The line between church and state is blurred—almost into obscurity. Religion permeates all rhetoric surrounding American democracy and culture in general. Although this country is a melting pot of sorts, it is vehemently Christian.
Hints of religion are everywhere: on money, the allegiance pledge in school and in speeches made by public officials. Bible teachings are specifically referenced to bestow a moral compass within us all. But how much religion should be allowed to dictate the laws of the land?
In recent news, laws regarding human rights have been contested on the basis of moral legitimacy. Abortion and gay marriage are two hot button topics that address this very dilemma. The debate around them posed the question: are we ready to distance ourselves from religious influence for what’s perceived as the greater good?
The answer is and will probably always be, no. As children, we learn our moral obligations as human beings on the basis of religion. It shapes how we behave and sets boundaries in which we are to follow. In retrospect, it makes sense that the context bled into the government. While the general consensus is that organized beliefs are a benefit to society, religion can be dangerously powerful.
Churches and other religious entities have become like corporations. They are tax-exempt businesses that operate under the word of god. The following under these denominations can become so large that mega churches have hundreds of thousands of members and generate millions in revenue. Every year religious interest groups descend on Washington to assert their influence. The Pew Research Center estimates that at least $350 million is spent each year on public policy. It seems impossible to separate church and state if the church is on Capitol Hill with a bag full of money.
On the basis of regulating the basic moral compass of society, religion has done its job. People have the right to practice their beliefs within the confines of their lives, but initiating public policy on behalf of these beliefs is a different story. The autonomy of people who follow different religions or those who aren’t inherently religious can be challenged. It’s possible to govern under the morality umbrella without the imposition of stringent views. Religion should act as an liaison to community, not a strong arm to democracy.