The issue of religion and public life is the recent public policy issue being focused by the media. The issue of religion and public life is among the highly debated controversial issues currently in America with regards to the role of religion and faith in the society. Religion and Faith Pew Forum attempt to create knowledge and understanding of the controversies of public life and religion interaction in American society.
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The Pew Forum seeks to gather information from majority of the public concerning the interaction between the religious people and the general public, disseminating the information to provide a neutral ground for agreement.
The Pew Forum is a non-advocacy firm that takes no stand on public policy issues of concern, as it seeks to collect and share information of the trends, issues and behaviors that shape the world and particularly America as a society.
The public policy issues are of concern to the research organizations that help in delivering impartial and timely findings to the society’s political leaders, scholars, media personalities and groups of public interest.
Public policy issues of research concerning religion and faith include controversies between the religious organizations and the government; religious influence on politics; public debates on issues such as gay marriage and abortion; and the role of religion in global affairs.
Controversies between the church and the government encompass issues such as recent issue of the pledge of allegiance and the Supreme Court issue regarding the Ten Commandments (Cohn-Sherbok and McLellan, 1992, p.1).
Scope of the Public Policy Issue
Innovations in biomedical research industry that have been researched by Pew Forum include the embryonic stem cell and human cloning. This has been a major issue of controversy between the religious organizations and the public.
Medical and science innovations have impacted widely on the health and lives of human beings, which have been criticized by religious people. The research of bioethics focuses on human values such as life technology and responsibility of society towards human life and health.
Religious organizations have for a long period of time strived to fight against death penalty as a means achieving justice to offences in the society. It has become a public policy issue of concern that has consistently inflamed debates between the state and religious organizations with regards to capital punishment.
Moreover, religious organizations have gathered and shared information to heir members and the general public about the issue of human dignity, justice and right to life.
Religion and Public Life have differed on the issue of gay marriage in the society. The public policy issue of civil union and gay marriage has been widely debated upon by the American religious organizations that have remained highly divided. The religious organization remain highly divided on controversial issues such as the ordination of gay clergy and the federal constitutional amendment that bans same sex marriage.
Research organizations have developed a lot of information in opposition of the law amendments that legalize gay marriage. According to religious forums, information collected and shared shows that religious affiliations are against same sex marriage.
However, public attitudes and religious affiliations vary in different countries but proposals by religious organizations oppose gay marriages. Their proposals deliver impartial information that is timely to the state, local leaders and the government (Babst, Gill and Pierceson, 2009, p.51)
Religion and politics
Religion and politics have been on opposing sides concerning societal issues of integrity and ethics. The long standing traditions of America believe in religious liberty where all members of the society have the freedom to express their religious beliefs and that all faiths have their liberty (Lester, 2011, p.99).
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Religion and public Schools
The public policy issue of Religion and faith in schools is also a big issue of concern among school administrators, parents and the public at large. Expression of religious beliefs and faith is put into consideration in public schools, for instance, the origin of humankind as taught in the school curriculum contradicts sharply with the religious teachings as to the origin of humankind.
Religion and public life has brought about the Pew Forum discussions concerning how and where religious activities are conducted within the schools.
Religion and Social Welfare
Social welfare is a concern of many organizations such as the government, religious organizations and non-governmental human service providers. These organizations are deeply divided because of the issue of religion and faith in provision of social welfare services.
The role of religion and faith in provision of social welfare services that are federally funded was examined by the Pew Forum, as it had become an issue of controversy between the state and religious organizations.
Religion and the Law
There have been long standing judicial battles concerning religion and public life policies such as placement of the monument of the Ten Commandments on the property of public, religious schools that are funded by the government, and the school prayer. There was an amendment incorporated with regards to states giving freedom of religion to the public according to how the federal government has guaranteed religious liberty.
Many governments have made constitutional amendments to guarantee freedom of religion, though legal consequences of religious liberty vary between states due to cultural differences.
Religious communities that were established and have been in operation for a long time are protected by the law that guarantees freedom of religion. Moreover, the clause gives every member the right to abandon, mix and convert from one religion to another freely.
