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The debate on whether faith groups should be allowed to influence government and governance can be described as a never-ending one based on the different positions taken by different people. The divisive factor that can be established here is that not all citizens have religious affiliations. Therefore, people should not be subject to values and views that they do not subscribe to in terms of their spiritual affairs. The Everson v. Board of Education (1947) case ruling bound all states through the amendment clause so that they do not make any laws in favor of any religion. This move meant that religious views could not be used as a basis for making laws. The government, in this case, was to be a universal one that accommodates all citizens. It would be cumbersome for the government to open up to a situation that allows religious views to guide its policies and/or decision-making. Religions and faith groups vary in their views. In most cases, their opinions on different issues are usually in conflict with each other. As a result, it can be difficult to accommodate them together with their views. The study shows how religious groups should not be allowed to gain influence on the workings of the government.
Why they should not be Allowed
Going by the arguments presented in the introductory paragraph, religious groups should not be allowed to influence governance. Although the American constitution was based on Christian values when it was adopted, the position cannot be sustained now based on the status of the present-day American society (Jefferson, 1808). Going back to history, the writer traces the origins of the American nation to exploration, conquest, and colonization of the Americans by the British under their monarch. The British government was then led by the King who was also the head of the Church of England. Therefore, the British government’s laws were supposed to be in synchrony with Christian values.
When America obtained its independence, the law and order structures were borrowed from the British systems that were already working in the American system, thus basing some of the constitutional values on Christian values and views. Over a period, America has evolved into a cultural, religious, and racial melting pot that makes it unique to govern. Under this mode of life, the most fundamental tenet that has been brought out as the most relevant is the issue of the rights of individuals as enshrined in the constitution. The governance of the country through this provision offers citizens a blanket cover through universal rights that are acceptable by everyone from every group. The American government and constitution is alive to the fact that different groups have different religious beliefs and that some groups do not subscribe to any religious beliefs or affiliations. Therefore, the creation of laws and government policies are informed by universally accepted norms that are not a source of conflicts.
Many religions and faith groups guide their followers mostly on spiritual and moral issues, which require someone to believe in a power he or she cannot see as supreme. Although the constitution concurs with many values that are found in the teachings of many faith groups, it can be understood that most of these values are universally accepted. Thus, they cannot be viewed as values specific to a certain religious group. In many instances, religious groups have taken a position that they be allowed to influence governance according to their faith creeds. What anyone should want to know is if given an opportunity is the value that faith groups can add to governance by using their platform as loyalty groups other than using other structures that are already in place. Under his writings on common sense, Thomas Paine says, “the inability of moral virtue to govern the world rendered the origin and rise of government necessary” (1776, p. 7). This position is a direct indictment on the ability of governance using moral virtues as a tool for ruling. Religious groups inform their teachings and practices using moral virtues, which vary from one group to the other. Upon reading from Thomas Jefferson’s first amendment, the workings of government were originally derived from secular practices and values espoused by philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. The three scholars were critics of life because they looked at life from a very different angle that was then deemed unconventional. Thomas Pain (p.14) upholds this position when he states that leadership and governance were first invented by heathens who had kings who ruled them.
The Israelites then copied the custom by asking Samuel who was their ruler and judge to appoint them a king for them to be ruled like other kingdoms around them. This strategy can be described as one of the first steps that citizens took to divorce governance from religious or faith-based decisions. In the earliest years of the American government and constitution, the federal government made sure that no interference of religion was witnessed so that the American nation could achieve the true meaning of freedom and rights. The ‘Federalist Paper’ by James Madison (1787) reveals a deliberate move by the government through the constitution to grant religious freedom to all (p. 235). In the same case, religion was not to interfere with the running of the government as a clear separation of the two entities. In his response to a request by Reverend Samuel Miller for a government-sponsored prayer proclamation on 23 January 1808, Jefferson stated, “the U.S government has been interdicted by the constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, or exercise” (Jefferson, 1776, p. 2). This ruling is one of the onset steps that were meant to give all citizens their rights to religion. In the same vein, religious views were to be restricted because they were not espoused in the constitution. He further says, “Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or assume authority in religious disciplines has been delegated to the general government” (Jefferson, 1776, p. 2). Although faith groups have had opinions that are acceptable to all, and hence a justification for them to enter the political realms, their argument on the same cannot be sustained over a long period because religious views have been rigid. Almost all religious groups derive their beliefs and practices from ancient origins, which in most cases are simply shrouded in beliefs.
