Religion In American Politics Essay

1982 words - 8 pages

The United States of America has the most diverse religious population in the world. In places like Iraq, Syria, Israel, Afghanistan, Yemen, and other countries too numerous to mention, countless lives are lost over religious differences. In America, a Protestant can live happily next door to a Jew, who might live across the street from a Muslim, or a Catholic, or a Sikh, or even a Humanist! This is in no small way attributed to the fact that the US Constitution’s First Amendment includes what is known as the establishment clause, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” effectively separating affairs of religious institutions from secular, governmental institutions. That is, however, no guarantee that American politics will turn a blind eye to religious beliefs. In fact, in the past few decades, political agendas have been turning more and more religious in nature(Paraschivescu 2012:22).

In 1960 John F. Kennedy was elected the first Roman Catholic President of the United States, putting an end to the 171-year tradition of presidents, beginning with George Washington, that were from Protestant backgrounds. While many conservative Protestants scoffed at Kennedy as trying to break down the wall of separation between church and state and bring Catholic teachings into American government, Kennedy eloquently replied by saying, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute—where no Catholic prelate would tell [a Catholic] president how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.” Kennedy went on to elaborate that no faith-based educational institution should be granted money by the government, nor should any religious affiliation be needed to hold public office (Kosmin and Lachman 1993:169). It was starting to look as if politics were beginning to become more secular. As it is well known, after Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson carried out the rest of Kennedy’s term, and then ran for reelection in 1964. Johnson, a left-leaning Democrat found himself up against Barry Goldwater from the right-minded Republican Party. Early on in the 20th century, many of Protestant denominations had adopted progressive, social reformist doctrines, that many people still value to this day. Despite being Protestant, Goldwater’s platform took a much more conservative approach. This ended up backfiring on him, however, as many Christian publications stated that they opposed Goldwater’s policies. He was further stigmatized by the religious publication The Christian Century as turning his patriotic rhetoric into “religious nationalism.” To make matters worse for Goldwater, in October of 1964, less than a month before the general election, 725 Episcopalian clergy and laymen from forty-one states signed a resolution accusing him of “a transparent exploitation of racialism.” Richard Nixon, a Republican and ex-Vice...

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