Religion and world Affairs
Religion plays a vital role in the affairs of world societies and the local nation affairs. The Pew Forum on the issues concerning Religion and Public Life have collected and shared information that outlines the importance of the role played by religious organizations in local governance politics.
Religion not only plays its role within the local government, but also in the international environment on issues concerning interstate conflicts and world terrorism.
Stake Holders of the Public Policy Issues
Religion and public life policy issue has a number of stakeholders and affected constituencies, which are categorized into primary and secondary stakeholders. Stakeholder and affected constituencies are further categorized into supervisory and implementing agencies, which include the government and taxpayers.
Other public policy beneficiaries are also stakeholders in the case where these other policies have effects on the religion and public life policy. Primary stakeholders of religion and public life policy are the beneficiaries such as individuals, families and communities. Secondary stakeholders are intermediaries of the policy, which include advocacy and monitoring organizations that benefit indirectly from the public policy.
There is a wide range of individuals and organizations that have been categorized as stakeholders of the public policy, but the extent to which they influence policy making process and the extent to which the policy affects them varies. The secondary stakeholders such as religious institutions need to represent the affected constituents and the beneficiaries in advocating for the amendment and creation of the policies.
The religious organizations have a duty to ensure success of policy amendments and creation through contribution of resources such as financial assistance, as well as human resource and technical assistance.
Apart from classification of public policy stakeholders into primary and secondary stakeholders, there are five categories of stakeholders, which include social stakeholders, policy makers, policy experts, the public and the civil society representatives. Public policy experts includes both the international and the local legal experts who advice policy makers (Sharma and Starik, 2004, p.8).
The level of the public policy issue matters as the number and the kind of stakeholders involved. The departments of government and their agencies are in charge of the creation and the implementation of public policies. The government agencies and departments are represented by individuals such as the government ministers, the attorney general, mayors and the president who represents the executive.
Individuals within the administration dockets may include the civil servants in general and the senior most management representatives in the government ministries.
These administrative persons help in the process of policy making. The representatives also include the civil servants in the government ministries and the institutions that are responsible for gathering and monitoring information that assist in policy evaluation and reporting.
Members legislative house are elected democratically by members of public who have voting rights and are stakeholders in the public policy decision-making process. The members of parliament also play an important role in policy implementation since they also have the ability to exercise control over the government financial budget and planning.
Social partners are also considered as stakeholders in public policy, since they play an advisory role and in some cases, are also part of the process of decision making. A good example of public policy social partners is the European Economic and Social committee. Other social partners are the media, the general public and the legal policy experts.
Public Policy Issue Political Institutions
Political institutions relevant to religion and public life policy issues include recognized political parties and judicial courts. Political institutions operate under a particular structure of governance, rules and procedures such accountability and transparent governance with members rights to vote.
Political Parties and religion are considered to have a strong influence on the society, as it has the ability to influence people’s life all over the world. The world religions are diverse and have been long standing in the societies as compared to political parties, which began long after religions had established in the society.
In addition to that, religions are proved to be deep rooted in the society, with a significantly huge percentage of the population being obsessed with beliefs of their religions.
A good number of political parties use religion as a means to reaching people and consequently using it to brainwash people so as to clear the way for achieving their political ambitions. These political ambitions do not benefit the population in most cases, since political parties use religion to drive their way into self gain.
Political pluralism, religious indiscrimination and freedom of speech are concepts that are being used and highlighted by the society so as to gain democracy that gives all citizens the rights to use government facilities provided for public use. These democratic concepts also seek to give citizens the right to oppose governance malpractices through unions so as to protect the interests of people.
However, political parties have applied concepts such as utilitarianism to enable gain their own selfish interests. The concept of utilitarianism is applicable where the decision to which and how policies are made depend on the target of attaining happiness and satisfaction to the highest percentage of the population as opposed to attainment of self interests that represent the smallest number of people.
