heterosexuality and traditional marriage, restriction of LGBT rights (proscription of same-sex marriage, not recognizing gender changes in transgender people), placing serious limitations on genetic research, studying religious subjects at school, restricting the opportunities for immigration and immigrants’ rights, and many others. Some Christian groups also promote the death penalty for severe crimes, criminal responsibility for abortion, and the restriction of the punishment for sexual abusers.

Religion affects public opinion regarding race, equality, justice, personal responsibility, and pretty much every issue that is related to politics. American citizens who are Christians are more inclined to take the conservative side in political debates (Corbett, Corbett-Hemeyer, & Wilson, 2014). As the author has indicated in the author’s book, public opinion affects the agenda-setting process more than the alternatives because it has a serious influence on the government. Religion, particularly Christianity, has a profound impact on public opinion; therefore, religion is among the most important factors that affect the political agenda of the country.

In conclusion, I recommend that the author make the following alterations in the next edition of the author’s book. First, include Christian lobbyist groups into the list of interest groups that influence the political process or mention the existence and impact of such groups when talking about Congress. Second, describe the impact of Christians on public opinion.

References

Corbett, M., Corbett-Hemeyer, J., & Wilson, J.M. (2014). Politics and religion in the United States. New York City, New York: Routledge. Web.

Davis, D. (2010). The Oxford handbook of church and state in the United States. New York City, New York: Oxford University Press. Web.

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IvyPanda. "Christianity Role in American Policymaking." July 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/christianity-role-in-american-policymaking/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Christianity Role in American Policymaking." July 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/christianity-role-in-american-policymaking/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Christianity Role in American Policymaking'. 15 July.

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