The rules that govern these religious teachings can be described as primitive because they were made in those days. In fact, they were most relevant then because they were informed by societal issues. Divorcing from these views means that one no longer believes in them. He or she has lost faith in them. Therefore, it is not easy to align faith groups’ ideas with matters of governance today especially if the groups’ ideas conflict with the universally accepted values. In his speech during a convention, Benjamin Franklin (1787) confirms, “most men indeed as most sects in religion think themselves in possession of all truths” (p.226). This view seeks to point out how faith groups are guided by their own self-right views, which when viewed in an opposing manner, can be a source of conflict. When writing his Federal Paper no. 10, James Madison reveals how divided opinions about religion by humankind can elicit passions and animosities by dividing humankind into parties with mutual animosities than common good (p. 235). This claim is enough to separate the two entities. Governance is informed by-laws made by people through their elected leaders while religion is informed by spiritual laws that in most cases do not necessarily guarantee civil liberties as enshrined in the constitution. In any case, if religion is given a chance to have an input into governance, many things that are allowed by the law will no longer be permissible. Several judgments have been passed at different court levels of the United States of America as a way of explaining and making more explicit the interpretation of the constitution.
Radical Religious Views
The passion that religion brings into its members can sometimes be incomprehensible in magnitude. It can lead to the radicalization of its members. Passion incited by religious teachings can be dangerous to the stability of a nation’s societal fabric. Antiquated religious teachings can incite members of a religious group to engage in activities that have been sanctioned in their religious teachings based on how they are against the national security. Allowing such groups to form political parties can be suicidal to the nations because they might end up recruiting more members to such levels that the government might not be able to control. Having these groups forming political parties can set a bad precedence because they will lead to the dilution of certain tenets of the constitution with time. A religious group’s party can sometimes grow in proportions that were never expected, thus leading to a crisis in trying to stop it. An example of this case is the growth and development of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. What started as a religious movement interesting only a few people ended up becoming a national ruling party skewed in its governance by religious laws and beliefs that not everyone upheld.
The dangers that religious views can bring to sound governance should not be taken for granted in any way because they can easily take away the gains made by the constitution for the last two centuries. Upon looking at American politics today, the country is largely divided into two political parties that have produced all the American presidents for so many years. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party are two parties that represent the divide between religious views and liberal secular views. The Republican Party’s politics can highly be defined as informed by religious views that are mostly catholic-based. These views are very conservative since they align their teachings along religious lines that have advised their policies for a long time. Although this case is nowadays not explicit, it is a traditional belief that forms the foundations of the party. The notion has evolved with time. Although this inference is the situation on the ground, the Republican Party cannot articulate its views along religious lines because it has members from other religious and non-religious groups. As found in the case of the Republican Party’s values, religious views define the nature of the values that the party advocates. In any case, as the question states, faith groups should not be allowed to form political parties as a way of influencing governance because they will be against the constitution as stated under the ‘Establishment Clause Doctrine’ (Bastian, 1850, p. 34). Religious practices have left very little space for a reason.
They operate in a rigid way that preserves them the way they have been for a long time. The laws of the United States of America are made by the people’s representatives who can repeal them when the need arises. These laws are made with the interest of people guiding members of the congress and the senate as the people’s representatives. Repealing laws made by the legislative council is easy because there are mechanisms that advice on the creation and repealing of the law. Religious laws, on the other hand, cannot be repealed to favor a popular public position. Thus, they enslave people who might use them for governance because they do not provide them (people) with tools for repealing the same. In the present-day world of freedom and liberties, citizens may feel oppressed if they are governed under an unpopular law that cannot be taken away (Bastian, 1850, p. 24).
The function of governance in most cases is a day-to-day function that should be given independent jurisdiction from influences informed by what can be described as spiritual tenets. Spirituality in society has its place due to the phenomenon that comes with it. It is more to do with a supernatural factor than a natural factor. Many religious leaders gain their appointment through some sort of anointing that cannot be described by the constitution. To be religious, one has to cede his or her right to question some of the things that he or she does not understand because the explanation of these incidences can be vague. In case a religious leader is allowed to have an input in governance and that he or she comes up with a view informed by a vision, one might want to know how such inputs will be accepted. Such is the divide between religion and governance. At the end of the day, each group has its approach that cannot be reconciled with the other group’s approach.
The American constitution can be described in the world as the best constitution because of the way it approaches all issues affecting society. Through its bill of rights, the constitution grants citizens sufficient freedom in almost every sector. It addresses the government adequately to bring consistency in all that happens. The onset of the American nation was based on religious beliefs and practices with almost everyone identifying with its religions. Recently, people’s affiliations to religion and faith groups have been fading with a large emerging group of non-faith citizens. This group is what the American founding fathers had in mind when they separated government and religion by enshrining the same in the constitution.
Bastian, F. (1850). The Law. New York, NY: Irvington.
Franklin, B. (1787). Speech in the Convention. Kirk Franklin Signature Series. Bellevue, NE: Bellevue University.
Jefferson, T. (1776). Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. Kirk Franklin Signature Series. Bellevue, NE: Bellevue University.
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Jefferson, T. (1808). No Government Intermedling with Religion. Americans United For Separation. Web.
Madison, J. (1787). The Federalist Paper. Bellevue, NE: Bellevue University.
Paine, T. (1776). Common Sense. Kirk Franklin Signature Series. Bellevue, NE: Bellevue University.