The role played by religion and political parties is significant to the lives of the citizens. Public policy issue concerns the role of political parties that govern a country under a specific religion yet the population it represents is made up of a variety of religions. This concern seeks to highlight the force of political parties that are against the democracy of a country.
The democratic environment can only be attained where people have a right to choose the religion with which they base their lives and not political parties influencing the whole population under one religion. Political parties need to eliminate religious consideration under their functionality in a country’s political leadership.
Religion and political parties have their associations in the society that benefit their influence and power among the people through aspects such as civil rights, anti-terrorism measures and interstate war prevention. Moreover, political parties depend on acceptance, opinions and personal values of the public which are influenced by religion (Arjomand, 1993, p.114).
Proposed Policies to Address Religion and Public Life Issue
The public policy issue on religion and faith has lead to advocacy organizations proposing a number of policies that address religion and public life issue. There has been public concern that schools have been excluding religious influences in their activities although currently, the public education officials are aiming to find a solution to the issue to enable religious expressions to be included in public schools.
The society was generally founded on the aspect of freedom of religion where public education curriculum is inclusive of the religious ideas facilitated by the stability of a nation. This policy proposal seeks to not only include religious expressions in public education, but also to offer Bible history and literature.
Moreover, the public policy proposal states that graduating student congregation has the option of having prayers at their ceremony or not. The speeches of the graduation ceremony are not going to be regulated by religious content and distributions of materials that are religiously allowed (Marzilli, 2004, p7-9).
With respect to school employees, the public policy proposal states that instructors and teachers have the right to answer or not to answer questions concerning personal religion and faith issues. However, they have a mandate to maintain a neutral stand in matters concerning religious issues.
People anticipate that future policies will at no point act as a way of forcing a particular religion on schools but would assist in giving teachers freedom to choose what to talk and what not to with regards to religion. In many cases, teachers opt never to address issues of religion and faith due to the fear of lawsuits.
The importance of proposed public policy to address the issue of religion and public life is to enhance agreements between the community and schools about religion and faith, to eradicate discrimination of private religious expression, to educate on evils of indoctrinating religious faith and come up with an environment of academic liberty in issues concerning religion and faith.
These liberties facilitate expression of religion and faith by students and employees in line with the law. The public policy proposal advocates for a neutral ground for religion and faith in schools although the proposal is still subject to discussion between the schools board and the general public.
The association of the State and the Church is said to be an institutional means of politics relation with religion. The issue that arises between the church and the public has been an issue of concern in the Western nations and the Christian religion.
This has been the case not only due to the secular reasons of the west, which advocates for limitation powers of religious authorities, but also because of long time origins during the introduction of distinct rival institutions of the Church and State.
The rivalry between the state and the church was based on their claims of power and ability to enforce the law. An example of authoritative and law enforcement rivalry is the rivalry in Europe between the Emperor and the Pope during the fourteenth century ages.
Like the European rivalry in the fourteenth century, the Western Society has experienced state and church rivalry for a long period of time. In the modern Western Society, separation of the two has been advocated in a way that the church and the state have no conflicting interest. However, suspicion remains dominant in the case of Catholic politicians in Protestant nations.
The public has a consideration of the religious rights and freedoms being mere privileges, since the justice system does not recognize these rights in case of law breakers.
The prisons laws with regards to religious rights and freedom are considered by the public as a hoax that brings about more problems to the public. Nevertheless, public policy issue on religion and public life is considered by both the state government and the federal government as one-faced.
Arjomand, S.A. (1993). The Political Dimensions of religion. NY: SUNY Press.
Babst, G.A., Gill, E.R. and Pierceson, J. (2009). Moral Argument, religion and same sex marriage, advancing the public good. NY: Rowman & Littlefield.
Cohn-Sherbok, D. and McLellan, D. (1992). Religion in Public Life. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lester, E. (2011). Teaching about Religion: A Democratic Approach for Public Schools. MI: University of Michigan Press.
Marzilli, A. (2004). Religion in public schools. NY: Infobase Publishing.
Sharma, S. and Starik, M. (2004). Stakeholders, the environment and society. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.